Feeling at home at Nuevo Horizonte, Guatemala
By Francesca Ciarmatori
I am volunteering at Nuevo Horizonte, a cooperative founded and formed by ex-guerrilleros and ex-guerrilleras and their families who took part in the anti-governmental military actions during the civil war in Guatemala from 1956 to 1996. After the peace agreements, they were given a large piece of land on which they built their community.
Nuevo Horizonte comprises 150 families (500 people in total) who live in perfect harmony with the nature around them. Each family has its own house, often a detached house with a very colourful facade, and its own piece of land. It is located in the region of El Petèn, which is absolutely beautiful.
The people who nowadays make up Nuevo Horizonte didn’t want to abandon the feelings of community and solidarity that they experienced during the years they fought together during the civil war. For this reason, they decided to build Cooperativa Nuevo Horizonte on the same ideals and values. Everybody is guaranteed the right to food, education, and access to medicines and healthcare assistance.
Realising children’s rights is central to Nuevo Horizonte. All activities and projects are oriented towards guaranteeing a safe and healthy environment where children can grow and embrace the values of the cooperative. It’s really fascinating to see the role children play and the way that every aspect of their education and wellbeing is taken care of.
Nuevo Horizonte is built on premise that educated children will be the leaders of the future. Education is therefore fundamental not only for guaranteeing constant progress for Nuevo Horizonte, but also ultimately for the whole country. Education is taken so seriously that families have to guarantee their children attend school, otherwise they risk being banned from the community.
All the adults I have spoken to have told me about the importance of having role models inside the community. For example, young people attending University can inspire younger children to keep studying and develop important skills. This sits alongside the recognition that a practical education is also very important: children are encouraged to take part in the working life of the family, so that they develop practical skills that will be useful for their future.
Since I arrived here, I have definitely felt and experienced these ideals in person, in all aspects of everyday life. People are really proud of being part of this microcosm: Nuevo Horizonte represents for them a sort of extended family in which no one is left behind. From the beginning, I have been told so many times: “Nosotros queremos que tu te sientas como a casa!” (We just want you to feel like home). And I do!