Questions answered on the creation of Spanish colonial towns, Catholic churches, aldeas, patron saint days and local improvements
When the Spanish arrived in Guatemala in 1524 they found a disbursed Mayan population and extremely diverse language groups. After the 1540s, to create a “new order in the New World,” the Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church agreed to construct towns throughout the country.
This of course would facilitate the religious orders (Dominicans, Franciscans and priests from La Merced) in the building of a church in the center of each town with which to begin the local conversion process. (It would also allow for easier taxation.) A patron saint (or Virgin) was assigned to each town; to differentiate themselves most of the Mayan population began wearing local dress patterns and styles that have continued to evolve over the centuries.
La Antigua Guatemala, founded in 1543, is surrounded by 15 villages or aldeas. In urban terms, an aldea is part of a municipality, La Antigua being the municipality.
Fiesta dates in La Antigua’s aldeas:
January 6: San Gaspar Vivar
May 1: San Felipe de Jesús
May 16: Santa Inés del Monte Pulciano
June 24: San Juan del Obispo
June 24: San Juan Gascón
June 29: San Pedro las Huertas
July 26: Santa Ana
July 30: San Cristóbal el Bajo
July 30: San Cristóbal el Alto
August 24: San Bartolomé Becerra
September 14 & 15: La Guardianía el Hato
September 21: San Mateo Milpas Altas
November 25: Santa Catarina Bobadilla
The aldeas were given specific name places, for instance San Juan del Obispo (obispo = bishop — referring to Bishop Francisco Marroquín’s residence) and San Juan Gascón (Gascón = the last name of the gentlemen who received the nearby farm in a land grant). Both aldeas celebrate St. John’s day on June 24; San Pedro Las Huertas (huerta = vegetable garden) celebrate St. Peter’s day on June 29, and so forth. Each aldea has special activities, which always include a Mass, usually a procession and a lot of fireworks! Local beauty contests are also a big attraction.
It appears that the mayor of Antigua, Dr. Adolfo Vivar, is focusing more on improving the infrastructure in the aldeas more than previous mayors; these improvements and repairs include roads, water drainage, sports centers and garbage collection. Since the entire city budget for 2009 was Q76,381,157.59 (less than $10 million), the city must rely on the collaboration of neighborhood committees and local NGOs. Reference site: www.aldeasdeantiguaguatemala.com
Category: Ask Elizabeth