We were all together again as the seven returned in the van to join Jeanne, Bob, and me in Guatemala City. We did spend part of a day ‘seeing the sights’ before leaving that city, the least favorite on our trip.
Across the plaza was the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, built in 1936. It was an interesting building, which we toured. One could easily spot the damage that had been done to it in the political uprisings that had taken place recently. Some interesting art deco windows had pieces missing—I hope they will be restored.
The Yurrita Church was our next stop—a fantasy church like no other Latin American church that we’ve seen. It was built by the Yurrita family in 1929, somewhat resembling the Gaudi works in Barcelona, Spain. Alan made a ‘pal’ of one of the statues on the grounds.
We decided to have lunch before leaving town, which we did at a small outdoor restaurant with woven straw ‘umbrellas’ and much Guatemalan décor. While we were eating, a small Topo-Gigo-like mouse (with the big ears) came out on the tile floor and sat next to our tables, surveying us while we surveyed him. Cindy, on her first trip to Latin America, had her legs up under her on her chair pronto, as the mouse certainly seemed friendly! No one in the restaurant payed any attention to him—they just went about their waitressing duties, ignoring our pointings and starings!
On to Antigua. This city had been founded in 1543 as the capital of Guatemala and during the 1600’s and 1700’s had been embellished with 38 beautiful churches. It had been damaged from time to time by earthquakes, but the BIG one hit in 1773, causing the capital to be moved to Guatemala City. It lay dormant for awhile, but then began being built up again with some restoration of some churches, until the present day when it is again a beautiful city. Still, there are many ruined churches throughout the city.
The cathedral, a pretty building, has been earthquake wrecked and damaged on many occasions, but now presents a beautiful anchor for the lovely Parque Central. Also on the Parque Central is the Palacio de los Capitanes, the government center dating from 1558. Originally this building was the seat of government for all of Central America from Chiapas in Mexico to Costa Rica until 1773.
On the north side of the Parque Central is the site of the Palacio del Ayuntamiento, or City Hall built in 1743.
Other churches and stately buildings such as the Universidad de San Carlos were nearby and evoked times gone by—so pretty in the lovely sunshine. Once again we found an atmospheric hotel with a pretty fountained courtyard for us to stay in. Next door we breakfasted with especially good coffee, raised in Guatemala for our enjoyment!
Soon enough we were on our way back toward the border. The Guatemalan countryside looks very different from Mexico. One can tell when you’re in one or the other. The farming patches are more organized and neater; and one is never very far from volcanic mountains. On the highway going through small villages, we saw that many Guatemalans wore traditional, colorful clothing as we had seen in Chichicastenango. Apparently this clothing is worn for ‘every day’ and not just fiestas.
On one occasion we encountered the coffin builders, bringing their wares to market.
Observing the people going about their daily lives as we drove back toward the Mexican border was a highlight of our trip. And, of course, having so much family to share it in our van was special, too. We are headed for a stop in Oaxaca, Mexico.