The Lake lies in the Central Highlands of Guatemala, 80 miles west of Guatemala City and three hours by car along the Pan American Highway.
Lake Atitlan has long been considered by discriminating travelers to be among the most physically beautiful lakes in the world. But, the magic is not just the Lake. It is also the surrounding volcanoes and escarpments that frame this 130-square kilometer surface of sparkling water. It is the sun and breeze, playing on the Lake’s surface, nudging it into revealing its capriciously changeable character.
The enchantment of the Lake is also found in the proud but friendly Mayan people living along its shores that hold to the essence of their cultural identities while adapting to modern conveniences that fit their pragmatically adjusting view of the Universe.
In this account, the Tz’utujil are the first of the seven tribes to arrive. Existing evidence indicates that Tz’utujil-speakers once occupied the territory surrounding Lake Atitlán as well as the southern expanse of territory to the coastal lowlands.
The word “Tz’utujil” means “Corn Flower.” Today Tz’utujil is spoken in the towns of San Pablo, San Juan, San Pedro, Chicacao, and Santiago Atitlan. “Atitlan,” a word of Nahuatl origin, means “close to the water.”
Santiago Atitlan is the largest of the 12 lakeside communities and is the principal population center of the Tz’utujil people. Its population is over 32,000, with about 95% indigenous. The town is located on the embankment of broken lava at the foot of Volcano Toliman, across the bay from the pre-Conquest Tz’utujil capital, Chuitinamit.
The survival of the Tz’utujil Maya and the existence of present day Santiago Atitlan, one of the largest intact communities in the Americas, give powerful testimony to the spirit of Tz’utujil resistance.
The piece of land where Utz’ K’aslimaal Collective is located was originally forcefully appropriated from the Tz’utujil people by a coffee baron at the turn of the 20<sup>th</sup> century. The land was then sold off to some of the wealthiest families in the country who privatized the land in hopes of turning the land into an exclusive country club for the oligarchy.
Santiago Atitlan is the largest of the 12 lakeside communities and is the principal population center of the Tz’utujil indigenous group. Its population is over 32,000, with about 95% indigenous. The Tz’utujil people are one of 23 Maya groups that live in Guatemala today.