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The municipal center of Todos Santos is a Mayan community of mostly Mam-speaking people lying in the heart of a steep valley at about 2,500 meters in the Cuchumatán Mountains of northwest Guatemala ( photo of rainbow over "downtown" area). The town is about two hours away by bus from the departmental (state) capital of Huehuetenango. The municipal lands slope downward to the west towards Chiapas and climb sharply out of a river valley north and east to a high plateau of over 3,500 meters in elevation. Remnants of tropical cloud forest can still be found in some remote areas near the southern limits of the municipality. Temperatures are quite cool in most areas, especially at the higher elevations.  There is a pronounced rainy season which usually lasts from around May to September. 

Most Todosanteros are very hardworking and relatively self-sufficient. While nearly everyone is a native speaker of Mam, many people, especially in the municipal center, are also quite fluent in Spanish. Large numbers of people travel to the United States for employment. The money and cultural influences they bring home are rapidly transforming the community. Most women are accomplished weavers and the artistic expression seen in their brocade work is often extraordinary. Women personally create most of their families  clothing as well as produce beautiful textiles for sale to others in town and tourists. Most significantly, they tend to be exceptionally attentive and devoted mothers (mother and baby are virtually inseparable during infancy). Women do all this while preparing tortillas, cooking meals, tending animals, washing clothes and a host of other chores. Men crochet elaborate handbags (pa , or "net" in Mam) when not occupied in their fields growing corn, potatoes, beans, squash, and numerous other crops or hauling wood from the surrounding mountains. Most people are in exceptional  physical condition due to the rigorous nature of their daily routines combined with the region s relatively high elevation. On market day, families and individuals hike to the municipal center for as many as 4-5 hours across rugged terrain that varies from between roughly 1,300-3,500 meters in elevation. Due to the wide range of ecosystems in the municipio, market goers can purchase freshly harvested produce from the lowlands like bananas and coffee while shopping for potatoes from the altiplano. While most Todosanteros consider themselves to be Catholic, at least a third belong to one of several Protestant denominations in the region. Elements of Mayan cosmology pervade everyday life while the ceremonies of Mayan costumbre have become less conspicuous. 

The municipality is famous for its yearly celebrations centered around All Saints  Day on November 1. Recall that the Spanish name of the town is Todos Santos, or "all saints." The fiesta features a spectacular horse race which is the culmination of elaborate preparations. Most significantly, during this time, the spirits of the ancestors are honored in the town cemetery. There are traditional dances along with marimba music, feasts, and other entertainment. 

Maya have lived continuously in this valley since long before the Spanish invasion. There are at least two ruins sites in the municipality. One is in the "lowland" village of San Martín. The other is just above the town center and is know as Qman txun,"our father lime," the white stone being symbolic of things holy and pure. Costumbre ceremonies are still sometimes held next to the two crosses and upon the largest pyramid which are at the heart of the ruins complex. 

Todosanteros are sometimes agreeable to having their photos taken in spite of the occasional inconsiderate behavior of tourists. Out of common respect, be sensitive to people s feelings and take the time to get to know them before asking permission for a photo. Many people appreciate being sent a copy of their photo in the mail. 

Biblioteca Popular 
We on the Board have a strong spirit for working to obtain improvements for the Library, benefits that will carry over to the children of Todos Santos and the town in general. Due to our lack of reference books for the students, we find ourselves in the task of seeking help from outside institutions and individuals. The lack of equipment and other resources in the library hinders student research. We are seeking donations of books as well as funds for acquisitions and improving the librarian s salary. 

For more information or to make a donation, please contact: 
            Presidente, Comité de la Biblioteca 
            Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015 

Institucion Mam de Desarrollo Integral 
The Institution focuses its community development efforts primarily in three areas: drinking water , reforestation , and programs for women. 

Drinking water projects - While there are a number of natural springs in the region, they generally are located quite far from people s homes. The IMDI supports neighborhood associations and residents of small hamlets in constructing cement holding tanks and distribution networks to bring drinkable water from springs high up in the mountains directly to family dwellings. The months of intensive labor needed for implementing these drinking water projects are provided voluntarily by the community members themselves. The projects are complemented by IMDI s active promotion of latrine construction and programs for domestic waste awareness. The IMDI has also built several municipal clothes washing areas for communal use ( photo). 

Reforestation projects - Most Todosanteros depend on wood for all cooking, building materials, furnishings, and bathing (almost all homes have an earthen sauna called a chuj). As a result, there is a vital need to maintain and rebuild healthy forests in the region. The IMDI is the primary sponsor of a large nursery in the municipal center of Todos Santos that currently produces over 100,000 seedlings per year and employs three full time workers ( photo of tat Desiderio, the project head, in front of the main tree nursery). It also supports several smaller nurseries in outlying communities and 3 in the neighboring municipality of San Juan Atitán) as well as carrying out over 25 educational presentations each year in local schools and neighboring villages. The reforestation project focuses on the planting of native species and actively discourages chemical based agriculture in favor of organic methods. The IMDI also promotes the use of more efficient stoves instead of open cooking fires on the house floor. 

Women s projects - The IMDI makes a special effort to organize and support women through the sponsorship of micro businesses such as bakery and weaving cooperatives. 

Currently the IMDI gratefully receives support from CAUSE Canada, Club Rotario de Huehuetenango and the Alliance for International Reforestation. However, additional support is greatly needed and would be thoroughly appreciated. 

Funds are particularly needed at present for the construction of rain water collection systems for people living up on the altiplano where water resources are extremely limited. 

For more information or to send a contribution please write: 
            Institución Mam de Desarrollo Integral 
            Desiderio Martín Pablo 
            Todos Santos Cuchumatán  13015 

Proyecto Patojos 
This project supports schoolchildren who otherwise might not be able to continue their education after completing elementary school. Individual students are sponsored by "padrinos," or godparents, so that they can attend either the equivalent of middle school in Todos Santos or go to high school in the departmental capital of Huehuetenango. Student progress is carefully monitored. If you would like to sponsor a child or get additional information, write to: 
    Felipa Jiménez Jiménez 
    Proyecto Patojos 
    Los Jiménez 
    Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015 

        or e-mail her at: 

A local proposal for ecotourism 
Click here to view a proposal for creation of an ecotourism infrastructure in Todos Santos. If you can help support this project, please contact Juan Andres Martín Carrillo  

Nuevo Amanecer / Ak aj Squixa

Nuevo Amanecer is a Spanish language school coordinated by Prof. Benito Ramírez . It offers one-on-one instruction using the latest in modern methodology and technical support, in both morning and afternoon sessions. Students have the opportunity to share the life of Mayan families that do not have many economic resources and want to better their lives. The school also offers weaving lessons, and is one of the few Spanish schools that can also provide instruction in the Mam language to interested students. (See photo of a Nuevo Amanecer student studying outdoors in the Todos Santos valley.) Studying in the school is more than just learning a language or the art of weaving; it is a course on life in Todos Santos. 

The school is 100 meters west of the center of Todos Santos, just below and across from the Escuela Urbana, on the right. Hours of instruction are from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM in the morning, and from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM in the afternoon. The class week usually begins on Monday, but students can start on any day of the week they choose. Graduation ceremonies take place on Friday and include a festive traditional dinner. Other activities of the school highlight the customs, traditions, folklore, and practices of Todos Santos. There are conferences with various types of community leaders on topics such as medicinal plants, agriculture, the life of women in Todos Santos, and Mayan psychology and spirituality, all central to the continuing strength of Mayan identity in the region. Each week students see films on social, political, and economic topics relevant to Todos Santos and other Mayan communities of Guatemala. In school trips, or on their own, students can also visit the ruins of Tujqmantxún , a sacred spiritual site for Todosanteros, and many other nearby sites of interest. Through these activities and contact with local residents, students participate in all facets of life in Todos Santos. 

The school was founded to create work opportunities for women and unemployed teachers of Todos Santos. The vision of the school is one of confidence in the people of Todos Santos and belief that they can support themselves if they have jobs. Student participation, school proceeds, and private donations all contribute to this vision by supporting the establishment and maintenance of small scale development projects for the women of Todos Santos. Currently the school is funding the construction and operation of a bakery, staffed and run by local women who also receive training there. The school also provides funding for the support of the local public library, an essential resource for students in the community. Future plans include a training center that will teach skills such as carpentry, construction, sewing, and health care that will benefit both individuals and the community. This center would also have several foot looms so that women could more easily make clothing for their families, in the rich tradition of Todos Santos. 

For more information write: 
    Prof. Benito Ramírez 
    Escuela Nuevo Amanecer 
    Todos Santos Cuchumatán 13015 
       or e-mail:

HispanoMaya - School of Spanish and Mam 
HispanoMaya, formed as a cooperative of 13 teachers, was founded on a principle of supporting education and development in the municipality of Todos Santos while contributing to the growing awareness of our students to the reality of life in rural Guatemala.  We offer one-on-one classes of Spanish and Mam, taught 5 hours/day, Monday-Friday, which are supplemented by homestays with local families and extracurricular activities.  These include: conferences concerning social/political/community themes, hikes, fieldtrips, movies, and dance lessons.  Weaving lessons, which provide an opportunity to become more immersed in the culture here, can be arranged on an individual basis with a skilled Todosantera woman.  Of course, we always try to respond to the interests of our students at a given time and students are welcome to request specific activities.  Each week concludes with a special dinner in the school where all the teachers and students are able to unite informally, reflect on the experiences of the week, and simply enjoy the good company and relaxed atmosphere of Todos Santos.

Profits from the school help provide scholarships for local children.   

For anyone with a desire to learn about the realities of this community as well as to participate in community-based projects, please contact us for more information on how to become involved. We offer opportunities for involvement in many different fields, including education (working at the local public schools), agriculture, medicine (working at the puesto de salud), and at the reforestation project. 

The price for this experience: $130/week. 
For more information contact:

Guided multilingual hikes
Todos Santos is located in the mountains known as Los Cuchumatanes.   La Torre,   which is in the municipality of Todos Santos, has an elevation of 3,828m and is considered the highest non-volcanic point in Central America. In reality, La Torre is more like a hill sitting upon a 3,000m to 3,200m high plateau. In any case, climbing this mountain is something you will never will forget because of the magnificent view. It takes only about  1 ½ hours to reach the top from the road hiking in unique natural scenery. 

The hike to La Torre is only one example of the numerous hikes you can enjoy around Todos Santos. Some other highlights include a visit to some old lead mines, cloud forests that grow at 3,000m, the neighboring town of San Juan Atitán with its own traditional dress or 2-3 day hikes, following the main road from the Cuchumatanes to Nebaj, crossing through five different Mayan language areas while in amazing natural settings.

For more information, ask for the guide Román, Hotel Casa Familiar, Todos Santos C., Dept. Huehuetenango, phone 7783 06 56 or 7758 32 83  (try at around 6 pm local time), or e-mail Román speaks German, Spanish, English and French.

Click on the links below to see scanned fabric samples 
Brocade on a typical Todos Santos  klobj (huipil) 
Brocade on a young woman s klobj (huipil) 
Men s shirt material 
Men s wexj (pants) material 
Men s pa   (crocheted carrying bag) 
Purple general purpose cloth 
Contrast between an older brocade style (left) and a newer style (right) 

For a more enjoyable stay in Todos Santos for both you and your hosts, visitors are encouraged to learn some basic phrases in Mam. If you re interested in studying before you make a visit, there are now several excellent books available. One is the 1993 text published by the Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín (P.L.F.M.) entitled Gramática del idioma mam. This is an especially useful resource since it includes many examples from Todos Santos. The P.L.F.M. also offers Mam classes at their school in Antigua if prior arrangements are made. The most comprehensive and authoritative resource on the language is the 1997 publication Ttxoolil Qyool Mam written by B aayil (Eduardo Pérez) and Ajb ee (Odilio Jiménez) and published by Cholsamaj. Both of these two textbooks and others on Mam are available through Yax Te  Foundation. You can study Mam at any of the three language schools in Todos Santos described above. You also can click here for a Word version of my own compilation of language notes on the Mam of Todos Santos which includes a small Mam-English dictionary. If you prefer, send a self addressed large envelope with sufficient postage for twenty-five (printed on both sides) 9 1/2" X 11" pages to: 
          Robert Sitler 
          Dept. of Modern Languages & Literatures 
          Stetson University 
          DeLand, FL  32723 


Films on Todos Santos
Obtaining a regional map 
A local proposal for creating an ecotourism infrastructure 
Qo Aq anan Junx te Qman Txun (a local community development proposal) 
An article attempting to explain the April, 2000 killings

Maya Educational Foundation Support Mayan education 
Maya Peoples in Guatemala and Mexico 
Other Maya links
Yax Te  Foundation    Mayan  publications 

LANIC (Latin American Network Information Center)

Chjonta tey (Thank you)
Last updated February, 2007 
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