Civitas final thesis project: "Cruz Maya: From the Guatemalan Rainforest to South Dakota"
Senior Mason VanEssen, a business and biology major and a member of the Civitas program, traveled with Dr. Craig Spencer and Dr. David O'Hara to Guatemala and Belize in January 2017 for a J-term course called “Tropical Ecology of Guatemala and Belize, and Spanish Immersion.”
Women in San José, Guatemala, make jewelry by harvesting bejuco de agua (translated as “water vine”) vines found deep in the rain forest in a section called Bio-Itzá, a forest reserve managed by Maya descendants.
The jewelry is called Cruz Maya, or the Maya Cross.
VanEssen's project, in partnership with Jaciel Keltgen's "Principles of Marketing" classes, has been to create a business plan for the Cruz Maya products and market them in Sioux Falls. The overall goals of the project include addressing both sustainable use of the rainforest and employment for women in the Petén region of Guatemala.
Dr. Spencer and VanEssen launched a trial order for the Cruz Maya products from the San José artisans this spring and received tremendous interest from the faculty and staff at Augustana.
Later this spring, the products will be available for purchase online through Sharing the Dream.