Guatemala: Origins

We started our Chazen tour at Tikal, an ancient Mayan city that dates back to 400 BC. What an amazing place! Led by Liwy Grazioso, we learned about the origins of this great society. The Mayans were a resilient people that managed to adapt to the landscape in order to survive for over a thousand years. Starting with small groups led by a chief, the society gradually got more organized. Science and religion flourished, while different tribes developed their own languages throughout the years. Over 20 dialects evolved throughout time, most of them being still active. Until today, they are a major topic of interest. But did we study archeology? The sites were amazing and we had a great time, but the main answer would come later.

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CBS Chazen at Tikal

 

Back at Guatemala City, the following day we met with Álvaro Arzú, former president of the country and current mayor of Guatemala City. He is without doubt one of the most influential individual in the region. When asked about his regrets in life, he mentioned: “I wish I had studied more about history”. For me, it relates directly to learning about the Mayans in order to understand the current Guatemalan society. But he probably already knew about this part – it is his society after all. He mentioned specifically that he wishes he knew in detail the history of Mexico when he got into politics. During his terms, Guatemala repeated some of the same mistakes previously done by Mexico.

As MBA students, it is pivotal to learn about the societies we are working on. This is how we can put all the thoughts and case studies into perspective.

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Ricardo Quiñónez (vice-mayor), Álvaro Arzú (former president and current mayor of Guatemala City) and Paulina Dougherty (CBS’18)

As a final message, he recommended being more “high touch” and connecting to people. His main story was no ordinary one. As a leader in the negotiations for the peace with the guerrillas in the 90s, Mr. Arzú achieved an agreement after meeting the guerrilla leader. In a bold (and illegal) move, he agreed to join a secret meeting at El Salvador. After more than 7 hours of conversation, both leaders saw they had more shared goals than divergences. The peace agreement of 1996 ended 36 years of civil war. The message: more face-to-face conversations and less cold texting.

Check the official video: Columbia University visita MuniGuate

Now we are ready for more company and cultural visits. Stay tuned!

– Pedro Barata ’18

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