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Antigua Guatemala


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Antigua, past and present

While the night slowly covers the image of the Volcán de Agua, the lights from the street lamps start to brighten the city of Santiago de los Caballeros. Grayish tones start coloring the town. The Central Park fountain is already illuminated and the mermaids' breasts start hurling a stream of water.

Calmed couples walk through the plaza and the steps of a couple of salesmen of chachales (small silver objects) seem unnoticed of the tremor that starts shaking the bars a little bit after 9:00 p.m.

Dinner has been fair, but I've kept a hole for a beverage that fortifies my body, and invites me to balance with the salsa instructor in El Afro. It seems untruth, but my Latin blood is not helping with my steps, and I see the foreign tourists moving with more precision and agility on the dance floor. The drums echo starts feeling outside and a group of youngsters enter with rhythm and flavor, while the heat is starting to feel around the dancers in the bar.

After this tumultuous sensation it is better to get out and breathe some fresh air. In spite of the many cars that are parked in the sidewalks, we can notice the calmness reflected by the architecture in Antigua. A few more blocks, the Santa Catarina's arch attracts like a magnet, so why not enter Macondo and have a cold beer while the music, completely different as the one before, carries me years behind and the T.V. screens present Pink Floyd, eternally young in stage.

When we went back, the Central Plaza seems to be the place chosen by those who after one, still insist on staying out all night, and while I am walking back to my hotel the echo of the laughter seems to erase from my memory the stories that tell that on these cobblestone streets sometimes they have heard the sound of chains.

La Antigua step by step

The morning splendor and the Antigua's smoky coffee help me recover my strength. With a map on one hand I am ready to visit the city step by step. For that nothing is better than go straight to the Central Park and then take 6a. Calle Poniente (6th West Street) until you get to the Tank La Unión, were some artisans are starting to arrange its sale posts with colorful guipiles and rustic wood decorations. The washing place is deserted, who knows if it is the coldness of the water or the fear that the image of La Llorona (a Guatemalan legend) still might reflect at the bottom of the water.

The Santa Clara ruins are the first stop of the journey. After paying the Q2.00 of the entrance fee, we catch a glimpse of that ultra-baroque altar piece, designed by Diego de Porres, so magnificent as the temple's portico.

In spite of the importance of the explanation, I am amazed by the image of the canals built in the top of the walls and the complex water recollection system that existed at that time. Our journey continues to San Francisco El Grande, which is ready to receive the visitors with sales of candles, typical sweets and stamps of the miraculous Hermano Pedro.

Before starting my trip through the ruins, I decide to visit Hermano Pedro's grave and pick up a leaf of esquesœchil, a schoot of the tree that he planted initially in El Calvario more than three centuries ago. The ruins of San Francisco allow you to see remains of paintings and plaster carvings, a few of the ones that are still preserved. Its grayish and crackling terraces contrast with the green of the background vegetation, and the dome of Escuela de Cristo can be seen between the branches, a memory that must be kept by our cameras.

When we finished our visit, the Casa de los Gigantes, a huge sale of antiques and handicrafts, invites me to enter the world of images of saints in wood and stone.

Before going to Capuchinas, I get distracted by a conversation between some tourists and a Spanish learning center, discussing about the study plan. While I am walking to my next destination I realize that even though I always enjoy the magic of Antigua, I don't always understand what is happening in this city. Each house is already a commerce, and with audacity and inventiveness, they have implemented lodges, Internet coffee shops, novelty stores, bookshops, Spanish schools, and more. At each step I found a commercial and cultural diversity, which blends with the religiosity of churches and cobblestones that ask for rain to refresh its heating texture.



Claudia Navas