Study Abroad at CIRMA is sponsored by CIRMA, the Center for Mesoamerican Research, which is located in Antigua, Guatemala. Guatemala is the northernmost country of Central America with a population of about thirteen million people.
About half of these are members of over 23 indigenous groups, while the other half includes people of many mixed descents, including descendants of Asian, European and Middle Eastern immigrants who settled in the country during the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1996, Peace Accords were signed which brought an end to more than thirty years of armed conflict in the country, and during the intervening years, Guatemala has undergone a complex process of establishing a civil democracy and mechanisms to address the social inequalities which have characterized the country over the past centuries.
Antigua is located 45 minutes from Guatemala City, in a highland valley surrounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. The city of Antigua is at an altitude of 5000 ft. and has a temperate climate. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season from November until late April.
Traveling in different directions from Antigua, in less than a day, one can reach the Western and North Western highlands, the Eastern dry lowlands, the Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coast, and the Northern tropical lowlands.
Antigua was founded by the Spanish in 1543, and became the seat of Spanish colonial government for the Viceroyalty of Guatemala, which included Chiapas (southern Mexico), Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The full title bestowed upon the city was Muy Leal y Muy Noble Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemala, that is, the 'Very Loyal and Very Noble City of Saint James of the Knights of Guatemala.' For the first century or more of its existence the city did not live up to its pretentious official title, but it ultimately grew into the most important city in Central America, filled with monumental buildings of ornate Spanish colonial architecture and dominating a large region inhabited mainly by indigenous people of diverse origins.
By 1773, when the city was flattened by a severe earthquake, the city had -- in addition to the Cathedral and Palace of Government -- more than 30 churches, 15 monasteries and convents, 10 chapels, the University of San Carlos (the third university founded in the Americas), five hospitals, an orphanage, fountains, parks, and municipal water and sewer systems.
The city was forcibly abandoned in the late 1700's and slowly rebuilt in the 1800's.
Today Antigua is one of the most important cultural centers in Central America, populated by Guatemalans of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, residents from countries around the world, and a large number of international visitors.
For basic information about travel in Guatemala, consult http://lanic.utexas.edu/ or any number of travel guides that have been published about the country.A BIT ABOUT CIRMA
The Center for Mesoamerican Research (CIRMA) is located in Antigua Guatemala, the first Spanish capital of the region, about an hour from Guatemala City. Founded in 1978, CIRMA today is one of the region's premier social science research centers. It works to promote a new culture of research and public dialogue on the challenges facing Central America today, to preserve and protect the region’s historical memory, and to foster a new generation of social, cultural, and academic leaders. CIRMA's work at the national, regional and international levels has been widely recognized. INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED EXHIBITIONS
Participants in Study Abroad at CIRMA will be able to to visit CIRMA's internationally acclaimed traveling exhibition Why Are We Like We Are? The 5000-square foot show, designed to foster public dialogue and debate about the history and current reality of relations between the nation's indigenous peoples (about half of Guatemala's population) and other Guatemalans, was inaugurated in August of 2004, and was hailed by Guatemala's Vice President Eduardo Stein in a New York Times article as a 'watershed in Guatemalan history.' The exhibition forms part of the National Campaign: Our Diversity is Our Strength! which will travel throughout the country until the end of 2006.
Expositions of CIRMA's unique photographic collections have also been acclaimed throughout the Americas and Europe, as has its work to protect the historical memory of the region. In 2000, CIRMA received the Presidential Medal for Cultural Patrimony for its unique efforts to preserve the region's documentary and visual heritage.UNIQUE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES
: Participants in Study Abroad at CIRMA will have the full use of CIRMA's unique library and historical and photographic archives --
- The Central American Library is the leading collection of social science materials in the region. CIRMA continually seeks to strengthen and expand this collection of 40,000 books (including 3000 rare volumes and more than 250 periodicals), dedicated to Central American social sciences and history.
- The Guatemalan Historical Archive is Guatemala's most extensive collection of personal papers and private institutional archives. With current holdings of approximately seven million documents dating from the 1700s, this collection is being aggressively built, with an emphasis on materials which shed light on the 19th and 20th centuries, including the recent thirty-year civil conflict.
- The Guatemalan Photography Archive, the only such collection in Guatemala, holds more than one million images, including artistic and documentary work of local and international photographers, from 1845 to date. The Archive is building a visual record of Guatemala's diverse social groups, and of life and social processes in cities, towns, and rural areas throughout the country.
GROUNDBREAKING SOCIAL RESEARCH:
Study Abroad students will also have a chance to work with scholars at CIRMA on issues of identity and ethnic relations in Central America. Since 1996, CIRMA has taken a lead in designing and implementing trans-disciplinary research in Central America about the quality of the relations between the many ethnic groups that inhabit the region. The books published in 2003 and 2004 on this subject, according to academic and social critics, establish a new baseline in our understanding of this issue in Central America. More books and monographs on the subject are scheduled to be published.GRADUATE AND LEADERSHIP TRAINING FELLOWSHIPS
CIRMA also seeks to strengthen Central America's intellectual and social community through its support for the formation of new generations of intellectual and social leaders that reflect the region's cultural and social diversity. Today, CIRMA coordinates the Ford Foundation/CIRMA International Fellowship Program for Guatemala, and the Kellogg Foundation's Leadership and Social Development Seminar for Central America and the Caribbean, along with other initiatives in support of higher education. Study Abroad at CIRMA is designed to provide university students from outside Central America with access to the diverse and innovative perspectives on social issues which are being generated and debated in Central America today.