The "Storming the Wall" Focus Trip is an educational and interactive journey throughout the Western Highlands of Guatemala to explore and discuss topics of the climate crisis, environmental sustainability efforts, forced migration, displacement, and border militarization. During our travels, we will hear directly from author Todd Miller about these issues on which he elaborates in his book, Storming the Wall. His book will continue to serve as guide for reflection as we see the words written on the pages come to life as we get to know Guatemalan communities affected and threatened by intensifying climate change.
sAMPLE tRIP oUTLINE: "Storming the Wall"
Trip focus: Climate change, migration patterns, sustainability efforts, migration policies, border militarization
Best for: Universities/environmental activists/professionals working with migrant populations (specifically from Mayan indigenous regions)
Time frame: Designed to be 10-18 days long but could be shortened or lengthened depending on the group's availability and topics of interest
Trip description: An educational and interactive journey throughout the Western Highlands of Guatemala to explore and discuss topics of the climate crisis, environmental sustainability efforts, forced migration, displacement, and border militarization.
Location: Lake Atitlán, Western Highlands, potential visit to the Guatemala-Mexico border, and Guatemala City/Antigua
See the trip outline below, which chronicles the order of activities and topics covered, but is ready to be customized to your group!
Introductions & Orientation
Understanding Guatemala's history and patterns of migration (Guatemala City or Antigua, 1-2 days)
-Introductions and trip orientation
-Presentation: Guatemalan History and Patterns of Migration
-Presentation: Recent Evidence of Climate Change in Guatemala and Central America
-Presentation: Understanding Resistance Movements--examining extractive international projects in Guatemala that serve as the basis for resistance groups.
Relationships with the Environment
Understanding the relationship between people and the earth in the Mayan cosmovision (Lake Atitlán, 2-5 days)
-Visit to Santiago Atitlan to examine the effects in the community following Hurricane Stan in 2005, Santiago Atitlán
-Visits with various coffee-growing cooperatives/organizations (that form part of the Atitlán Ecological Coffee Route) who are committed to environmentally-friendly practices
-Visit with honey cooperative
-Forum with Cooperative La Voz--hearing how coffee originally diminished the necessity of seasonal migration and how climate change threatens this community's cash crop
-Presentation: Pollution & Solutions in Lake Atitlán--discussing the contamination of Lake Atitlán and the flourishing of the blue-green algae that is threatening the life of the lake
-Presentation: People of the Corn--examining the importance of corn, mother nature, and environmental sustainability in the Maya cosmovision
-Observe a Mayan ceremony
Environmentally Friendly Efforts
Visiting and affirming environmentally friendly initiatives in various communities (Department of San Marcos, 3-5 days)
-Presentation: Combating Chronic Malnutrition in Rural Indigenous Communities
-Visit to flower cooperative to discuss seasonal migration
-Hike into Vega de Volcán to visit an agro-ecology project and trout farm in the foothills of Volcano Tacaná and stay the evening in the project's eco-cabin
-Conversations about migration in Vega de Volcán community
-Options to Hike Volcano Tacaná, Tajulmuco, Santa Maria, or Laguna Chicabal
Migration, Resistance, & Perservation
Examining courses of action in Western Highlands Communities and the decision to migrate, resist, and persevere (Western Highlands, 2-4 days)
-Presentation: The Environmental Impacts of Mining
-Conference: The Push and Pull Factors
-Community visit to Cajolá, Quetzaltenango to learn about their community development efforts to provide alternatives to migration
-Meet with mining/hydroelectric dam resistance leaders
Visit the border between Guatemala and Mexico to better understand the dynamic of those seeking asylum and refuge and the border policies that effect their journey (1-2 days)
-Meet with migrant justice organizations
-Explore shifting border policies that determine destinations and options for migrants
*please note that this visit is reserved specifically for immigration attorneys and professionals who work directly with migrants or in migration policy advocacy in the U.S.
Closing & Debriefing
Recapping our experiences (Antigua or Guatemala City, 1-4 days or more depending on the region visited. Groups that visit the border could conduct their closing a debriefing there instead of returning to Guatemala City or Antigua).
-Presentation: Border Policies; “Climate Adaptation for the Rich and Powerful”
-Final debriefing and reflections
-Optional educational or recreational visit to another region of Guatemala--we're happy to help plan this part for you or get you there!
More about Climate Change and Resulting Emigration from Guatemala
"Since 1900, the United States has polluted the atmosphere with nearly 700 times more carbon emissions than Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras combined. Instead of recognizing any responsibility, the United States (and other heavy greenhouse gas emitters such as the European Union) have chosen the route of border fortification. The climate crisis comes on top of many years of US political and economic domination in places like Central America. Poverty levels in rural Guatemala exceed 75 percent, the result of a long-standing system of marginalization that has favored an elite economic oligarchy and corporate monoliths like the Boston-based United Fruit Company, all kept in place with a repressive iron fist." Click here to read the full article (By Todd Miller)
"Increasingly, those displaced seek to relocate in other countries as 'climate change refugees,' but there’s a problem: the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines the rights of displaced people, provides a list of things people must be fleeing from in order to be granted asylum or refuge. Climate change isn’t on the list." Click here for the full article.
"These trends have led experts at the World Bank to claim that around 2 million people are likely to be displaced from Central America by the year 2050 due to factors related to climate change." Click here for the full article.
"Families face an impossible choice: stay and risk starvation, or gamble everything on the perilous migrant trail. 'They risk their lives if they stay – and if they go...'" Click here for the full article.