Guatemala: ¿Guat's Up, Guatemala?
June 6 - June 26
Thursday, Sept. 29
Tuesday, Oct. 11
Tuesday, Nov. 1
For general FLP sessions, see the Resources page.
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Guatemala is a country of contrasts: tropical rainforests are just a stone's throw away from cool mountainous cloud forests. Women in traditional Mayan clothing with vibrant hues of red, green, blue and yellow walk alongside women in jeans and business suits. Picturesque triangle-peaked volcanoes, lush green hills, and corn fields hug the edges of international urban cities. This program will explore these contrasts and examine how the various identities of modern-day Guatemala—its economy, culture and attitudes of the people—have been shaped by history and an increasingly globalized world. Students will experience the contrasts first-hand and immerse themselves in the many faces of Guatemala.
First, we will spend several days learning about Mayan artesanías, identity and agency in the tourism industry in Antigua, the beautiful old colonial capital of the country, with cobble-stoned streets, colorful architecture and world-famous views of the several volcanoes that line its perimeter. Later, we'll swim in the crystal blue waters of Lake Atitlan, a crater lake surrounded by three volcanoes, where three different Mayan languages can be heard buzzing in the streets, and where locals continue to wear the vibrantly colored and hand-woven clothing of their heritage. We will then contrast life in the tourist capitals of Antigua and Lake Atitlan with a different sort of life in Quetzaltenango (Xela), the second-largest city in Guatemala. In Xela, we will immerse ourselves for five days in the life and language of Guatemala, with morning Spanish and culture classes and outings such as soccer games and salsa dancing with our local teachers, all while living and sharing in daily life with host families in typical urban Guatemalan homes. Furthermore, while in Xela, we will visit a women's weaving cooperative and learn about the country's 36-year Civil War, its effects on its people—particularly the highland Maya—and how local communities have organized to support themselves in the face of poverty and injustice.
In addition to our time in these urban and tourist destinations, we will also experience rural life, the life of nearly half the population of Guatemala, and learn about local efforts for change. We'll stay at a coffee cooperative started by local families to preserve their land and resources. We'll learn not only about the origins of the coffee we see on the shelves in the U.S., but also about collectivism, sustainable farming and community organizing. Finally, at the end of the trip, we'll stay in a rural village outside of Xela, volunteering with a local organization working to keep the land in the hands of the people and provide "oxygen for the community and for the world." We will help plant sustainable crops for local consumption and endangered trees to protect the land from over-development. We will discover the spirit of community, strength, and tenacity possessed by the people of Guatemala and examine how they survive and strive for improvement among the contrasting faces of extreme wealth and poverty in a land full of natural riches.
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