San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala
95% of the 4,180 inhabitants of San Juan La Laguna are indigenous Mayans of the Tz’utujil ethnicity. The local economy is based on the cultivation and export of coffee by private producers, with community members working as laborers. Most men practice agriculture, while many women work as weavers. Local employment opportunities are extremely limited and many people travel several hours to the cities to find work and must spend several days away from home to be able to provide for their families.
Planeterra worked with the San Juan La Laguna community in Lake Atitlan to develop a homestay program and visitor centre for groups. This provides access to the tourism market for the small town that has traditionally lacked opportunities in tourism. Initiatives related to the homestay program include small businesses to supply the tourism industry and environmental and social grants to protect the destination. These projects aim to increase income for the Tz’utujil people, conserve their cultural heritage and support the long-term health of the local environment. The program is now supporting over 100 additional people in related micro-enterprises that include a Mayan art gallery, a traditional medicine and natural products, multiple weaving co-ops managed by women, and a Temazcal steam bath.
When we ﬁrst met Santos, he lived in a one room house with his wife and four children. With supplies provided through the Mayan Homestay program, Santos worked tirelessly to revitalize his home to receive travellers to supplement their modest income. Santos’ 18 year-old son has followed in his footsteps and is now involved in the tourism industry as a guide.
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