In 2012 NRECA International and Indiana electric cooperatives brought electricity to three isolated mountain villages in western Guatemala. Volunteer linemen built new distribution lines and connected electricity to more than 175 households and businesses for the very first time. This area is known for its coffee farms, its beauty and very rugged terrain. Without help from NRECA International and American electric co-ops, these villages and others like it could be decades away from receiving electricity.
Today residents of one of these villages—Las Cuevas, have felt the positive impact of affordable and reliable electricity. For the four generations of the Villatoro family, daily chores done by hand are a thing of the past. Deafening sounds of an electric mill grinding corn for the day’s meals is the norm, as is the churning of clothes in a washing machine. A family-owned store now sells frozen meat, and ice cream is popular in the summer time. The family spends half of the previous $28 price tag for candles on its monthly electricity bill, and the children can use electric lights and a computer to study and do homework.
Here are their stories.
Located in the mountainous region of Western Guatemala, Las Cuevas is close to the Mexican border, and is one of the best coffee-growing regions in the world.
Carmella Villatoro, 72, is happy her grandchildren can now enjoy the Christmas lights that brighten the house at night.
Four generations of the Villatoro family.
The Villatoro residence nestled on the edge of Las Cuevas, overlooking the mountain and powered by co-op lines.
Merly Villatoro and her children at the family store. In addition to sundries, she sells frozen meats stored in a refrigerator she purchased when electricity came to her village.
Romeo Perez in the doorway to his coffee warehouse. He wants to export his coffee. But mostly, he wants to stop repairing cars so he won’t get greasy and dirty every day.
A man tending to his drying coffee beans on a sunny slab of concrete in Hoja Blanca. Coffee farming brings income for most of the people living in this region.
Sulmy takes care of her chickens, turkeys, and her future.
Enrique Herrera, community leader for Las Cuevas enjoying a cup of coffee in an NRECA International mug. He's at his home where he grows coffee on the hillside.
One of the many switchbacks that connect Las Cuevas to other villages in the area.
Like clockwork, this streetlight and others light up each day at 6:00 pm. Just 15 minutes from Las Cuevas, Hoja Blanca feels more like a small town than a remote mountain village.