Nebaj, GuatemalaNebaj, Guatemala

Nebaj, Guatemala

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Guatemala is one of the most interesting and unique countries in the Americas. Filled with volcanoes, Mayan ruins, lakes, and mountains, Guatemala offers stunning landscapes with contrasting human rights issues. While about 40% of Guatemalans have Mayan origins, the country struggles with under representation of indigenous groups in government and land ownership. Though the 36 years of civil war ended in 1996, Guatemala is still recovering from the repercussions. Guatemala also has the highest fertility rate in Latin America, and half of the country is below 19 years old.


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You will spend time in two different parts of Guatemala. Antigua (the orientation site) is a laid back picturesque colonial town surrounded by volcanoes and coffee plantations. Nebaj (the principle site) is located 7 hours north of Antigua nestled in a mountain valley. About 20,000 people live in the semi-urban center of Nebaj, which is one of three communities forming the Ixil triangle. The Ixil people are indigenous to Guatemala, and are one of the most distinct Mayan cultures, especially famous for their intricately woven traditional clothing.


GESI students will work alongside the local team as social innovators. Projects will include piloting new social innovations, such as water purification, community banking, and youth empowerment programs, as well as developing strategies for cross-community implementation. Students will also consult for local organizations including “El Centro Explorativo,” a rural education center providing learning resources and extra-curricular activities for local children.


Despite a relatively large population, Nebaj retains many characteristics of a traditional Guatemalan village. There are few paved roads and the majority of households still harvest their own corn and beans. You may spend time with your homestay mother learning about the art of traditional backstrap weaving used to create traditional dress. Meal times you will spend chatting with the family, often sitting around the traditional wood burning stove. It is a prime opportunity for learning to make tortillas! Homestay families are bilingual speaking Ixil and Spanish.

Fast Facts

  • Work areas: social innovation, microfinance, women’s empowerment, and youth & education.
  • Length of partnership: GESI location since 2017.
  • Official language: Spanish, spoken by 60% of the population, and Amerindian languages spoken by 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca). Students will take Spanish during pre-departure.
  • Popular excursions:  hiking in Nebaj, Lake Atitlán sightseeing, and Tikal National Park
  • Climate: From June to August, the average highs in Antigua and Nebaj are around 82F and lows around 59F. It's the rainy season.
  • Major religions: Roman Catholic estimated 50-60%, Protestant estimated 40%, both mixed with indigenous Mayan beliefs as well

Projects in Nebaj, Guatemala

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