Guatemala Semester

Spanish Language & Grassroots Activism

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
84 Days
Description

Build Spanish language fluency, examine models of political activism, and connect with local communities and the land.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2020


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2019


Fall Availability

closed

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

38 Weeks

Fall Begins In

17 Weeks

Land Cost

$14,725


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,395

San Juan la Laguna

Pachaj

Antigua

Tikal

Flores

San Juan Cotzal

Naha, Sierra Lacandona

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Program Overview

Central America: a narrow strip of steaming jungles and fiery volcanoes, unites two massive continents and splits the world's largest oceans.


Rising out of the sea at a confluence of five tectonic plates, this causeway of Mesoamerican cultures and ecological diversity is a focal point of biological and cultural change. Today the communities sharing in this Mesoamerican heritage continue their legacy of adaptation, responding to rapid environmental and social challenges with innovative communal strategies. The Guatemala Semester takes a hands-in-the-dirt approach to understanding indigenous culture and collective life in Guatemala and Mesoamerica through extended rural homestays, one-on-one language study, work on communal farms, and a participatory examination of land-use and grassroots activism.

In the western highlands of Guatemala, over eighty percent of the population is indigenous Maya who maintain a legacy of rich cultural survival and community strength in the face of persistent external pressures. Living with hospitable indigenous families, working…

Rising out of the sea at a confluence of five tectonic plates, this causeway of Mesoamerican cultures and ecological diversity is a focal point of biological and cultural change. Today the communities sharing in this Mesoamerican heritage continue their legacy of adaptation, responding to rapid environmental and social challenges with innovative communal strategies. The Guatemala Semester takes a hands-in-the-dirt approach to understanding indigenous culture and collective life in Guatemala and Mesoamerica through extended rural homestays, one-on-one language study, work on communal farms, and a participatory examination of land-use and grassroots activism.

In the western highlands of Guatemala, over eighty percent of the population is indigenous Maya who maintain a legacy of rich cultural survival and community strength in the face of persistent external pressures. Living with hospitable indigenous families, working in el campo, and learning Spanish in personalized classes, we begin our semester with an experiential understanding of Mesoamerican culture and the legacy of conquest and resistance that has played out here for five centuries. Herbal healers, weavers, and community leaders share their knowledge through Independent Study Projects while conversations with local NGOs working in human rights, community health, and development provide opportunities for learning service engagement in the contemporary struggles for sustainable community development and identity in Guatemalan society.

The final phase of our itinerary takes us across the border into the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico, where we deepen our exposure to Mesoamerican culture and traditions of resistance. Here, at a great distance from the country’s capital, communities have long relied on local solutions to social and environmental challenges. In the face of political strife, civil conflict, and rapid globalization, local communities have joined together to come up with creative and revolutionary responses in the form of people’s movements, progressive organizations, and innovative community-sourced technologies. While living in homes with local farmers and deepening our Spanish language skills, students learn about Chiapas’s history of revolution and resistance, participate in learning service initiatives, climb mystic ancient temples, and explore the delicate encounter between past and present in this colorful and contested territory.

Through a rugged and authentic exploration of some of the most remote regions of Guatemala and Mesoamerica, the “Spanish Language and Grassroots Activism” semester unearths the complex issues facing indigenous and peasant communities working towards sustainable development and cultural conservation today. With Spanish lessons, rural homestays, and learning service at the forefront, this semester program provides an experiential and fresh perspective on relationships with land, tradition, and community.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

The syncretism of Catholicism and Maya spirituality, Maya cosmo-vision, cycles of time, Latin American Protestantism, community based movements.

5/5
Development Studies

Modernization and globalization, impact of education and tourism on indigenous culture, exploration of minority empowerment issues, sustainable agriculture, social justice issues.

4/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Land use, grass roots organizing, sustainable agriculture, globalization, indigenous rights, social justice movements.

5/5
Homestay

Homestays in several communities in Guatemala and Southern Mexico ranging from 1-4 weeks in length.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

ISPs facilitated primarily in San Juan la Laguna. Multiple opportunities for study with local organizations and mentors. Options include traditional weaving and textiles, Maya spirituality, medicinal plants, sustainable agriculture, painting and the arts, and exploration of socio-political issues.

5/5
Language Study

4-6 weeks of one-on-one or small group interactive instruction, four to five hours a day, language immersion in home-stays.

3/5
Learning Service

Volunteering at the Chico Mendes reforestation project, work with sustainable agriculture, collaboration with local NGOs and community based projects.

3/5
Rugged Travel

"Chicken bus," truck, and boat travel. Hikes to remote villages.

2/5
Trekking

Two multi-day treks with remote community stays in Guatemala and possibly Southern Mexico.