Traveling without destination in Antigua. Flag of Guatemala.


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The city which today is called Antigua was established in 1543 with the name of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala. This city was the capital of Central America for more than 200 years. In those times the countries of Central America, including the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, were an independent colony. The capital, Antigua, reporting directly to the throne of Spain as did «Mexico City» for Nueva España (New Spain or Mexico), «Lima» for Tierra Firme (Firm Land or South America) and others.

The Cathedral de Santiago under reconstructions.
The Cathedral de Santiago under reconstructions

Antigua was a city of great splendor during those years. But the earthquakes were too many for the massive colonial architecture. Reconstruction went on during all the time it was inhabited. Until in 1773 an earthquake demolished most of the buildings. The citizens were forced to move the capital to where Guatemala City is now. With them they took everything they could take.

The old city remained asleep for 200 years. It lost its youth, but not its elegance. Since no new constructions were made, nor modifications to existing ones, the design of the city was not altered, becoming a true relic of our civilization. In the last four decades, working against the effects of earthquakes, some historical buildings have been restored. Others, although in ruins, show the art and architecture of the colonial era.

Macaws in a hotel in Antigua

Some of the great monasteries and majestic residences have been accommodated into hotels and restaurants. We visited some of these hotels. On the outside they look like simple walls with rustic doors. Once inside, what were the living rooms of the big mansions look like grand ball dancing floors. The floors are of old tile which shine like glass. The columns of wood and the walls of bricks add to the sensation of something mystic. And the breeze in the internal patios creates an environment more delightful than if they were air conditioned.

The size of some of the patios were impressive. Everywhere we turned we saw flowers of different colors. The restaurant where we had lunch had a fountain and somewhere from eight to ten tables in the patio and this one was minuscule compared to others in the hotels. By the way, the food was excellent and not too expensive.

The streets, still of bricks, are not too wide and with not much traffic. We were told many of the residents of Guatemala City spend the weekend in Antigua. We went on a Saturday and saw people everywhere but it was very quiet and peaceful. We were also told that the night life is active with some night clubs in town.

Relic from colonial times in Antigua Guatemala.
Relic from colonial times.

During Semana Santa the processions are very colorful and quite popular. During that week it is necessary to make reservations, in some cases months ahead. Although they advised to always make reservations in Antigua. Tourism is active all year, tourists are seen everywhere and it is our understanding that many movie actors and presidents also frequent this city.

Fountain in a hotel in Antigua. The building was a monastery during colonial times.
Fountain in a hotel.
The building was a monastery during colonial times.

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Last revision: November 1, 2006
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