Perceptive Travel — A Guatemalan Town Rediscovers Its Identity Through Art

A town on the shores of lake atitlan, guatemala injects new energy into the community by making its buildings as colorful as its clothing; may 2018

Coming into the town of Santa Catarina Palopó, in the highlands of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, what you notice first are the vibrant colors. Most of the buildings along the main street and square are striking, in deep, varied hues of blues and greens; interspersed with pops of red and yellow to form intricate patterns and designs.

The energy in the small village is just as vibrant, and palpable. Locals greet each other and visitors warmly on the streets. You can feel the joy and the pride that emanates from Santa Catarina’s citizens. And the colorful buildings have a lot to do with it.

Situated along the shore of Lake Atitlán, three miles away from the popular tourist destination of Panajachel, Santa Catarina Palopó was once a sleepy town of 5,000 people, most of them indigenous and dependent on waning agricultural work. But the art project Pintado Santa Catarina Palopó, responsible for the rich colors that the buildings are swathed in here, has transformed the town into a destination on its own—as well as a thriving place for its citizens to be proud of.

Indeed, it shows the power that art—even a simple coat of paint—can have to change lives.

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