About 20 minutes outside of Antigua is a tiny village called El Hato. The town is made up of a one lane dirt road next to a cliff that barrels down the side of the mountain. What you’ll find in El Hato is one restaurant (El Tambor), kids playing in the street, women cleaning clothes in the local pilas, and one eco-hotel that provides for essentially the entire town, Earth Lodge. Earth Lodge is well-known with locals in Antigua and tourists alike. It’s a mountain getaway with excellent food, cozy treehouse accommodations, and an even better Thanksgiving dinner. My last two Thanksgivings, including just two days ago, have been at Earth Lodge. They serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal in family style setting. Strangers and friends from all parts of the globe come to enjoy a great meal together sitting at large table benches. Throughout the night, we all stuffed our faces, drank too much, and enjoyed each other’s laughter playing various card games.
Earth Lodge is crucial for the sustainability of El Hato. In the three times that I have visited, there have been goods for sale promoting that some of the proceeds will be donated to the local school. During the famous Thanksgiving dinners, local businesses specializing in artesian, handmade goods donate a product to be auctioned off after dinner. The entire proceeds are donated to the local school. It’s a win-win situation. Businesses benefit by having their name promoted and, more importantly, the school is provided with a large sum of money to help them purchase simple items such as pens, pencils, notebooks, and backpacks for the children.
Thanksgiving isn’t the only time in which donations are requested. On their website, Earth Lodge explicitly states that you can “Help the El Hato school by packing school supplies.” Since 2004, when Earth Lodge first opened its doors, they have helped “fundraise to buy school supplies, food for the breakfast program and anything else needed at the school” and have assisted in “getting running water and helped fund the computer lab.” Such a simple business with a ecology-based mindset can go so far in supporting local communities who are not as lucky to have consistent, modern amenities.
Also, don’t forget to check out my full story of moving and teaching in Guatemala featured last week with Haute Teacher!