Pollinators and Atitlan Ventures

A quick overview of our day yesterday:

The early bird gets the worm. as the saying goes. We got up bright and early yesterday for our drive to Lago de Atitlan, leaving at 5:15 a.m.. Unfortunately, we ran into unexpected roadblocks and obstacles: with the excessive rain this week, a landslide had blocked our entire two-lane highway, and later we found a downed tree across our path. After five hours, we finally arrived at Iximche for a tour of Mayan ruins. The tour led us through ruined and overgrown structures used for living and rituals hundreds of years ago. Towards the end of the tour, each student was given a necklace depicting a Mayan symbol from the day and date we were born. Finally, after a total of eight hours of riding on the bus, we made it to Lago de Atitlan.

Fast forward to today: our hotel in San Juan Atitlan is located just outside of town across from a vast mountain range. The entirety of the lake is surrounded by mountains and three volcanoes. Once everyone had eaten breakfast we headed out to the tuk-tuks waiting for us. We began our day at a beekeeping facility. From there we traveled across town to a local women’s cooperative that weaves textiles. We were able to watch a member of the cooperative give a demonstration of how to make thread from balls of cotton. Some of our students were even able to join in. After the demonstration, we were able to purchase some of the things made at the cooperative. The third visit this morning was to a chocolate cooperative, where we were given a demonstration of how chocolate is harvested from cacao beans and the process behind actually creating the chocolate itself.

Traveling from Santiago Atitlan, we ventured across the lake to visit the church of Father Stanley Rother. He was an U.S. Roman Catholic priest who moved from Oklahoma City to Atitlan to work as a missionary. It was here in Santiago Atitlan where Father Rother was gunned down during the Guatemalan Civil War. He was one of ten priests killed in Guatemala that year by the Guatemalan military for protecting and siding with his congregants. At the request of the church, his heart was kept in Atitlan and buried beneath the altar of the church.

Soon after visiting Father Rother’s memorial site, we took trucks close by to another cooperative (ANADESA) called where we ate lunch. The women’s cooperative then shared details on a massacre that occurred in Santiago Atitlan in 1990 as we stood in the Peace Park dedicated to the memory of those murdered.. On December 2 of that year, members of the Guatemalan military opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing 13 people (including a 5-year-old) and injuring over 20. Due to immense pressure from the public, the army was forced to vacate Atitlan.

After a long day of catching up on activities from yesterday, our students had free time after 3 p.m. to go hiking, swimming, and exploring the local markets. Although their day was full of activities, the students still had a lot of energy to spare. Tomorrow we go zip-lining in the forest surrounding Lago Atitlan and then return to SEMILLA four our last two overnights before returning home. It’s hard to believe our two weeks are soon coming to an end

-Alexander Koscher