About the Program

Many participants travel to Guatemala to study Spanish at the Academia Antigüeña in Antigua, Guatemala and/or the Cooperativa School in San Pedro La Laguna on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlán. You'll live with host families and enjoy a wide range of cultural activities including traditional cooking classes, salsa dance lessons, volcano hikes, and village visits. Trip extensions and excursions to other parts of Guatemala and neighboring countries will be possible as will additional weeks of study and volunteerism and alternate schools and locations.

This is independent travel study so you pick the dates; classes typically begin on Mondays. You'll study for 3 or 4 hours per day either morning or afternoon and can register for 1 to 4 weeks and receive 60 Clock Hours/PDUs or 6 quarter credits (equivalent of 4 semester credits) per week.

PLEASE NOTE: The Heritage Institute courses receive Continuing Education Quarter Credits awarded by Antioch University Seattle at the 400 and 500 levels. Call 800.445.1305 or log onto The Heritage Institute’s website policies page for more information.


For information about similar programs in other Latin American countries as well as credit for volunteer and cultural learning projects, click here or on the bottom link, below. Contact information is available on the Registration Form.

To view the blog from our 2009 group trip to Guatemala, scroll to the Blog Archive (lower right) and click the 1st post you want to see (they're listed bottom to top chronologically, you may need to click the arrow by July to see the earliest ones). Click "Newer Post" at the bottom of each post to view the next one.

Last day in San Pedro La Laguna

Trust me that I’ve taken far more food pictures than I’ve posted; I couldn’t resist posting this morning’s breakfast (PHOTO 1). PHOTO 2 is my wonderful host family.

The next 3 photos are street scenes. Most of the streets in town are narrow, many too narrow for cars or even tuctucs to drive on. PHOTO 3 shows one of the wider streets but no room to spare; the top of the truck’s windshield says, “We have confidence in God”. As I walked up the street today I saw groups of young people passing an old man who was walking the other way; as each passed him they kissed his hand - very sweet (PHOTO 4). The produce market days in San Pedro are Tuesday and Friday (PHOTO 5).

PHOTOS 6 and 7 show a view of the Cooperativa Spanish school garden (the palapas are the study areas) and the teachers at the school. Each teacher in the school has selected 2 local families who are in grave need of support. Every other Friday students at the Cooperativa school travel to meet the families and take clothing, school supplies, and food; the school buys supplies with tuition money and many of us contributed additional items or money. PHOTO 8 shows a wonderful family that Rosie, Sam, and I visited this afternoon that included 2 of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. The school is also collecting money to build a new home for a local family.

Tonight was the final event of the school Olympiad featuring rhythmic gymnastic routines and lots of trophies for the champion basketball and soccer teams in each age group (PHOTO 9: the littlest ones with more enthusiasm than rhythm).

The San Pedro photos in this blog represent just a fraction of the things that happened this week. Various members of the group went kayaking and/or swimming in the lake, ate out and took families out to eat, enjoyed extra salsa lessons and/or walks in the country, shopped and bought bread and pastries from the ladies combing the streets and restaurants for customers, and found various causes deserving of time and donations. The weeks have flown by and our study time is behind us - in less than 4 days we’ll be going our separate ways. HAPPY TRAILS!

Thursday - to Santiago and back

Some of us headed by boat on July 30th to Santiago Atitlan, another village on the lake. We visited Maximon, the patron saint of prostitutes, alcohol, and tobacco (PHOTO 1). There are at least 2 cofradias (church groups) in Santiago and the shrines are moved to new houses each year; guides took the morning visitors to a different shrine than the one Perry visited outside of town in the afternoon.

A highlight of my visit to Santiago 2 years ago was an incredibly hard working bucket brigade doing a cement pour on the roof of a building. They were working away again this year (PHOTO 2). I was also able to hire the same guide as last year, Salvador (PHOTO 3); as we each had our picture taken with him the cement workers hollered and whistled - hilarious. We also thought the sign in PHOTO 4 was hilarious: “Urination is prohibited in this place, 100 Q ($12) fine”; La Muni is the municipal government.

PHOTO 5 is Mary Ann, Judy, and me with a tiny Maya woman and her son who sold us beaded jewelry and key chains; her huipil (blouse) is typical of Santiago - woven vertical stripes and richly embroidered with birds. In the background you can see edges of a carnival - you would not believe how rickety the ferris wheels looked or how fast the went. The church, also in the background, has a beautiful wooden alter and a memorial to Father Stanley Roth, an American priest who was devoted to his indigenas parishioners and who was assassinated by the government in 1981.

At 6pm we had a guest speaker at the school who talked about the Maya calendar and view of the world, then a few group folks met for dinner and 4 of us passed a very pleasant hour or 2 in a hot tub. HAPPY TRAILS!


With some studying in the morning and some in the afternoon we choosing activities with varying numbers and groups. This blog is obviously textured with my interests and activities but I hope it will still give a feel for what our lives are like here. One of my favorite things to do is engage old men in conversation (PHOTOS 1 and 2 - 2 of my favorites).

I watched a little more basketball, volunteered at the disability program a bit more, and hiked way up a steep hill (even though no less than 5 people told me it was just around the next corner) to watch some “futbol” (PHOTO 3).

After that I walked back into town and caught a ride in the back of a pickup to San Juan, a neighboring town; I wasn’t hitch hiking, the pickups run every 10 minutes or so both ways and the standard fare is 2 quetzales or about 16 cents. PHOTO 4 is the cemetery in San Juan and PHOTO 5 was taken outside a fabric store. There are also several women’s weaving cooperatives and a cheese “factory”.

This evening the school offered salsa lessons with Luis, one of the instructors at the school (PHOTOS 6, 7 (Jodie), and 8 (Rosie).We also met at a local restaurant for dinner or dessert - another full day. HAPPY TRAILS!


This week in San Pedro it’s the kids’ Olympiad - no school and lots of soccer and basketball. This morning the 8-year-old girl in my family had a basketball game. PHOTO 1 is Micaela getting Jullisa ready for the big game in the open area of the house. PHOTO 2 shows the game (Jullisa is #10). In the background are the Municipal building, Somos Hijos Del Lago (Our Children of the Lake - the program for kids with disabilities where I volunteer), and the top of the white cathedral on the upper left. In addition to cheering in Spanish I enjoyed the enthusiastic coaches in traditional attire and the women crowding around the meat shop on the corner of the square for the opportunity to buy the freshest chicken (PHOTO 3: the women on the left watching the game over their shoulders are Andrea who is the wife of Lorenzo, our Spanish school’s director, Micaela’s sister Maria who is the mom in Judy and Mary Ann’s family [and Sylvia’s in 2007!] and Micaela. There’s no refrigerator in our home and daily trips to the market are important for social reasons as well as sustenance. No washing machine and limited water at home mean washing clothes in the lake, another social time that included Jullisa and her friends.

While the population in Antigua is largely Catholic, in San Pedro it’s split between Catholic and Evangelist (PHOTO 4: “Only Jesus can change your life”).

Our days are full of new experiences, like the dog that strolled into the restaurant this evening and raised a leg on Sam, eating fish served with eyes, teeth, and fins intact, and the tuktuk (golf cart taxi) ride that Michon and I shared with the sweet old lady in PHOTO 5; the cost of the photo was her fare.

There are also threads that tie all families and all countries together, like the silly antics of the 3-year-old in Lorenzo’s family (Rosie and Sam’s hosts), Jullisa’s missing teeth and avoidance of vegetables, and coaches and families cheering on their teams. HAPPY TRAILS!

July 27th, exploring San Pedro

Half a day of classes means half a day to explore; here are some photos from my first morning in San Pedro that will give you a feel for the place. PHOTO 1 is a group of teachers and students heading down the hill and PHOTO 2 is a group of soccer players heading up.

San Pedro La Laguna is 95% indigenas Maya who are native T’zutujil speakers (one of 23 Maya dialects) and who tend to be empathetic and clear Spanish speakers. PHOTOS 3 and 4 show the traditional local attire, common for women but less so for men, mostly seen on older guys. PHOTO 5 is my home away from home, la casa de Micaela y Jose Mendez. HAPPY TRAILS!

We arrive in San Pedro

From Corazon del Bosque we headed down the steep, serpentine road to our next stop, San Pedro La Laguna on beautiful Lake Atitlan (PHOTO 1: our 1st glimpse of the lake). After arriving at the school and connecting with our new host families, we met for dinner at a local restaurant on the lake (PHOTO 2: Michon and a meal we know her husband and my husband would have loved).

PHOTOS 3 and 4 are Rosie and Diana with their teachers at the school. HAPPY TRAILS!

The Heart of the Forest

We left Chichi as the day visitors were arriving in droves and stopped for lunch at Corazon del Bosque, “Heart of the Forest”. The product of a local Maya community, it features cabins, hiking trails (PHOTO 1), traditional food, and Maya temascales (steam baths) made of stone that many of us enjoyed. We also took part in a Maya spiritual ceremony high on a hillside (PHOTOS 2, 3, 4, and 5). HAPPY TRAILS!


We arrived in the highland market town of Chichicastenango as night fell and shared a meal at a restaurant dispensing cheap, good food typical of the area ($2.50 for meat, rice, tortillas, local cheese, and black beans). PHOTO 1 is the “death head” shower in our hotel room, similar to the ones we have in our host families - yikes!

PHOTOS 2, 3, 4, and 5 are some of my favorite market scenes. A highlight for me was reconnecting again with an old couple in the market I spent time with when I was in Chichi 2 years ago. HAPPY TRAILS!

July 25th: Maya ruins and a musical surprise

Our next stop was a visit to the Maya ruins of Iximche, an important site that became the capital of all of Central America nearly 500 years ago on this date. The ruins were a treat (PHOTO 1) but the special surprise of the day was a musical celebration featuring Maya groups from different parts of the country. We enjoyed a picnic surrounded by Maya families (PHOTO 2), then were entertained by the vocal virtuosity of 4 impish boys (PHOTO 3) and traditional music and dances (PHOTO 4). As with the parade, the crowd was nearly as interesting as the performance (PHOTO 5: Judy in a colorful sea of Mayas). HAPPY TRAILS!

A parade!

July 25th is the annual day to celebrate Antigua’s patron saint, Santiago, and one of the highlights for locals and visitors is a parade. It lasted nearly 4 hours (no joke) and included representation from every school in the area (PHOTO 1, coming later: for some reason a grim reaper lead each school’s delegation). There were also wonderful bands (PHOTO 2), several “preserve our streets and historic buildings” contingents (PHOTO 3), and others displaying cultural and geographical highlights of the area (PHOTO 4).

Almost as interesting as the parade were the spectators (PHOTOS 5 and 6). As the parade wound down we packed up, loaded into a tour bus, and left our busy study week in Antigua behind us. HAPPY TRAILS!