Uncontrolled hypertension is a major public health burden and the most common preventable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases in Guatemala and other low- and middle-income countries. Prior to an initial trial that evaluated a hypertension intervention in rural Guatemala, we collected qualitative information on the needs and knowledge gaps of hypertension care within Guatemala's public healthcare system. This analysis applied Kleinman's Explanatory Models of Illness to capture how patients, family members, community-, district-, and provincial-level health care providers and administrators, and national-level health system stakeholders understand hypertension. METHODS: We conducted in-depth interviews with three types of participants: 1) national-level health system stakeholders (n = 17), 2) local health providers and administrators from district, and health post levels (25), and 3) patients and family members (19) in the departments of Sololá and Zacapa in Guatemala. All interviews were conducted in Spanish except for 6 Maya-Kaqchikel interviews. We also conducted focus group discussions with auxiliary nurses (3) and patients (3), one in Maya-Tz'utujil and the rest in Spanish. Through framework and matrix analysis, we compared understandings of hypertension by participant type using the Explanatory Model of Illness domains -etiology, symptoms, pathophysiology, course of illness, and treatment.