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2 years, 3 months
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Navigating Identities in Guatemala

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

Volunteers with disabilities may face a special set of challenges. As in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with visible physical disabilities and may discriminate against them.

There is a lack of infrastructure, like ramps, railings, and elevators, needed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities compared to those in the United States. However, staff are committed to exploring creative and innovative ways to support reasonable accommodations for Volunteer success.

Gender role considerations

People’s roles in regard to gender, work, and the community are much more clearly defined along gender roles than in the U.S. Volunteers must be aware, tolerant, and respectful of their practices, customs, and way of life and they may need to adapt certain behaviors to demonstrate that respect.

Women or Volunteers presenting as women may find that they are constantly asked about their marital status and whether they have children. In rural areas, Volunteers may find conservative attitudes regarding gender equality.

LGBTQI+ considerations

Communities where Volunteers live often have traditional gender norms, limited exposure to cultures other than their own, and have values concerning sexual orientation and gender identity that differ from those in the U.S.

Currently, most LGBTQI+ Volunteers do not reveal information about their sexuality at a community-wide level and instead choose to share personal information with a select group of trusted confidants and people with whom they have developed strong relationships.

The Peace Corps office serves as a safe space where Trainees and Volunteers can express themselves and find support from staff.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

African American, Asian American and Latinx Volunteers may receive questions about their race or ethnicity which may be surprising or uncomfortable. For Volunteers who look similar to the locals, there can be an initial assumption about Spanish proficiency or an assumption that the person has an understanding of local cultural norms. They may also receive confused comments about their U.S. nationality if their identity does not fit the stereotypes about Americans. These topics are addressed in a straightforward way during pre-service training (PST) and through pre-arrival materials.

White Volunteers will likely experience privilege in many ways. Navigating this and being an ally to Volunteers who may not have the same experience will be important as a Volunteer. One such privilege may be not having your U.S. citizenship questioned and automatically being assumed to be American, while many of your fellow Volunteers of color may experience the contrary.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from community members.

Age considerations

Older Volunteers are treated respectfully and are seen as resources for advice and knowledge from their life experiences. For over-50 Volunteers who have friends across the age spectrum, you may find it difficult to establish similar circles of friends in Guatemala where communities are often much more segregated by age.

Religious considerations

Approximately 90% of Guatemalans are either Catholic or non-Catholic Christian (Evangelical). As such, religion plays a large part in community events and is often incorporated into work events (e.g. a prayer before a meeting). Many Volunteers will be asked about their religion relatively early in a conversation with Guatemalans. Volunteers who are of a religious or spiritual beliefs that differ from the majority of Guatemala may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from community members. Regardless of a Volunteer’s religious beliefs, it is essential that they understand and respect the importance that religion holds in the lives of Guatemalans.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

While Guatemala is becoming more progressive, most of the country still believes that you must be married in order to live together. Unmarried couples should have a good understanding of how they will respond when questioned about their relationship.

Couples without children may be repeatedly questioned about why they do not have children. Couples should prepare to respond to this question from the community.

Guatemala currently is unable to receive same-sex couples.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Volunteers receive targeted training in how to navigate cultural exchanges around diversity and strategies for supporting their fellow Volunteers who are experiencing a high degree of curiosity about their identity.

Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address ICDEIA topics during pre-service training and identify support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.