La Ceiba Tree of Guatemala

photo by [nelo] Mijangos : www.nelomh.com
Ceiba near San Lucas Samox, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Guatemala Insight — by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian. With the celebration of Independence Day on Sept. 15, national symbols, which include the ceiba tree, come to our attention. The ceiba was declared the national tree of Guatemala in 1955 at the request of the botanist Ulises Rojas. This was, in part, because of its importance to the Maya. Today ceiba trees are protected […]

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La Antigua Guatemala has become THE wedding destination for Central America!

photos by José Pablo Martínez  www.jpmfoto.com

by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian November heralds weddings in La Antigua and guests come from all over the world to celebrate. Antigueños recently founded Asociación Destino Antigua to provide better service and to promote the city’s tourism. Due to the continual increase in the wedding segment, they have helped co-found the Honeymoon and Wedding Guild through the Chamber of Tourism. Guatemala’s finest […]

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Guatemala’s Most Famous Nun

Sor Juana de Maldonado y Paz by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian Guatemala’s most famous nun is Sor Juana de Maldonado y Paz (1598-1668), who lived at the Convento of La Concepción (La Antigua Guatemala). Ironically, very little “real” information is known about her although there is quite a bit written about her. We find her mentioned in the English Dominican Friar Thomas […]

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The Flag(s) of Guatemala

  by Elizabeth Bell. Guatemala’s current flag has flown over the skies of Guatemala since Aug. 17, 1871, although independence from Spain was signed on Sept. 15, 1821. Colonial banners and flags were quite popular before independence and usually incorporated a red and yellow color combination similar to the Spanish flag. In 1822, the Mexican flag flew in Guatemala during […]

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Francisco Marroquín: Guatemala’s first bishop and linguist

by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian. Francisco Marroquín (1499-1563) was the first bishop of Guatemala and the country’s first linguist. Born near Santander, Spain, he studied philosophy and theology and was a professor at the University of Osma. He became a Dominican priest and was at the Spanish royal court where conqueror Pedro de Alvarado met him in 1528 and persuaded him to […]

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Fiesta Time in La Antigua!

La Antigua maintains its holiday in honor of St. James on July 25th, and the celebration begins now! by Elizabeth Bell. It’s fiesta time again in La Antigua Guatemala! July 25th is our patron saint’s day—St. James—as the city was founded as Santiago de Guatemala. St. James was an apostle, the conquerors’ patron saint and is Spain’s patron saint today. […]

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Lent and Semana Santa

Antigua recently surpassed Seville, Spain as having the largest Easter Week celebration in the world today! In 1524 the conquerors had barely set foot in Guatemala when they introduced their traditions for Lent and Semana Santa from Seville, Spain. These have evolved over the centuries and Antigua recently surpassed Seville as having the largest celebration in the world today! Carpet […]

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Antigua Over The Years

Since 1992, much effort has been dedicated to preserving Antigua with an eye toward finding a balance between preservation and economic development. It is sometimes difficult to remember how abandoned the city truly was. After the 1773 earthquake, most residents did not want to move to muddy empty lots in Guatemala City during the rainy season. It took a royal […]

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Casa Popenoe

Rewriting history When the Universidad Francisco Marroquin acquired the Casa Popenoe from the Popenoe family in 2007, we never imagined that, through its historical research, the university would rewrite the house’s history. Dr. Arq. Alberto Garín, curator, has done a fabulous job of just that! Meticulously going through the Popenoe family records and interviewing Dr. Marion Popenoe Hatch, he has […]

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Christmas Carols in Guatemala

“When I first viewed the ancient manuscripts in the early 1980s, I was surprised at the beauty of the music and decided to devote efforts to its revival.” —Dr. Dieter Lehnoff Far from modern Christmas carols in English made popular by Bing Crosby and José Feliciano, villancicos are a common poetic and musical form from Spain that date back to […]

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Spanish American Sculpture in Guatemala

Guatemala has some of the finest wood sculptures in the world, certainly surpassing those of other Spanish American regions and many artists in Spain. A recent lecture at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City by Philippe Malgouyres from the Louvre Museum brought light to the importance of Guatemalan sculpture, particularly throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. He suggests that […]

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Antigua Guatemala celebrates its 34th anniversary UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO declaration (image by photos.rudygiron.com)

Antigua Guatemala was included as No. 65 in the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List during the World Heritage Convention’s Third Session in October 1979 in Luxor, Egypt. Today there are 981 sites that the World Heritage Committee considers as “having outstanding universal value… the protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.” […]

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Women Leaders — Guatemala’s Independence

María Dolores Bedoya de Molina (1783-1853)

September 15 is best known for the civic ceremonies, children’s marching band parades and marathons with Olympic-style torches as Guatemala celebrates its independence from Spain (1821). Spanish America declared independence between 1808 and 1826 and many efforts were intertwined. While women participated behind the scenes—influencing family members and friends at home—some outstanding women also participated openly. Before independence, Guatemala included […]

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What is one of the biggest changes since 1969 in Antigua Guatemala?

Phones. Yes, phones. Many visitors comment on how Antigua must have changed so much since I arrived in 1969. That was also the year that one of the first Spanish schools formally began (Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín) and when the Protective Law for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala was passed by the Guatemalan Congress. In 1969, a few houses […]

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The Building of a Remarkable Colonial Capital

Antigua’s architecture is remarkable. The capital, known as Santiago de Guatemala, was founded by the Spanish (1541) in what was then a remote valley, after the previous capital was inundated by floods and mudslides. Water, climate and fertile soil were the main factors in deciding its new location. In 1543, shortly after celebrating the first city council meeting, there was […]

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What system is used for property measurements in Guatemala?

A common question I receive is about property measurements, probably expecting the short answer as whether we use feet (imperial system) or meters (metric system). No easy answers here. When the Spanish came in 1524, European measurements were based on Marcus Vitruvius’ (80-70 BC—15 AD) “De Architectura,” known today as the “Ten Books of Architecture.” According to Vitruvius, architecture is […]

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A “New” Mayor for Antigua Guatemala

Former City Council member, Edgar Ruiz, gets the official green light to move the town forward. It’s official! Edgar Ruiz, who was a City Council member, was approved by Guatemala’s Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), as interim mayor on March 20. He had been acting mayor since Sept. 17, 2012 and, with his new official title, will have more of a […]

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Mission Accomplished! Restoration of the Paintings at Catedral de San José

Close-up of St. John painting showing the serpent emerging from the chalice

Close to 10 years ago, while admiring some Christmas decorations at San José Catedral in Antigua, I was astonished at the poor state of preservation of the colonial paintings. All of the original colonial art had been moved to the new capital in 1773, except for the 1680 paintings of the apostles by Mexican artist Juan de Correa (1646-1716). Restored […]

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