Guatemala noisily celebrates its 190th birthday

Celebration in La Antigua Guatemala

Celebrating their nation’s 190th Independence Day, Guatemalans streamed into streets and central squares across the country on Thursday, Sept. 15, to enjoy parades, music, food and fireworks. Communities large and small marked the occasion with torch-bearing runners, drumbeats of school bands, concerts and speeches. Food vendors served a mouth-watering variety of dishes as locals and tourists alike joined the annual […]

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RABIN AJAU UPDATE: A Princess is Crowned

Selected from a field of some 80 young Maya women, Rosa Lidia Aguaré Castro, from Santa Lucía La Reforma, Totonicapán, is the new Rabin Ajau (Daughter of the King) for 2011-2012. The highlight of the annual National Folkloric Festival in Cobán, the magical pageant was conducted July 30 at the sports stadium field house. In addition to heartfelt presentations by […]

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Red-letter Days

Guatemala's flag

This month is doubly patriotic Brace for a double dose of patriotic fervor this month in Guatemala. In addition to the Sept. 11 national elections (see page 54), Guatemala celebrates its 190th Independence Day on Sept. 15 with ear-shattering fireworks, resounding drumbeats from marching bands, festive concerts and more. Guatemala is hardly alone in its jubilation this day—also celebrating their […]

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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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Cobán’s Folkloric Festival

Contestants from the 2010 Rabin Ajau pageant in Cobán. (photo: Thor Janson)

In 1936 Cobán prospered greatly from coffee exports to Europe. A group of leading businessmen decided that it was time to organize a regional fair, and so the inaugural “Feria Departamental” was planned for the first week in August. As part of the event it was decided to elect two queens, one representing the European population and the other chosen […]

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Rabin Ajau: Daughter of the King

Contestants from last year’s Rabin Ajau. The focus of the pageant is on spiritual beauty, oratory and  cultural knowledge. Additional criteria include grace, charm, carriage, sincerity and intelligence.

Cobán’s annual festival includes a spectacular traditional pageant It was a cool July afternoon and the cheepy cheepy (misting rain) was refreshing the land when we arrived in Cobán, the capital of Alta Verapaz Department. The last week in July is when Cobán celebrates its annual festival with parades, rodeos, expositions, fairs and one of the most wonderful cultural events […]

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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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The Ancient Maya And The White-tailed Deer

Mayan deer whistle (courtesy of Museo de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno, Casa Santo Domingo)

Deer are among the 10 most commonly depicted animals on Mayan vases, plates and bowls of the Late Classic period. Although two species of deer inhabit the Mayan heartland, the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, is the one usually depicted in Mayan art. For the Classic Maya, the deer was in some ways as important as the jaguar, monkey and snakes. […]

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Traveling Photographic Exhibit at La Antigua’s Central Park

“Water, Rivers and People / Agua, Ríos y Pueblos,” is an international traveling photographic exhibit that takes a critical look at water conflicts around the world. The exhibit focuses on the human and environmental costs of contamination and catastrophes, ecosystem degradation, water as a human right, privatization and mega-development projects such as hydroelectric dams and open pit mining. The exhibit […]

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Olintepeque celebrates its patron saint June 20-25

San Juan Olintepeque, a historic town about 6 kilometers north of Quetzaltenango, celebrates its patron, St. John the Baptist, with a colorful festival. This area is generally considered to be the site where the famous Maya-K’iche’ prince, Tecún Umán, died in battle against Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. The annual festival features costumed dancers, the traditional dance of the bull, […]

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Clean Sweep

Before the brooms make it to market to be sold, numerous labor-intensive steps are involved.

Hand crafting the not-so-simple palm frond broom text and photos by Kathy Rousso Palma real (royal palm) grows in Guatemala’s hot climatic regions, and many products can be made from the fronds of this tree. Custom dictates that the harvest takes place three days before the full moon, after which the fronds are dried and split into strips. The outer […]

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Maximón ceremony in San Lucas Tolimán by Thor Janson

Mayan Patron Saint is an enigma text and photos by Thor Janson There is not a town or village in the entire Mayan Highlands where the presence of Maximón is not being asserted. Although the guide books for many years have only listed three Maximón shrines—San Andrés Itzapa, Zunil and Santiago Atitlán—there are literally thousands of Maximón temples and […]

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Miguel Ángel Asturias

Miguel Ángel Asturias photo by Jacobo Blijdenstein

written by Anna-Claire Bevan photo by Jacobo Blijdenstein One hundred years after his birth, Guatemala honored the life of its exiled, Nobel Prize-winning poet, Miguel Ángel Asturias, by placing a statue of him on one of the main streets of its capital city. Made entirely of bronze, the full-body sculpture was the masterpiece of Max Leiva and celebrates the memory […]

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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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Mayan archaeology convention comes to Antigua

The IV World Convention on Maya Archaeology comes to La Antigua Guatemala and Hotel Camino Real June 17-19, featuring global experts on Mayan culture. With the theme “El Popol Vuh Visto a Traves del Arte Maya” (The Popol Vuh seen through Mayan Art), the conference will contrast the colonial-period Maya Popol Vuh writings with the archaeological record. Expert presenters include […]

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Flowers in Mayan Art

Flowers are part of Mayan decoration, outfits and rituals. Kings wear flowers in the headdress. In addition to being purely decorative, flowers have deep meaning in Mayan religion and folklore. Especially between the 3rd and 9th century AD, perhaps a dozen different flower species are depicted in Classic Mayan murals and in art on funerary ceramics. For many years I […]

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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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The Power of Guatemalan Roses

In May, the fancy for mothers turns to roses—which have more than meets the eye or nose. Not all plants sport flowers, but those that do use them to mate with others of their species. Appropriately, we use them to hail and express love, especially in February and May. Roses in particular are favored: red and burgundy roses in the […]

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Carlos Mérida

Este creador nació en un momento estratégico para el desarrollo de las artes visuales de Guatemala. Tanto en lo político como en lo práctico se estaban gestando las condiciones para una estética que terminaría abriendo las puertas al modernismo nacional. Durante la gestión de José María Reyna Barrios (1892-1898), un presidente atípico por su sensibilidad, se fortaleció la cultura creativa […]

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Macaws and Parrots in 3rd-9th Century Mayan Art

Military macaw (Ara militaris), Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve, Copán, Honduras (Nicholas Hellmuth)

by Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth The most remarkable deity in the ancient Mayan myth of the Popol Vuh is “Seven Macaw.” In reality this preening bird-creature is pictured in Classic Mayan art as a snake-eating raptor. So in most renditions in murals and pottery, Seven Macaw is a hawk-like composite creature without very many features of a macaw (other than […]

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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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Ceiba pentandra

Sacred tree for Classic Maya, national tree for Guatemala today by Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth Look at the sacred ceiba tree and you may notice that its spines resemble the round bumps that the Maya incorporated on their incense burners, cache vessels and urns. Notice the pattern of conical, spine-like protuberances on these thousand-year-old ceramic vessels. You get the same […]

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Arts patrons celebrate opening of XI annual Paiz International Festival of Art & Culture

Dozens of civic leaders, arts aficionados and business executives helped launch the XI annual Paiz International Festival of Art and Culture at a reception Thursday night, Feb. 10, at the Casa Santo Domingo in La Antigua. Guests mingled and listened a series of speakers at the hotel’s Galería Quiroa, where a retrospective of works by Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida (1891-1984) […]

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The Quauhquechollan Canvas

Lienzo de Quauhquechollan or The Quauhquechollan Canvas

A chronicle of conquest written by Ana Lucía Ortiz & Pierina Piedra Santa Its size is as great as its content is complex. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan reveals to the viewer amazing feats of both the winners and losers in the conquest of Guatemala. This masterfully created canvas records many valuable details of an important event. Painted with natural pigments […]

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Good Gets Better

After living in La Antigua in 2002-03 and moving back recently, I’ve noticed a lot of changes, from striking to subtle. In no particular order, they include: • New landscaping along much of the highway from Guatemala City to Antigua. Medians and shoulders sprout colorful groundcover, lilies and shrubs. Nice. • Traffic cops at busy intersections in Antigua, adding an […]

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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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Chichicastenango celebrates patron Santo Tomás

Thrilling the crowd below, the dancers spin around the pole as their ropes unravel with every turn, lowering them closer and closer to the ground in a death-defying ritual. Home of one of Central America’s largest indigenous markets, Chichicastenango is at its liveliest this month because Dec. 21 is the feast day of its patron saint, Santo Tomás. Festivities run […]

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Children dance to raise scholarship funds

By Nancy Hoffman Niños con Bendición is a group of 16 children ages 6-13 who perform folk dances before various audiences to raise money for scholarships for their schooling and to help cover daily living expenses. Dressed in traditional traje from various Guatemala communities, the children enchanted patrons Saturday, Dec. 11, at La Peña del Sol Latino, 5a calle poniente […]

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