Site Assignment: Totonicapán

So, I’ve finally received all my official medical and bureaucratic clearances and was given word of exactly where I’ll be living for a year in Guatemala. And that place is…. Totonicapán!


Totonicapán, capital of the department of the same name.

Totonicapán, which I understand is often referred to lovingly as Toto, is the name of both a province (department) of Guatemala, and the name of the capital of said department. It is situated at 8,200 ft above sea level and has temperatures in the 60’s-70’s, dipping down to the 40’s-50’s at night. In few words, VERY different than a tiny village in the sweaty lowland jungles of Panama, which I’m very excited about.

There are a couple similarities, however. The population is almost entirely of Mayan descent, mostly of the ethnicity K’iche’. What’s interesting to me is that in Panama, indigenous groups are mostly constrained to small towns and villages throughout the country. Here, there’s a city of 50,000 indigneous people, which is for me a new phenomenon. It will be interesting. The K’iche’ language is one of many Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. I’ve already received some language materials from the Peace Corps to learn K’iche’, but I’m mostly going to put that off until I’m on the ground.

So, I am well on my way to learning a second native American language. It goes without saying that I’m fairly stoked about that. I received a phonecall from Panama yesterday and was surprised that I still haven’t forgotten much of the Embera that I learned in Panama (mura ebera bedhea wadi quinantoa ebua). You can hear K’iche’ being spoken in the clip below:

Aside from all these superficial tidbits, I know almost nothing about the country of Guatemala or Totonicapan. So feel free to drop my any fun facts, useful knowledge, or recommendations for books in the comment box below, in an email, or at @kendobari on twitter.



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