Almolonga, the village where we work, was founded
in 1839 and is situated at 2.200 m altitude, 3km outside Quetzaltenango
(Xela). More than 90% of the 15.000 inhabitants are engaged
in agriculture, and the village has a considerable vegetable
export to other parts of Guatemala, as well as to El Salvador
Almolonga is also known world wide for its extremely fast
evangelic conversion. There are 25 churches spread around
the valley, and close to all the citizens visit one of them
every day. The religious communities represent the spiritual
supremacy, but also by far the financial power in the village.
One benefit from the strong religious influence is that Almolonga,
once suffering from heavy alcoholism as so many other indigenous
villages in the highlands, now is one of the most productive
communities in Guatemala.
Another important factor in economic rise in the village
is the land distribution. Whereas territory in Guatemala generally
is owned by the rich minority, most almolongan families possess
their own terrain.
The population is growing fast (3.7% p.a.), and 55% of the
inhabitants are between 0 and 19 years old. As many children
start to work in the fields with their families, 45% of the
people have no formal education at all.
Apart from church and high-quality vegetables (which are,
of course, directly related), there is one thing occupying
the minds of the almolongans: Toyota pick-ups.
An average Almolonga family consists of 8-10 people. They
marry at 14-15 years of age, but continue to live in close
relation to their relatives.