Santa Cruz la Laguna is a small Mayan community located on the shores of Lake Atitlan in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is comprised of three villages and three small “aldeas” located in the mountains above the lake with a total population of 6,500.
Due to its dramatic location surrounded by jagged mountains four of the six villages of Santa Cruz la Laguna are accessible only by foot or by boat and the other two have very limited road access. Lack of accessibility to the outside world has greatly limited the progress of this community. With no roads, no telephone system and no commercial center, the villagers must travel by boat to shop or to access resources of any kind. Conditions are severe in the more remote small villages of Santa Cruz located in the mountains above the lake. They are often inaccessible even by foot during the rainy season when landslides are common and road access is impossible.
Traditionally, Santa Cruceños have lived off of the corn and beans that are the only foods that are planted in the severe mountain terrain. Fishing has also been a source of food and income but there is a severe shortage of fish now and the lake suffers from contamination due to lack of adequate waste systems in the 12 villages that dot the lakeshore. Historically, the indigenous people have struggled daily to feed their families on what they can grow or earn selling crops and their weavings and working manual labor jobs. Until recently, education and health care were very limited.