Santa Catarina Palopó, home to 850 families, is one of the smallest towns skirting Lake Atitlán and is arguably one of the most picturesque areas of Guatemala. The lake is surrounded by three giant volcanos and many hills which offer some of Guatemala’s most dramatic and awesome views. It is a land of stunning beauty, rich cultural heritage, and people as colorful as the fabrics that adorn the women of this ever-welcoming Central American nation. It is also a community of coffee and onion farmers, fishermen, and artisans who have embraced the idea of lifting their communities and each other through art and color.
In 2016, Claudia Bosch, owner of Casa Palopó, a Relais & Chateaux property perched on the edge of Lake Atitlán, along with other local entrepreneurs, including Santa Catarina Palopó native and CNN reporter Harris Whitbeck, saw the possibility of creating a project that would develop Santa Catarina Palopó though tourism and create a sense of belonging amongst the families living in the town.
"Pintando Santa Catarina Polapó" (Painting Santa Catarina Polapó) is not just a community art project; it has evolved into a dynamic non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the culture, history, and artistic spirit of the town. With the support of local volunteers and artists, "Pintando Santa Catarina Polapó" began its journey as a non-profit organization. The mission: to use art and color as a tool for education, cultural preservation, community and economic development and to enrich the lives of the people living in the town. To date, the initiative has painted 815 houses, an early childhood education project, and a community garden. What was once a community of grey concrete homes has been lifted through the use of vibrant ancestral colors and historical Mayan symbols that tell the stories of its people. As the organization grew, it initiated projects to restore and maintain the town's cultural heritage. Murals that told the stories of Santa Catarina Polapó's rich history were painted on the newly bright blue and purple walls of buildings and homes using pink, green, orange, yellow, and red celebrating the town's vibrant past and its link to the Mayan culture.
"Pintando Santa Catarina Polapó" had transcended its origins as a painting project and became a living, breathing testament to the profound impact that art and community-driven initiatives can have in the world. It is a delicious reminder that with creativity, dedication, and a shared vision, even the smallest of towns can bloom into a vibrant tapestry of culture, art, and hope.
Murals act as collective thought spaces. They can create dialogue around a subject or community issue through color, images and imagination.
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