A group of Business Scholars Eccles Ambassadors were fortunate enough to travel to Guatemala to study entrepreneurship in developing economies over Spring Break. Over the course of the semester they had been taking a class on this subject taught by Professor Alejandra Rivas de Perez, who recently emigrated from Guatemala. The students spent ten days in Guatemala doing case studies, exploring, and getting to know the culture and the people. I asked several of the students to briefly explain what they learned on the trip and the insights they gathered.
“Visiting Guatemala was an amazing experience and very eye opening. There came a time when we were sitting in a hut watching a Mayan lady spinning cotton into a string, and for a second I thought ‘Why doesn’t she just get a job that pays more?’ At this moment I forgot that this isn’t an option in her small town. Guatemalans are industrious by nature to live. Often when people are in survival mode, they can get quite creative in ways to create a living. Anything from cleaning windows at stop lights to making a souvenir store at the base of a volcano that may erupt any day.”
“In Guatemala we had the chance to hike Pascua, an active volcano. I was talking to a woman that lives in the small village (less than 50 people) on the volcano and asked her what life was like in this small town. Fully expecting to hear the struggles of not having utilities, proper homes, threats of volcano, lack of basic necessities, etc. She responded with one word — ‘alegre’ — meaning joyful or happy. We can all be happy no matter our circumstances if we choose to be.”
“Meeting with the CEO of Green Rush was refreshing. Henry is man who had given up the corporate world to find meaning and follow his passion. As he shared his life experiences it allowed me to reflect on what I wanted in my life. The paths that lay ahead and the routes I can choose. Guatemala allowed me to look inward and see who I can become.”
“The wealth and class dichotomy in Guatemala was shocking. I was overwhelmed by how much some people had in the comparison to the lack of material goods available to others. We visited a community of women who made bracelets that they sold for under a dollar, and that was their entire livelihood. They didn’t even have access to clean water, but were by far the nicest and happiest people we met there. It made me really think about the artificial importance placed on material goods and how happy people can be with so little.”