A community effort
Putting up the sign for the new computer center
A coat of paint to brighten the Children's
Education Center...as kids eagerly sort books
Nahualá - a name derived from the Mayan
word Nawal signifying "water spirit" this
photo was taken in the mountains of Nahualá.
On October 4, 2005, Hurricane Stan hit
Guatemala, causing mudslides that wiped out
entire villages, crops and roads while claiming
hundreds of lives. In keeping with its basic
mission of community development, Maya
Tech Learning Centers, Inc. provided supplies,
housing and medicines for villages in the
Nahualá area that had been affected by the
storm. Evidence of a mudslide is depicted in
this photo of a volcano on Lake Atitlán.
MTLC Co-founders, Camilo and Karen Macario seek to
educate and empower rural Guatemalan communities that
have struggled due to poverty, social injustice and
Maya Tech Learning Centers, Inc.
from Basico (high school) to schools that offer degrees in teaching and accounting.
These schools, however, are like many in Guatemala that are poorly supplied with
textbooks or other educational materials, let alone computer technology. Classrooms that
do have a computer are often kept locked for teacher use and the systems are outdated
so that when technical problems occur, no one is adequately trained to service them. A
few privately-owned businesses in town charge residents a fee for use of their
computers, however these enterprises fail to provide instruction and depend on the
customer’s ability to pay, thus alienating a large sector of the community. Our
organization’s non-profit status enables us to offer instruction and services at a reduced
rate as well as a provision that no one be denied access due to inability to pay.
With an increase in the number of schools in Nahualá, less students have to travel
outside of their culture, language and comfort level and, therefore, are more likely to
continue their education. A computer center in Nahualá seeks to enhance their
educational opportunities even more. Little to no funding exists from the Guatemalan
government or Ministry of Education at this time to provide for Nahualá, adding it to a long
list of poorly equipped communities requesting computers and internet access.
Nahualá has retained its student population, making youth development and
programming for young adults an essential component of the community. The computer
center would also offer a study area for students to gather and complete assignments in
a suitable environment. The adobe and cement block homes in Nahualá have dim
lighting and usually lack furnishings such as a desk or table space for writing
assignments. Furthermore, supporting the family electric bill for students to study after
dark is not a priority. With resource books, computers and a study area, continued study is
facilitated at the center.
In order to adequately serve the adult population of Nahualá, the center proposes an
educational play center for small children equipped with games, puzzles and books.
Parents seeking computer time or training may bring their children to a supervised setting
while they use the center. In turn, the children are exposed to learning materials not
available in their homes.
A computer center in Nahualá promotes overall education and opens a world of
technology to youth and adults alike, thus lessening the digital divide in this rural region of
the world. Essentially, the center enables people to acquire the skills they need to be
functional in a world-wide economy.
|Description of Project Area
Description of Project Area
Nahualá, Sololá, Guatemala is a K'iche' Maya town in the
Western Highlands of Guatemala. The people of Nahualá
have maintained their traditional indigenous dress, language
and lifestyle for centuries despite military and societal
oppression, discrimination, and poverty. The primary
language spoken is K'iche' with Spanish taught in the
schools. Many women and children who have received little to
no education, as well as elders, only speak K'iche'.
The first inhabitants of Nahualá were shepherds and raising sheep for wool to make
traditional clothing, blankets and bags is still a common occupation. Subsistence
agriculture is a prevalent way of life. The main products are: corn, varieties of beans and
peaches in the highlands; fruits, sugar cane, coffee towards the coastal plain. Seasonal
migration exists to some extent in Nahualá, due to the population’s reliance on
agriculture. Primarily men commute to the coastal plains to harvest coffee and sugar cane
leaving the women and children in charge of everyday work at home such as maintaining
crops, cutting firewood and selling products in the market. Other means of employment in
Nahualá include small businesses such as food stores, bakeries, butcher shops,
pharmacies, and hardware stores. Some community members - men and women - are
employed as teachers. Artesian products, such as grinding stones used throughout the
country, textiles and weavings of cotton and wool are steadily produced and marketed for
a living. According to the municipality’s website, 85% of the population lives in poverty with
the average family income covering only ¾ of their basic needs.
According to the municipality’s 2002 report, the population of the entire municipality is
64,895 with a pretty even split between men and women. This figure includes the town of
Nahualá and outlying rural villages and areas from the mountains to the coastal plain.
The population of the town alone is 4,423. The annual growth rate is 3.3%.
As is typical of Central American towns, Nahualá identifies itself with a Feast Day
according to traditions of the Catholic church. The town’s Feast Day is November 25 in
commemoration of Santa Catalina de Alejandría. The population’s current religious
affiliations, however, include a mixture of ancient Mayan and Catholic practices as well as
a rising number of Evangelical/Protestant congregations. The Mormons are also present
in Nahualá with a smaller following.
Nahualá is a K'iche' Maya community that has preserved and
maintained an indigenous lifestyle and traditions despite outside
influences and close proximity to the Pan American Highway. The
entire Municipalidad, or county, includes the surrounding villages
stretching from the mountains to the boca costa/coastal plain. The
town serves as a center of business and personal activity for the area.
Perhaps its accessibility has helped the town prosper as supplies
and materials are more easily transported from Quetzaltenango and
This indigenous community has grown rapidly in the past 10 years.
While banks, cell phones and stores show signs of increased
commerce, the country’s poor infrastructure becomes evident in the
lack of phone lines and potable water projects years in the making
that still await completion. There are now several schools ranging
Yet the Nahualá of today promises more. Technology and commerce as well as exposure
to other ways of life abound. While language and cultural traditions remain strong,
Nahualá is no longer dependent solely on subsistence agriculture. The official end of
Guatemala’s 36-year civil war in 1996 and subsequent reduction in military forces have
given way to incremental progress in a once persecuted indigenous population. It is now
possible for youth to continue their studies and pursue their professions in their own town,
making it stronger and proving its adaptability. Travel has become a choice, not a
necessity to get ahead. Building on the culturally inherent sense of community here,
Camilo has emphasized establishing programs that strengthen and add to the academic
and technological growth of Nahualá.
After 10 years of working professionally in computers and technology and pursuing
additional computer science degrees in the United States, Camilo has viewed his
hometown in this rising light. While education served as his key to open doors, he now
aspires to pass on this message and provide the training and tools for others to excel. He
has set an example beyond giving back to his community – he proposes to teach his
people how to further advance themselves.
While this message of empowerment and education is not unique to Nahualá, it is a
prime place to start.
Maya Tech Learning Center’s President and Founder, Camilo
Macario was born and grew up in this indigenous village.
Camilo, trilingual in English, Spanish and K'iche', knows the
stressors of traveling outside of his own culture to get an
education. He began his academic journey at age 15 departing
to Quetzaltenango, a larger city 50 kilometers west of Nahualá, to
attend high school and technical school. After being awarded the
opportunity to study in the United States through a USAID-
sponsored scholarship at Hesston College in Kansas, Camilo
returned home only to find his degree in computers and
electronics was of little use in his hometown of the early 90’s. So
again, he had to leave home, finding a job in the country’s
crowded capital – three hours away by battered busses on
winding mountain roads.
|Maya Tech celebrates
13 years of service: