The municipality of Sipacapa is situated in the northeastern highlands of San Marcos in western Guatemala. To the north is the municipality of Malacatancito in the department of Huehuetenango, to the east the municipality of San Carlos Sija in the department of Quetzaltenango, to the south the municipality of Comitancillo in the department of San Marcos, and to the west the municipalities of Tejutla and San Miguel Ixtahuacán in the department of San Marcos.  It covers an area of 152 square kilometers.

Half the area has a very cold climate, and the rest, which is at a lower altitude of 1,970 meters above sea level, has a temperate climate.

The distance from Guatemala City to the departmental capital is 250 kilometers, and from there to the municipal capital it is 48 kilometers of gravel road and 31 kilometers of paved road, making a total distance of 79 kilometers. All the land in this municipal district is mountainous with steep slopes.

The town fair, in honor of San Bartholomew the Apostle, is celebrated from August 20 to 25 each year.

Political division

Sipacapa has a municipal capital, 12 villages and 19 communities, with a total population of 14,812, according to the Population Census of 2003.

There are two ethnic groups, the Maya Sipakapans who represents over 75% of the population and the Ladinos (mixed racial group) with less than 25%. Spanish and Sipakapan are spoken.

The economy and production

During the colder months of the year corn, wheat, vegetables, apples and peaches are grown.  During the warmer months corn, avocado, oranges, limes, custard apples, yucca, sweet potato, beans, coffee and sugar cane are grown.

As for the flora in this municipality, there are only cypress and pine trees.  Animals include cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and donkeys.

Some history

What is now known as the municipal district of Sipacapa was settled during the pre-Hispanic period.  When the Spanish arrived, the NAHUALONES were already living there. They had separated from the great K'iche kingdom, where T'Z'abol and B'itol created the men of corn. That is the origin of the people of Sipacapa.

When they decided to follow the sun, they climbed over mountains and through gorges, lived with their Mam brothers from Chinab'jul and went to Saq-Ulew. After resting there, they continued with their journey, following the sun, but the Mam people became angry with them and pursued them. Then the God of the Nahualones saved them and misfortune befell the Mam people in Chi'mul-Snik, when they all fell into an ants’ nest where they were buried by the ants and used for food.

The Sipaklli (the lizard stone) was the beginning and led to the consecration of Samakon as the sacred mountain of the new men that had settled on the banks of the Cuilco river starting in Chchi' ya! Cho! And this is how the town of the Nahualones was founded.


Sipakapan comes from the Náhuatle language. Sipaklli means ‘lizard’ and the suffix apan indicates location in the Náhuatle language. Sipaktlypan is the first day of the months in the Aztec calendar. The lizard symbolizes the legendary land and its teeth are used as necklaces by the nobility to denote beauty.

Some of the information about the name Sipacapa has been wrong. People say it comes from the Kaqchiquel language and that sipak means ‘land of sharks’, so sipak = shark, and apan = river. However linguistic theory rejects this hypothesis since in the K'iche family of languages it has no meaning. In kaqchiquel sip = tick, aq = pig, apen = water, goat.  Thus we can show that in Kaqchiquel it does not mean anything, because land is ‘ulew’ and shark or fish is ‘cai’ and river or water is ‘ya’.


The linguistic community and ethnic group had emerged before the Spanish conquest, although there is no exact date. Nevertheless, Sipacapa was known during colonial times, for instance Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán, when he wrote about Quetzaltenango in the last decade of the 17th century in his "Recollections" observed that San Bartolomé Sipacapa was a town of considerable size and although it had not grown, nor had its population shrunk. And the report of the Corregidor, Francisco Antonio de Aldana y Guevara, on October 24, 1765:  "... there was a strong earthquake that shook the province of Quetzaltenango and the volcano started to erupt.” The Corregidor informed the royal audience, “Sipacapa’s church was badly damaged... the few houses belonging to these poor people were destroyed".

The town is recognized as the place where the Political Constitution of the State was drawn up on October 11, 1825 and there was a declaration with all the villages in the country, including the village of Sipacapa. At the request of the inhabitants in 1816 the town was protected with land deeds. Due to resistance by the Sipakapan ethnic group, on December 9, 1937 the President, General Jorge Ubico, issued a mandate to apply a Machiavellian method to divide the municipal district into three municipalities: San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Comitancillo and Tejutla in a Presidential Resolution on June 18, 1938. The municipality was re-established on December 4, 1945.

Reference: Municipal Diagnostic, Municipal Planning Office, 2006.


waterfall in Sipacapa
A waterfall in Sipacapa
Sipacapan woman
A Sipacapan woman
Steps towards development
census in Sipacapa
A census in Sipacapa
personnel training
Personnel training
©2008 Sierra Madre Foundation