In 2012 NRECA International and Indiana electric cooperatives brought electricity to three isolated mountain villages in western Guatemala. Volunteer linemen built new distribution lines and connected more than 175 households and businesses for the first time. The area is known for its coffee farms, its beauty, and its rugged terrain.
“Without help from NRECA International and America’s electric co-ops, these villages and others like them could be decades away from receiving electricity,” says Dan Waddle, the senior vice president of NRECA International. “The positive impact of affordable and reliable electricity is having a transformational impact on the quality of life of the people in this region.”
The following are photos from a recent trip to western Guatemala.
The Villatoro Family
Business is good at Merly Villatoro’s sundry shop. When electricity came to Las Cuevas, she bought a refrigerator/freezer that allowed her to add meats, cheese, sodas, and ice cream to her offerings. The plastic piggy banks hold some of the proceeds, which will be used to fund the education of Villatoro’s children, Bibiana, 10, Sulmy, 16, and Daniel, 6.
From her mother’s home in the isolated mountain village of Las Cuevas, Sulmy Villatoro runs a small business selling chickens and turkeys to local residents. After graduating from primary school, her options for further public education were limited. The money from her poultry business helps pay for tutoring from a teacher with the goal of earning her high school degree. Thanks to cell service and electricity, she gets her assignments via email and completes classwork online. After high school, nursing college.
Carmella Villatoro shivers against the mountain cold, but her face lights up when she talks about electricity coming to Las Cuevas. She points to the strand of Christmas lights that brighten her family compound, the whir of a washing machine in the background. Villatoro, 72, was born in Bojonal, another remote village many mountains away. She grew up in poverty, and knows the limits of a life lived without access to power. “In the darkness,” she says, “you feel bad.”
For decades, Romeo Perez fired his coffee roaster with wood and turned the barrel with a hand crank. The coming of electricity to his hometown of Hoja Blanca in Guatemala meant he could switch to electric heat and a motorized drive. He now processes about 2,500 pounds of coffee per year in his modest warehouse. One ton goes to market; 500 pounds he keeps for personal use and small local sales. To supplement his income, Perez also operates a car repair shop, the parts from which litter the exterior of his shop. His dream is to begin exporting coffee and make enough to close the repair shop for good.