Latin America
Teacher's Guide

February 10, 1999 Update

Two of us are in a remote indigenous village, two are working with human rights groups and will reprot next time, Klaus dropped from the team (!), and Jamila is making her way to Guatemala from Belize solo!

The team generated the following reports: Try the following activities:
Making a Difference - Children and War

This page gives a lot of background information on the use of children as soldiers arouond the world, most notably in Guatemala. It urges them to take action in one of several ways.

Have your students read the information and perhaps follow some of the links to explore more of what is out on the web. The three activities encouraged are:

1) SUPPORT THE BAN - Have students write letters to important government figures (the names and addresses are included). There is a sample letter, and a lot of information for your students to write their own. If you have time, try having a class discussion on the topic of child soldiers before they write. NOTE: Please send letters until February 28, 1999 1999. After that, check with Amnesty International ( to see if you should still write.

2) RAISE AWARENESS - It will always be timely for your students to raise awareness in their own community. This can be as simple as doing a presentation for another class or at a school assembly or teachers', meeting. Or there's letter writing. Try letters to the editor or op-eds (newspapers like running op-eds by youth on occasion!) There is a sample op-ed available here, but it's advanced for younger students.

3) SPECIAL CAMPAIGN - This will take more time, but there is a special campaign going on about the use of children in armies in Uganda. There is info available on the topic here, and recommendations for who they can write. Check the Human Rights Watch page we refer you to to see how long they are still requesting letters.
Team - Torture and Bloodshed: Truths of the Guatemalan Civil War

This article gives a summary of the history and impact of the civil war in Guatemala. While the subject is of course quite grave, this summary avoids the gory details that might not be appropriate for younger kids. So if you want to REALLY cover this topic, you may add some comments by yourself or another reading.

Given the huge impact war has on youth, and the increasing use of children in wars, a great activity here is for students to click on over to the Making a Difference page and use the previous activity.

because this provides a fair amount of introductory info, it might also be a good time to give them some Q&A before or after.
Kavitha - Todos Santos Part 1: Rough Road to Paradise

Kavitha describes the difficult bus ride and the living conditions in the town where she and Shawn are staying.

See the next activity for Part Two of Kavitha's dispatch.
Kavitha - Todos Santos, Part 2: Finding a Home Away from Home

Kavitha describes the indigenous family she is living with, explains the problems of land-distribution and raising crops for export, refers to the civil war, and the migration of many people to the US to survive.

Try printing out and photocopying the "Todos Santos Treasure Hunt" where the students find information in the stories referring to Todos Santos. OR This is a great time to do some more in-depth exploring of the economic and cultural situation of the indigenous of Guatemala. Try having the students link over to the excerpts from Rigoberta Menchu's biography in the Rigoberta Menchu section. When there, the students can write summaries of their findings, write diary entries describing their lives as if they were indigenous, or perhaps do a quick drawing which they present and explain to the class.

Shawn - Uncovering the Riches of Todos Santos

Shawn describes the friendly and colorful Mam people of the village where he and Kavitha are living. He describes theri clothes, their farming and weaving, and their friendliness.

Try the "Todos Santos Treasure Hunt" as referred to in the activity for Kavitha's articles.
Abeja - The Flourishing Quiche Culture

Abeja explains some of the significance of the clothes the indigenous wear, and talks about the development of the projects in Guatemala City where many indigenous fled during the civil war. She provides a summary of some of the different ethnic groups in Guatemala, and explains some of the significance of indigenous names.

There are questions from this article in the "Todos Santos Treasure Hunt" referred to for Kavitha's articles as well.


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