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Mava Islands
Sui generis territory
Anthem: Maava Mulatkiimiik
"Anthem of Mava"
Location of  Mava  (circled) in Triania  (dark green)
Location of  Mava  (circled)

in Triania  (dark green)

Country Atitlan
Settlement9th century
Annexation13 July 1836
Current status1 March 1961
Official languages
Mavanik (mv)
Mavés (al)
GovernmentDevolved locally-administered unincorporated area within a constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
• Representative of the Government
Jose Miguel Artigas
Kausaanek Malaati
LegislatureMava Council
• Total
1,734 km2 (670 sq mi) (not ranked)
Highest elevation
1,345 m (4,413 ft)
• 2022 estimate
• Density
1/km2 (2.6/sq mi)
GDP (nominal)not ranked estimate
• Total
$75.261 million
• Per capita
$15,969 (not ranked)
CurrencyAtitlanese peso ($)[a] (ATP)
Time zoneUTC-09:00
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Calling code+910
ISO 3166 code
  • MV
  • AT-MV
Internet, .at

Mava[b], officially the Mava Islands[c], is an archipelago in the Sarosan Ocean. Composed principally of three main islands, of which only the largest is ocupied, the entire territory consists of around 1,700 sq km of territory in the western islands of Triania. Formally an unincorporated territorial area of Atitlan, Mava has a significant degree of internal self-governance, with its status governed by statute and by international agreements relating to mining and commerce. The capital and only major settlement is Paas on the island of Mava.

Settlers from continental Triania first arrived on the islands in the 9th century. Colonial contact with the islands occured in the 1820s, with the islands coming under Atitlanese rule in 1836 after a number of expeditions earlier in the decade. The islands served primarily as a naval station, giving Atitlan a greater presence in the Sarosan Ocean and a place in Triania, with little direct contact between Atitlan and Mavean peoples. Beginning in the 1920s, the island has possessed self-government. In 1929, the Mava Islands Council assumed some limited powers, significantly expanded in 1960. Due to the discovery of minerals and oils on the islands and in its territorial waters, Mava is governed as a pseudo-international territory, with the majority of Atitlanese laws not extending to it and the local government maintaining little regulation on migration.

Mava is a self-governing parliamentary democracy. Mava Council functions as its parliament, located in the capital Paas. The Leader of the Council serves as head of government and is appointed by the council. The population, which is concentrated mainly on the northern coast of Mava Island, consists of mostly settlers, many of whom only reside during certain times of the year, with only 40 percent being indigenous Mavean. Although per capita income is around $15,000, there are sharp economic disparities between settlers and native Maveans.


Maava is a Mavean word which means "place of snow," referring to the islands' arctic conditions. This is the island's official name in Mavean; Atitlanese (and other languages) render the word as "Mava."


Self rule and modern history

Beginning in the 1920s, proposals were presented for a form of self-government for the Mava Islands. Initial proposals were for Mava to be formally incorporated into Atitlan as a municipality, with its own municipal government and mayor. However, concerns over the rights of native Maveans should Mava become a part of Atitlan proper prompted new proposals maintaining separation between colony and mother nation. In 1928, the Law on the Government of Mava 1928 allowed for the creation of a local island council to govern in matters delegated to it.

In 1929, the Mava Islands Council was formally established. During this time, Atitlan maintained a strong military presence and resisted calls for the transfer of more power to the local authorities. Policies of cultural assimilation and the promotion of the Almagrian language continued unfettered, with many political figures criticising the council for being only a front for continuing colonial government. Nontheless, the council persued a policy of promoting Mavean culture and raising Mavean ethnic consciousness, which only increased calls for more autonomy.

In the 1940s, the discovery of polymetallic nodules in Mavean territorial waters. The mining of nickel and copper drew in much-needed revenue in Mava drew international attention onto the islands. Atitlanese attempts to monopolise access alienated native Maveans, who believed it to be exploition, and the international community alike. By the 1950s, Atitlan faced significant pressure to open up Mava to the outside world; in 1959, an agreement between the Atitlanese government and the governments of [INSERT HERE] provided for the revision of Mava's status. In 1960, a new law greatly increased the council's powers and granted rights to international commercial interests in the islands, on the basis of recognised Atitlanese sovereignty and other economic concessions.

In 1961, the The Mava Organic Act provided a constitution for the islands, formalising its status as a unique territorial entity under Atitlanese sovereignty. The renamed Mava Council assumed full legislative independence in nearly all areas and in some foreign policy areas. The act also guaranteed Atitlanese rights to benefits certain economic resources, subject to international negotiations.

By the 1970s, mining became the predominant economic sector. Demographic change, prompted by the migration of speculators and commercial businesss, reduced the Maveans to a minority by the mid-1980s, dropping to 49.5% in the 1984 census, 45.2% in the 1989 census, and 37.1% in the 1994 census. Only in the 2014 census did native Maveans constitute over 40% of the population once again.


Köppen climate types in Mava

The country comprises two main islands, Maava Illit (lit. "Great/Big Mava) and Maava Liteki (lit. "Little Mava"), which are separated by the Mava Strait, and the smaller Taak. Maava Illit is the largest of the island (1386 km2), followed by Maava Liteki (305 km2) and Taak (44 km2). Together, these islands and the surrounding rocks and islets make up the Mava Islands, for which the country is named. The two larger islands are characterised by their long east-to-west coastlines, with Mava being approximately 77 km long and 18 km wide. Maava Liteki is 11 km long and 4 km wide. The smallest of the main islands, Taak, is approximately 15 km long and 3 km wide.

Approximately 30 percent of Mava is covered in Magellanic subpolar forests, mostly in the south. The forests are home to a variety of flora. The southern beech (Nothofagus) is a common tree across the Mava islands. Because of the mostly untouched nature of many of these forests, a variety of animals have successfully established habitats. Amongst Mava's fauna include the Magellanic woodpecker, the Trianian sierra-finch, and the Trianian condor.


Mava has a maritime climate, sitting in the transition region between the tundra (Köppen classifications ET) and subarctic zones (Cfc). The climate is characterised my a minimal temperature range across days and seasons. There is no marked wet and dry season, with the climate influenced by the cool ocean currents and southerly winds.

The average maximum temperature in January is around 12 °C (55 °F), whilst the July maximum average temperature drops to around 2 °C (35 °F). Average rainfall ranges from around 280-300mm in lowland areas to upwards of 1,500 mm in mountain terrain. Average rainfall is 890 mm. The weather is also characterised by humidity and high winds, the latter inspiring the name of the "Windy Islands". In wintertime, gales are particularly common. Despite the cold climate, snow is not common at any time of year, although it can appear in all months.

Climate data for Mava
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.6
Average high °C (°F) 12.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 8.2
Average low °C (°F) 4.5
Record low °C (°F) −1.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 52.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.2 mm) 7.9 7.3 9.2 9.7 12.0 10.7 12.1 9.7 9.1 8.1 8.4 9.1 113.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 187.4 158.6 145.8 114.7 95.5 74.9 86.1 106.7 128.4 153.6 166.8 182.5 1,601
Source: Government of Mava

Government and politics

National government

Mava’s government is determined through a patchwork of different laws, reflecting the islands’ population and geography and their development from colony to self-governing democracy. Under the 1961 Law on the Status of the Mava Islands (Almagrian: Ley sobre el estatuto de las Islas Mava; LSEM), the islands are not a part of the Kingdom of Atitlan and are consequently not represented in its parliament. However, the Atitlanese government has sovereignty over and responsibility for the islands.

Previously, the office of governor existed in the islands, which was appointed by the imperial government rather than popularly elected. However, in 1961 the LSEM abolished this office and replaced it with a Representative of the Government (Almagrian: Representante del Gobierno), who acts only to supervise and oversee Mava's government rather than take an active role in it.

Local government

The Mava Organic Act provides for the islands’ self-government. The act establishes a number of government bodies. These are Mava Council (Mavean: Taapiit Maava), the Leader of Mava Council, and the Cabinet Committee of Mava Council. The council is a 16-member body, its members elected through universal suffrage every 3 years. Its members are called councillors (Mavean: Taapiitaat).

The council is granted many of the “powers, duties and liabilities” of both a state congress and a municipal council, but does not enjoy the right of initiative for primary legislation. Instead, the council enacts secondary legislation (known as ordinances) that are subject to imperial and certain state laws.

The Leader of Mava Council combines the role of Governor, legislative speaker, and head of government. Unlike state governors, council leaders are not directly elected by the electorate. Following an election, the council nominates a member (usually the councillor who received the most votes) to lead its deliberations and form a cabinet. The council then either approves or rejects the cabinet (including leader) by an absolute majority. In case of a motion of no confidence, the whole cabinet is removed from office and the council must nominate a new leader.

Mava’s judiciary is closely integrated with that of Atitlan. Unlike states, Mava does not operate its own system of courts and tribunals, instead falling under the jurisdiction of the High Court of Atlalilico. Locally appointed magistrates operate a magistrates’ bench that hears most cases; more serious crimes require a judge of the high court to travel to Mava or, for the most serious offences, to hear the case in Atlalilico.

Administrative divisions

The island of Maava Ilit is the only permanently inhabited island and hosts the islands' capital, Paas. Consequently, there are only two administrative divisions:

  • Itiqip ("Inner") - Paas and the towns of Uupimak, Kekaalupitakitataat, and Siagakutiiluk.
  • M'takip ("Outer") - the rest of Maava Illit along with Maava Liteki, and Taak.

Because of the small and concentrated population, there is no provision for local government, with the Torrente Development Council abolished on the creation of Mava Council in 1929.


The economy of Mava is driven primarily by mining, oil, gas, and mineral exploration, as well as arts, crafts, hunting, fishing, whaling, tourism, research, and education. Prior to the discovery of oil, the economy was "small, unmixed, and vulnerable." Today, the economy remains unmixed and is heavily dependent on mining. Polymetallic nodules are present in Mava's territorial waters, with the mining of nickel, copper, and molybdenum providing an important boost to the economy from the 1940s. Recent attempts have been made to phase out mining as a source of national income and to create a maritime reserve. The Mavean government committed to pursuing a path towards reducing its dependency on mining, although little progress has been made.

Cod and salmon are important trading commodities among the native population and is their main employment and single largest source of income. Because of this dependence, the native economy is considered particularly vulnerable to changes in climate as well as competition from other nations. The largest single employer is Ikaamaayakii Siagakakak (National Fishing Company), which is a government-owned industry and employs between 25 and 35 percent of the native working population.

Other important industries include finance and business (10.7%), housing (8.1%), and hospitality (5.3%).


Tourism in Mava was undeveloped until relatively recently. Mava has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction for wildlife watching, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions. There are a number of rivers running across the islands that offer opportunities for canoeing and kayaking, prompting the growth of a new service indutry. Hiking and camping is also a popular pursuit. In 2019, the Mava Tourist Board released a campaign called "roughing it", which encouraged adventurers to visit Mava.

Despite its growth in recent years, tourism in Mava remains comparatively low. In 2020 the government reported that tourism numbers for the period 2018-2019 stood at approximately 9,000, an increase from around 2,000 a decade earlier. Despite its recent emphasis on tourism as a source of national income, the government's annual economic report revealed that tourism accounts for only around 1.9 percent of the national economy.

The majority of tourists arrive by cruise ship, docking in Paas Harbour.


Paas International Airport

There is one airport that provides air transport between Mava and other nations: Paas International Airport. The two airports cater to international flights, the latter focussing on destinations in mainland Triania. There is also bat traffic that links Mava with continental Triania. Roads are largely concentrated in the north of Mava Island, where the majority of settlements are based and where the land is generally flatter. Roads generally link urban areas, with few country roads due to the lack of countryside activities and hostile climate. The island of Tokuksiagak has one main road that links the town of Aripmek to the harbour.

Beginning in the 1950s, a number of roads have been constructed in the south of Mava Island, with the Mava Ring Road following the coastline along the north, east, and south of the island.

The Pekinerasartok Harbour is the main harbour, providing sea access for civil and government vessels. The Harbour is an important import/export hub, and also links Mava with the Outer Islands. The habour is overseen by the Pekinerasartok Harbour Authority, which enforces law through a specialist Pekinerasartok Harbour Police Force. There are also ports in Pmaak and Miilep.


Beginning in the 21st century, the government has sought to replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. The primary focus is on windpower, taking advantage of the natural climate. In 2013, five 330 kW turbines were installed on the outskirts of Paas. In 2018, three offshore turbines were installed. As of 2023, there is limited capacity to store surplus wind energy, with an underdeveloped battery storage system.


Mava has a population of 4,713 (2021 estimate), up from 4,529 according to the 2011 census. The majority are classified as "settler or settler-descendant," with 61.6% of the population being ethnic Mavean. Under laws dating back to the 1930s that still remain in force, a person may claim to be an ethnic Mavean if at least five pairs of their eight great-grandparents are Mavean.

Ethnic groups (2016)

  Mavean (61.6%)
  Atitlanese (15.4%)
  Gavirians (10.3%)
  Tsaborite (6.7%)
  Musashi (2.1%)
  Salmurian (0.7%)

Ethnic Atitlanese constitute the largest non-Mavean group, mostly descending from colonial-era settlers. Gavirians represent the second-largest group, with 10.3% of the population descending part or full Gavirian ancestry. Tsaborites represent the third-largest group (6.7%).

The population has remained stable for most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, limited prospects and educational opportunities have resulted in many Maveans migrating to Atitlan proper (approximately 200 doing so in 2011-15).


The most spoken language spoken in Mavean, a Trianian language considered to be vulnerable due to a speaking population of only around 25,000 people. Almagrian is a co-official language, but retains only formal recognition and is limited to a small Atitlanese community. Anglish is also widespread and is taught alongside Almagrian as part of foreign languages lessons in schools.


Mava religiosity
Religion Percentage
Indigenous beliefs

The predominant religion in Mava is Christianity, with the majority of practitioners (52 percent) being Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism was introduced by Atitlanese colonists in the nineteenth century, and promoted amongst the indigenous population by missionaries. Today, indigenous and settlers are mostly Catholic, which has aided in encouraging dialogue between the two groups.

A number of Protestant and other Christian groups (including Orthodox) groups also exist on the islands, believed to have emerged out of Protestant émigrés escaping persecution, and which have since been added to by commercial and other forms of immigration. The majority of Protestants belong to a uniting church.


Education is free and compulsory for all people between the ages of 6 and 16. It consists of five years of primary education, three years of lower secondary education, and two years of higher secondary education. It is publicly funded through a mixture of government funds and Atitlanese subsidies and is free of charge to students.

There is no provision for further or higher education on the islands. Students seeking post-16 studies have to travel abroad, with Atitlan and Zyang the most common destinations.

Culturally, Maveans hold education and scholarship in high esteem, with a number of prominent Mavean academics and researchers considered important figures. The National Library of Mava, in Paas, serves as a repository for all doctoral and master's dissertations written by Maveans in any country, as well as scholarly publications by or about Maveans. This is publicly available free of charge.


Storytelling and literature

Storytelling forms an important part of Mavean culture, with the passing of tales from one generation to the next a common way of establishing strong links between elders and youth. This form of storytelling, called Okiigoat Kahaatu (lit. "Warn Telling") originated in the warnings given to adolescents about the threats they may face, but evolved into a broader type of group activity. Different orators tell different stories, but a number of common themes run through most: a young person entering into the adult world, an individual/animal/spirit trying to lead them astray, and the realisation that they were being led astray.

Several of these stories have been recorded and compiled into published works. Some of these have become internationally known, including Koeaatowurah, and have brought Mavean culture to foreign audiences.


The Mavean diet consists largely of meat from marine mammals, fish, and birds. Because of the lack of arable land and the country's geography, much of Mavea's diety is derived from the ocean. The national dish is the tupiril pnaa ("second duck"), which emerged from the use of leftover roasted meat from the pintail.

Fish is a common ingredient. Popular fish used in Mavean dishes include the zebra trout and the spotted minnow, both of which are commonly used in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Until 1998, otter meat was a commonly used ingredient, but an effort to protect them, as well as its adoption as Mava's national animal, led to a significant reduction in the consumption of otter. In 2016, the buying, butchering, and selling of otter meat was made illegal.


Maveans consider sport an important part of their culture, being amongst the most active populations in the world. Popular sports include football, track and field, canoeing, shooting, and, skiing. Sporting is overseen by Haukaaqa Maava ("Sport Mava"), a public body sponsored by the government and which oversees and implements policies relating to sporting.

Because of its geography and climate, winter sports are common across the country. Skiing is widely considered the national sport, with fishing, snowboarding, luge, and bobsleigh common across generations. Although the environment is not generally suited to them, sports such as golf, tennis, and surfing are present and of increasing popularity.


Mava Council's communities department is responsible for overseeing and regulating media and broadcasting. There are two newspapers circulating on the island: Uujutajap Paas Kamaqjuukutnik (Kamaqjuukut's Paas Newspaper), which is published daily, and Kiiyiptuumilik Tuumilikip (Swift Flash), published weekly. Television, radio, and internet media services are provided by Atitlanese providers.

See also


  1. The Mava peso is a local issue of the Atitlanese peso issued for collectors rather than for circulation.
  2. Mavean: Maava; Almagrian: Mava
  3. Mavean: Maava Tokukmuuliku

External links

  • Mava. The Global Factbook. United Nations