April 06, 2010

OAT Guatemala: La Antigua Guatemala

The city we know as la Antigua de Guatemala was founded on March 10, 1543 and named "Santiago de los Caballeros".  Spain was tempted to move this colonial capital when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake destroyed over 3,000 buildings on September 29, 1717.  After the Santa Marta earthquake struck in 1773 and destroyed most of the city, Spain made the decision to relocate everyone to Guatemala City in 1776.  There are historians who argue that the government destroyed what the earthquakes did not, in an effort to convince reluctant citizens to move to the new seat of government.  Known now as la Antigua (the Old) Guatemala, the city languished until some Spanish Language schools were formed.  Now, learning Spanish is a thriving industry that has attracted many tourists to this quaint city and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our city tour took us past many churches in various stages of restoration.
People still do their laundry (free water) by hand in the center of town
I found the McDonald's garden to be an oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city.  Free computer access and those delicious McCafe capuccinos were a bonus.
We visited the reputable "Casa del Jade" where we were assured that Guatemalan "Jadeite" [pyroxine NaAlSi2O6] is rarer and far superior to Chinese "Nephrite" [actinolite Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2], although both are known to us as "Jade."  .
The textile factory was more touristy than interesting
Market Day in Santa Maria de Jesus was colorful.  The shoe sales were compelling for many but we thought the ducks were adorable. 
 Ivania caught great shots of shoppers.
I attended Elizabeth Bell's "Behind the Walls" lecture in the evening while others enjoyed a folkloric show and dinner.

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