A Trail to Seacacar

Change is difficult, but if Guatemala's Q'eqchí don't change, environmental and cultural collapse is inevitable.

The Q'eqchí Maya have endured five centuries of injustice, but find hope in the universal desire that people of all countries, races and cultures share. They want their children to have opportunities they've never had.

A gringo who passed through their village 25 years earlier on a whitewater kayaking exploratory has returned and shares a simple message. "Your beautiful river valley is your gold mine. Take good care of it and it will take good care of you."

They take him up and the fight to save both their children and an inspirational river valley begins.

  • Paul Heesaker
    Rios Guatemala: The Preservation of Wild Rivers
  • Paul Heesaker
    Rios Guatemala: The Preservation of Wild Rivers
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    29 minutes 27 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 24, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Paul Heesaker

Paul Heesaker first saw Guatemala's Rio Sauce Valley as owner of Area Verde Expeditions and while on an exploratory kayaking expedition in November 1995. Following a career in public education, Paul returned to Guatemala in October 2011 to begin work on a documentary film that highlighted Guatemala's endangered wild rivers. The resulting film, "Rios Guatemala, The Preservation of Wild Rivers," was a selection of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and the Breckenridge Festival of Film.

Paul's experience as a teacher, high school principal and kayaking explorer provided a foundation to work with the Q'eqchí Maya in Seacacar, a village set in an inspirationally beautiful river valley.

"A Trail to Seacacar" draws on five years of change in Seacacar, a change focused on creating opportunities to escape extreme poverty while also protecting and restoring the Rio Sauce ecosystem. The film's dominant theme is that hope can fuel change, despite the challenge of overcoming five centuries of injustice, discrimination and violence.

Paul and his wife Catherine, a school psychologist, are residents of Silverthorne, Colorado, but also call Seacacar, Guatemala their home away from home.

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Director Statement

I'm grateful to live in Summit County, Colorado, a place renowned for world class skiing, beautiful mountain towns and a vibrant cultural scene.

A lifestyle in Colorado's high country is the realization of a long-term vision, but yet another vision draws me away from home and to Guatemala time and time again. The roots of this story reach back 25 years. I can summarize the vision's underlying motivation with an Audrey Hepburn quote: "As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."

There's no easy explanation for my commitment of time, energy and financial resources in an isolated Guatemalan mountain valley. I feel a deep sense of purpose through my work with the Q'eqchi Maya, even though this work is often accompanied by frustrations, setbacks and challenges so steep that I sometimes wonder if I'm up to the climb.

My wife Catherine and I will soon travel to Guatemala again and leave the good life in Summit County behind. We will be among friends from another culture, people we've grown to love and respect. We will live in a beautiful but critically endangered tropical river ecosystem. We will work with the Q'eqchí Maya, not as their superiors, but as equals and with the common vision to create opportunities that end extreme poverty while also protecting an inspirationally beautiful river valley.

We invite you to join us, and to paraphrase Audrey Hepburn - Be good to yourself and enjoy life, but also extend a hand and help others. Help create opportunity, but not dependency. Help good people escape extreme poverty. Volunteer to teach English to Mayan students. Make a tax-deductible donation and establish your own enduring legacy. You have the capacity to make an enormous impact. You can immediately change lives, and in doing so, enrich and add deeper meaning to your own.

Muchas gracias,
Paul Heesaker