Talking With Doña Gloria…

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Doña Gloria was a radio operator in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit, a guerrilla battalion during Guatemala’s 36 year civil war. She’s currently Director of Hospitality, for the ecotourism program at Santa Anita la Unión. I sat down with her recently to talk about ecotourism at Santa Anita. Here is what she had to say.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: What is the reason the community of Santa Anita decided to establish the ecotourism program?

Doña Gloria: Ten years ago when we came here this place was an abandon coffee farm. We started growing organic coffee and bananas. The business of farming, even with fair trade export standards was not providing the people here with sufficient wages to survive. Santa Anita is a place of natural beauty. We knew this and wanted to share it with people. We established the ecotourism program to generate extra money for the community and share our ways of life with visitors. You won’t find fancy hotels here. We want our guest to experience nature the same way we do, when we work in the fields each day. Because we are farmers many of use refer to the business as agro-tourism instead of ecotourism.

Santa Anita La Unión blog: How is Santa Anita different from other ecotourism/ agro-tourism destinations?

Doña Gloria: Santa Anita is different because of its history. We are ex-guerrilla fighters. All other communities have their own histories as well.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: What hopes does the community of Santa Anita have for the ecotourism / agro-tourism program in the future?

Doña Gloria: Currently the ecotourism program is run entirely by the women in the community. Our hope is, in the future we will be able to employ many of the younger women in the community. They can gain new skills by working with us.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: What are some of the successes the ecotourism / agro-tourism program has had?

Doña Gloria: A number of people have visited Santa Anita. With this has come a lot of outside support for our community.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: What are some of the problems with the ecotourism / agro-tourism program?

Doña Gloria: We have had trouble doing sufficient publicity. At times we do not have enough space to accommodate larger groups of volunteers. We currently have room for twenty-five people and would like to expand that capacity in the future.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: Does the community as a whole have any mixed feelings about the start up of the ecotourism / argro-tourism program?

Doña Gloria: No, because when the community receives guests, the whole community benefits from having them here.

Santa Anita la Unión blog: What can visitors to the Santa Anita do when the leave to continue to offer support and mutual aide to the community.

Doña Gloria: When people leave they can tell other people about Santa Anita. They can talk to them about our history and the needs of this community.

post written by, Chris Heneghan

translated by, Laura Von Dohlen

photo by, Lauren Bennett

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