Class is in Session!


We began day six with our previously mentioned “notorious” breakfast of frijoles, huevos, y tortillas. Needless to say, expectations were met amidst Keith’s hype surrounding the breakfasts here in Guatemala. Immediately after breakfast we followed up with our worship and centering prayer session with Cathy. Worship mainly consists of words of affirmation from Cathy, as well as singing a few songs from our worship booklets. Each worship session brings an increased amount of time spent in our centering prayer. As of now we’ve reached around six minutes engaged in prayer with one another, with more to come.

After a quick break to grab notebooks and pencils, the students gathered inside of our designated classroom here at SEMILLA for a lesson on cultural diversity, history and human rights in Guatemala. Cesar Garcia spoke to our scholars on the importance of understanding what has been considered a longstanding bipolar system of ‘Ladino” vs. Indigenous communities. “Ladino” is a term used only within Guatemala, as a way to categorize those who contain any ethnicity other than indigenous. Garcia indicated that this binary division typically elevated Ladinos and denigrated the indigenous, and is a colonizers’ version of Guatemalan history and culture. In addition to conversations surrounding Ladino and indigenous cultures, Cesar discussed more difficult topics such as the Guatemalan state’s implementation of ethnic genocide against people of primarily Mayan descent during the 36-year internal war (1960-1996).

Not too long after our first class session, our main speaker during our time here in Guatemala, Felix, introduced the main course material, “Youth and the Fullness of Humanity”. The majority of these sessions will be centered around applying ethical teachings of Jesus into Guatemalan culture as well as into our own culture. Today’s session mainly focused on an overview of the course as well as various themes that we would cover as a group.

The majority of our day, however, was spent around Guatemala City’s Plaza Mayor. On the way to the plaza we we stopped for lunch at Aide Restaurante. A short drive from Plaza Mayor, Aide Restaurante has been a consistent hit in past SSTT groups, with a lush green outdoor patio and gurgling fountain in the background.

The plaza buzzed with market vendors and food carts bustling past us. There we explored the National Palace, otherwise known as “Palacio Verde” or the “National Palace of Culture”.  The jade-esque palace represents a key symbol of Guatemala City through its architectural feats as well as political activity that ensues within. It was clear that the palace captivated our students as soon as we entered. Cell phones were quick to leave pockets and snap as many photos as possible. Despite moving through the palace fairly quickly, it felt as though we had been there for hours. Along with stopping for a few photos, our tour guide took a photo of us within the palace courtyard. The palace, despite being quite beautiful, depicted various images of the colonialization of Guatemala and the atrocities that took place as well.

Following our excursion to the National Palace, we made our way across the plaza to the Metropolitan Cathedral. The neoclassical era cathedral placed adjacent to the National Palace was filled with gold-trimmed paintings, wooden santos, and domed ceilings. As soon as we entered the cathedral, group members found themselves sitting amongst the pews, with scattered Guatemalans reverently praying behind and in front of them. Rather than taking off to document the immense building, it seemed as though they instinctively felt it necessary to sit in silence within the sacred interior.

Our final stop around Guatemala City’s plaza was the artisan market and fruit vendors. Students were challenged to find and purchase a single fruit that they had never tried before. Sounds easy, right? Well, they were each given ten Quetzals, which equates to around $1.35 in U.S. currency. It quickly became even more of a challenge when trying to converse in Spanish for some students. But luckily students hatched a plan to break into groups with at least one person in each who is fluent in Spanish. After around fifteen minutes of searching the market for fruit, each student had something in their possession that they had never tried before. The fruit was then brought back to SEMILLA’s campus and washed for dinner. Before leaving the market, however, some students explored the artisan portion of the mercado, where numerous hackysacks and wallets were purchased.

To end the day, worship was prepared by students Jacob, Catherine, Evelyn and Sarah W. The four students combined a series of hymns, personal stories and scripture readings, accompanied by an unexpected torrential downpour that initially drove us out of our tin-roofed room. Tomorrow we continue with our class sessions as well as a tour of the Terminal Market and Puerta de Esperanza.


-Alexander Koscher