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Culture Center - Proyecto COMPA - Proyecto Cantel - Escuela de la Montaña

Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center

In 1994, we founded the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center to provide classes in art, music, computer skills and English to children of Quetzaltenango from families with limited economic resources. Classes are given in the building next to PLQ and activities between students of the PLQ and the children from the Cultural Center are easily organized. Since 1999 ´Arte en el Campo,´ a program through the Cultural Center, benefits the children of the villages near La Escuela de la Montaña. Every Saturday children from the surrounding communities study guitar, drawing and marimba. Classes are free and allow the children to express their creativity, a human right long suppressed under the military regimes of this country. PLQ students are encouraged to volunteer on a short or long term basis at the Center or in the program.

Proyecto Cine Comunitario Popular y Alternativo (COMPA)

Proyecto COMPA is a program that brings contemporary films to rural communities in the department of Quetzaltenango that would not otherwise have access to them. This project is particularly focused on those communities that experienced violence during the armed conflict. COMPA arose from the realization that cinema, as contemporary art, facilitates the sharing of information about events and historical facts that can contribute to reflection and interpretation of our history and the contemporary life of our peoples. The films are responsable, educational, social and political.

On arriving in the community, PLQE members Carlos and Ronaldo install the equipment and, time permitting, chat with the kids or kick around the football for a while before starting the show. The first film is for children and adolescents under 15 and has always been great fun and very motivating. This is particularly the case when we've been able to play and talk to the kids beforehand about the subject matter of the films, such as peace, friendship, solidarity and companionship. Afterwards the kids always ask for another.

The second presentation is more serious, and includes films concerning historical, political, or social realities. Prior to showing a film Carlos and Ronaldo talk with the attendees about the themes and discuss the present reality of their situation. In the wake of a screening there is time left for reflection and commentary.

COMPA is sponsored by the PLQE with the help and solidarity of Austin Haeberle.

This project has two overarching goals: to conserve an area of pine forest half an hour outside of Quetzaltenango and to form a nursery to perpetuate the growth of pine trees in other locations. The Proyecto Reforestación is a collaboration between the PLQE and a group of young K'i'che Mayans who approached the school in mid-2000. They are actively campaigning among local schools and municipalities to spread awareness of the importance of forest conservation and reforestation in Guatemala.

The project began during the summer of 2000 when we were approached by a group of Maya K'i'che youths from Pachak near Cantel, a small village near Quetzaltenango. They explained their concerns about the accelerating rate of deforestation in Guatemala and in particular in the mountains surrounding Cantel. Guatemala is presently losing its forests at a rate twice that taking place in the Brazilian Amazon. In Guatemala this includes the jungles of Peten, which constitute one of the "lungs" of Central America and, indeed, the Western Hemisphere at large. The threats come from diverse sources, ranging from foreign petroleum companies clearing large swathes of land for exploration and drilling to the gradual but steady creep of subsistence maize farming up the hills of the highlands.

Proyecto Reforestación de Cantel

Carlos and Armando, two of the founding members of this grassroots group, explained to us that subsistence farming on the slopes of the hills represents a poor use of the land because the soil at that altitude does not support maize crops. Their idea was, first, to reforest the half-hectare of land left to Armando by his ancestors, focusing particularly on the endangered pinabete pine. The second stage of the project would be to develop a nursery that would grow thousands of baby pines to sell to local schools and other organizations to encourage the process of reforestation and educate a new generation about the importance of forest conservation. The work of reforestation has been a cooperative effort by the group themselves with help from the students and teachers of the PLQE, who have made regular trips to the land to clean and maintain it as well as overnight stays and hikes to Lake Atitlan as part of a larger plan to expand the ecological project to embrace ecotourism.

On July 26th, 2000, we took a group of students to Armando's land for a half day of walking and a chance to learn about some of the local history connected with the area. The land is located on a hill called La Pulga, which is home to several Mayan religious sites still in regular use. From the summit you can see across the valley to the Santa Maria Volcano and the mountains surrounding Lago de Atitlan, a truly spectacular vista but scarred by the clearings created by the small farms on the slopes. While we were there Armando shared legends and creation stories literally rooted in the land, including the likelihood that the final resting place of Tecun Uman, the last K'i'che king, was beneath our very feet. We couldn't help thinking about a time before cars, electricity and so many ofthe other advances of our age which make many of our lives more comfortable but whose use and over-use is at the same time jeopardizing the beauty of our planet and, indeed, our very survival.

On September 9th, 2000, we returned with another group of students and teachers to carry out the planting of 500 pinabetes and pines. After preparing the land and digging the holes Armando taught us the Mayan way of planting a tree, which requires that a grain of maize be first put in each hole before the tree to symbolize that the planter is giving something of her or himself in the act of planting, so becoming united with the future growth of the tree. We worked with a sense of tranquility as 25 of us carefully carried out our takd with a sense of spiritual dedication. Many hands have left a caring imprint on that small piece of land near Cantel, and already the effects are already evident in the admiration expressed by neighboring landholders to members of the group.

Volunteer Opportunities at La Escuela de la Montaña

Students have the opportunity to help out with daily activities such as caring for the vegetable and herb gardens and reading to the local children. Depending on the amount of time available, a student's fluency in Spanish and skill level, volunteer placements might be arranged in nearby communities.

Young Leaders Scholarship Program

The scholarship recipients commit to maintaining passing or higher grades and to demonstrating leadership by participation within their communities. Participation might include involvement with local youth groups, grassroots organizations, church youth groups or activities at the Escuela de la Montaña such as leadership training sessions or the Arte en el Campo courses in music and art.

Scholarship students are also required to participate in regular Youth Encounters held at the Escuela de la Montaña where speakers have covered topics such as children’s rights, the Peace Accords, HIV/AIDS, gender is-sues, alcohol and drug abuse and responding to gang activity. Our intention is to promote a sense of leadership and community responsibility among the youth, stressing their roles as future leaders in their communities and in Guatemala.
Download the Report for the School Year January – December 2005
Escuela de la Montaña in pdf or word


Next door to PLQ we have the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Center.
This center provides classes in art, music, computer programs and English to children of Quetzaltenango...
Proyecto Reforestación de Cantel
Many hands have left a caring imprint on that small piece of land near Cantel, and already the effects are already evident...
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