Antigua Travel Blog› entry 13 of 21 › view all entries
The next day we left Panajachel for Antigua, by far the most beautiful city and the old capital of Guatemala. La Antigua Guatemala means the "Old Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Tecpan (which we also visited, it is now a village of a few houses), in 1524 and named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros. St. James became the patron saint of the city. After several earthquakes, the capital was moved to a more suitable site in the Valley of Almolonga in 1527, and kept its original name. When this city, now named Ciudad Viejo, was destroyed in 1541 by a devastating mudflow, the colonial authorities decided to move once more, this time to the Valley of Panchoy.
In 1773, a series of earthquakes destroyed much of the town, which led to the third change in location for the city. The Spanish ordered (1776) the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Ascension) and its patron saint is Our Lady of Ascension.
We visited a city tour the next day. The results of the earth quake of 200 years ago are still visable. Some old, destroyed buildings, where the big walls are still standing, are showing how great this city must have been when it was Guatemalas capital. But perhaps, it is good that the remains are still there. The current capital, Guatemala city, is ugly and dangerous, not worth while visiting. Antigua still has the breathing of a Spanish colonial city, not overcrowded, and beautiful.
Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de (Volcano of Water). When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú. However, it became known as Volcán de Agua after a mudslide from the volcano buried the second site of the capital a village now known as Ciudad Viejo (the Old City). This prompted the Spanish authorities to move the capital to present-day Antigua. To the west of the city are a pair of peaks of Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, and the Vulcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire". The Vulcán of Fire is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level.