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Foto Gallery Celas Maya Spanish School

School description:
Celas Maya is a dynamic school and is considered one of the best in Central America by the Spanish Instituto Cervantes. This popular school offers customized Spanish language immersion courses at every level of proficiency.
Classes take place in a nice colonial courtyard where teachers and students can work in a relaxed yet focused atmosphere. On the first day of studies, teachers spend quiet some time assessing the Spanish and asking what students need, and then elaborating a weekly program. Some staff members live at the school, and often there develops a close-knit community of teachers and students.

Director Federico Velásquez is probably the most visionary person to run a Spanish School in Guatemala. Proof of this are all the services he offers to students:
- The school has a Lake Atitlán branch in San Pedro La Laguna!
- The school has WiFi on its grounds. There is an internet cafe. (Five hours of free internet access each week are included in tuition).
- a travel agency
- professional online classes.
- Celas Maya is accredited by the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) of Guatemala
- it is one of only two schools in Guatemala that are accredited by the Instituto Cervantes (in Spain). This allows the school to teach and administer the standardized DELE exams. (Preparation courses cost US$247 per week for 25 hours).
- Celas Maya is the only school in Guatemala with the accreditation to administer SIELE exams.
- The school has associations with a number of US universities that send groups to spend a semester at the school!

For professionals seeking a standardized and internationally acknowledged degree, this is the best tuition they can find in Quetzaltenango.

The school is located in Quetzaltenango (also called Xela), a busy town with a nice colonial center. Xela is a good place for Spanish immersion study because of the favorable relation of locals to strangers. Also, it boasts local Maya culture, adventurous volcano trips, and multiple volunteer opportunities.
Founded in 1999 by Federico Velásquez and Leslye Rivera Juárez, both previously teachers.

Teachers and students

95% of the teachers have a mínimum of 5 years of experience, and receive regular training and workshops for improving teaching standards. They have undergone a training in teaching Spanish as a foreign language from the University of San Carlos. The school draws from the huge pool of under employed university students in Quetzaltenango.


Classes are conducted courtyard garden located in a historic, colorful hacienda in the heart of the city. Every student-teacher team can request their own study room. You get free coffee, tea, and purified water. During the morning there is a half hour break with a snack. Teachers, cafe workers and administration readily mingle with students. A number of young teachers, guides and cafe workers live at the school, creating a family ambiance. The school features a cafe for studying and relaxing (08:00–20:00 Mon-Fri, 10:00–19:00 Sat-Sun), an internet cafe, its own travel agency and guides, a kitchen for cooking classes and WiFi. Five hours of free internet access each week is included in tuition.

Methods and Materials

Teachers compile their own materials, often including the AMSCO books "Spanish First Year" etc. These books are supplemented by handout sheets with grammar exercises. The school also has a library that contains 75 grammar books, 100 fiction books, 175 non-fiction books and 200 videos. The videos can be watched in the movie room for free.


Activities during the weeks like films and lectures are included in the tuition fee (excluding bus fares and/or entrance fees). Weekend activities like volcano tours have an extra cost. The school arranges salsa lessons, guitar lessons and volunteer opportunities. For an extra $48 per week you can receive five hours of private salsa lessons. Some examples of recent activities include:
· A guided hike to the summit of the nearby Santa María volcano
· A trip to the beautiful and lush hot springs at Fuentes Georginas
· A participatory ceremony led by a Mayan priest
· Salsa and merengue dance lessons
· An overnight trip to a beach lodge on the Pacific coast, with trash collection to make a bonfire and conservation activities in a nearby mangrove reserve
· Feature-length films and discussions revolving around Central American themes
· A weekend day-trip to a fair trade coffee and macademia nut plantation
· Excursions to an indigenous weaving cooperative run by women and a glass-blowing cooperative run by men
· A weekend project volunteering at the tree nursery of a local reforestation project, with the option to hike up to visit Mayan altars in the hills above the tree nursery

Regular conferences sponsored by the school, given by guest lecturers with interpretation into English, on themes such as:
· The Anthropology of traditional dress
· The Mayan number system and calendars
· Guatemala 1944-1954: Revolution and Counterrevolution
· The Independence movement in Central America
· Children rights
· Labor struggles in the context of armed conflict
· Womens weaving cooperatives that invest in community development

Last, but not least, there is the schools travel agency Icaro Tours.

Host families

Host families are experienced and within easy walking distance of the school. Service includes:
A private, furnished bedroom with a bed, desk, and lamp
Hot water showers
Purified water for drinking at mealtimes (Celas Maya has a water purifier in the school which students use to fill bottles)
Three meals a day, seven days per week
Special menus for students with special needs (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.)


Celas maya connects volunteers to host institutions like Caras Alegres, Corazón para los Niños, Hogar Temporal . The school also provides host families for volunteers for $150 per week. Some volunteering opportunities:
Teach painting and art, home economics and nutrition, sports for children who have problems studying
Orphanage in Quetzaltenango
Nuevos Horizontes (New Horizons
Centro de Salud (Health Center)
Support women and their children in situations of personal difficulty and social risk.
Clean water, clean energy and sanitation projects for the rural poor.
Animal welfare project.
Collective of 400 back strap loom weavers.
Eco-actors in San Juan La Laguna.
Organic coffee production in La Florida.


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