Pintando Santa Catarina Palopó
Art, Conservation & Community | Guatemala | 21.02.24

Pintado Santa Catarina Palopo

This week the PSA team took an impromptu cultural excursion to London’s Design Biennale at Somerset House.


The September exhibition, ‘Emotional States’, includes interactive installations from 40 countries, each revealing how design not only influences our emotions but also every aspect of our lives.

Guatemala’s installation, ‘Palopo’, tells the story of an ongoing social development project in a rural town, that is using art & design as a tool for change, creating a brighter future for a community that was, until recently, in severe decline. We met with Guatemalan designer, Diego Olivero, to discuss his installation and to find out more about the project, Pintando Santa Catarina Palopo

Pintado Santa Catarina

Santa Catarina Palopo is a town on the shores of Lake Atitlan with a Mayan population of around 5,000 inhabitants. The community was experiencing a decline in traditional sources of income (fishing & agriculture) due to environmental pressures, its arable land had been developed into a grey, urban sprawl & jobs were disappearing rapidly, along with sources of food.

The project involves painting over 950 facades, with each family designing & painting their own home, working together as a community. They have partnered with a team of local artists, creating a design plan inspired by traditional colours & patterns from indigenous textiles, handed down through generations.


The colours of Lake Atitlan are striking: mesmerising crystalline waters are bordered by plump green hills. Then there are the brilliantly coloured birds, wildflowers & hand-woven textiles worn by the lakeside communities.

Diego’s visual art installation uses a backdrop of colourful materials, hand-made by local artisans, to represent the lake’s extraordinary natural beauty & colour. The artist connects his audience to the community through miniature interpretations of the town’s spaces, floating at the centre of his installation. Houses are painted with bright colours & patterns, depicting the achievements of the project thus far.

The town at the centre of the installation faces a wall of white textiles, alluding to the bright, unknown future of the community and the potential for its development through art and design.



Help paint a house and contribute to the project in partnership with the Santa Catarina Palopo community.

Adopt a house: $500 for up to 6 people. As a family or group of friends, share in the experience of painting a house. This contribution will support the sustainability of the project.

Adopt a space: $2,000-$4,000. Gather a team & build a public space within Santa Catarina Palopo. Current projects that are being worked on are a boardwalk for selling handcrafted products, as well as lookout points over the lake.

Contributions: Smaller contributions of $50 can be made to sponsor the cost of each metre that needs to be painted. Future community projects include developing ancestral paths, maps & lookout points, equipping the local school & healthcare centre, providing language classes & tourism training & improving waste & water resource management. Travellers are also encouraged to develop their own fundraising campaigns & send in proposals. Call our team to find out more…


Casa Palopo is a luxury boutique hotel located on the mountainside overlooking Lake Atitlan. The property has a private walkway down to the shore & its own jetty, where guests embark on fascinating explorations of the lakeside communities. As a Relais & Chateaux property, the food is exquisite and the service is warm and personal. Rooms have been designed by Diego Olivero, the designer behind the Santa Catarina Palopo project. All rooms feature beautiful handcrafted furnishings, colourful textiles & local artwork.


Take an 8-night journey through Guatemala, exploring Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal National Park & the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Stay 3 nights at Casa Palopo in Lake Atitlan, helping with the painting project in Santa Catarina Palopo. Accompanied by a specialist local guide from a nearby community, the focus of this journey is on ancient Guatemala, its rich history & traditions.

Let’s Start Planning


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