The Transformation of the Compañía de Jesús
Offering a wide variety of classes and events under its roof, this restored gem receives some 30,000 visitors annually.
In May 1992 Spain and Guatemala signed an agreement that launched the restoration of the historic Compañía de Jesús complex, paving the way for the eventual home of the Centro Iberoamericano de Formación (CIF).Located at 3a calle and 6a avenida in La Antigua Guatemala, CIF houses numerous offices that help develop public policy for Latin America. Health, justice, education, fiscal, infrastructure, communications, economic and environmental policies are some of the topics that are studied and debated behind its imposing walls.
The goal is to strengthen Latin American institutions by training civil servants and exchanging knowledge and experience among government staff and officials of the various countries.
Approximately 250 classes, workshops, seminars and symposiums take place every year, with an average of 35 participants each. In all, more than 8,000 people from throughout Latin America come to La Antigua every year to attend public policy discussions at CIF.
In addition to the policy-oriented activities, cultural activities have increased at CIF. About 80 events a year, including concerts, dance performances, exhibitions and book presentations, attract approximately 20,000 patrons.CIF also houses a documentation center and a book-lending library. Besides volumes of books, the center stores all the information generated in the courses, seminars and meetings. This warehouse of information is used annually by approximately 6,000 people searching for data, theories, documentation and background in the various policy topics that have been discussed and then catalogued here.
The extensive restoration making all this activity possible goes back to the vision of the Programa de Preservación del Patrimonio Cultural de Iberoamérica de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional (AECI), with approval of the Consejo Nacional para la Protección de la Antigua (CNPAG).
After the initial agreement of 1992, the next step was in December 1994, when AECI signed an agreement with the Municipalidad de Antigua, owner of the building, to transfer use of the Church and the Colegio de la Compañía de Jesús for a 25-year term as the Centro Iberoamericano de Formación.
In 1995 activities began in the northeastern cloister. On October 16, 1997, Centro Iberoamericano de Formación de la AECI, was dedicated by Queen Sofía of Spain. With the royal inauguration, the importance of the building was heightened again.
The church is now the Escuela Taller, which trains young men and women of scant resources living in La Antigua and surrounding communities such trades as carpentry, masonry, metallurgy, electricity and plumbing. Students also learned about and worked on the restoration itself.
As more and more portions of the building have been restored and reopened, so have the educational and cultural activities occurring there, drawing more international visitors to La Antigua and more prestige to CIF and Cooperación Española.
by Mariola Álvarez