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Center for Mesoamerican Research (CIRMA), Guatemala

Center for Mesoamerican Research (CIRMA), Guatemala
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Dates, Deadlines, and Costs
Term App Deadline Start Date End Date Cost
Program Information
  • GPA
  • 3.0
  • Language of Instruction
  • English, Spanish
  • Foreign Language Requirement
  • Yes
  • Class Eligibility
  • Program Open To
  • UA and Non-UA Students
  • Credit Type
  • UA Direct Credit
  • Level of Study
  • Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Housing Options
  • Homestay
  • Program Type
  • UA Faculty-led
Program Overview


Receive 12-15 units toward a UA Spanish major or minor and live with a host family while immersing yourself in Spanish language and Guatemalan culture.  Price includes housing, meals, excursions, airport pick up and health insurance.



At the Center for Mesoamerican Research (CIRMA) in Antigua, Guatemala, you can learn an indigenous language, study the history of Central American Revolutions from those who lived through them and create your own for-credit internship.  From their rooftop classroom you'll get an amazing view of the volcanoes that surround this beautiful colonial city.

Your experience at CIRMA will be enriched by a colloquium series with nationally and internationally recognized experts. The colloquium leads to in-depth discussions on topics such as ethnic relations, contemporary arts, the peace process in Guatemala, the Central American environmental crisis, and the significance of ‘democracy’ in Guatemala and the region.

Field trips, included in the price of the program and led by internationally recognized experts from the region will enable you to see for yourself how Guatemalans from different walks of life live and work amidst cultural, social, environmental, and political challenges. You’ll experience first hand the realities that define life in the country today.

On your own time you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to explore the city’s jazz bars, artisan markets and coffee shops or the archaeological ruins, hot springs and black sand beaches of the countryside. 

Participants in the CIRMA program will have the full use of CIRMA’s unique library and historical and photographic archives:

  1. The Central American Library is the leading collection of social science materials in the region. CIRMA continually seeks to strengthen and expand this collection of 40,000 books (including 3000 rare volumes) and over 250 periodicals, dedicated to Central American social sciences and history.
  2. The Guatemalan Historical Archive, founded in 1998, is Guatemala’s most extensive collection of personal papers and private institutional archives from the 19th century to date, with current holdings of approximately 7 million documents. This continually growing collection features a treasure of primary materials that shed light on the 19th and 20th centuries, and especially on the nation's recent 35-year civil war.
  3. The Guatemalan Photography Archive, the only such collection in Guatemala, holds 1 million images today, including artistic and documentary work of local and international photographers from 1845 to date. The Archive is building a visual record of Guatemala’s diverse social groups and of life and social processes in cities, towns, and rural areas throughout the country.

Courses offered (UA Credit):
Please see CIRMA's website for semester-specific course offerings. All upper division courses are available for honors or graduate credit.

SPAN 206: Intensive Spanish (4 credits)
206 is the equivalent of 201 and 202 combined. Recommended for highly motivated students and/or those with experience in another Romance language.

SPAN 330: Intermediate Conversation (3 credits)
For students who wish to improve their oral skills within a dynamic cultural context.

SPAN 425: Advanced Grammar and Composition (3 credits)
For Advanced students who wish to perfect their speaking and writing skills.

LAS 453B/ANTH 453B: Mesoamerican Archaeology/Anthropology (3 units) This course traces the development of culture in Mexico and Central America from the Mayan pre-classical period through the present day. It explores trends in social relationships, emphasizing the changing state of inter-ethnic relations and their connection to political change. The course examines the state of the environment and of national parks protecting archaeological sites. This course will be combined with a field trip to the Petén jungle region. Please note this is a writing intensive course. Taught in English and Spanish.

LAS 462: Special Topics in Contemporary Latin America: Mesoamerican Identity and Nationhood (3 credits)
This course examines how cultural traditions from the Mesoamerican region are communicated and preserved, the ethics that derive from them, and their legacies today. The course considers the treatment of race, ethnicity, identity, and power in selected Mesoamerican texts, both ancient and modern. The class examines how civil conflict is addressed in these works as well as the impact of literature on the most important political questions of the post- independence era.

LAS 465Z/HIST465Z: History of Central America (3 credits)
This in-depth course on the history of Central America emphasizes the origins, trajectory and aftermath of the Marxist revolutions and civil wars of the twentieth century in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Paying special attention to the role of the U.S. in Latin America, to global political and economic trends, and most particularly to the lived experience and consciousness of disenfranchised populations. This course goes beyond simple narratives to provide a deep understanding of Cold War Central America. It also contextualizes contemporary phenomena such as the rise of a new left, the spread of Evangelical Christianity, growing gang violence, and massive migration to the United States. Taught in English.

LAS 461/GEOG 461: Environmental and Resource Geography in Central America (3 credits)
This course examines natural resources in Guatemala, including biodiversity, national parks, forests, contamination, ecotourism, and development. It looks at the human factors that contribute to their completion and deterioration as well as protection and maintenance. The course includes a field trip to a national park where issues of illegal logging in buffer zones are paramount. Taught by one of Guatemala's most well-known natural resource policy makers, in Spanish.

LAS 493: Internship at CIRMA (1 credit)
A CIRMA internship can involve helping with the inner workings of the most prestigious social science institute in Central America, or going out in the field. Study Abroad students have helped disabled children, done medical internships, and even tutored in an organization that aids children whose families live by sorting garbage in Guatemala City.

LAS 495F: Colloquium in Latin American Studies (1 credit)
Through a weekly lecture series, students are exposed to nationally and internationally recognized experts in such areas as history and current trends in ethnic relations, aesthetics of contemporary Central America, prospects for the peace process in Guatemala, the Central American environmental crisis, and the significance of democracy in Guatemala and the region.

LAS 499: Independent Study (3 unit)
Students work with a designated professor to complete a research project or undertake an in-depth study of an area of interest.

LAS 207 Indigenous language: Q'eqchi', Kaqchikel and K'iche' (3 credits) 
Currently offering beginning-level instruction in the Kaqchikel language - one of the most widely-spoken languages in Guatemala and the indigenous language most spoken in the Antigua area.  These courses require a minimum of five students.

Students will take 6-11 credits during the summer program or 12-15 during the semester. Classes are organized so as to leave Fridays free for travel and Wednesdays free to focus on an internship.


To call Antigua a "picturesque" city would be an understatement.  Imagine cobblestone streets lined with brightly-colored colonial buildings with a backdrop of verdant, volcanic mountains.

Located 45 minutes from Guatemala City, Antigua is one of the most popular sites in Central America. Antigua is also one of the most important cultural centers in Central America and a vibrant cosmopolitan city, enriched with the presence of many international visitors.


CIRMA arranges for students to stay with host families in Antigua. This provides students with maximum exposure to Guatemalan culture, including total immersion in the Spanish language. The families provide three meals a day Monday through Saturday. There is limited housing available for those students wishing to have a private bathroom at an additional fee of $20 per week. Although host families have been carefully selected, and are used to housing students from the United States and elsewhere, one must remember that a willingness to adapt to, and be respectful of, local customs and traditions is both necessary and expected.

While under special circumstances alternative housing can be arranged, students are strongly encouraged to live with host families, as this provides an opportunity to interact with Guatemalan culture while at the same time improving one's Spanish language skills.


UA Faculty Director Elizabeth Oglesby is an Associate Professor of Geography and Latin American Studies.  The Faculty Director in Guatemala is John T. Way. Both professors completed their doctoral research in Guatemala and continue to conduct research there on contemporary development issues, migration and the peace process, among other topics. All classes are taught by Professor Way and Guatemalan professors.

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