On Tuesday, Schools for Chiapas had the pleasure of welcoming a youth group from various parts of the United States at Sendas, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. They came as part of the Where There Be Dragons program, which aims to give young people an opportunity to live and learn in local communities as part of their gap year. This particular group was visiting Guatemala and Chiapas.
For over thirty years, Where There Be Dragons has been offering responsible travel opportunities and immersive, hands-on experiences to young people with the aim of creating genuine connections with local cultures through language study, homestays, and community engagement. In the past, cartographers drew dragons on unknown lands and one of the objetives of the organization is to encourage young people to explore what is unknown to them and take them to other parts of the world.
During their time in Guatemala, the participants stayed with local Maya families, which gave them an opportunity to listen to marginalized voices and experiences. This also gives them an opportunity to improve their Spanish language skills in order to foster deeper communication and build reciprocal, sustainable relationships with local communities.
The program has a strong emphasis on social and environmental issues. Participants explore topics such as the variables that contribute to the quality of life, how privilege affects their sense of global responsibility, and their social and environmental impact on the world. In short, they ask questions which are central to equity and social justice. They meet local activists and community members who are dedicated to these issues.
This is where Schools for Chiapas and Where Thre Be Dragons crossed paths, aptly at Sendas (Pathways). Together we examined the most pressing social, environmental, and political issues in contemporary Chiapas, especially in relation to the local indigenous peoples. To do so, we used some of the materials available in the Lesson Plans section of our website. We looked at the history and impact of the Zapatista movement, including the transformations it is going through right now. This was followed by an engaged and engaging question and answer session and pointers as to how the participants can continue their learning.
We finished off the morning with a delicious lunch at the Sendas café and continued an informal roundtable discussion of some of the areas covered earlier.
As part of our ongoing outreach and education program, Schools for Chiapas was delighted to receive this group of enthusiastic young adults from the US, making Chiapas a school for them, a center of learning on questions of environmental and social justice, and putting Chiapas on the map for them and removing one more dragon. We hope to continue our collaboration with them in the future.
Original article by Schools for Chiapas.