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CRI Initiates Partnerships in Guatemala

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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CRI Guatemala Partnership

In June 2013, Lieschen Gargano (MA '13), student in the MA program for conflict resolution at the University of Denver, traveled to Guatemala along with CRI's co-director, Tamra Pearson d'Estrée, and CRI research professor, Ruth Parsons. The purpose of the trip was to continue work on the joint project between the DU's Conflict Resolution Institute, Fundación Propaz, and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala's (UVG) Department of Anthropology and Sociology. D'Estrée, Parsons and Gargano embarked on this trip to research, design, conduct pilot interviews, and arrange future internship opportunities and partnerships for conflict resolution students at DU.

Led by Professor Andre Álvarez Castañeda, Professor and Head of the Anthropology and Sociology Department at UVG and former visiting Fulbright Fellow to DU, the group traveled within Guatemala for nine days, visiting various NGOs within the area. Gargano served as a translator and helped develop logistics for an upcoming field course on Participatory Action Research and Local Conflict Resolution Processes. This course will be supervised by Professors d'Estrée and Álvarez Castañeda. This course was piloted first as an internship this past December.

Gargano's focus on public policy in her studies sparked her interest in conflict resolution techniques and theories that could be applied to conflict resolution efforts within particular local contexts. From her experience, Gargano acknowledged that, "the public policy side of things tied well into conflict resolution in Guatemala, where there is a great struggle between the government, which is becoming more centralized, and the autonomy desired by local communities and government leaders."

To better understand local needs, the group interviewed various organizations: one satellite UVG campus in Altiplano,  Instituto de Enseñanza para el Desarrollo Sostenible (IEPEDES), Fundación Propaz, and Interpaz. The campus associated with UVG in Altiplano, focuses on the needs of rural environments within Guatemala. IEPEDES, a smaller, grant-funded localized civil-society grassroots organization works closely with local indigenous communities. Fundación Propaz is a public service institution that facilitates social change through grant funding efforts and rural operator groups. Professor Álvarez Castañeda has worked closely with Fundación Propaz over the course of his conflict resolution work in rural Guatemala. Finally, Interpaz works to build capacity among politicians and members of society in public dispute resolution, usually involving land disputes between the indigenous people and the Ladinos. 

From the interviews, Gargano said that she was particularly interested in the efforts of IEPEDES because of the kind of community involvement engagement efforts the NGO was making. According to Gargano, there were multiple dangerous neighborhoods in town. IEPEDES would host events known as carnivals, called Take Back the Space, which encouraged a community atmosphere and allowed for reclamation and strengthening of communal ties.

Having interviewed and gained insight into the workings of the satellite campus of UVG, IEPEDES, and Fundación Propaz, Gargano said that she "found it interesting how widespread efforts were. The struggles within Guatemala are different from ours [in the US] and their applications (of conflict resolution theory and practice), equally different. These organizations, and others in Guatemala, saw the needs of the local communities from the very beginning and therefore, change was brought about by the communities themselves."

After her work in Guatemala as a grad student with DU, Gargano is encouraged that "there are so many connections and possibilities for building relationships with organizations in Guatemala. These organizations are looking for help and this is a great opportunity for current students at DU to have internships, to pursue awards such as the Fulbright Scholarship, and to develop grant-writing abilities." She encourages her fellow students at DU to research these opportunities and inquire about ways to get involved.

Lieschen Gargano is the office manager for Collaborative Decision Resources (CDR) Associates in Boulder, Colorado and plans to continue working with the organization upon graduation in December 2013.

Lieschen Gargano can be contacted at

--Tori Odell