Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Santa Anita in the press!

January 4, 2010

The Big World Magazine, which writes articles about topics in all over the world, dedicated one to Santa Anita.

To find out more check out the article “From Guerilleros to Cafeteros” on their homepage:

Banana Bread Baked by the Women of Santa Anita Now Available in Xela Every Wednesday…

February 27, 2009

imagen-0442The woman of Santa Anita started baking banana bread in their community for sale in Xela last week. They prepared twenty-five loafs of fresh banana bread made with organic bananas and transported them over the mountain to sell in the language schools on Wednesday morning. The first weeks sales were a delicious success. The woman sold all the bread they baked and brought home Q325 in profit for their community, roughly 40 U.S. dollars. Santa Anita Banana Bread is available in Xela every Wednesday for Q25 a loaf. It can be purchased at the following language schools between 10:30 and 11:00 am.,  Proyecto Linguistico, Celas Maya, and Casa Xelaju…

Canto a la Mujer

February 23, 2009

Canto a la Mujer

por, Ana


A esas mujeres


del perdón y la dignidad.


de una guerra,

atroz, injusta y sin razón.

Historia pasada

que nunca doidgran,

mujeres línders de la Humanidad,

en una vida

que contesamente,

pudieron caminar.

Luchadoras de sue derechos

y la liberdad.

Malores  ídeas

de la Humanidad.

Merecedoras del perdón

y la felicidad.    

Challenges the Community of Santa Anita Faces…

February 4, 2009

The abandoned coffee finca which became Santa Anita la Union was obtained by the community with a high interest loan from a government bank. After ten years of producing organic fair trade coffee and bananas they have only been able to pay off a fraction of the interest on this loan, which in total is over 300,000 U.S dollars.

According to the Fair Trade Federation, “Fair trade is an alternative way of doing business, one that builds equitable long term partnerships between consumers and producers.” The fair trade model is based on seven principles; fair wages, cooperative workplaces, consumer education, environmental sustainability, finaical and technical support, respect for cultural identity, and public accountability. In theory these principals are in practice at Santa Anita. Though in reality, even with the coffee harvest being exported on the fair trade market, a family at Santa Anita lives on less than twelve hundred U.S. dollars a year. A day’s wages total a meager $3.25.

With market certifiers loosening the draw strings on fair trade standards in recent years to allow retail giants like Wal-Mart and Starbucks to deceptively dress their products in the same conscientious packaging with no commitment to justice on the other end of the supply chain, each harvest becomes more difficult for growing communities like Santa Anita. The market price on fair trade coffee has not risen in the past ten years. Farmers are paid an average of $1.26 per pound, much of which goes to covering labelling and export costs. Large scale fincas, contracting with big retail buyers produce enough coffee to cover these costs and generate significant profit, while small scale operations like Santa Anita struggle to hang on.

Despite growing pressure as the tightening vice of global capitalism continues to threaten their livelihood, the people of Santa Anita are determined to survive. For the thirty two families who live on the finca, life at Santa Anita is the closest thing to a dream realized that they’ve know. The debt aside, they have their own land – a seemingly simple privilege that they fought for over 35 years to obtain. They no longer are subjected to slave labor, indentured servitude, malnutrition and disease, common aspects of the plantation life many of them once knew. International solidarity organizations have provided them with the resources to construct two schools, a day care center, a pharmacy and an eco-tourism project. They will tell you they’ve, “come a long way from the oppression and exploitation they fought against during the war.”

In their hearts the people of Santa Anita are victorious. Their vision “is to provide their children with an excellent education so they may be able to pursue a profession and someday return Santa Anita to benefit their people.”

Still, poverty is real. As a result some members of the community have chosen to migrate to other cities in Guatemala or to other countries in search of work. This has raised concerns about the community’s ability to maintain it’s cultural identity.

Though migration has become an interim solution to economic crisis for many families at Santa Anita, community members fear the impact of a long term cycle of migration will be more costly than it’s worth. Not only does migration separate many families at Santa Anita, but with it also comes the double-edged survival trait of assimilation. In the absence of their traditional Mayan customs, migrants from Santa Anita and other similar communities find themselves adapting to urban lifestyles in order to avoid discrimination in the workplace.

The future of Santa Anita is dependent upon the future of its children. Many community elders fear the youth of Santa Anita will become part the cycle of migration, leaving Santa Anita before completing high school to escape poverty. Without sufficient schooling to access university classes, the youth won’t be able to pursue professions to benefit their community, curtaining one of the founding visions of Santa Anita.

Santa Anita welcomes visitors and volunteers who wish to offer support and share in the evolution of the community. For more information about how you can become involved with assisting in the development of sustainable long term solutions here visit:

For more information about the pros and cons of fair trade coffee visit the following links:

post written by, Chris Heneghan

Talking With Doña Gloria…

January 19, 2009


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

Santa Anita La Union Redefines Ecotourism…

January 18, 2009


The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” This idea appeals many socially conscious individuals because it incorporates travel to exotic locations with service projects, education and unique cultural experiences.

However, part of the problem with ecotourism is that outside of what TIES states on it’s web-site, you won’t find an actual definition for the word ecotourism anywhere. In some places I’ve travelled local tour operators consider it to be renting you a gas guzzling four wheel drive jeep to drive through jungle for the day.

Regardless, ecotourism brings with it certain characteristics of voyeurism. Its growing popularity has become an outlet for westerners looking for adventurous ways to escape their daily routines for two weeks a year, without making a long term commitment to the places they visit.

The desire for short term volunteer opportunities in impoverished rural Central American communities has created a kind of fast food market for ecotourism in Guatemala. Communities that are struggling to maintain traditional cultures often agree to host and feed volunteers as a quick way to generate desperately needed revenues. In many cases this is done without first developing a concrete plan for how outside resources and ideas can benefit their communities. To many foreigners this sort of advertising is an invitation to shoot photographs of peoples everyday lives without consent. This creates feelings resentment by residents within communities open to ecotourism towards visitors, who without knowing it behave as if it is their right to make a spectacle of people who’ve not been afforded the same privileges they have.

The short-term influx of quick revenue and foreigners though ecotourism has brought a number of communities more trouble than it’s been worth. Often projects are started and never completed and promises are made and never followed through on. Santa Anita is working to change this, by focusing on clearly defining what ecotourism means to them as a community. The ecotourism program was created and is managed by the women of Santa-Anita, who intend it to serve, the dual purpose of providing funds for community development and increased income for members of the community.” The community views ecotourism as, “a way for finca members to share their knowledge and stories and as well as a way for groups and individuals to participate and learn about the community, its agriculture, and its history.”


Members of the Santa Anita view volunteer work as an act of solidarity in accordance with the visions, goals and directly democratic approach to government within their community. After talking with the women who run Santa Anita’s ecotourism program about their efforts give new meaning to the term ecotourism, and establish parameters for how volunteer labor can be best used within their community, I found that a rough guide to what Santa Anita expected to gain by opening the community to foreigners existed in their minds but nothing was written down.

One of the main concerns expressed by the women was a desire to learn how to create models of self sufficiency within the community, to serve as a means for continuing to promote and generate revenue through ecotourism without dependence on outside assistance.

They explained there is really no need for long term volunteers to come Santa Anita to do work for the community. What is needed is for people to come to Santa Anita and share with the community new skills which will benefit the people of Santa Anita in the future.

For example the community of Santa Anita does not need a somebody to provide technical support for their web-site and respond to e-mails about volunteer inquiries. What the community of Santa Anita needs, is somebody who is willing to give workshops and training on how to use a computer, check e-mails and maintain a web-site. So when they leave, the people of Santa Anita will have knowledge of how to maintain their own web-site, and respond to e-mails from interested volunteers.

Another concern expressed in line with the context of this article was a desire to eliminate the voyeuristic aspects of ecotourism. This can be accomplished by encouraging volunteers to continue to offer support and mutual aide to the Santa Anita community when they return home to their communities. By extending the volunteer experience beyond Santa Anita and into peoples home communities volunteers can become part of building a stronger solidarity movement with Guatemalan coffee farmers and banana growers.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I’m opening up the comment section to discussion about things that volunteers can continue to do to support Santa Anita when the return to their home communities?If you’ve volunteered at Santa Anita for any period of time please take a moment to think about this and post a reply with three simple things you can do to continue to offer mutual aide to Santa Anita from your home community.

post written by, Chris Heneghan

Welcome to the Santa Anita la Union Blog

January 13, 2009

This blog was created to serve as a resource for volunteers and visitors to the Santa Anita community by providing a forum for people to share experiences they’ve had at Santa Anita. In addition to testimonials, this blog will also serve as forum for discussion on ways in which individuals can continue to offer support and mutual aide to the  Santa Anita community when they return home.  

Interested in posting: e-mail your stories, photos and comments to:


Santa Anita la Unión is an organic coffee and banana growing community formed of ex-guerilla combatants who fought during the 36-year internal armed conflict that ravaged Guatemala until 1996.  For more information visit: http://www.santaanitafincacom