Tips for enjoying Semana Santa

Procession, Semana Santa photos by Leonel -Nelo- Mijangos (nelo.ws)

Lent and Holy Week celebrations in La Antigua Guatemala can be a bit overwhelming at best. Over the years, I have learned some great tips to enjoy the more than 50 activities during this time of year. Some of them are: Plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Know the times and locations of the velaciones and processions. City Hall […]

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Lent & Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua used to be second to Seville, Spain for its Lenten celebration until recently. It is now considered the largest celebration in the world with 50 activities during the 40 days of Lent. In March processions fill the streets of Antigua with the fragrance of incense, pine needles, flowers and coroso (a pod also used for carpet making). The increase […]

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More about the new cycle of the Maya calendar

Maya calendar prepared by Calixta Gabriel

Much has been speculated by foreign writers about the “end” of the Maya calendar, including that it is the end of the world. According to Professor David Stuart (Mesoamerican Center at the University of Texas), much of this evolved out of the book Mexican Mystique (1975), which we all read in our classes at the university. Written by an author […]

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The Doors of Antigua Guatemala

Entrance to La Merced Monastery, one of the few original doors of Antigua  (César Tián / www.revue.gt)

Visitors usually are not aware that we are welcome inside any open door in Antigua. Well, that is if both doors are open. Door etiquette has it that if one part of the door is open, that is not considered “open doors” (peek but do not enter), but if both sides of the door are open, we are welcome to explore behind the walls.

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What’s the canícula in Guatemala?

Canícula days around Antigua Guatemala (photo by Rudy A. Giron)

Guatemala’s rainy season is roughly from May 15—Oct. 15 with a break in July/August called the canícula. Beginning with the cabañuelas (the first 12 days of the year – each day representing the weather for that month), predictions are made as to when the canícula will fall. According to the Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meterología e Hidrología de Guatemala […]

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Becoming a Guatemalan Citizen

Portrait of Elizabeth Bell

During the 43 years that I have lived in Antigua, I have co-founded and participated in many committees, associations and foundations to improve the quality of life for our residents. Ranging today from education to micro-credit and promoting cultural activities, many of these meetings usually relate to finding solutions to problems that we have identified over the years. Four-plus years […]

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Who are some of Guatemala’s most inspiring men?

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I wrote about a similar topic for women for May (Mother’s Day) and thought the gender issue might apply here toward men. Two men—perhaps more than others—have influenced my efforts toward the preservation and positive development of La Antigua Guatemala since 1969. Mario Antonio Sandoval is one of Guatemala’s best-known journalists. He became a great friend in 1978 when we […]

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Who are some of Guatemala’s most inspiring women?

Luz Méndez de la Vega

With the recent passing of Guatemala literary giant Luz Méndez de la Vega (1919-2012), and with Mother’s Day celebrated on Thursday, May 10th, it brought to mind a reflection of the most extraordinary women who have inspired me since I moved here in 1969. These are women who are famous but also have the incredible quality of commanding attention as […]

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Who is Santo Hermano Pedro?

Santo Hermano Pedro allegorical procession goes throughout the streets of Antigua after the 2 p.m. mass on Sunday, April 29

San Francisco Church in Antigua celebrates the anniversary of Santo Hermano Pedro’s death (1667) on April 25 with concerts and fireworks. An allegorical procession goes throughout the streets of Antigua after the 2 p.m. mass on Sunday, April 29. Hermano Pedro de San José Betancur was born on March 21, 1626, in Vilafor on the island of Tenerife in the […]

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How have Lent and Holy Week changed in Antigua since the first celebrations?

Lent began this year on Feb. 22 with Ash Wednesday, and March and April bring some of the largest processions in the world up through Easter Sunday on April 8. Antigua’s celebrations used to be considered second only to Seville, Spain, but during recent years, these celebrations have been considered by many the largest in the world. Introduced by the […]

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Why has there been so much speculation about the Mayan 2012 calendar?

Mayan 2012 calendar

Calendars reflect how cultures and societies view the organization of time and space over the centuries. Many calendars have emerged and many have disappeared or been modified: the Julian calendar, the Republican calendar, the Gregorian calendar and the Mayan calendar to name a few. Each one involved astronomical calculations and incorporate harvests and religious or spiritual fiestas. I remember in […]

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What is happening with the Palace of the Captains General?

A year ago we reported on the back story of the restoration of the Palace of the Captains General in La Antigua Guatemala. The project met all restoration standards with a Q16 million budget and a projected two-plus years worth of work. I have been trained in architectural conservation (ICCROM/Rome), and I am very picky about restoration projects. The palace […]

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How do the police agencies work & how do I reach them?

Authorities request that EVERYONE report crimes to make our cities safer. There are a few different police agencies. Here is information nationwide and specifically for La Antigua Guatemala. The PNC—Policía Nacional Civil—is the main national police force and is within the Ministry of Government. The police commissary also reports to the governor of each department. You will see them around […]

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What are the Guatemalan elections for this month?

Guatemala holds national elections on Sept. 11 with ballots for president / vice president, 158 departmental Congress members (diputados) and 333 mayors (alcaldes)—each with a four-year term—plus a ballot for 20 members for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) with a five-year term. The 1986 Constitution limits the presidency to one term. Congress members and mayors may run for re-election. Guatemala has […]

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Why does La Antigua Guatemala now have more aldeas?

View of Antigua from one of its new aldeas, El Hato (guido lucci)

Most cities in Guatemala were founded in the 1540s as part of the Spanish territorial “order.” Today municipalities are divided into various categories of smaller urban areas: aldeas, caserios, barrios, colonias and lotificaciones. While aldea may be translated as a village, aldeas are not necessarily occupied by Mayas, as La Antigua Guatemala, in fact, has no Maya inhabitants. Antigua has […]

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Why does La Antigua celebrate St. James’ Day?

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 […]

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What is the extent of urban planning in La Antigua?

While the city grid of La Antigua Guatemala was laid out in 1541, it seems that the concept of urban planning was abandoned after the colonial era. Over the years, many groups, including Salvemos Antigua, petitioned the mayors for an urban planning commission. For a centuries-old city, alas, we have a “new” urban planning concept today! Antigua’s City Council approved […]

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What’s the church museum just south of La Antigua?

Located next door to the Church of San Juan del Obispo, the museum at the convent is well worth a visit. Originally built in 1547 by Bishop Francisco Marroquín as his private residence, much of the original structure of the church and convent still remain after centuries of renovations. It is one of the most important historical monuments in La […]

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Will there be carpet making and processions during Lent?

Carpet making and processions during Lent

La Antigua has the largest celebration in the world for Lent and Holy Week, although second historically to Seville, Spain. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 9, with one of 50 activities during a 40-day period! I love carpet making in Antigua! Sunday processions in March include nearby San Catarina Bobadilla, Santa Inés, and Jocotenango where you may see the […]

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Backstory on the restoration of the Palace of the Captains General in La Antigua

The palace was demolished by Captain General Martín de Mayorga after 1773. In fact, Mayorga got a royal decree to demolish the entire city after the earthquakes of 1773 but no one paid much attention to it. He did, however, demolish a great part of the palace, trying to move the large stone columns. The palace was rebuilt in the 1890s.

Very few of the buildings in Antigua have original plans. This 1763 plan (first floor) was found at the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain. The description is fascinating but may have actually been a proposal for the approval of the building permit by Luis Diez de Navarro, a Spanish engineer who was in charge of the new structure which was completed in 1764.

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Who is La Llorona?

La Llorona

While I am more familiar with La Antigua Guatemala’s “regular” ghosts, spirits and “orbs” (you can see the latter if you take digital camera photos in the crypt at the cathedral), anyone who grew up in Antigua can recite the stories of the folkloric figures. These include La Tatuana, El Sombrerón and everyone’s favorite: La Llorona. It appears that many […]

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Who signed Guatemala’s Declaration of Independence?

In reviewing my ancestry, I found that my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, John Witherspoon (New Jersey), signed the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Perhaps that is why I became more interested in who signed the Declaration of Independence of Guatemala on September 15, 1821. The 18th century brought rising commerce and an emerging merchant community in Guatemala. The Free Trade […]

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Why do we have “mermaids” in La Antigua Guatemala?

Mermaids appear in literature much after the fountain in Central Park was built by Diego de Porres in 1738. While today we might think of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (1836), the fountain clearly pre-dates the fairytale. In using the Spanish word “sirenas,” we find sirens originally in Greek mythology that are often portrayed in later folklore as mermaid-like […]

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Who was St. James?

Santiago monument (photo: César Tián/Revue)

La Antigua Guatemala was founded as Santiago de Guatemala (St. James of Guatemala). Located previously at the Kaqchikel site of Iximché in 1524 and then next door to Ciudad Vieja (San Miguel Escobar) in 1527, the first city council met in this valley on March 10, 1543. Since St. James is the patron saint of Spain and was the patron […]

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What is the municipality building at the east entrance to La Antigua?

Training Center in Antigua Guatemala

After much anticipation, the Antigua municipality is building a training center (Centro de Capacitación Municipal) at the entrance to the city—near Santa Inés. The center’s focus on weekdays will be on arts and skills for 9th graders, the diversity of classes include everything from baking to mechanical engineering. On weekends the facility will be open to university extension programs. As […]

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What is the procession on April 25?

Trying to keep up with La Antigua’s processions can be a job in itself. Some are celebrated every year … but then there is the occasional “anniversary” procession that may seem to come out of the blue! One procession we can count on is Santo Hermano Pedro Day on Sunday, April 25. Hermano Pedro is buried at San Francisco Church […]

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What about recycling in Antigua?

Visitors to La Antigua Guatemala are quite happy to see that many of the municipal trucks run on bio-diesel. Discarded cooking oil is collected at restaurants, filtered through technology set up in conjunction with Bio Persa www.biopersa.com (supported by the Swiss government), and we all benefit in Antigua. Then the inevitable question, “What about recycling in Antigua?” We recycle. Our […]

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How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in Guatemala?

Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) is celebrated by many people throughout the world. In English-speaking countries, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other with Valentine’s Day cards (winged cupids are among the favorites), flowers and special dinners. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800s. The history of St. Valentine—its patron saint—is shrouded in mystery. Valentine’s […]

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