Five years ago, our school decided to establish a permanent Global Education program. Though we have long sought to teach our students about the world and help them find their place in it, we wanted to deepen and widen the relationships and connections that supported our efforts. Making Global Education part of our school was a natural progression fueled by the momentum of our innovative curriculum, place-based approach, and general aspirations. As we established our program, we identified the need for a relatively close, Spanish-speaking destination to include in our offerings. After a year of deliberation, we decided to pursue connections and programming based in Guatemala. Sitting in Antigua Guatemala after a day with FAFG and a wonderful dinner with the Hurtartes and delicious lunch with the Alvarado women, it’s easy to say that we made the right choice.
Guatemala is a fascinating country. If you’ve read the student posts from this trip, you know that we’ve experienced and thought about a lot. There is so much to learn from the history of this place and what’s going on around the country today. But more than anything, for us, Guatemala is like a second home. Our relationships here are incredible.
Yesterday, we woke up early and drove to FAFG’s anthropology lab in Guatemala City. There, we were introduced to exactly how the group processes individual bodies that are exhumed from mass graves or the sites of massacres. We learned about how the group combines DNA evidence with an analysis of the skeleton (identifying the cause of death, defining characteristics, etc.) and anecdotal evidence provided by family members or witnesses. We learned about how the group establishes positive identifications that can hold up in legal investigations and trials. After the introduction, we got to see their work in action. We walked through a room where forensic anthropologists were examining a collection of skeletons that were exhumed from an active military base. We got to see the very minutia of an incredibly important and sensitive effort to better understand and process the Guatemalan Civil War.
No one else gets the kind of access that we got. We are so lucky to have a relationship with Fredy Peccerelli and the administration of FAFG.
For lunch, we met Janny Alverado and her mother at a local restaurant. Their friendly energy and curiosity helped our group process everything we’ve done on this whirlwind trip. They wanted to know everything – what we’ve thought and what we’ve done. They reminded us all that source of our comfort and ability to navigate this country is rooted in people our school has known for a long time.
Then, for dinner, we were invited to the Hurtarte’s. Natalia, the middle Hurtarte daughter, had invited some friends from her school, InterAmericano, to connect with our students. Together with Sophie Heath, they are hoping to connect CCS classes with groups from InterAmericano. We hope that our students will learn Spanish and that the Central American students will get the chance to improve their English through ongoing penpal relationships. Mr. Viser is also hoping to connect his Spanish classes formally with InterAmericano, giving each of his students an outlet for learning more Spanish and becoming more confident.
In addition to the great learning and connecting that happened with the Hurtartes, our evening at their beautiful house was also a reminder of why we’re visiting Guatemala in the first place. We are so spoiled by the families we have connections with. They help us really understand this place and their hospitality makes it possible for Guatemala to feel so quickly like a second home. Proof of point that we left their Guatemala City house and traveled to their house in Antigua Guatemala, where the group will be based for the remainder of our time in the country. Literally, none of what we do would be possible without the families who make Guatemala so accessible to us.
So, here’s a thank you to the Meneses family, the Hurtarte family, the Alvarado family, Jose de Dios, and all the other Guatemalans who were part of our reason for choosing Guatemala in the first place and who remind us with each visit that we made 100% definitely the right choice.