The Escuela de la Montaña is located among four communities of families who lived and worked for generations on nearby coffee fincas. Most of our neighbours are descended from “Mam” Mayan migrant workers who originally lived in the highlands outside Quetzaltenango. Our students take meals with the families of two communities: Nuevo San José and Fátima, who had labour struggles on the fincas where they lived, eventually winning money they were owed but losing their homes and their jobs in the process.
Both communities opened community health clinics, through a Catholic Church run programme in the local area. The clinics sell low cost medicine and are staffed by community members, who received training as health promoters through this programme and continue to receive ongoing training). Meals and celebrations in Nuevo San José and Fátima are a means of learning about the reality of life for rural campesinos. Most of our neighbours now look for work as casual day labourers and suffer from hunger, unemployment and destitute poverty. Because of the low wages and loss of jobs many men are leaving the area and travelling long distances searching for work in construction, agriculture and the informal sector in the cities. There is increased migration to southern Mexico and the United States in search of jobs.