Antigua Ruins : La Recolección

Monasterio Y Templo De La Recolección was built in the early 1700s and severely damaged by several earthquakes since it’s construction. It costs international tourists $5 (40 Quetzales) to enter the grounds and will take most people about an hour to walk around the grounds. Students receive a discount and will only need to pay 20 Quetzales or roughly $2.50 USD. The ruins are located very close to the bus station in town and not much farther away from the main market as well.

It feels a bit odd walking around the ruins as there are several tons of rubble and masonry still lying around in the church. Somehow it seems like the earthquake could have destroyed the church just days ago even though it has been several years. I would recommend visiting La Recoleccion ruins for this odd feeling alone.

Take a look around for yourself…

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WHDIGH Series: “I Did Not Know That” — History Of La Antigua Guatemala

Once again I reveal to you how much I didn’t know before I traveled and hopefully how much I’ve learned in the process of traveling, usually without really even trying. That’s right, it’s time for some learnin’. Once again, WHDIGH.COM shouts out…

Last time I DID NOT KNOW THAT Mexico City was built on top of a giant lake and because of that fact the giant metropolis is now sinking! This installment of the Well, How Did I Get Here? Series : I Did Not Know That features a summarized history of Antigua, or La Antigua Guatemala. At one time Antigua, Guatemala was the capital of almost all of Central America and also of the Chiapas region of southern Mexico. The history of Antigua has been dramatically influenced by the history of other cities within Guatemala. Due to changing circumstances the capital of the Spanish colony of Guatemala has changed several times. The final relocation of the capital is a fundamental reason why Antigua is the way it is today.

In 1524 the Spanish conquistadors established the first capital of the Spanish colony in Iximche. In November of 1527 the capital was moved to the Valley of Almolonga after several uprisings by the Cakchiquel Mayans. Today this is the location of the city named Ciudad Vieja. This capital city was destroyed by a devastating mud flow from Volcan de Agua on September 11, 1541. After the destruction the capital was moved once again, this time five miles away to the Valley of Panchoy where modern-day Antigua sits.

Volcan de Agua looming behind a street in Antigua, it was a mudslide from this volcano that destroyed the 2nd capital of Guatemala and prompted the relocation of the capital to Antigua

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Antigua House Party

A few weeks back all of the guests living here at Itzamna Spanish School in Antigua decided to put together a farewell house party for two people who were leaving. Everyone chipped in some money and we feasted on a delicious home made meal including grilled chicken. We brought out the stereo and sang and danced the night away. It was a lot of fun and a great way to send off some friends.

the party spread

grilled chicken

In addition to being fun, a house party is a fun way to stretch out your travel funds. Going out for a night can oftentimes put a serious dent in your travel funds. So save a little cash and bring the night in ,especially if you enjoy the company of the people around you.

Antigua Ruins : Church and Convent Of Santa Clara

Only three blocks from where I currently reside are the ruins of the Santa Clara Church and Convent. The entrance fee is 40 Quetzales for foreign visitors and slightly less for students. The original temple and convent was built in 1705. This version was completed in 1734 but has been damaged severely by earthquakes since its construction. The grounds are pleasant to walk around and to imagine what it must have been like to live here in the past. Particularly impressive are the arches surrounding the central courtyard and fountain. The ruins are located at the corner of 6th Street East and 2nd Avenue South, only three blocks from Parque Central. Be sure to watch the video slideshow at the bottom of the page to see more of the ruins.

exterior entrance for parishioners to the temple

parishioners entrance to the temple

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Antigua Ruins : San Jose el Viejo

This ruin is only a few blocks away from where I am living. I saw it the first week I was in Antigua and I was immediately drawn to it. San Jose el Viejo is now a Spanish school. When I see this place I can’t help but think of my grandfather. He worked for decades at a brickyard. I wonder if any of those bricks made it into a building like San Jose el Viejo.

After the church was originally constructed Phillip V ordered it closed. Later the church was allowed to reopen with royal permission. San Jose el Viejo was severely damaged by a major earthquake in 1773 but has been restored. The ruins are located on 5th Avenue South and 8th Street West. Today the ruins are used for special events such as weddings and graduations.

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How ya living? – Antigua Edition

As I end my fourth month of travel and prepare to begin my fifth straight month of being away from home maybe some of you are wondering how I manage to do it. How can I travel for so long? Or more generically, how ya living?

I think I could answer this question in one word really. Are you surprised? Surely it can’t be that simple. Okay, in some ways I’ll admit it is not, but in the most important way it really is. And what is that one word answer? I’ll get to that later. For now, let’s take a look at how I am living. Do I sleep in the streets under cardboard? Do I eat beans and rice for every meal? Do I walk everywhere I go? The answer to theses questions is a firm NO.

First off, lets look at where I live and how much I pay for it. Currently, I am staying at the Itzamna Spanish School here in Antigua, Guatemala. I’ve stayed in three different rooms here in over two months here. The first month I stayed here I was in probably the nicest room here for exactly 2000 Quetzals per month, or about $270.00 US Dollars. This was a private room with a queen sized bed and private bathroom including a hot water shower. I switched to a different room for a week or two and then to a different room where I am staying now. The room I am in now costs 1500 Quetzals per month, or about $200.00 US Dollars per month. To put that in more easily understood terms, I pay under $7.00 US Dollars per day for my room. In this cheaper room I don’t have my own bathroom. I share three bathrooms down the hallway with 5 other people living here. Two of these bathrooms have hot water showers.

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Iconic Antigua

Walking around Antigua is like exploring a living museum to colonial charm. Of course there are a few buildings that stand out from the rest, iconic landmarks. Many of these landmarks are all in one place, Parque Central. Outside of the central park and plaza there are also beautiful buildings scattered about the city.

One landmark would be El Tanque La Union. Every day you can see Mayan women washing their clothes here. In their village there is a problem with the water supply so they come here to do their washing. At night, young couples come here to spend time together.

El Tanque La Union

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Cerro De La Cruz

On the northeast side of Antigua sits Cerro de la Cruz, or Hill of the Cross. It’s a steep 15-20 minute walk up the hill on a paved walkway with stairs. I walked up the hill with my Spanish teacher one day around 3pm and noticed a tourist police officer stationed at the bottom of the hill. It is not recommended to walk up here on your own as the hill was known for muggings. The tourist police of Antigua was formed because of the muggings here. Supposedly since the forming of the tourist police no tourist muggings have occurred here.

Once you reach the Cross you have a panoramic view of the city and also of Volcan Agua to the south of Antigua.

the view from the hill of Antigua with Volcan Agua in the distance

Alfombras, Alfombras, and more Alfombras

During Lent here in Antigua, Guatemala there are a lot of street Processions. Before the Processions begin, local families and businesses create an alfombra, which is Spanish for the word carpet. These “carpets” are placed in the middle of the cobblestone streets to soon be trampled by the oncoming Processions. These Alfombras are made from differing materials such as flowers, dyed sawdust, pine needles, fruits, vegetables and more. The life of an alfombra is usually a short one, for some as little as an hour or two. Nonetheless, for such a short existence they make quite an impression…

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Antigua Easter Parades

The grandest holiday in Guatemala is Easter and the week preceeding Easter, Semana Santa. Hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the colonial town of Antigua to be a part of the festivities. A primary feature of the festivities are the Processions in the streets. The parades actually take place every weekend for the five weeks leading up to Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The climax of the celebration would be Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday. During Semana Santa the whole of Antigua is packed but especially on Thursday and Friday.

Hours before the parade people prepare alfombras, or carpets, in the middle of the streets. These “carpets” line the path of the Procession. They are made of pine needles, dyed sawdust and other organic materials such as flowers, fruits and vegetables. The alfombras are usually made by an extended family or local businesses. Some take several people and hours of work to complete. The existence of an alfombra is a short one as hours after their completion they are trampled over by the Procession. As the parade draws near people line the sides of the streets staking out their spot.