Due to internet difficulties, Saturday’s post below was not posted until Sunday.
Only a 45 minute drive into the mountains south of Guatemala City, Antigua is a well-preserved colonial Spanish city and was the previous capital of Guatemala until the 1700s. After a series of earthquakes destroyed much of the city in 1773, the capital was moved 33 miles to the valley, to what is now Guatemala City. In order to make the mandatory evacuation of Antigua effective, much of the city was disassembled and reassembled in the new capital, including church relics, artwork, and even stone entryways at the doorways to individuals’ homes. Today’s entryways in Antigua are either stone reconstructions or cement with a stucco overlay. Antigua began to revive in the late 1800s, about the same time when coffee farming in the area started to flourish.
Entryway to La Merced Church
Cathedral Santiago ruins
My husband Greg joined me a few days ago in Guatemala City and spent the past couple of days with me in the dump and now here in Antigua. We hired a local tour guide to show us the ruins in Antigua and explain the history. He was a lot of fun, but during the tour, we wondered at some of his data. Although we’ve never studied Spanish or Guatemalan history, we recognized that his dates weren’t adding up, and we suspected a slight fabrication of history. But even though his information wasn’t always so accurate, he was very entertaining, and we enjoyed our time with him!
The Palace of the Captains General
We savored our strolls through the scenic cobblestone streets (which kill your feet if you don’t wear supportive shoes!), viewing ruins of Baroque style churches, and even entering a crypt under Santiago Cathedral. The crypt was important for me to see because my manuscript includes a crypt that is essential to the plot. (How’s that for a teaser?) There were 63 churches in Antigua, including convents and monasteries, and seven are still active today.
Crypt under Santiago Cathedral
In the center of the city, at their Central Park, market vendors sell souvenirs. Horses stand by for anyone wishing to buy a ride. A large fountain in the center of the square park includes carvings of mermaids and bulls’ heads because the early locals in Antigua participated in a running of the bulls through the city center. At least that’s what our tour guide said …
Ride a horse from Central Park
Surrounded by three volcanoes, Volcán Fuego is the most active, and we were thrilled to see smoke rising from it.
Because today is the holiday known here for the conception of the Virgin Mary (which is why the burning of the devil took place the night before), it is a lucky day to get married. We witnessed four weddings during our walks around the city.
Wedding preparations at San Jose’ el Viejo
One of the advantages to visiting a place over researching online and with books is that I could not only hear, smell, and see it in person, I learned that one of the trees I wanted to mention in the manuscript aren’t as plentiful as I’d thought. My main character likes to climb trees, and my research indicated an abundance of one specific tree in the Guatemala highlands. However, I didn’t see a one. When I asked the tour guide in Antigua about it, he’d never even heard of that tree. Thinking that the name must be different, I described it for him. He gave me a blank look and said he’d like to see one. So that answers that!
With a sigh of regret, I will leave this Central American wonderland tomorrow. I’ll post my overall reflections in the next day or two, after I’ve had a few hours to decompress. I hope you’ll return!