Student Heritage Trip to Tikal – Part One


Thanks to the generosity of our donors, students from Maya Jaguar schools were treated to a field trip to the Maya archeological site of Tikal. The experience for the students was even better than we had hoped!

For every student, it was their first excursion anywhere. They had all heard of the ancient Maya capital that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, but had only seen photos of it, and read about its origins and decline in books or articles.


Tikal is an ancient Maya citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala, possibly dating to the 1st century AD. The city flourished between 200 and 850 AD, and was later abandoned. Its iconic ruins of temples and palaces include the giant, ceremonial Lost World Pyramid and the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. At 70 meters (230 feet) high, Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Western Hemisphere.

From the students, in their own words (translated):


Gloria: “I had seen pictures of it, but when I got off the bus and saw the main temple, something happened inside me. I couldn’t believe how grand it was. I could feel the power of this place! I’m afraid of heights, but I was so excited that we could climb to the top of a pyramid. When I got about two-thirds of the way up and looked out, I got scared. But I kept climbing anyway. The view from the top was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life before!”

Vidalia: “Awe! That’s the feeling I had when I stepped off the bus. Walking on the trails around and between the temples was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The jungle was so dense between them, and there were so many animals I had never seen before. I saw monkeys, toucans, and armadillos.”

Esteban: “I don’t know what I liked best. It was all amazing. Maybe the stelae (ancient, inscribed stones) were my favorites. I couldn’t believe how it felt to see them in person and up close! Photos don’t bring out the wonder of them. You have to see them to really appreciate their importance.”

Ana: “I have never been in a boat before. At first, I was a little afraid by the rocking motion when we started to get in the boat. Once we were on the water, it was amazing to see how things at the shores looked from that perspective! And to be on a river!”

Lucia: “I liked putting my hand in the water in the river. It was so different from feeling water in a sink or bucket!”

Augusto: “I enjoyed the opportunity to see the cannons used by the Spaniards in the 1600s to defend the castle and its exports against English pirates.”

Salvador: “History is more interesting in person than it is reading about events! I am so grateful for the chance to wander around the Maya temples and stelae; and now here to get to see another piece of Guatemalan history, the Spanish influence.”

Our thanks to all donors who made this journey possible! As you can read in their words (and was heard from their mouths, and saw in their eyes), these were important life-changing experiences for the students. Thanks to you, they have walked through new portals of appreciation and understanding of their heritage! (Part Two follows - a letter from the students)

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