Antigua (Antilles), Guatemala

Hispanic Guatemala, the Antigua Fashion

Dances in the Cathedral
Folklore group dances in front of the facade of the San Francisco Cathedral, during a Paiz Culture Festival.
Colorful houses
Sequences of buildings from Antigua painted in warm colors.
La Merced Niche
Image of Our Lady of La Merced in a niche of the homonymous church.
Rivas Bus
Nativo walks along a cobbled street, in front of one of the bright buses in the region.
An illustrated panel on the wall of a jade factory and shop.
Santa Catarina Arch
Pedestrians approach the Arco de Santa Catarina, one of Antigua's most iconic structures that survived the 1743 earthquakes.
A multi-ethnic audience watches another exhibition of the Festival Cultura Paiz.
distracted cyclist
Cyclist contemplates the ruin of other ancient churches in Antigua.
mestizo rest
Nativo waits against the wall of a washing plant in the city.
Pink font
Visitors next to the huge fountain that marks the center of the cloister of the Church of La Merced.
Washing machine
One of Antigua's communal washing facilities, overlooking the Fuego volcano.
Guatemala, Central America
Registration of an old VW Beetle as well as the architecture of the city in general.
Free afternoon
Foreign friends see photographs in a corner of Parque Central.
end of mass
Believers leave an Antigua church.
Street Theater
Cultural group performs a short satirical performance during the Paiz Culture Festival.
Fallen Angel
Religious detail of a fountain in the cloister of La Merced Church.
In 1743, several earthquakes razed one of the most charming pioneer colonial cities in the Americas. Antigua has regenerated but preserves the religiosity and drama of its epic-tragic past.

A few days after our arrival, we were saturated with the permanent sense of danger and threat that Guatemala City conveyed, with its barred shops and shotgun security guards with closed pipes always on the lookout for the door.

With no reason for ceremonies, we board a folk minibus and move to the much more welcoming neighbor La Antigua.

The early morning trip proved to be short, but the bus became more and more to the pine cone and the drip-love music that the driver insisted on playing in annihilating decibels made our heads in water.

Washer, Antigua, Guatemala

One of Antigua's communal washing facilities, overlooking the Fuego volcano.

The entrance Between Volcanoes in Antigua

When we entered Valle de Panchoy, the passionate cries of the various Central American singers still lingered. Only the supreme view of the summits of the three volcanoes that surround Antigua – Fuego, Água and Acatenango – has granted us a desired abstraction.

At some point, the descent into the valley becomes even steeper. It allows us to see the geometric structure of the village with its long lines of one-story houses, interrupted only by the churches and convents that bless it.

A few kilometers later, that tenuous migration ended in a terminal full of buses that served schools in the United States in the 60s and that, already in Guatemala, were transformed into metallic rainbows.

bus Rivas, Antigua, Guatemala

Nativo walks along a cobbled street, in front of one of the bright buses in the region.

There, at the door of an old Ford, as if he weren't sprawled in bold letters on the windshield, a driver's assistant loudly proclaimed the fate of his career: “Guate, Guate! Five minutes!".

The more he yelled, the more passengers arose. As a rule, entire Mayan indigenous families from the surrounding villages who descend from the mountain at sunrise, sell their fruits, vegetables, clothing and handicrafts in the markets of Antigua and take the afternoon to continue their business in different warehouses in the capital.

Chalchiguitel, Antigua, Guatemala

An illustrated panel on the wall of a jade factory and shop.

Guatemala: the Most Mayan of Nations in the Americas

No other country maintains a Mayan population as well preserved as Guatemala. At Lake Atitlán, in Chichicastenango, in other parts of the nation's most mountainous region, the natives supplant the mestizos and descendants of Hispanic settlers still only white.

We got into a taxi of a smiling mestizo. We head to the inn that we chose in a hurry for the first few hundred meters of the route to the center. Once installed, we recovered our mental sanity half-lost on the way from Guatemala City on a short sleep. Afterwards, we set out to explore the city.

La Antigua Guatemala – as its original name was abbreviated – resulted from one of the first settlements founded by Europeans in the Americas. We knew that it was, even today, one of its most beautiful cities, that this was due, in large part, to the Hispanic architecture, sometimes simple and sometimes grand, of the buildings.

Colored Walls, Antigua, Guatemala

Sequences of buildings from Antigua painted in warm colors.

Antigua's Lush Colonial Architecture

We just had to go through some streets to come across the emblematic Arch of Santa Catarina. And with long sequences of elegant facades, adorned by friezes, balconies and shutters that are always very well cared for, now painted in warm colors: crispy yellow, orange, red, lilac and purple, among others.

Arch Santa Catarina, Antigua, Guatemala

Pedestrians approach the Arco de Santa Catarina, one of Antigua's most iconic structures that survived the 1743 earthquakes.

From time to time, we come across open doors that allow us to peek into inner courtyards and gardens, almost always adorned with furniture as faithful as possible to the colonial style, surrounded by dense vines and lush bougainvillea.

After some time, it seemed to us that we had already developed the standard structure of the villas in Antigua: rooms built in squares or rectangles around fountains or wells that mark the functional centers of the residences.

Source La Merced, Antigua, Guatemala

Visitors next to the huge fountain that marks the center of the cloister of the Church of La Merced.

Most of the buildings in Antigua were initially built during the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries when it became the main colonial city in the vicinity and the Catholic Church sought to assert itself in this new domain.

At the time, almost all the wealth of the religious orders was used to display supremacy. Architecture has proven to be one of the most visible expressions of ecclesiastical power. It is not surprising, therefore, that, at one point, thirty-seven churches and a cathedral coexisted in Antigua, very close together.

Of all these, the Church of La Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, the Cathedral of Santiago and the Convent of San Francisco stand out.

La Merced, Antigua, Guatemala

Image of Our Lady of La Merced in a niche of the homonymous church.

Antigua was planned by the military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli at the behest of Don Pedro Alvarado, the military disciple of the cruel Hernán Cortéz, the latter the conqueror appointed to subdue the peoples to the south of the already broken Aztec Empire.

Antonelli was on the alert for the difficulties of the undertaking and the life that would follow. As expected, his work and the future inhabitants went through major setbacks.

Assistance, Antigua, Guatemala

A multi-ethnic audience watches another exhibition of the Festival Cultura Paiz.

The Inevitable Curse of Natural Disasters

In 1527, the original city, built at the foot of the Água volcano, was destroyed by a flood caused by the transfer of its huge crater-lake.

Despite slight damage caused by frequent seismic activity, the one that followed, La Muy Noble and Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemala lived 230 years of peace and prosperity. Until, in July 1773, it was destroyed by the earthquakes of Santa Marta.

cyclist ruin church, Antigua, Guatemala

Cyclist contemplates the ruin of other ancient churches in Antigua, Guatemala.

The governor ordered the capital of the colony to move to the area where, even today, Guate, the City of Guatemala.

Antigua was literally abandoned. Only the passage of time and the action of some stubborn residents forced his resuscitation. And the return of the authorities, these days, installed around the Plaza Mayor, the heart of Antigua to which we return again and again.

Tourists viewing photos, Antigua, Guatemala

Foreign friends see photographs in a corner of Parque Central.

More than Recovered, Today's World-Popular Antigua

This Hispanic square is bordered to the south by the Palacio de Los Capitanes, a double arcaded building under which small street workers operate: shoe shiners, ticket sellers and ice cream sellers, etc.

It also houses the Parque Central, a space with abundant shade from trees, where visiting “gringos” and expats – mostly Spanish students from numerous local schools – spend time reading or telling the latest adventures between the green panzas, so the townspeople were nicknamed for eating avocado pear in industrial quantities.

As it happens to us, every two minutes, small groups of Mayan sellers who try to foist bracelets more huipils, cuts, Girdles, other garments and portable crafts. At night, it's normal to play marimba bands there, but we were gifted with something even more rewarding.

on Stage, Antigua, Guatemala

Folklore group dances in front of the facade of the San Francisco Cathedral, during a Paiz Culture Festival.

It followed, then, one called Festival International Culture Paiz. For 15 days, the event enlivened Antigua with music, dance, theater and opera from various parts of the Americas.

On a stage installed in front of the majestic façade of the Cathedral of Santiago, folklore groups from Guatemala and other countries presented small theatrical pieces, as corrosive as they were comic, that satirized their people and customs.

During one of these exhibitions, we ventured out in front of the crowd. There, we laughed at a first evil done by an extra to a spectator, but we were soon surprised with two horrifying kisses from a human vulture during “zopilot” (a very popular term in Central America to name this scavenger).

on stage, Antigua, Guatemala

Cultural group performs a short satirical performance during the Paiz Culture Festival.

Without really understanding how, we found ourselves animating a kind of mini-magazine to the Honduran woman that portrayed the exaggerated speed of undertakers in those parts.

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