Globalization in Guatemala's Maya Highlands

Image of buildings in Antigua

Globalization in Guatemala's Maya Highlands

Visit the colorful country of Guatemala to explore how the livelihoods of the Mayan communities in Guatemala's highlands are connected to and impacted by globalization.
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: Yes
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

Welcome to the Maya Highlands in Guatemala!

Offered in partnership with Augsburg University, this course examines the impact of globalization in Maya communities. Students will visit local projects aimed at achieving food sovereignty and sustainable development through the production of food, textiles, pottery, handicrafts, and medicinal plants. The program will also explore the Kaqchikel Maya, Tz'utujil Maya, and K’iche’ Maya and their history, education, and contemporary expressions of spirituality.

Guatemala is a land of significant cultural, linguistic and geographical diversity.  Students on this program will explore the richness of Guatemala through travel to the following locations: 

Antigua  (July 22-25)

Antigua is a colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage site. While in Antigua, students will experience the colonial art and architecture of the city, visit the artesan market to see traditional handicrafts and weavings, and learn about the current political, social, and economic context of Guatemala.  The program will also take day-trips to San Lucas Sacatepequez and the Parque Ecologico Cerro Alux.

Tecpan (July 25-27)

Tecpan was the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya polity during the postclassic period. While in Tecpan, students will visit the archeological site of Iximche, the capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom until 1524, and an NGO dedicated to expanding healthcare services within the communities of its clients and providing services with cultural and linguistic competencies.

San Antonio Palopo (July 27-31)

San Antonio Palopo is located on the shore of Lake Atitlán, a lake ringed by volcanos and famed for its natural beauty.  Students will explore issues of land and land usage, sustainable development and food sovereignty, and education, as well as take part in a workshop with a household pottery business.  Day trips will allow students to explore two other towns across the lake: San Lucas Tolimán and Santiago Atitlán.

Quetzaltenango (July 31-August 2)

Quetzaltenango (Xelajú) is the second-largest city in Guatemala, known for its food, music, and architecture. Students will visit a local weaving cooperative and university, and hike to a beautiful lagoon at the top of Chicabal Volcano.

Chichicastenango (August 2-4)

Chichicastenango hosts one of the largest open-air markets in the Maya Highlands. Students will explore the market, where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, medicinal plants, pottery, etc.

Return to Antigua (August 4-6)

Completion of course and time to explore before returning home.

Students on this program will enroll in LAC 302 Globalization in Guatemala's Maya Highlands for three credit hours during the summer 2023.

Course Description

Globalization accelerates the circulation of goods, ideas, and people from distant places, thereby changing everyone’s culture. For Indigenous communities who have historically relied on subsistence agriculture, participating in global forms of exchange often involves adopting new technologies, work habits, and values, leading many to rethink what it means to live life in meaningful ways.

This course examines the effects of globalization in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands—a culturally diverse region in the western intermontane basins of the country.  Through conversations with farmers, educators, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, health practitioners and others in the Maya Kaqchikel and Kiche communities, students will gain knowledge of Guatemala's rich cultural and linguistic diversity, explore and analyze the global issues that affect the livelihoods of contemporary Maya communities, and understand the projects and institutions working locally and in collaboration with the Maya communities. 

Students on this program will be housed in double or triple occupancy modest hotel rooms while in Antigua, Tecpan, Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango.  While in San Antonio Palopo, students will live with a local host family and experience daily life in Guatemala.  

Most meals are included in the program itinerary.

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

This program is open to all undergraduate degree-seeking students in good academic standing from any accredited U.S. college or university.  Minimum 2.5 GPA. Exceptions considered after submission of a petition.

Knowledge of the Spanish language is not required to participate in this program.  While some lectures will be delivered in Kiche, Kaqchikel, or Spanish, translation into English will be provided by the program faculty and staff.

Dr. Taylor Tappan is geographer with regional expertise in Central America. Originally from South Dakota, Taylor is also a lifelong Jayhawk, having completed undergraduate degrees in Geography and Spanish, a master’s degree in Geography, and his Ph.D. in Geography, all from KU. His work in Central America combines remote sensing, geographic information systems, cartography, and community-based fieldwork to document land use, land cover, and land tenure changes in Indigenous homelands. Taylor has traveled throughout Mexico and Central America and has lived in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Silvia Sanchez Diaz is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology with an ongoing graduate certificate in Museum Studies. Silvia was born and raised in Guatemala, where she studied a licenciatura in anthropology and worked with grassroots organizations dedicated to expanding health and food rights with Maya communities across the country. Her research focuses on the impacts of globalization in Guatemala, the material heritage of Maya communities, women’s work, and sustainable development. Silvia has regularly conducted fieldwork in the Maya Highlands and Lowlands, and she understands Kaqchikel language.

Taylor and Silvia live in Lawrence with their cats, Keno and Minsky.

Taylor Tappan, Ph.D.
Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science
Lindley Hall, Rm 415A

Silvia Sanchez Diaz, Ph.D. candidate
Department of Anthropology
Fraser Hall 617

About Augsburg University, our partner in Guatemala:

Augsburg University's Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE) has been offering educational programs in Guatemala since 1985.  CGEE has a permanent staff team in Guatemala that will coordinate program logistics and activities to explore topics of sustainability and land use, civil society organizations, indigenous rights, etc.