Monday, June 1, 2009
Day 1 - A Total Immersion
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?