Nazareth College

Guatemala: Land, Livelihoods, and Liberation

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Program Description

Operation Groundswell’s “Land, Livelihoods, and Liberation” program goes deep inside the original Banana Republic where a green veil conceals bitter fruit. So, from the bustling markets of Guatemala’s big cities to the smallholder farms of the western highlands, we’ll explore places where land and livelihoods are intertwined with identity and examine why Guatemalans continue to emigrate en masse. We’ll meet with small producers, talk politics with migrant workers and get our hands dirty alongside local land defenders. We’ll learn about coffee, textiles, and other ways Guatemalans are challenging the legacies of colonialism and inequities of globalization.

The combination of hands-on projects, cultural immersion, and adventure will provide a unique classroom where students can challenge themselves and each other to think about the links between land, livelihoods, and liberation.

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2019 Program Fees + Community Contribution

[currency_amount Usd=”$1,720 USD*”]

*Pricing includes $60-$75 USD Community Contribution.

Note: Pricing is a best guess and includes travel insurance. Pricing does not include international airfare which may range between $400-$600. Please check out the program’s oficial webpage here.

2019 Program Dates

May 16-24, 2019

Program Highlights

  • Learn about Guatemala’s recent history from the sons and daughters of it’s internal conflict and the incredible street art that speckles the capital city.

  • Hike in the shadows of the country’s iconic volcanos, soak in mineral hot springs, and wade into sacred lakes while exploring Guatemala’s natural beauty up close and personal.

  • Immerse yourself in Guatemalan culture while living with a community of revolutionary coffee farmers in Santa Anita.

  • See resistance’s many forms by working with Mayan Tz’utujil and Ki’iche’ communities around beautiful Lago Atitlan.

Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in Guatemala City
We will begin our adventure in Guatemala’s big and bustling capital of Guatemala City. Following arrivals at La Aurora International Airport, we’ll get acclimatized to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the city’s historical centre on foot, visiting the National Palace where 10,000 peaceful protesters recently forced the resignation (and arrest) of the President. We’ll also connect with Paulo from the organization HIJOS (Children of the Disappeared) to tour some of Guatemala’s politically charged street art while learning about the lingering trauma of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict.

The Guatemalan Dream in Xela

Next, we’ll head north to the indigenous metropolis of Xela where we’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willie at Café La Red Kat for a delicious meal and an insightful chat about the challenges facing small-scale farmers, and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order. Then it’s over to the village of Pachaj, where we’ll get your hands dirty with some defensive reforestation at the Chico Mendez Reforestation Project. With help from Armando and his family, we’ll collect seeds, plant trees and learn how Mayan cosmology continues to inform life here in the Guatemalan highlands.

BUT no visit to Quetzaltenango would be complete without a trek to one of the country’s iconic peaks! This year, we’ll get an early start and make our way to Volcán Santa Maria to begin a hike to El Mirador where, if we’re lucky, we might see one of Central America’s volcanos erupt! The it’s over to the Fuentes Georginas, for rewarding soak in natural hot springs.

Coffee Revolutions in Santa Anita

After a brief journey to the north-west, our group will arrive in the community of Santa Anita and home of a unique coffee cooperative that was founded by combatants from Guatemala’s 36 year internal conflict. These gerilleros-turned-farmers see coffee differently: not only is it an exportable commodity but also a symbol of campesino solidarity. So, by staying in family homes, we’ll have the opportunity to break bread, share stories, build friendships and deepen our understanding of the coffee revolution.

We’ll also temporarily join their ranks as coffee farmers and take to the fields for a day harvesting ripe, red coffee fruit before sitting down with a group of revolutionary women who represent a national movement of women demanding equality and justice in Guatemala.

Disorientation at Lago Atitlan

As we wind our journey down, we head on to the mystical and enchanting shores of Lago Atitlan where we will stay with our friends at Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) in San Lucas Tolimán, and learn about how they’re working to improve land and labor rights for Mayan campesinos throughout Guatemala.

We’ll also cross the lake by boat to visit OG’s Hub! The Hub is the physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people and local partners through conversations and collaborative projects. Here in San Juan, you’ll engage with the local Maya Tz’utujil community while learning how resistance can take on many forms, from confronting challenges with food security to preserving the local language and culture.

Finally, we’ll gather for disorientation – a staple of every OG program – where we’ll kick back to reflect, discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home, before saying our goodbyes to the Hub and traveling back to CCDA for our last dinner as a group.

Scroll below for more program details

What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


With OG, you live like the locals.
This is not a vagabond’s backpacking trip nor is it a five-star jet-setter’s cruise. We will be sleeping in clean, comfortable hostels and guesthouses that reflect our ethos of local and sustainable stewardship with a focus on social enterprise. We will have a mix of shared dorms, double occupancy rooms with shared bathrooms as well as a short homestay with our friends in Santa Anita. This type of travel will allow us to immerse in the local culture but may sometimes mean living without the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Creepy crawlies may sometimes visit while hot showers can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! But wherever we are, it will feel like home in no time.

Meet Your Regional Director

Ana was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and has since travelled whenever possible in pursuit of her passion for education, development, and nature! She has worked as an English teacher in public and private schools in Costa Rica, and volunteered in Quijingue, Bahia (Brazil) on community development projects. After completing her Masters in Translation, she worked with Peace Corps, Costa Rica until returning to the world of NGOs as a Program Coordinator in Riobamba, Ecuador. Now, she’s super excited to be part of the OG family and looking forward to establishing new partnerships, working with and training awesome program leaders, and designing more amazing programs in South America!

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