Nueva Vida

  • Founded: 1991

  • Population: 1,200 (2020)

  • Interesting historical information: Real name is K’ak’ak K’aslem

  • Geographical info: Nueva Vida is located 16.5 kilometers outside of San Lucas Tolimán and approximately 56 kilometers from the capital of the department, Sololá. It is 140 kilometers away from Guatemala City

 

 

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The first habitants of Nueva Vida had Mayan Kaqchikel origins. They came from the capital of Sololá and lived around San Lucas Tolimán as well. In these regions they were surrounded by natural riches and magnificent land for cultivating. Years later, the owners of the fincas (plantations) began dividing up the land and forced the original Maya owners off the land. 

 

 

The majority of those who were displaced had to start working on the fincas that had previously been their land. Forced to work on the finca, they did not have basic services, fair salaries, and were not treated well. Their lives were transformed radically. In the past they had abundant food, a strong community, and lived in peace, but this was transformed into extreme poverty and discrimination, with conflicts at every level.
 

There was not much opportunity for education. The finca owners forced Spanish culture upon the workers. Children had to work hard to find other means of learning even the most basic things. There was also no health care on the fincas. All illnesses were diagnosed and treated according to the knowledge and experience of the elders.

 

The Civil War from 1960 to 1996 made the situation worse. There was job instability, economic inflation, and life became very dangerous. People were very worried, and they began to organize themselves to change the situation in which they lived. They wanted a better future for their children. 

 

In 1986 they started negotiations with the owner of the finca of San José Cacahuate. They asked him for some land to live on that was abandoned coffee fields. At first the owner denied their request, saying that the property was mortgaged.

 

During the months of January and February of 1987, the workers had labor problems because the finca stopped paying their small salary, so they went to the Ministry of Labor to file a complaint. Their employer fired those workers and threw them off the finca without paying them their salaries or other benefits.

 

With the mediation of the labor inspector, they arrived at an agreement that year. The workers would receive their salaries and work benefits, as well as a piece of land to live on that was 18 meters by 17 meters.  The workers who received this land founded the community of San Jose, out of which Nueva Vida grew. 
 

San Jose started developing the community and fought for the Mayan Kachiquel workers. They began to manage various projects and institutions in order to construct basic housing. With the help of neighboring communities and organizations such as CAPS (Center for Social Promoters Training) from the University of Rafael Landivar, they constructed 35 homes that included kitchens, latrines, and potable water.

 

The community was growing, and it was a happy time for all the workers. However, four years later the community had grown too much and there was little space left.
 

The leaders of San José had to talk to the new owner of the finca and ask him if they could buy more land. The managers of this project were successful and were able to get enough money to purchase 110 more lots and form a new community. This new community became K’ak’ak K’aslem or Nueva Vida, which means "new life."

The name K’ak’ak K’aslem was decided upon after a special ceremony conducted by the members of the community. It was given this name because of the new life that those who lived there started.

Nueva Vida was founded in 1991 with the philosophy “united we're strong.” This was based on the values and principles of their parents and grandparents, including living in brotherhood and solidarity, with a strong dose of humility. Nueva Vida is located 16.5 kilometers outside of San Lucas Tolimán.

 

The feast day of Nueva Vida is celebrated on December 8th in honor of the Virgin Mary, for being the patroness of the community. Today there are approximately 1,200 habitants with a growth rate of 2%.

In 1994 the school was built with the support of a few different organizations. In the same year the committees of Nueva Vida and San José started a potable water project. With the support of San Lucas Tolimán and FONAPAZ (National Peace Fund) the project was completed in 1996.

 

In 1997, Rigoberto Pérez Güitz,  the first auxiliary mayor of the community was elected democratically. In 1998 with the support from the municipality of San Lucas Tolimán a community center was built. In 1999 the communities of San José and Nueva Vida met again to take on the project of bringing electricity to both of the communities. Thanks to the help of the municipality of San Lucas Tolimán, electricity is now able to reach both San José and Nueva Vida.

 

In 2002 the owner of the Finca of San José Cachuate agreed to loan a piece of land for a soccer field and a basketball court. Construction started in 2003, but it is still uncompleted and remains in poor condition. There now exists a paved bridge from the main highway to the community. A few years ago upgrades to the school were made through the Mission, educational centers were added, as well as typing and computer centers, in order to provide basic education.

MISSION IMPACT:

  • Construction: Since 2015, the Mission has built 1 block house, 2 wood homes, and 67 fuel-efficient stoves in Nueva Vida.

  • Healthcare: In 2019, Nueva Vida was served by 3 visiting medical groups who conducted a total of 143 consults. There were 75 children enrolled in the child nutrition program with 15 families receiving the supplement.