This is the story of the first ever Belgian colony, namely the one in Guatemala (1843-1856). Both in Belgium and in Guatemala this little piece of history seems to have been collectively forgotten. However, a few interesting encounters teach us that that migration left a lot of tracks.

This story wants to show that the desire for a better life has been around in all times and all communities. It portrays a general human feeling. Who does not want to reach this paradise?

This investigation provides historic concentrates with correct facts and figures checked by the most suited experts. In order never to forget or doubt. We interlace it with the personal stories of Belgian descendants and people that became enthralled by the migration history. To some of them the Belgian colony is pure nostalgia. To others it is still an incentive to work their way up to become president, consul, specialised doctor or renowned businessman. Even Guatemala’s biggest nature reserves are based on the Belgian land register of yore.

‘Verapaz – the first Belgian colony’ grew out of an idea of Jan Crab, through the enthusiasm of Elke Borghs and thanks to the infectious chain reaction that followed with anthropologists, professors, journalists and a heck of a graphic designer. The inspiration came from the book ‘Een kortstondige kolonie’ (A short-lived colony) by Stefan van den Bossche and the documentary ‘Tu ne verras pas Verapaz’ by An van Dienderen.

Team members

Elke Borghs

Elke Borghs lived in Puerto Barrios near Santo Tomas, Guatemala for a year in 1997-1998.

Elke Borghs

Jan Crab

Photographer Jan Crab graduated in 2004 as photographer from NaRaFi in Brussels and perfected his skills at FAMU in Prague in 2005, where he specialised in documentary photography.

A working grant of € 5,000 allocated on 06/09/2011

Wie goat er mee noar Verapas? Doar moete wij nie wirke (De Standaard - dS Weekblad, 03/08/2013)

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