PLQ is committed to quality language instruction in a context that gives students an awareness of the social, political and economic realities of Guatemala and Central America.
What We Do
Our program includes:
One-on-one instruction, five hours a day.
Career-specific course options.
Homestay. (Cultural immersion with a local family)
Library of over 3,000 books.
Daily and weekend activities
Socially engaged lectures, film screenings, and day trips.
Collectively owned by Guatemalan teachers, PLQ and its sister school, La Escuela de la Montaña, are two non-profit language schools in Quetzaltenango and Nuevo San José, Guatemala. PLQ has a long history of working in solidarity with human rights groups and social justice organizations in Guatemala, and aims to be a model for socially-responsible language instruction.
PLQ was established with the goal of helping address some of the harsh conditions that affect the Guatemalan people. In addition to providing jobs for local teachers and families at a reasonable wage, which includes payment of employee benefits, including maternity leave and paid vacation leave, PLQ and La Escuela de la Montaña use their profits to support groups and projects working toward solutions for Guatemala’s social and economic problems. The schools are managed by a collective of teachers, and the profits do not go into the pocket of a single owner – as is the case with many other language schools.
PLQ also has a long history of doing direct solidarity work with human rights groups and social justice organizations. We have accompanied returned refugee communities, been present at exhumations of clandestine cemeteries of civilians killed by state forces during the war, and supported strikes by workers at coffee fincas, among other work.
This engagement means that PLQ students have the opportunity to meet with union leaders, former combatants, ex-refugees, political and human rights activists, journalists, health workers, educators and others while they learn about the political and social realities of Guatemala during daily language lessons.
The inspiration for the establishment of PLQ came from the kidnapping and killing of two Guatemalan student activists, René Leiva Cayax and Danilo Alvarado, during the most violent years of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
René and Danilo dreamed of a country where all children would have the opportunity to play, grow up healthy, study, and laugh; a country where all people would have the opportunity to work, to have a house, and to live a dignified life. Their clarity of thought led them to openly identify with the struggle of the Guatemalan people for liberty and justice against the great inequalities and injustices that exist in Guatemala. In 1987, government security forces captured René and Danilo, and tortured and killed them.
As a result of international pressure, the Guatemalan government was forced to investigate this political crime. The police chief of the Department of Quetzaltenango and five police officers were arrested and sentenced to thirty years in prison. It was the first time that members of the government’s security forces were convicted of a political crime. Despite a great deal of evidence against the six police officers, however, they were released after two years for a supposed lack of evidence. A thorough investigation to identify and capture the intellectual authors of the crime was never conducted.
René and Danilo are part of a generation of students who endured a brutal struggle for freedom and justice in Guatemala.
When the Proyecto Lingüistico Quetzalteco de Español was founded in 1988 by a collective of local Spanish teachers, Guatemala was still a country at war. The Guatemalan government was committing a huge number of human rights violations against those who struggled for a more equal society. The founding members of PLQ had the goal of establishing a school that could effectively teach non-native speakers how to read, write and speak the Spanish language while providing support for organizations working to improve the human rights situation in Guatemala. In addition, the collective and staff of PLQ dedicated themselves to educating their language students, who came from all over the world, about the political situation in their country.
La Escuela de la Montaña’s initiative grew from PLQ’s work supporting organized rural communities and grassroots organizations through funds generated by the language school. The creation of a Spanish language school in the rural area outside the town of Colomba expanded PLQ’s work with indigenous and campesino (rural worker) communities, in an attempt to take some of the benefits of the language school industry more directly into the countryside of Guatemala.
The jobs created by La Escuela de la Montaña improve the economic situation of our neighbors in the community of Nuevo San José, where the school is located. More importantly, profits are used to support grassroots organizations working to promote citizen participation, community development, education, human and workers’ rights, and cultural activities in the Guatemalan countryside.The Escuela de la Montaña also generates outside funding to support a scholarship program for young secondary students and other projects to benefit nearby communities.
To learn more about La Escuela de la Montaña, visit the school’s website.
The Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City is the only airport in the country with flights to the United States and Europe. From there it is a four hour bus ride to Quetzaltenango.
When you arrive at the airport, you might want to change some money for taxis, buses, snacks, etc. A taxi will take you to a first class bus station (Alamo, Galgos, or Linea Dorada), or to the area where chicken buses leave for Quetzaltenango (commonly called Xela) (ask for camionetas a Xela). The first class bus costs Q50-Q60 and a chicken bus costs Q30-35, and both take about 4 hours. From the bus station in Xela, take another taxi to our school (Q30 maximum).
When you arrive at the airport, you might want to change some money for taxis, buses, snacks, etc. A taxi will take you to a first class bus station (Alamo, Galgos, or Linea Dorada), or to the area where chicken buses leave for Quetzaltenango (commonly called Xela) (ask for camionetas a Xela). The first class bus costs Q50-Q60 and a chicken bus costs Q30-35, and both take about 4 hours. If you have taken a chicken bus to Xela, the bus to La Escuela de la Montaña will leave from the same bus station. If you have taken a first class bus, take a taxi to the Terminal Minerva in Zona 3 to continue your trip to La Escuela de la Montaña. From Terminal Minerva, the bus line you need to take is the Xela-ju (going to Colomba), which departs every half hour starting before dawn and continuing until 5:00pm. Bus fare is about Q10. The official name of the stop is ´La Piedra´ (the rock). To be clear, tell the driver that you want to be let off at La Escuela de la Montaña. When you get off, there will be a sign welcoming you to Santo Domingo, a neighboring community. The school is located less than five minutes down the road from the highway. If you’re still on the bus when it gets to the town of Colomba, you went about 10km too far and you will have to get off and take another bus back or take a pick-up truck to the school.
Yes, we do. The service we provide is a guide, who will help you navigate public transportation in Guatemala, using first class buses. Please mention clearly that you want to make use of this service and send us your flight details in time (date, time, name of airline, and flight number). Our school guide will be waiting for you at the airport´s only exit, with a sign with your name on it. He will guide you all the way (taxis and buses) to Xela or La Escuela de la Montaña. This service costs respectively US $65 or US $75, and can be paid upon arrival.
North-Americans, Canadians and most Europeans do not need a visa for Guatemala. Check with your guidebook or a Guatemalan embassy or consulate, or look at the web site of the Guatemalan foreign ministry: http://www.minex.gob.gt/tur/tur8.htm (citizens of the countries in class “A” do not need visa). In Customs, visitors travelling with a passport are given permission to spend 30 or 90 consecutive days in Guatemala. Ask for 90 days (“noventa días”) and make sure they stamp your passport (otherwise you’ll later have to spend a whole day at the immigration office of Guatemala City and pay a fee). If you want to stay for more than 90 days you need to hop across the border and pass through Guatemalan Customs again to receive a permit for another 30 – 90 days. Otherwise, you can spend most of a day at the immigration office to get your permit extended for another 30 days.
Consult your doctor. Each individual has their own medical considerations and there is no rule that applies to everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/travel, is one source of information on travelers’ health.
Since you will be living at about 2.330 m on a large plateau, it can get quite cold. The days are generally nice – lots of sun, but a mild 25 degrees C. The nights however are very cold during the months of November through February, and chilly/cold during the rest of the year. You’ll need at least one sweater and it’s not uncommon for students to bring a down vest or jacket. Note: If you don’t want to carry a lot you can buy beautiful, well-made wool jackets, scarves, gloves and blankets in Momostenango (an indigenous village near Xela) at very reasonable prices. Also, at least one pair of jeans or trousers are recommended.
We have teachers that are specialized in medicine, law, history, psychology, journalism, literature, art, etc. Visit our Study With Us page to learn more.
Every week we organize different activities which are scheduled throughout the day so as not to infringe on class time. Our weekly activities include the presentation of a documentary and a feature film, a soccer game, a review of the most important news that occurred in Guatemala during the week, a dinner and graduation every Friday, half-day trips, two translated conferences, a salsa dance class or yoga class, and a day-long or overnight trip on the weekends. The diverse guest speakers who present the conferences discuss topics such as the human rights situation in the country, deforestation, the Guatemalan justice system, the discrimination that the indigenous population encounters, and testimonies of experiences during the civil war. When it comes to the trips, we visit villages famous for their agriculture, churches, Mayan ceremonial sites, campesino (farmer) communities, or volcanic hot springs, and go on outdoor excursions such as volcano hikes. The costs of all activities are included in the tuition fee except for expenses like transportation, food and accommodation during trips.
At both PLQ and La Escuela de la Montaña we have libraries with many resources for Spanish study, including workbooks and exercise books. Together with your teacher you can find materials appropriate for your level of Spanish. Around the corner from the school you can buy notebooks and pens, so there’s no need to fill your bags will those materials. By buying locally, you support the Xela’s economy.
The schools are closed on January 1, Good Friday, September 15 (Guatemala’s Independence Day) and December 25.
We work with middle-class and working-class families, and we do not screen them based on any religious or political beliefs. Your family will provide you with 3 meals per day, a key to the house and a private room with a bed. Living with a host family is the perfect opportunity to practice the Spanish you learn in class. The family members will converse with you, and we ask them to correct your Spanish as well. By living with a Guatemalan family, students develop friendships, learn about daily life in Guatemala, and are introduced to activities in the community.
All host families are located within walking distance from the school.
All families receive a salary through the school for hosting students (part of your tuition goes straight to the families), so it is not necessary to bring any presents. The homestay families working with PLQ are less needy than many people in Guatemala. For this reason, we suggest that if students want to give something, they can instead donate a book to the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center or the community library at La Escuela de la Montaña. The children who receive classes in these centers there come from families with limited economic resources, and your donation will benefit them greatly.
Yes, it is up to you if you want to study only at PLQ, only at La Escuela de la Montaña, or if you want to divide up your time between the two schools. Just make it clear on your registration form exactly what you want.
PLQ is the school in the city of Quetzaltenango and therefore offers the variety of city life: you can go out for dinner or a drink, check your email, etc. The Spanish classes you will receive last five hours a day and you live with a host family where you will eat your three meals a day. La Escuela de la Montaña is situated in the mountainous coffee region of Colomba and brings students into contact with rural Guatemalan life. The Spanish classes last four hours a day, you stay in the school building with a maximum of 13 other students, and classes are conducted in the school´s huge garden. You will visit a campesino family in the nearby communities of Nuevo San José or Fátima three times a day for meals. Even though students do not live with their host families, they often they hang around to talk with the parents or play with the kids.
Next door to the PLQ, we direct the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center. This center provides classes in art, music, computer programs and English to children of Quetzaltenango from families with limited economic resources. Students are encouraged to volunteer on a short or long term basis at the Center. Students work in the afternoons from 2.30-5pm and share their energy and creativity teaching the kids. There are many other volunteer opportunities in and around Xela. The office can help you get connected with outside volunteer opportunities.
Students at La Escuela de la Montaña have the opportunity to help out with daily activities at the school such as caring for the vegetable and herb gardens, tutoring and reading to the local children. When there are current construction projects in neighboring communities, some students help out when they’re not in class. Students with higher levels of Spanish fluency and who plan to spend an extended period of time studying at La Escuela de la Montaña may be able to work out placements in nearby communities depending on their interests and skills.
Guatemala has a very negative image when it comes to safety. Crime and violence certainly exist here, but in our many years of experience, if students use common sense and caution, they can avoid almost all issues. Never travel or walk alone at night, listen to the local people when they tell you not to go somewhere or not to do something, watch your stuff when you are at a bus terminal, tuck away your money in different pockets when you are in a market place, etc. Unfortunately, as in any other corner of the world, for some things there are no precautions.