Friday, September 29, 2006

Speaking Engagements for Dr. Irene Quiejú
Third Update

Monday, October 9:
of Maryland
, Baltimore
Department of Language, Literacy and Culture
Academic IV, Wing A, Room 422
Baltimore Campus

* Tuesday, October 10:
Boston University
Boston School of Public Health
The Founders Room

Talbot Building, 3rd Floor Central.

Thursday, October 12:
Harvard Medical School
25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115-6027

Cannon Room, Bldg. C-2
Web site

Friday, October 13:
Lower Eastside Girls Club, NYC

56 E 1st St
New York, NY 10003-9345

Tuesday, October 17:
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Claire M. Fagan Hall (Nursing Education Building) Auditorium

418 Curie Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217

Friday, October 20:
St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, DC
1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010-3103

Dining Room

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc. and the George Washington University Latin America and Hemispheric Studies Program Present the first stop of the October speaking tour

Tragedy and Road to Recovery in Panabaj, Guatemala: The Story of the Hospitalito


Dr. Irene Quiejú


Tuesday, October 3

6:00 - 7:30pm

The Lindner Family Commons

1957 E Street, N.W., Room 602

No RSVP Required, event is free and open to the public

October marks the anniversary of Hurricane Stan and the mudslides that buried the Guatemalan village of Panabaj. The Hospitalito Atitlán is currently the subject of a Harvard study examining how a rural Guatemalan facility in an impoverished indigenous community could reopen in just 15 days after being hit by a tragedy a powerful as the mudslide. The Hospitalito is now located in a temporary facility, but is in the process of building a new permanent structure. Dr. Irene Quiejú will deliver a short presentation about her experiences as the Medical Director of the Hospitalito Atitlan. Dr. Quiejú will also discuss her experiences during Guatemala’s bloody civil war and how she realized her dream of becoming one of the first T’zutujil Maya physicians in Guatemala. Dr. Quieju’s presentation will a short film shot by a British videographer during the mudslides. We will wrap up the presentation with a Q and A session for Dr. Quiejú to respond to specific audience interests such as war, women’s issues, education and her rural Maya highland background.

Doctora Irene Quiejú is the Medical Director of the Hospitalito Atitlán, which is now open in a temporary facility—a backpacker’s hotel that was converted during the immediate aftermath of the mudslide that devastated Santiago Atitlan. She was born in the T’zutujil Mayan capital, Santiago Atitlán, on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan Highlands. Her parents had 12 children, but only six survived infancy. She is the first female T’zutujil Mayan physician from this town of over 40,000 people.

For more information contact:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

How to use your inhaler IN T'ZUTUJIL!

Professor Nathan Smith of the University of Pennsylvania is the filmmaker/director of the asthma inhaler video. Two other videos (one on dehydration/diarrhea, and the other on fever in children) are currently in production stages. The videos were produced with the assistance of Penn medical and nursing students and faculty as well as folks on the ground in Santiago Atitlán. There are more videos available on Youtube.

The videos do a great job of minding the cultural differences between the filmakers and the audience, and provide a great tool for phisicians down there. We're really looking forward to the rest of the videos!

Dr. Irene will be speaking at Penn on Tuesday, October 17th at 4pm. Exact location to be announced shortly. Look for a complete schedule early next week.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Presentation of New Land
Xet' chaj, Santiago Atitlán
Saturday, September 30th 2006
10:00 - 11:00am

Program of Activities

Words of Welcome
with Francisco Sojuel Navichoc
President of K'aslimaal

A look at the past and present: What was lost and what was gained with Hurricane Stan?
with Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc Ajanel, vicepresident of K'aslimaal

In the context of Atiteco health, what impact has been seen?
with Dr. Irene Quiejú Sojuel, Hospital Director

Words from the Mayor
with Mayor Diego Esquina Mendoza

Presentation of construction plans and phases
with Juan Tziná Sosóf of the K'aslimaal Construction Commission

Ground breaking ceremony
with community representatives

Tree Ceremony
with members of the Red Cross of Santiago Atitlán

Thursday, September 14, 2006


From Lyn Dickey

Atitlán, September 14, 2006--Mud continues to come down the volcano. The paved road to Panabaj is covered and each rain brings more. In June, rains and mud completely closed the road to Panabaj and rescue workers were unable move people to safety. A boat dock has been built in Tzanchaj at the back of the bay so that people may be evacuated by water and brought to centers in town.

On September 13th, CONRED (the Guatemalan equivalent of FEMA) issued a new statement enlarging the area determined high risk and uninhabitable to be from south of town to the back of the bay.

Juan Tz’ina, Asociación K’aslimaal member and health commissioner for the municipality reported the purchase of ten acres in Chukumuk, a few miles out of town for the 54 homeless families from the neighborhoods of Pachichaj, Panul and Chanul. Construction on the homes for the 5,000 people of Panabaj is awaiting purchase of additional land by the government in Chukamuk. After the unfortunate half start on homes in the mudslide area, work came to a halt in June of this year when the government declared the area uninhabitable and the partially constructed homes were abandoned.

Land Purchase

In mid-July land was purchased in a safe location for the new Hospitalito Atitlán. The construction area measures 65 meters by 65 meters, with an additional rocky hill “garden” area at the rear of the property. Volunteer architect David Schele, and his Austin Texas based firm Felder Group are working with K’aslimaal and Hospitalito Atitlán’s Construction Commission on plans for the new facility.

Xet Chaaj (meaning "below the ashes" in the local language) is the name of the area that is located on the entrance to Santiago Atitlán. The property has city water and will soon have electrical connections. On September 30th Asociación K'aslimaal, the board of directors of Hospitalito Atitlán will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at Xet Chaaj(Photo coming soon).

Volunteers Wanted

Long and short term Spanish speaking physicians, nurses and hospital support personnel are greatly needed. Construction will soon begin on the new Hospitalito Atitlán, and volunteer groups will be welcome to lend a hand. Please visit for more information.

Serious Rainy Season Alerts
I saw this story in La Prensa and made a quick translation.

Another Mudslide Hits Sololá

Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, Sololá. -- One little girl died, her two sisters and mother were wounded in a mudslide the day before yesterday in the village of Paculam II. All afternoon Tuesday it rained hard, and at four pm the mud came down Cerro Siete Picos.

Catarina Sac Ambrosio, age seven; her sisters Manuela, age eight, and María, age two; along with Lucía Ambrosio Sipan, 24, were left trapped in the mud until help arrived. The body of Catarina was found eight hours later.

11 Villages in San Marcos and Nuevo Progresso Isolated by Landslides

More than 50 landslides and one mudslide destroyed many parts of the roads that connect these villages to their municipal heads. Villagers have begun the difficult process of clearing and repairing the roads.

Red Alert in Nueva Concepción After Severe Flooding

18 rural communities in Nueva Concepción are under red alert for flooding on rivers Coyolate, Mascalate and Pantaleón. The communities worst affected are Santa Ana Mixtán, El Mango, Santa Odilia y Santo Domingo Los Cocos, where more than 169 families have been evacuated to shelters.

For more information see
and also


Thanks to the amazing Josef Fischer, his Rotarian friends and Siemens Medical in Germany, Hospitalito Atitlán now has a new ultrasound. At a meeting with Club Rotary Norte in Guatemala City on July 27th, the new machine was presented to K’aslimaal VP Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc.

Hospitalito administrator Jose Reanda, Josef Fischer, Otto Zuniga, president of Siemens Medical Guatemala and member of Club Rotario Sur, and Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc receive the new ultrasound at a presentation dinner at the Hotel Camino Real.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Biography of Doctora Irene Quiejú (For Press Releases)

This Fall Dr. Irene Quiejú is coming to the north-east U.S. to talk about the mudslide that devastated her home town, Santiago Atitlán. The mud buried hundreds of her neighbors alive and inundated the Hospital Atitlán in Panabaj during hurricane Stan last fall.

Dr. Quiejú is the Director of the Hospitalito Atitlán, which is now open in a temporary facility — a backpacker’s hotel that was converted during the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The Hospitalito performed its first emergency surgery in the facility just 15 days after the mud took the original building. Dr. Quiejú is the first indigenous female physician from the town of 40,000.

She was born in the T’zutujil Mayan capital, Santiago Atitlán, on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan Highlands. Her parents had 12 children, but only six survived their infancy.

When she was a little girl, she was in charge of the “medicina,” which was a mix of lime juice and salt that she concocted to “cure” her unwilling cousins. Her sister is a midwife, and when Irene was small she was awed by the miracles Lucia preformed at the former Santiaguito Clinic.

Dr. Quiejú overcame many obstacles on her way to realizing her dream of becoming a doctor. She was subjected to racial slurs and harassment throughout her college years. “People marginalize you for your clothes, your language and your last name. For some reason people feel superior if they have a non-indigenous last name,” she said.

Despite social pressure, through three years of medical school she wore the traje — the hand embroidered blouse and skirt that are unique to her village. When lectures moved into a hospital environment, however, she had to wear hospital scrubs.

Irene came of age during the peak of Guatemala’s civil war. Atitlán was the location of an infamous massacre in 1990. The military had established a base on the road to Panabaj and the hospital. Patients and physicians were uncomfortable with its proximity. The “Massacre of Santiago Atitlán” occurred in front of the military base and International Human Rights groups flocked to the area. President Cerezo immediately ordered the base closed and the military out of Atitlán.

The Hospitalito Remained closed for 15 years. It re-opened in April of last year, only to fall victim to the mud that October. K'aslimaal, the board that runs the Hospitalito, has purchased land to begin the construction of a new permanent medical facility in a location deemed safe from further mudslides. The architectual plans have been drawn, and the process of raising money to fund construction is under way.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Art Project to Benefit Hospitalito

Jackie Farley wrote in to tell us about a project she and her students are doing to raise money for the Hospitalito, and she's looking for student submissions!

She writes, "my students at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are contributing their art work to an exhibition to raise funds to buy supplies for the temporary hospialito in Santiago Atitlán. The show runs from Oct. 1st thru Dec. 2006. We have a large gallery space at the school, and I wonder if there may be other students out there who would be interested in donating art work."

Please send submissions to:

Attn: Jackie Farley
Developing Virtue Girls School
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
2001 Talmage Road
Talmage, CA 95481

The photo was taken during a visit two months ago. It's a shot of the old Hospitalito building, which is currently being used for storage. It's part of the area the Government declaired uninhabitable.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

After you leave a place like Atitlán, you walk around with this feeling like you could go a few blocks down the street, take a right, and be right back on Calle Cardiaco heading up to the taco stands in the center of the pueblo. At lease that’s how it hits me.

There’s something about the way Atitecos saludan total strangers and lifelong neighbors alike. Something in the way the people you meet while waiting for a bus will want to swap life stories. Something in the smile of the kids who play tour guide for one quetzal. Something ineffable that stays with you long after your plane touches down thousands of miles away. It’s more than just fond memories. In a way, it’s being a part of something.

It brings you down pretty hard to see the half-finished homes for the mudslide survivors that the Government had to abandon because of the threat of another disaster. The images on the internet and in the newsletters can’t prepare you for the site of that mammoth grave at the foot of the volcano. The giant scar that leads down onto the place where much of Panabaj once stood is still visible, a dark reminder of that night when the rains and the mud took so much.

Then, on down the road a few metros, the sounds of children playing at the Panabaj Elementary School fill the air. Many of the children lost everything—family, friends, and their homes—but a few concerned individuals and a lot of the T’zutujil will and determination—which has allowed them to outlast conquests, civil wars and natural disasters for hundreds of generations—has given these children back their education, and with it hope for the future that awaits their young generation.

Hope also springs eternal from around the bend in the lake at the Hospitalito. You can see the cleared plot, now, where the new facility is going to be. Our prominent architect has laid out the plans, and the vision is getting closer to realization. I suppose that’s part of what gives you that feeling. The knowing that there’s a future, and you’re a part of it. When you tread of the better beaten paths on a trip abroad, you get a little snapshot that stays frozen there in the photo album of the mind. You can always look back on it just the way it was. But not Atitlán. Atitecos have learned from their hardships not to spend too long looking back, and I believe they pass some of that porvenir mindedness onto their guests. The future brings change and hope from pueblo to pueblo.


Dia del Salubrista--Healthcare Worker’s Day

Every year a different city hosts the annual Healthcare Workers Day in their state. This year Hospitalito Atitlán hosted the games for the state of Sololá. The festivities began in typical Atiteco style with a mortar fired from the center of the small soccer field next to Hospitalito Atitlán. The day ended with tamales at the City Auditororium. The Hospitalito Atitlán team won this year's soccer tournament!