Beginning of Lent in Antigua Guatemala

The first Sunday after the first full moon of spring is Easter, this year on March 27. Count back seven Wednesdays to mark the beginning of the 40-day period of Lent on the Christian calendar. It is Ash Wednesday, and the date in 2005 is February 9. In La Antigua Guatemala this means the beginning of vigils (velaciones) and processions, […]

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What About 2012?

Dr. David Stuart, archeologist and Schele Professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing at the University of Texas-Austin, speaks out on the subject. Long before Galileo tracked heavenly bodies in the 17th Century, the Maya watched the skies and developed a construction for time. What did they really say about 2012? “Absolutely nothing,” says Dr. David Stuart, archeologist and Schele Professor […]

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Traditions: Posadas and Nacimientos

Guatemalan Nativity scene (photo by Rudy A. Giron)

The nacimiento is still the star of the show in Guatemala. What is now the most important celebration of the year came to the Americas with the Spanish Christian evangelists. The Guatemalans, already an innately spiritual people closely in tune with nature and in whom creativity thrives, had no trouble adapting to the new religious event. The timing was good. […]

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What Will I Do with the Gold?

“My name is Thompson because da Vinci was already taken,” Al quips in his typical, quick humor. In fact, there are similarities between the 15th century artist and Al Thompson, born in 1928. Both justly claim a diversity of talents: painting, sculpting, inventing, writing, to name a few. An exhibition of Al’s most recent creations opens December 3 at el […]

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Lured to La Antigua

In 1946 Gore Vidal purchased the property adjacent to the elaborate façade of the Church of El Carmen. (photo by Jack Houston)

Mystery tantalizes the memory of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared somewhere over the Pacific during her attempted flight around the globe in 1937, piloting her twin-engine plane with only a navigator aboard. The world watched and waited as communication broke, came again, broke again and eventually fell silent. In the early days of aviation, Earhart’s gutsy solo flight across the Atlantic […]

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Weaving a History

The weaving tradition expresses that past and the world view, full of symbolism which connects the Maya to all of creation. (photo by Rudy A. Girón)

At the beginning of time, according to ancient Mayan legend, the gods from their center spun out the cosmos, setting in place the universe. The corn god laid out the four corners and erected the World Tree in the center, from whose branches grew one of everything to come. When they became too full, the ‘fruit’ fell, scattering seeds. The […]

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Lured to La Antigua

In 1946 Gore Vidal purchased the property adjacent to the elaborate façade of the Church of El Carmen Mystery tantalizes the memory of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared somewhere over the Pacific during her attempted flight around the globe in 1937, piloting her twin-engine plane with only a navigator aboard. The world watched and waited as communication broke, came again, broke […]

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In Search of Almolonga

Church and plaza of San Miguel Escobar, facing west; probable vicinity of the second Santiago and possible site of its cathedral.

Exactly where was the center of old Santiago? Traditionally the honor has been assumed to belong to the urban center of Ciudad Vieja, the Old City. But was it? Tropical storm Agatha raged throughout Guatemala in May, déjà vu of 9/11/1541 for the hard-hit area east of Ciudad Vieja. Weeks later, the church of San Miguel Escobar still sheltered people […]

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How ‘bout a Coffee?

Schumann, Wagner and Goethe met frequently to chat at Coffé Baum in Leipzig, Germany. Established in 1694 and Germany’s oldest coffee house, Coffé Baum still serves satisfied customers and includes a popular coffee museum on the third floor. In his spare time from his duties as choirmaster at Thomas Church in Leipzig, J.S. Bach composed his Coffee Cantata in 1732, […]

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Echoes of Fine Colonial Homes

More than beautiful stone mansions, these were homes of real people with real lives, joys, and sorrows. In Michener’s Poland (1983), a professor who clung to life in a concentration camp pleaded, “Rebuild! Rebuild!” as “the most important thing to do when this nightmare ends…an act of faith, an act of commitment to the future…a testimony to the greatness we […]

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Protecting the Past for the Future

Dr. Hansen with mask on excavated structure

Threatened by years of abuse and neglect, the Mirador Basin needs help and it needs it now. The 400-year sliver of history between the biblical Old and New Testaments, sometimes erroneously called the ‘silent years’, packed Planet Earth with progress. Alexander the Great studied at the feet of Aristotle and, zealous to unite the world under Greek culture, conquered his […]

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Guatemala in 90 Hours

Lake Atitlán

Turning a short visit into a long-lasting memory Volcanoes. Lakes. Archeology and architecture. History and culture. Ziplines. Coffee plantations. UNESCO World Heritage sites. Plus, of course, shopping. Guatemala has all these attractions for tourism. But what about the tourist who has only a few days and less than $300? Yes, with planning and time management, that tourist can have a […]

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You Can Get There From Here

Ruins of Inca citadel at Machu Picchu

Guatemala to Machu Picchu “Surprise followed surprise in bewildering succession… Suddenly we found ourselves standing in front of the ruins of two of the finest and most interesting structures in ancient America. Made of beautiful white granite, the walls contained blocks of Cyclopean size higher than a man. The sight held me spellbound…The building did not look as though it […]

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Coyol Bouquets

Coyol leaves have been part of the Palm Sunday tradition since 1547

Coconut palm…royal palm… date palm…coyol palm…uh, coyol palm? WordWeb Online calls it a tropical American palm with edible nuts and yielding useful fiber. In some countries of Central America, especially Costa Rica and Honduras, it is known for the sweet liquid that flows inside its trunk and is extracted to drink as a 100 per cent natural liquor. Be careful, […]

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Rosamaría Pascual de Gámez

Rosamaría Pascual de Gámez

Artist Rosamaría Pascual de Gámez stands with her latest mural, “…so you can compare the size with an average person.” The painting now hangs in the baptistery of the Cathedral of Santa Cruz del Quiché, the second of her works there and the 18th mural she has donated to Guatemala churches. At five square meters, this is among her smaller […]

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Health Care in Colonial Guatemala

Part III: University of San Carlos Medical School By the end of the 17th century, six hospitals had been founded in Guatemala. But, lacking scientific information and methods, hospitals provided little more than refuge or asylum. Sickness and cultural attitudes toward it were a social problem. In addition, the times were characterized by conflict between the king’s people and the […]

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Healthcare in Colonial Guatemala

Ruin of inside wall of Hospital Real de Santiago, now within a private garden

written by Joy Houston photos: Jack Houston Part I: 16th Century What medical options were available centuries ago in Guatemala for wounds from enemy arrows, burns, natural disasters or epidemics? Mixing medicine with magic was routine in colonial days. “Medical science was slave to theory and superstition,” writes Carlos Martínez Durán in Las Ciencias Médicas en Guatemala. What was done […]

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Bette van Lunteren

Bette van Lunteren (photo: Jack Houston)

Ballerina Bette van Lunteren danced her way from her home in Holland to the heart of La Antigua Guatemala. She graduated from the Theater Dance Department of the School of Arts in Amsterdam and taught Dutch school children for six years. Her program was one of interactive expression on a one-day theme, group by group, eventually laced together into a […]

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The Saga Continues

While preparing the Convent La Concepción for its reopening as the Museo de Semana Santa (Holy Week Museum) they have uncovered new colors, secrets and surprises. In June 1737 the nuns of Convent La Concepción invited the town of Santiago de los Caballeros, now La Antigua Guatemala, to a celebration. Sound strange? Yes, but the lovely young ladies of convents […]

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Party with a Purpose

Scene from gala fundraiser dinner with keynote speaker President Colom (Derek Steele)

by Jack and Joy Houston Panchoy 50 celebrated the conclusion of its first phase in September with a glitz-and-glitter gala at Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. The project, launched in February, completed formation and analyses of 10 volunteer committees working toward an integral, 50-year development plan for the Panchoy Valley. In the next phase the committees will set goals and objectives. […]

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Humble Beginnings

Large San Jerónimo plaza; kitchen chimney peeks over back wall (photo by Jack Houston)

The Story of the Ruins of San Jerónimo The spacious, bright and well-kept flowered lawn of the San Jerónimo ruins at the north end of Alameda Santa Lucía welcomes visitors to the site of a school that functioned barely four years and closed with five students. In Colonial Architecture of Antigua, Sidney Markman wrote, “Very little remains of the school […]

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Last But Not Least

Ruins of monastery and church of La Recoleccion (photo: Jack Houston)

La Recolección is off the beaten track but worth the extra, dusty walk, being among the most impressive ruins in town. Religious reformers punctuate history as far back as anyone wants to go. Constantine, Luther, even Henry VIII, the Wesley brothers. The past century knew Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Antonio Margil de Jesús is hardly a household name, but […]

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