“None of us found exactly what we were expecting”
~Peter Rohloff, MD PhD

In 2006, four scholars came to Guatemala to study Kaqchikel Maya. Academically, the scholars were a diverse bunch, comprised of two linguists, an anthropologist, and a physician, but they were thrown together by circumstance and by the difficulty of the Kaqchikel language and the time and effort it takes to master. They would meet at the home of their teacher, Gonzalo Ticun, in Santiago Sacatepequez, to trade notes and to study, and as time went on, they met Gonzalo’s extended family, friends, and community members.

Guatemala’s rural healthcare system is scattered, unpredictable, understaffed and underfunded. There was a gap between the needs of the people who lived in Santiago and the availability and accessibility of care– a gap that was deeply felt by community members who saw the needs of their neighbors go unmet on a daily basis, and one that was visible even to the four foreign students who had come to Guatemala for language study.

Luisa Ixcajoc, a local Santiago woman and Gonzalo’s neighbor, saw an opportunity in the students, one of whom had a medical background and all of whom were dedicated to the study of Kaqchikel Mayan language and culture. She asked the students to come with her in their free time to check in on some of her neighbors; people who were too elderly and too ill to leave their homes, people who didn’t speak Spanish and who therefore lacked access to appropriate medical care. And so the students began following Luisa around Santiago every weekend, visiting patients in their homes, bringing medications and medicinal plants as needed, speaking with the patients and their families.

For most of these patients, this was the first time they had ever been able to speak with a medical provider in their own words, the first time they had been able to have a conversation about their health without having to do so through the use of an interpreter or intermediary.

After a few weeks, community leaders in Santiago Sacatepequez became interested in the work that Luisa, Gonzalo, and the four students were doing in the community, and approached them formally. Later that same summer, they called them to a meeting and asked them if they would consider starting a medical clinic in Santiago; a place where people could seek healthcare in their own language, a place where they could feel safe and acknowledged, respected in both their personhood and their culture.

Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance was founded on the principle that excellence is possible. You can provide healthcare to people in Mayan languages, and it can be world-class care. If you live with people, you share a life with them, you speak their language — you trust each other. That was our beginning, and that’s what we have strived to maintain ever since.

WK|MHA began with a few home visits in a single community; now, Maya Health sees over 20,000 patients a year in hundreds of rural Guatemalan communities, and employs over 45 community health workers in order to maintain our tradition of providing care in the language of the patient, wherever it is needed most; even if that means going hours out of way to reach patients in their homes in even the most remote parts of the country. We are dedicated to providing innovative solutions to persistent health problems for Guatemala’s poor, underserved and indigenous communities, and we invite you to join us.


whyweexistTrabajamos en las comunidades más empobrecidas de Guatemala, resolviendo sus urgentes necesidades de atención médica. Superamos las barreras a la salud, uniendo medicina, cultura y lenguaje.

Cuando otros dicen “no,” nosotros decimos “sí.”



Guatemala es hogar a unas comunidades más pobres en el hemisferio Oeste. Los niños guatemaltecos sufren la mayor tasa de desnutrición crónica en todo el mundo. Una mujer en Guatemala tiene diez veces más probabilidades de morir durante el parto que en los Estados Unidos.

Este no es un problema nuevo. La llegada de los españoles hace 500 años marcó el inicio de una difícil historia para los mayas. Sus tierras y su libertad fueron tomadas. En la década de 1980, cientos de miles de personas perdieron sus vidas en una guerra civil.


whyweexist2Sin embargo han aguantado.

Hoy en día hay millones de mayas que viven en Guatemala. Más de la mitad de los guatemaltecos hablan un idioma maya.

Pero el sistema de salud en Guatemala no les sirve. Muchos preferirían morir en casa que ser tratados en un hospital donde nadie habla su idioma ni respeta su dignidad.

Trabajamos en Guatemala porque el pueblo maya y la cultura maya siguen vivos.

Queremos mantenerlo así.


Somos Wuqu’ Kawoq | Alianza Maya para la Salud.

Fuimos fundados el 1 de enero de 2007, que fue el día “Wuqu ‘Kawoq” en el calendario maya tradicional. Este nombre es importante para nuestro trabajo porque simboliza la atención de la salud y refleja nuestro compromiso con las comunidades rurales mayas.