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San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala continued… (Part 4).

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1 San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala continued… (Part 4)

2 New Communities A number of new communities in the Lake Atitlán area have come into existence in the past couple of years as part of the parroquia’s land development program. In two recent cases, the acquisition of new property was spurred by a natural disaster. On Sept. 12, 2002 a mudslide destroyed the community of El Porvenir, killing 37 people. The disaster was exacerbated by illegal timber-cutting on a mountain-side above the village. See my news article on this event in the Guatemala section of this website. Title: Mudslide at El Porvenir.

3 New Communities continued… In October, 2005 Hurricane Stan blew across the Caribbean and stalled over Guatemala, resulting in over 500 deaths. Natural disasters have their harshest impacts on the poor, whose homes consist of flimsy construction materials. The Lake Atitlán region was hit especially hard. Over 100 families living and working on the coffee finca Pampojila were washed out of their homes.

4 New Communities continued… In both cases, the parish was able to raise enough money to get the two communities resettled on new land. In the case of El Porvenir, there was enough land to resettle an additional two communities: Tierra Santa and Toltolya. Because these families were displaced by natural disasters, the Guatemalan government felt compelled to respond. It essentially had no choice when it declared the former home sites to be in a no-build risk zone.

5 New Communities continued… In an unprecedented partnership with the parroquia (which, recall, had provided the land, and which will be building fuel-efficient stoves), the government in each case provided infrastructure: roads, housing, electricity, schools, churches, and more, and some of the labor to complete the construction. In two of the photos to follow, you will see modern construction equipment rarely seen in this part of Guatemala. For the families in these communities, the natural disasters had the unintended consequence of providing them, for the first time ever, with land of their own. Do these two instances of government assistance represent a new “kinder and gentler” Guatemala? Time will tell.


7 Proud new stove owners in Tierra Santa: Isidora Chiroy and Lorenza Juracan.

8 Construction entails elements of both the old and the new…



11 Andres Chajil in front of one of the new sections of San Andres.

12 Installing water lines

13 Helping with the water lines…

14 Save the Children Foundation and USAID helped to provide transitional housing.

15 Centro de Mujeres A women’s center is the parroquia’s newest project. When completed, it will be a place for women to gather and relax with friends. There will be many demonstration projects involving new cooking techniques, recipes, medicinal herbs, furniture, clothes washing, and more. There will be gardens, as well as places for kids to romp and play. It is located just outside of town.

16 Steps leading to the communal pilas (clothes washing facilities).

17 View of the centro de mujeres from the pilas, where the run-off water is used to irrigate medicinal plants in the rock garden.

18 Note on culturally appropriate technology… Following Schumacher’s views on subsidiarity, where possible, local (as opposed to imported) resources are used in community projects. In the following two photos, bamboo poles are used as interior wall studs for projects like the hospital and the centro de mujeres. The bamboo is abundant in the area and free for the taking, and local workers are employed to do the cutting.



21 Breaking up boulders near the playground site the old-fashioned way.

22 Honey production The parroquia’s honey project is one of the quieter and less-well known projects, but important nevertheless. Volunteers have savored the output for years as they pack home bottles to distribute to family and friends. Like the other programs, it provides jobs and income. The project was complicated by the arrival a few years back of African killer bees. The following photo shows honey being stirred to the correct consistency prior to final packaging in plastic bottles.


24 To learn more about San Lucas Tolimán: See the articles (or book chapters) on San Lucas in this website under the Guatemala link on the main page.

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