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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Indigenous Architecture across Abya Yala (Latin America): Central America

front view of northwest façade archway of Mayan ruins in Laba, Mexico

Maya ruins | front view of northwest façade archway

9-12th century. Mayan ruins, front view of northwest façade archway. open or street scenes. 


This page focuses on the Indigenous people of Central America, primarily Maya, Garífuna, and Miskitu peoples. While the resources provided are centered on the architecture and design practices present in these communities, we also give information about the current political and social issues affecting the Indigenous peoples of the Central American region with the belief that these issues are in conversation with the architectural and design practices. The section “Accessing Materials” offers tips and information about searching for additional resources about the subject. 

Accessing Materials

Some useful initial key words to use for searching for articles or books in the catalogue are: 

  • Indigenous + Central America
  • Architecture + Central America
  • Maya / Garífuna / Garinagu / Miskitu / Miskito + Architecture 
  • Vernacular Architecture + Central America
  • Phenomenological architecture
  • Spatial Patterns in Buildings + Central America

Please note: A majority of the search results in the catalog focus on Maya architecture and frames it as part of the past. Many resources are also linked to fields and subjects like “archaeology,” “antiquities,” and “anthropology.” Some examples of the terms resources are tagged by are:

  • Pre-columbian 
  • Mesoamerica
  • Middle American
  • Prehistoric
  • Ancient
  • Mexique
  • Settlement patterns

Some places to consider in search strategies:

  • Tak’alik Ab’aj, la ciudad clasica de Cotzumalguapa
  • Joya de Ceren
  • Rio Azuk
  • Dos Pilas-Aguateca-Cancuen 
  • Zapatera Island

Since many resources may be in Spanish, it may be useful to try these key words in Spanish as well. For example:

  • Indígena + Centroamérica
  • Indígena + América Central
  • Arquitectura + Indígena + Centroamérica
  • Arquitectura + Garinagu/ Garífuna/ Maya/ Miksitu/ Miskito

Some existing Subject Tags: