Hola hola Dragones!!
We are beyond excited to present an outline of our coming adventures. Keep in mind that our itineraries are always fluid. Dragons courses are tailored to their time and place, as well as to the interests that you as students will develop over the course of the program. That being said, here’s an idea of what’s in store.
June 28th-30th: We will begin near Antigua, a small city founded in 1542 as Guatemala’s colonial capital. Its renowned colonial-era architecture and cobblestone streets offer insight into the culture of the conquerors of 16th century Guatemala. We’ll get to know each other and set out goals for our program.
July 1st – 7th: On June 30, we’ll travel to Peten, Guatemala’s northern province. It shares with Mexico and Belize the spectacular Yucatan jungle, home to howler monkeys and jaguars, toucans and macaws. In the community of Nuevo Horizonte, you’ll study Spanish and put what you learn to use in a week-long homestay.
We’ll also begin our study of history and development with community members who lived Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict firsthand as guerrillas. Today, they’re experimenting with community development practices that center around sustainable agriculture and tourism. On spectacular hikes through the tropical forest we will enjoy outrageous ecological diversity and learn how refugees and guerrillas survived in the forest for years at a time.
July 8th – 10th: After a week in our homestays, we’ll set out on an exhilarating, three-day jungle trek to some of the most spectacular ancient cities discovered on earth. Our local guides will provide our camping gear. For this phase of the course you’ll need a light-weight sleeping bag, which is not highlighted on the packing list in your Course Preparation Manual. (If you can stand it, do us the favor of not Googling the Ancient Maya cities of the region! There’s nothing like coming upon a wonder of the ancient world without any idea of what it might look like…)
July 10th – 13th: On July 10th, we’ll arrive in Rabinal. In the Achi Maya region we will work with an inspiring collective of young people taking malnutrition on by using ancient Maya superfoods. The Quechua Lum collective has also developed one of Guatemala’s three major seed banks. We’ll study debates in food security and food autonomy from a local perspective that illuminates the workings of the global economy.
Rabinal is also home to one of Guatemala’s best museums. The Rabinal Community Historical Memory museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of the Achi Maya as well as the memory of the armed conflict. There, we will continue to explore the legacy of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict and examine the initiatives of people challenging the dominant historical narrative.
July 13th – 15th: Our studies of development and community action will continue at Río Negro. On July 13, we’ll travel to the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, built during the armed conflict with financing from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. We’ll stay an hour upriver in the remains of a community ravaged to make way for the dam’s construction. Our hosts will teach us what the dam’s construction has meant to them.
July 16th – 22nd: From Río Negro we’ll travel to Pachaj, a Kiche Maya community outside of Xela, the country’s second-largest city. Here we’ll continue our studies of Spanish, development, and community action with the families behind one of the region’s most effective reforestation projects: The Chico Mendez Reforestation Project, named for the famed defender of the Amazon.
On our way to Pachaj, we’ll pass through Chichicastenango, home to one of the only cathedrals in the hemisphere where Native American fire ceremonies take place before the images of Catholic saints. The cathedral is full of imagery that evokes the history of conquest in all its complexity and cultural syncretism in all its confounding beauty. We’ll also travel to Laguna Chicabal, the small volcanic crater lake that is a center of Maya Mam spirituality. We’ll see how evangelical Christian worship shares space with traditional Maya alters and ceremony.
In Pachaj, you’ll undertake your independent study projects. Each student has the opportunity to identify a specific aspect of local culture and dig into it. We work with our broad network of local masters to get you hands-on experience of whatever you choose, from the use and preservation of forests, traditional weaving, crafts, music, or medicine; or Kiche Maya language and spirituality.
July 22 – 24th: From Pachaj, students will be able to plan our expedition phase. You’ll put all the language and cultural fluency you’ve learned to use as you organize a multi-day expedition to a destination of your choice, with limited direction from us, your instructors.
July 25th – 28th: We’ll spend the final days of the course reflecting on our experiences and preparing for the journey home. We’ll be in San Juan la Laguna, a Tz’utujil Maya community on the shores of Lake Atitlán, shown in the attached photo. It’s a place of otherworldly beauty where your instructor Rich happens to live!
We can’t wait to welcome you to the Land of Eternal Spring, to Iximuleu, to Guatemágica. We will be far from the beaten path.