Hospitalito Atitlán and K'aslimaal


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For 25 years, this 15-bed hospital provided critical healthcare to more than 45,000 people living on the southwestern shores of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán and the neighboring coastal area. The inhabitants of these old Hospitalitocommunities, in their majority Tz'utujil Maya, depended on this facility for emergency and in-patient care. In 1990, at the height of the civil war, the Hospitalito was abandoned after “Massacre of Santiago Atitlán” and never reopened. Its closure has meant needless suffering and death among the population it once served.The Hospitalito de Santiago Atitlán was built in the late 1960’s by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City , under the direction of Father Stanley Rother. This beloved priest, affectionately called Padre "Aplas" by his parishioners in the local Mayan language, Tz'utijil, selflessly served the community until 1982, when he was tragically assassinated on the church precinct.

The Hospitalito was once a model community healthcare facility. Equipped with an operating room, a 15-bed ward, an emergency room, and a dental clinic, it provided excellent medical care, the best available in the region. Medical and dental students from the University of San Carlos rotated through the hospital for their rural service year. In the mid-70’s, the hospitalito expanded its operations to include the treatment of malnutrición and tuberculosis, and the training of community healthcare workers.


During the Conflicto Interno Armado, the Civil War that ravaged Guatemala until the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, a military base was established very close to the Hospitalito and on the same road. As the tensions heightened between the army and the townspeople, the hospital staff refused to spend the night and patients feared to venture past the military barracks to receive treatment.

On December 2, 1990, thirteen villagers were shot to death at the entrance to the army base and many more were injured. This incident, which became known as the “Massacre of Santiago Atitlán”, received international attention and led to a struggle in which the New Hospitalitocommunity eventually succeeded in ousting the military from Santiago and regaining control of their town. It also marked the closure of the hospital. The Hospitalito buildings and grounds remained abandoned until K'aslimaal, the comittee to rebuild the Hospitalito, finished refurbishing the Hospitalito in may 2005. In october of that year there were mudslides in Panabaj caused by the rain from hurricane Stan, and the Hospitalito was engulfed in a sea of mud (see "The 2005 Disaster") A provisional Hospitalito has been very successfully set up in a rented house in the Canton of Tzam Chicham, and there is now a project started to build a new Hospitalito.

The cost in Human terms

María is only one of numerous women ffrom Santiago who have died in childbirth since the Hospitalito closed. Because headonly basic medical care is avalible, at-risk expectant mothers, the acutely ill, and accident and trauma victims must make the treacherous journey across Lake Atitlán by boat. A car or truck then transports them up the mountain to the town of Sololá, where the public health hospital is located.

The total distance is approximately 40 kilometers, and under the best of circumstances can be a two to three-hour journey. At night it is practically impossible to cross the lake, and traveling by road means increasing the trip to some 60 kilometers. It is little wonder that so many patients decide to forego modern medical teatment in favor of staying close to family and home. It is also small wonder that many do not survive.

Community groups who are working on the Hospitalito Santiago project

K'ASLIMAAL (meaning “Life” or “rebirth” in the local Mayan language,Tz'utujil) is a grassroots organization formed in 2002 for the express purpose of reopening the Hospitalito de Santiago. Its members include local physicians, community leaders, healthcare administrators, community development professionals, and other concerned citizens, including members of the Town Council.


We need your help!

Contact Us

Hospitalito Atitlán
Canton Ch'utch'aj
Santiago Atitlán, Sololá
Central America
(Please do not send packages to this mailing address)

Phone (Spanish only) 011-502-7721-7683
FAX available upon request

You may also contact us through our supporting organization,
Amigos Hospitalito Atitlan

Amigos Hospitalito Atitlan 
PO Box 256
Jonesport ME

phone: (207) 598-5964