Guatemala City is technically the fourth location of the capital of Guatemala. After multiple, devastating earthquakes in the 1700s in Antigua, the people of Guatemala up and moved to the current location of Guatemala City. Since it is a good hour without traffic (and up to three with traffic) all of my trips into the city have been instigated by NPH and always work related. This past week when my mom came into town, I decided to book a tour of the city and a nice hotel. We stayed at a lovely place with a spa and pool and went on what turned out to be a private tour with a local guide last Saturday.
We learned about the arrival of the Spanish, who asked the Guatemalan people to show them their valuables. So the people brought out their children and showed them to the invaders. Rather than gold, jade was the precious stone worn and traded in these parts. The Spaniards failed to find gold but they did find silver. You can still see silver covering the altars in the churches.
The word Mayan, we were told, means "I don't know." The guide said that when the Spaniards came and asked the natives what their names was, they answered "I don't know' because they didn't know what they were saying. The guide also showed us the Mayan arches and other parts of the church that reflected the Mayan culture.
We also were blessed to venerate a relic of Mother Teresa of Calcutta while we were at the Cathedral.
Interestingly enough, the beautiful altars from La Merced in Antigua were moved over the course of three years to the new church of La Merced in Guatemala City. It was neat to see the same church layout and ceilings in the city. The altars are gorgeous...I can see why the people wanted to take them with them.
The story behind this private little Catholic Church is simple but sweet. A man wanted to marry a woman and she said she would only marry him if he built a church for them to marry in. He started construction and a year later they married. The church was finished sixteen years after that.
The history of Guatemala itself is interesting when you've been living here. The architecture and culture of the city has been influenced by the Spanish of course but there is also a large French and German presence. The City square is lovely. We went into the cathedral and around the Palacio National. We climbed above the city and looked out at the mountains and volcanoes and then we ended up in Cayala where a cute, pseudo-european city exists.
I am glad I spent a little time seeing the city and my mom, history major, loved all the information. There are other things I'd like to make it back for before I salir: namely a professional soccer game and to hear the Guatemalan Symphony Orchestra. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to find a way in the next four months?