23andMe Adds More Detail To Central American Ancestry

23andMe has added finer detail for customers with roots that trace back to Indigenous American ancestors, with 18 regions in Central America, from Guatemala in the north to Panama in the South. 

The update is part of our continuing work to improve 23andMe’s Ancestry reports and features. Recently, 23andMe added new details for people with Indigenous Mexican Ancestry, and previously updated reports on North American Indigenous ancestry and Indigenous Caribbean ancestry. This new update allows customers with ancestry from one of these Central American indigenous Genetic Groups to see their connections genetically as well as geographically.

The updates help highlight the importance of Indigenous groups and culture within the region where people of Indigenous ancestry often make up a sizable proportion of the total population. Among the countries in the region, Guatemala has the highest percentage of Indigenous people.

Indigenous Populations of Central America

Central America is at a crossroad between Mesoamerican, Caibcah-speaking, and Andean cultural linguistic spheres.

Long before colonization, Indigenous societies like the Maya, in what is now Guatemala, southern Mexico and El Salvador built thriving and sophisticated communities dating back many centuries. But there are dozens of other Indigenous populations that also thrived in different geographic areas of the region with their own distinct languages and culture such as the people of Coclé culture in what is now Panama, or the Lenca people in Honduras and El Salvador.

The ruins of Copán in Honduras offer a glimpse of the sophistication of the Mayan people dating back to pre-Columbian time.

While the region’s independence from Spain in 1821 allowed for more regional autonomy and ended forced labor of Indigenous people, it did not make their lives better. New governments did not respect Indigenous communal land rights, and this often left them in more extreme poverty. The lingering inequities from that history can be seen today within these nations, as detailed by the World Bank’s report on Indigenous Latin America.

Ancestry Composition update

23andMe’s Ancestry Composition report is a living analysis that improves as we add new reference data. Underlying our Ancestry reports are powerful algorithms and analytical tools developed by 23andMe population geneticists and engineers to offer our customers more insights into their ancestral origins.

Over the last few years, we’ve updated results to allow our customers to see more detail about their connections to specific geographic regions that also correspond to Indigenous populations that are there.

While 23andMe customers may already see evidence of recent ancestry within the nations that are part of Central America, this update connects individuals to more specific Genetic Groups, offering potentially more details about their ancestral origins. The Genetic Groups that are part of this update are also more reflective of the distinct regional populations and customers’ ancestry.

Regions in Central America covered in this update

23andMe’s new update for Indigenous Central American ancestry looks at 18 different regions within six different nations.

The new Indigenous Central American Genetic Groups correspond to shared Indigenous American ancestry within these geographic regions. For instance, the Northwestern Guatemalan Highlands include people who speak Mayan languages that include Akateko, Jakaleko, Q’anjob’al, K’iche’ (Qatzijob?al), and Q’eqchi’. In the south, Coché and West Central Panama region was part of the archaeological cultural area known as Gran Coché, and home to the Coché culture.

List of Genetic Groups includes:

Central Guatamalan Highlands

Motagua River Valley and Eastern Guatemalan Highlands

Western Guatemalan Highlands

Northwestern Guatemalan Highlands

Ch’orti’ of Guatemala and Honduras

Goascorán River Basin and Comayagua Valley

Central Sierra Madres 

Western Honduran Highlands

Central Honduran Highlands

Central American Volcanic Cordillera – El Salvador

Pacific Lowlands of Western Panama

Guna Yala and East Central Panama

Coché and West Central Panama

Coché and the Azuero Peninsula of Panama

Central Valley of Costa Rica

West Central Nicaragua – Northeast Cocibolca

Northern Nicaraguan Highlands and Los Maribios

West Nicaragua – Xolotlán and Cocibolca

Related Articles On FamilyTree.com:

23andMe Adds More Detail For Indigenous Mexican Ancestry

23andMe Adds More Details For Indigenous Caribbean Ancestry

23andMe Adds 43 More Genetic Groups

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