September 4, 2015
The Inter-American Summer Program in Antigua, Guatemala, hosted by McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, with its partner University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and affiliate Gonzaga University School of Law, in Spokane, Washington, completed its seventh year, holding courses from May 28 to June 20, 2015 with students from four different U.S. law schools and from Guatemala. Three McGeorge students, as well as four students from other law schools, stayed on to participate in externships from June 22 to Aug. 7, 2015 in Guatemala, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
There were four faculty members from McGeorge: Raquel Aldana taught "The Central American Migration Corridor," in Spanish; John Sims taught "The Law of U.S.-Latin American Foreign Relations;" Julie Davies, Inter-American Program Director, and adjunct professor Luis Mogollón, co-taught "Lawyering Across Borders," primarily in Spanish. Professor José Roberto (Beto) Juárez Jr., University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, taught "Commercial Law for Foreign Investors in Guatemala". A number of the students also took Spanish language classes with their own tutor at one of Antigua's many Spanish schools. The flexible curriculum permitted students with basic to advanced levels of Spanish to design a program that fit their needs. The classroom component was well-received by the 18 student participants, seven from McGeorge, six from University of Denver, Sturm College of Law; two from Gonzaga University School of Law; and one LSU Law Center, and two Guatemalan participants, one of whom is a law student and the other a recently graduated lawyer.
Outside of the classroom, summer program participants visited the courts building in Guatemala City and observed a fascinating trial of accused gang members in the high-risk court. After their morning in court, the group took a tour of the Palacio Nacional, described by participants as a "beautiful and quirky building" constructed by Jorge Ubico, the authoritarian president of Guatemala from 1931-1944. They group also visited the town of Sololá in the heavily indigenous Central Highlands region and toured the market and town with local university students studying tourism. The mayor and a representative of the organization for defense of indigenous women then gave presentations during a lunch that followed the tour.
"We learned about how they serve indigenous women who face legal and personal crises, such as domestic violence, having to navigate court systems to serve as witnesses or to institute family law proceedings," explained Professor Julie Davies. "Many of these women do not speak and read Spanish as their first language (or maybe not at all), so the indigenous defenders speak in the Mayan languages to help them."
The group also took a trip to the beach at Monterrico, and in addition to swimming and sunning, the students and faculty did a beach clean-up. The owners of the resort were surprised and "had never seen anything like it" when the Inter-American program participants picked up many bags of trash.
About the McGeorge Inter-American Program
McGeorge School of Law founded the Inter-American Program in 2009 and partnered with the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law in 2011 to offer the innovative Inter-American Summer Program, which is distinctive among U.S. law schools because of the emphasis on a true bilingual and cross-cultural learning experience. In 2013, Gonzaga University School of Law, in Spokane, Wash., became an affiliate of the program.
Study-abroad programs offered by most U.S. law schools, including those that take place in Latin America, only teach courses in English and the students are from American law schools. By contrast, the Inter-American Program in Guatemala takes a bilingual and inter-cultural approach to legal education, offering substantive law classes about Latin America taught in Spanish to American and Guatemalan students. There is also an English-language class and an experiential course that focuses on interviewing and counseling. Students with a lower level of Spanish take language classes with their own tutor to improve their proficiency during the program.