15 curious facts of La Antigua Guatemala

The City of La Antigua Guatemala is the capital of the Department of Sacatepéquez, in the central mountains of the Guatemalan territory, surrounded by the Agua, Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes. Here are 15 curious facts about La Antigua Guatemala.

  1. Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala: official and historical name issued by Felipe II in the year 1566 when it had approximately 20 thousand inhabitants; currently it is popularly named as La Antigua Guatemala.
  2. Stroke of the city: the person in charge of this layout was the Royal Engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, establishing as a central point the Plaza Mayor, to the east the Cathedral of San José, to the south the Palace of the Captains General, to the west the Portal of the Panaderas and to the north the City Hall Palace. The distribution was made at 90 degree angles like the classic square cities that resemble a chessboard.
  3. Cobblestone streets: considered the first planned city of America and influenced by the Spanish crown, there was a need to implement a paving system of the streets to improve the transit of pedestrians and carriages driven by horses. Although the appearance of the streets may be similar, it is important to note that at certain points, such as in corners or points with greater vehicular traffic, the stones are larger.
  4. Cultural Patrimony of the Humanity: The Antigua Guatemala protects historical elements, highlights include its architectural and cultural beauty, characteristics that on October 26, 1979 granted it the recognition of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) as Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  5. Cinema in the city: La Antigua is a hospitable city for filmmakers and with a number of historical locations waiting to be discovered by the eyes of a producer who will bring them back to life. From the filming of The Adventures of Tarzan in 1935, whose some scenes, took place in the ancient monastery of San Francisco in La Antigua. In 1949, among other films are Cuatro vidas (Mexican, 1949), Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953), in Life, work and miracles of Brother Pedro (1962), Alma llanera (1965), La mujer del diablo (1972) , Blood shed (1973), The Mansion of the 7 Mummies (1975), The silence of Neto (1994), among others.
  6. Ruins of Santa Teresa de Jesús: The facade of the church still retains its Renaissance forms and its antiquarian features such as the door recessed under an arch, the large window and the two bodies separated by columns. At the end of the 19th century, the upper floor was converted into a patio for coffee drying and then occupied by the men’s prison during 1940 – 2007.
  7. Ruins of the Cathedral of San José: this church was much larger than it is now, the earthquake of 1773 left it completely in ruins. Now you can visit these ruins that impress not only for the beauty of the place but also appreciate the size of the cathedral at its peak as the capital of the Kingdom of Mesoamerica.
  8. Convent of Santa Clara: The religious of the Order of the Poor Clares lived in the convent from January 14, 1700. The convent had a tile roof which collapsed after the earthquake of 1717. The damage was so severe that the sisters had to leave the complex while the repairs were being made. At present, the ruins of the convent still retains an elegant garden surrounded by corridors. This convent is the only one in La Antigua Guatemala that has the façade of its church inside the complex, which is, hidden from the exterior view.
  9. La Merced: it is one of the most representative temples of the colonial city due to its architectural details, which has been photographed by national and foreign tourists. Despite the intensity of the earthquakes that have affected the colonial city, this church has remained standing; however its convent is in ruins which can also be visited.
  10. The Arch of Santa Catalina: one of the most representative icons of the city; was built by the request of the nuns of the Convent of Santa Catalina Mártir, since the number of religious grew and they were authorized to occupy the space in front of the convent. However, due to their seclusion that prevented them from going out on the streets or being seen from the outside, they were allowed to build a bridge. The same was in the form of an arch with a closed corridor through which the religious passed without being seen, thus fulfilling the vow of seclusion. The street of the arch is one of the busiest in the colonial city.
  11. House of the Lions: known as the two figures of lions that can be seen in the entrance, dating from the seventeenth century, was one of the first five houses in the city of La Antigua Guatemala. It is known that at that time it was owned by a representative of the Spanish government Don Sancho Alvarez de las Asturias y Nava. In the 60’s this house was reconditioned and joined to two other nice properties to conform what is now Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo.
  12. House of las Sirenas: also known as the Presidential House, is another very interesting old house. It is a two-story house which has several sirens on the facade and it is where the president of Guatemala and high-level government officials stay when they visit La Antigua Guatemala.
  13. Popenoe House: first house restored to colonial style, a project created by Wilson Popenoe and is currently managed by the University Francisco Marroquín. Here you can see how it was to live in the colonial era and exactly the style of the old houses was replicated. It is a beautiful place to meet and learn. You can visit it through a guided tour with prior reservation.
  14. Nim Po’t Traditional Textile Center: local craft store right on Calle del Arco, where once a mechanic and gas station worked. It is the ideal place to enjoy all the colors and textures that characterize Guatemalan culture, from handicrafts to hand-painted clay products. Also in this place is an altar to Maximón, where you can learn a little more about its history.
  15. Panza Verdes (Green bellies): nickname by which the Antigüeños are known. It has its origin after the ruin suffered by the City, caused by the earthquakes of 1773. The City refused to die despite having been declared «prohibited soil» and prohibited from trading merchandise and food. The neighbors had to subsist on a diet of herbs (macuy, quilete, chipilín, bledo, watercress, purslane) among other species typical of the region. This fueled the belief, among those who had preferred the transfer to the Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, that the Antigüeños, from eating so much «herbs», had the «green belly».

How many of these facts did you already know? Share with us some other facts of the Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala.

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