Archive for the ‘overview’ Category

We’re back in Guatemala!

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

We are thrilled to be back in Guatemala and will be updating you via this site during the next 10 days.  This summer we are prototyping a smaller scale initiative that will be implemented and tested by our team of 7 Parsons students in collaboration with the artisan women of Santiago Zamora.

We have arrived in Antigua and after a full day of planning tomorrow will be prepared for our first meeting with the women on Friday.

You may also notice our site revamp!  This terrific work is thanks to Parsons alumna Grace Salem.  She is still working behind the scenes while we are here ready to post, but let us know what you think of our new name, look, and site.

Stay tuned!

Our student team

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Every time I travel with a team of students for an international project, I truly believe that group could never be surpassed in their energy, skills, support for one another, and eagerness to learn. I have, again, been proven wrong. This year’s team is yet another superb group of students from Parsons, Milano, and the graduate program in International Affairs who are absolutely dedicated to the work we have come to do, are ready to face new challenges, and are so supportive of one another and our collaborators that I am continuously proud of them.

This photo of a part of our team captures our presence. We stick out in the villages in which we are working, and yet we do it with such coolness, and our feet on the ground, that we are able to feel at home, and eager to connect with everyday life.

Overheard in Antigua, Guatemala

Monday, June 15th, 2009

A family of tourists overheard at one of the many stalls of Antigua’s large artisan market:

Man (holding a football/soccer jersey up) asking vendor, “Do you have a jersey from America?”
Vendor (referring to the Latin American football teams that are called ‘America’) replies in Spanish, “No, that one is not from America.”
Man, “Do you have from America?”
Woman (clarifying on behalf of her husband), “From the United States?”
Vendor, “Are you trying to ask how much it costs?”

I did not have time to stop and help translate, but I would’ve enjoyed the opportunity to remind this family that, particularly in this part of the world, ‘America’ is all of us – North, South & Central America. Interestingly enough, Guatemalans often refer to the U.S. as ‘Los Estados.’

Day 1 – A Total Immersion

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009


Today’s day started with a typical breakfast (more on that later),


a stop to purchase a couple of inexpensive cellphones (the two major companies are Claro and Tigo) for our students,


and then a public bus ride from Antigua to San Antonio.

In a very nice first meeting with most of the students (one arrived later, in the afternoon) for this first part of our project, led to some great ideas, goals, priorities, and values that we set for ourselves. Some of the things that came up include cultural preservation, cultural tourism, capacity building, community inclusion, urban development, and mapping and networks. I was quite moved with the students’ sensibilities which were guiding their desire to not “set the agenda” until we had actually met with our community partners.


After a yummy Guatemalan-style lunch we


waited to meet with the Mayor of the Municipality of San Antonio de Aguas Calientes (which includes the urban center of San Antonio and the small villages of Santiago Zamora and San Andres Ceballos.

The meeting with the mayor was definitely an eye-opening experience for anyone who has not been exposed to Latin American politics. Definitely more on that later, but the big take-away question for me is – how can local governments gain popularity via short-term solutions to big problems, but still pave a path for a sustainable long-term goal for poverty alleviation and the wellbeing of the citizens? A huge question, for which I can only hope that the work we do this summer will maybe help to answer (or even participate in the answering of) this development dilemma.

Our work day ended with a meeting with Veronica, the coordinator of the Women’s Project for the municipality, and the person who oversees the project/work with which we will be connecting. There’s currently not much structure to the program on the government side of things except that it seems that San Antonio is joining in on a Guatemalan trend of “community tourism” in which they are exploring this notion of preparing towns to “give” to tourists more than just a piece of cloth to buy, but a true local experience (making tortillas, grinding coffee beans, and learning how to weave were some of what they mentioned.)

What are you looking for when you book a trip? What would really make you want to come to San Antonio?

Back in Guatemala – faculty & students

Monday, June 1st, 2009

We are happy to be back in Guatemala. This year we are doing things a bit differently. First, we are excited to be working with a new group of artisan women. We are partnering with the municipality of the town of San Antonio de Aguas Calientes and starting off by understanding their goals, the goals of the artisan women, and after a needs assessment, figure out how we want to best work together. The first group of students who are here have prepared workshops in leadership, group work, English, computers, and photography. Stay tuned to see what we end up working on!

In two weeks we will return to San Lucas Toliman to continue the work we have been doing with Ajkem’a Loy’a. This summer we have a specific goal of producing five finished products to bring back to New York for further market research (or even to present to retailers for orders.) We also want to be diligent about evaluating our work thus far, and deciding on a mid to future term long plan.

If this is the first time hearing about our work, please read this paper which serves as a trip report from last year, and outlines how this all started.

Thank you for reading, and we promise many more images and video entries in days to come!