Update (7/5/16): The Business Honors Program has created and shared an engaging video documentary of their experience.
Eleven students from the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program recently traveled to Guatemala this past spring break to learn about Guatemalan history, culture, and social justice issues. Working with the program Where There Be Dragons, students were able to immerse themselves in hands-on learning and cultural experiences. During the day, the trip focused on Mayan beliefs and sustainable permaculture. Students gained additional cultural awareness by staying with host families at night.
According to Cole Peterson, a junior majoring in accounting, “Going into the homestay I didn't know what to expect because I didn’t speak any Spanish. It was a big struggle at first to learn the basics of communication, but I was also able to take in a lot about the culture by just observing.”
Peterson said he made the conscious effort to make the most out of his homestay.
“One goal of mine was to be open to participating in any unique experiences I had the opportunity to be a part of,” he said. “One of the most memorable times was going to the local gym one morning with my host brother, which provided a much different workout experience than going to the UO’s Student Recreation Center.”
Several days of the trip were spent visiting IMAP (Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura), a nonprofit founded in 2000 by Rony Lec. The organization focuses on education of food sovereignty, community development, and biodiversity. The group toured the facilities and witnessed sustainability in action--everything from used tires to old milk jugs being reused, and lunch was served fresh from the garden.
Lec, whose father was killed in the Guatemalan Civil War that ended in 1996, taught students about how the North American Fair Trade Agreement has negatively affected, and still continues to affect, farmers across Guatemala. Students expressed how the topics, such as fair trade, capitalism, and economic inequality, were highly relevant to their fields of study within the business college. Alonso Zorrilla, a junior marketing student, said, “Our visit to Guatemala made me realize that history isn't always written by the winners. Globalization has really damaged Guatemala, but it was fascinating to see that they have begun to rebuild their economy through sustainable practices and through the dedication of its people.”
Another important theme was the prevalence of Mayan culture in modern Guatemala. The Mayans greatly value the sacredness of nature, and students were able to enjoy the country’s abundance (the word Guatemala is derived from a Mayan phrase for “the land of trees”). This included wading through rivers, planting their own garden, and participating in a Mayan ceremony focused on praising the earth’s natural forces.
For two students, the tour was their second time participating in the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program alternative spring break. For all, the experience in Guatemala encouraged the pursuit of experiences outside of normal comfort zones, and students continue to apply what they have learned from witnessing first-hand the juxtaposition between Guatemala’s rich culture and economic struggle.
—By Emily Huang, accounting and Spanish double major ’18 and Honors Program student
View Photos from the Trip