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  • Writer's pictureBruce Clemens

Tierra Santa (the Holy Land) our next adventure

The Rotary Club of Lake Atitlan (RoCLA) is in the process of vetting Tierra Santa.  Bruce Clemens is the sponsor, but we need to decide on a shepherd.  Joe Wakely is willing to help, but we need to train others to work with Joe

.  Here’s the story of Tierra Santa. 

 In 1960, most of the Santo Tomas Perdido Finca was on either side of Highway 11 between the Pampojila Finca and the “Paso Misterioso”. The Finca’s coordinates are (14.580677, -91.124778).  Highway 11 connects Las Trampas on the Pan American Highway to the Pacific Ocean at Tecojate.  However, a portion of Santo Tomas’ land was on the shores of Lake Atitlan, on the Northwest of the city of San Lucas Toliman on the slopes of the Atitlan Volcano.  A man known only as “Jose” purchased this plot of land from Santo Tomas Perdido.  Don Juan called the land and his nascent Finca, Porvenir.  Porvenir began producing coffee, including building a coffee processing facility on the shores of Lake Atitlan.  The wastewater from the coffee processing flowed directly into the lake exacerbating the environmental quality of the San Lucas Bay of Lake Atitlan. 

The Porvenir Finca was marginally profitable throughout the 1970s and 80s.  In 2002, the Tropical Storm Hanna caused a major landslide on the Toliman Volcano that covered Porvenir.  The landslide destroyed all of the homes of the Finca workers.  The San Lucas Mission purchased a tract of land (14.581108, -91.127182) contiguous to the Santo Tomas Finca.  The land was previously known as Comunidad Totolya.   The Mission christened this newly acquired land Tierra Santa. Subsequently, the Mission moved the workers from Porvenir to the newly acquired plot of land. 

Tierra Santa, with the financial assistance of the Municipality of San Lucas Toliman and the Mission, purchased a spring and built a rudimentary gravity-flowed potable water system. In 2005, Hurricane Stan laid waste to the majority of the newly constructed water system.  Since 2005, the water project has been deteriorating to the point that today, extremely few homes receive water.  Indeed, it seems that the only families that receive water are the more prosperous ones who have built small distribution tanks on their rods. The residents have to truck water into the town.

In 2023, village elders approached the San Lucas Mission and AdP for help.  AdP and the People’s Consultants (AdP-USA) completed a preliminary feasibility study that concluded that the project could be repaired at a cost of approximately $33,000.  The Mission has also raised $50,000 from a former donor that can be used for potable water projects in the San Lucas area.  John Barie also introduced us to the Rotary Club of Birmingham Michigan who was raising $20-30,000 for a Guatemalan water project.  However, we have barely begun on the ‘mother of all water projects’ for Panimaquip, San Martin, and Xejuyub.  Initial cost estimates approach $500,000.  We are working with the Mission to decide the best use of the funding to produce the most cost-effective outcomes.  

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