Why does La Antigua celebrate St. James’ Day?

Saint James Monument in Cerro de La Cruz (photo: Juan Domingo Pérez)

Saint James Monument in Cerro de La Cruz (photo: Juan Domingo Pérez)

The tradition dates to 1543 when the conquistadors named the community Santiago de Guatemala (St. James of Guatemala) after the apostle who was the conquerors’ patron saint and is the patron saint of Spain today. His feast day is July 25.

Celebrations in what is now La Antigua Guatemala have been exciting over the centuries, but the fiesta has come to life in recent years with events throughout July!

As late as the early 1980s, celebrations included a July 25th Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph with a small procession headed by the mayor of Antigua, a marimba (and sometimes disco) concert in Central Park and a school parade. Through our efforts, we created a “Semana de Santiago,” which has grown into a month-long celebration with the participation of just about every cultural, educational and sports group in town. Alas, time for a fiesta!

Although celebrations begin early in July, the big day is July 25. Highlights include a 7 a.m. Mass at the cathedral, followed by the 8 a.m. school parade, which this year focuses on “Yo Vivo Mi Ciudad,” Antigua’s program of cultural identity, manners and customs. This magnificent show of schoolchildren and bands parades throughout the streets of Antigua, finishing up at 12:30 p.m.

At 4 p.m. the marimba concert in Central Park showcases seven marimbas from all over the country, followed by the 7 p.m. concerts with a wide range of music. Don’t forget the fireworks!

Banks and many businesses will be closed on July 25 so plan accordingly.
For more information contact public relations at City Hall (Sergio Ortiz is very helpful) or visit www.munideantigua.com. See you at Central Park!

2 comments

  • Sarah

    Can you tell us more about the costumes and the traditions with regard to the masks and the dances in front of the St.James statue?

  • Elizabeth Bell

    Those correspond to the “gigantes” which is a traditional folkloric dance usually the dance before an allegorical procession. The procession for St. James departed from the Cathedral on July 25th at 9am.

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