Design & Construction of a Village – by Amy Yeung in Guatemala

Living in Tecpán, Guatemala, I have had the privilege of having a wonderful Guatemalan roommate. Cecilia Rodriguez is our architectural intern for Project Somos from Guatemala City.  Her skin gets darker as each day passes and all her friends think that she is always going to the beach, but in reality, she is hard at work in Tecpán, trekking out to the land with Greg Kemp everyday at 7:00am.  Through Cecilia, I have learned about the Guatemalan culture, the construction of the village as well as her thoughts on living in a gringo home.

AY:      How did you get into architecture?

CR:      As a child, I was very artistic and loved to draw and paint.  My interest for architecture began around the age of 14 when I started to look into my strengths and found that what excited me was working with my hands and making something creative.

AY:      What is your involvement with Project Somos?

CR:      After five years of architectural classes at the University of San Carlos, there is a six month internship for us students to give back to the communities.  I started working with Project Somos in February 2011 for my internship.  My role for the project is to design and supervise the building of the Children’s Village.  I am also providing advice to Greg Kemp, Project Manager, about the structure of the homes as well as the materials that we use.

AY:      What are your thoughts on earthbag construction?

CR:      I think earthbag is a great new method of construction, which is also not very different from our traditional method of adobe construction.  The adobe method has been used for years and is a mixture of clay, soil and straw, which is then compacted into bricks.  In earthbag construction, we use a mixture of soil and cement and pour this mixture into long uncut coffee bags, which are then tamped down until they are flat. Earthbags are great because they are inexpensive as well as earthquake proof!

AY:      How do you like living in a house of gringos?

CR:      Well, it is good!  I worked as a translator before so I am experienced in working with non-Guatemalans.  I like sharing my culture with everyone as well as learning about yours.  It is nice to meet new people, learn new ideas and mix them all into one house!

AY:      How has the coffee improved since the chichi barista (me, Amy Yeung) has moved in?

CR:      Oh it has improved a lot!  I have a Columbian dad and he has taught me a lot about coffee.  So I can say that this chichi barista makes a good cup of coffee.   Coffee is very important to the Guatemalan culture so having a good cup of coffee is very much appreciated!


2 Responses:
  • Fred Oliff

    Hi Amy,
    I really enjoy reading your blogs but have to point out that gringos is the word perjoratively used for Americans and Columbians do not exist, it is Colombians. Keep up the good work, what you are doing is very important.

  • Fred-historically, this is the case for the word “gringos” but around here, any “white” person visiting is referred to as a gringo. The word is evolving and doesn’t seem to carry the same sting it used to. i.e. it isn’t rude for people, including children to use the term. Heather

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