The New Dawn Association of Santiago Atitlán (ANADESA) is a woman-led community development organization located in the village of Panabaj, one kilometer from the center of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. Situated on Lake Atitlan, Panabaj is a canton of 3,000 indigenous Mayan Tz’utujil inhabitants with a rich history of culture, language, and tradition.
The Guatemalan Armed Conflict
Between 1980 and 1990 Panabaj suffered from the 36-year long Guatemalan armed conflict when the military, unwanted and uninvited, occupied the community for ten years. In 1990, after mayhem caused by drunk soldiers, the town of Santiago Atitlán decided to reclaim their rights from the violent invaders and peacefully demanded that the army vacate the premises immediately and without condition. As a result, 13 people were assassinated in cantón Panabaj. In that place today stands the Parque de la Paz, beside ANADESA, constructed to commemorate those thirteen people.
In 2005 another tragedy struck Panabaj: Hurricane Stan. Fierce rains provoked huge mudslides, destroying homes and killing 250 in what would be a long night. The dawn of the next day, women from the community got together out of the need for reconstruction and development, forming the beginnings of the group which would later officialize itself as ANADESA (currently these women are the ANADESA Associates). With accompaniment from churches and INGO’s, they lent a hand to many families in their relocation to a new village called Chuk Muk. ANADESA continues to walk alongside these communities (now also the ones of Tzanchaj and Chacayá) in the path of development, through projects in education and economic independence of women.