Today, we spent our entire day in the city of Antigua Guatemala. Nestled below the towering Agua Volcano, Antigua was the capital of Central American when the region was controlled by the Spanish. It’s a beautiful place with both unique and quite common characteristics. It’s a lot like a lot of places in this part of the world but it is also quite different. Our students got to explore it in a variety of ways today.
First, we explored Antigua through its food scene. For breakfast, we ate at a delicious street side restaurant adjacent to a major bus stop and outdoor market. The wonderful cook Lore served us perfectly scrambled eggs (she danced while she scrambled them), the best frijoles any of us had ever had, fresh tortillas, cream, coffee, and homemade pickled hot sauce. Everyone devoured the food and we were quite a sight for passersby. Erin put it best – “This is the kind of food I always dream of! The kind of food you can’t order on a menu back home. I’ve missed it.” We certainly will miss it moving forward
Then, we explored it through a variety of focuses:
Mayan Representation – who decides or has decided “what a Mayan looks like?” How does the Mayan population exist politically, economically, socially, or historically? How might that representation change as we move around the country? What role has religion played? What did the Spanish do in this area?
Work & Business – what do people do for work? How does it connect to global economies? What are people proud of when it comes to work? Where does family fit in? How does tourism help? What are unexpected impacts of having so many foreigners in a small place? What role goes the government play?
Politics – what are the major issues in Guatemalan politics? How do those issues play out in Antigua in particular? What’s the role of the US? Russia? Other countries? Who controls the outcomes of elections? Rural people? Urban people? Wealthy people? What are the priorities of the government? How have those changed over time? Who gets to vote? What’s the process?
Education – how is education prioritized? Who controls education and its goals? Who has access to educational resources? What is unique about education in Antigua? Other areas of the country? How does the history of the Mayan population exist in Guatemalan schools? How does education change from region to region within the country? What skills are most important?
In small groups, students and teachers walked throughout Antigua looking for answers to these questions and more. We spoke with countless people, covered almost every corner of the city, and learned a lot. Many kids said their “Spanish brains” were activated for what felt like the first time. A lot of new vocabulary was learned. And the day prepared us for doing more of this kind of learning. We have new and clearer ideas to use. We have the confidence to go out and learn this way. We know how to introduce ourselves and what we’re doing in multiple languages while allowing others to access and understand.
It was an excellent day. You’ll get to hear all about it from the students’ perspective(s) soon.