This striking baroque building houses the ongoing work of Santo Hermano Pedro which is to provide medical attention to the poor. Their mission statement (from their website) reads:
"To offer with love and charity, a high level of attention to the people of low income, patients needing surgery, those needing basic preventive service and health specialization, food, clothing, education, both moral and spiritual, in coordination with volunteers from both national and foreign organization."
As it is still a functioning facility there isn't much to see although you might ask if you can explore the inside grounds. Otherwise you can just admire the exterior architecture which is quite stunning.
Casa Popenoe is a beautiful example of a 17th century Antigueno home. It has been restored and many of the items owned by Don Luis de las Infantas Mendoza, who built it in 1636, have been placed in the rooms. Damaged badly by the earthquake of 1773, restoration efforts were not undertaken until 1929 after it was purchased by Americans William and Dorothy Popenoe who spared no expense or patience to restore the home to its orginal splendor. The home is still owned by the family and members still come here to live during parts of the year.
Of special interest are the music room with many antique instruments, the kitchen which includes antique Antiguan ceramics, and the pigeon house on the roof. They also have their own laundry sinks, similar to the ones in the Plaza de la Union outside the Iglesia de Santa Clara. The grounds are well maintained and beautifully landscaped. Be sure to ask for a guide who can better explain the significance of some of the items in the home and the history of the families.
Built in 1558, the Palacio de los Capitanes dominates the landscape on the soutside of the Parque Central, taking up the entire block on the south side of 5a Calle Poniente. From the time of its inception it was the Spanish governmental seat of a large portion of Central America until 1773 when it was damaged in the earthquake.
Today the Palacio houses the offices of Inguat, the Guatemalan tourist authority, the national police, and the seat of the department of Sacatepequez.
Located on the southwest corner of town, the cemeterio is an interested look into Guatemalan culture. Many families have crypts that are ornately decorated and have the family surname prominently displayed. All of these individual structures are painted white, including the main church within the cemetery walls. Many have interesting sculptures and other ornamentation. Towards the southwest corner is a series of walls within which those families who cannot afford their own crypts can place their dead. Wallplates identify the deceased and many of these include interesting designs and decorations. Families pay an annual rent to house bodies in the walls. Failure to pay the rent results in removal of the body and a vacancy for another “renter”.
We were escorted around the cemetery by one of the groundskeepers who gave us an impromptu tour explaining the details of the cemetery including showing us a burlap bag with the remains of an “evicted renter”. Nice… There have been cases of muggings within the cemetery so you can either request an escort at the tourism office (Palacio de Ayuntamiento on the Parque Central) or at the main office of the cemetery immediately to the right as you enter the grounds.
There are two daily excursions going up the volcano, one of the three active volcanoes in the country... one leaves in the morning, the other one in the afternoon.
If you're in Guatemala during the rainy season, everybody's gonna suggest you to go in the morning... don't do it! Yes, it's true... most of the time rains in the evening, but don't forget this isn't just another volcano... you wanna climb it because of the lava, and if you are up there at 5, 6 or 7 PM ... you'll love it!!
If you're spending a few hours, a day or just going through Antigua ... don't miss the main square, and especially the Palacio de los Capitanes (across the street).
There are some more ruins around town, but that palace is beautiful!
Even though is nothing that great, the Arco de Santa Catalina (on 5a Av Norte) is worth a picture!
The best time to visit Antigua is during Cuaresma (Lent) and Semana Santa (Holy Week). Roman Catholic and ancient Mayan traditions have mixed to create an incredible spectacle during these times. Thousands of people dress in purple robes and process through the streets over long elaborately designed rugs made out of colored sawdust or flowers, called alfombras. Leading the processions are scores of men swinging smoky silver bowls on chains that fill the streets with a shocking amount of scented smoke. Behind them follows a hundred heavily burdened devotees carrying a massive cross that is as long as a city bus and weights over 7,000lbs. They rock back and forth slowly moving forward like an immense and bizarre centipede to the beat of the band that plays funerary marches behind. A biblical scene of Christ’s Crucifixion is laid out above on the cross for all to see and is even lit at night to display Jesus with an array of dazzling special effects. The processions begin after the completion of mass and last about 12 hours. During our two weeks in Antigua we must have seen at least ten processions. Occasionally there are two going on at the same time making traffic a serious problem. On Good Friday, or Viernes Santos (en Español), the streets were completely mobbed with people. The atmosphere felt more like the party and celebration of Carnival instead the somber mood of those absorbed in quiet self-reflection over the death of their god. Vendors of balloons, cotton candy, ice-cream, and toys followed the processions through the streets. Restaurants were making a killing with their tables packed and people overflowing into the street. The beer and liquor flowed profusely.
The little baby in the picture below was sleeping under his Mom's table at the market of Carmen . She took him to work with her and he had a sleep while she worked.
The little boy in the colourful dress was singing in a street band with his family.
It's important here as it is anywhere to ask permission to photograph children.
When we tired of walking to and around the ruins we loved to take a break and sit on a bench in the Plaza Mayor just to people watch . There is always a hodgepog of passerbys crisscrossing the plaza. We saw hardworking women carrying their babies on there backs and good on their heads. There are venders with food stalls set up for the day, and old men having a coffee break and a chat.
Part of the fun in visiting Antigua is the markets. There's areally good one called Carmen Market. There are so many wonderful things and for such a deal!! On Sunday . The market spreads out to the street and venders compete for your dollars.
We had a hard time with ATM's so we were pleased that some of the venders took VISA!! it's easier to barter with cash though.
Not much lefft of what must have been a beautiful cathedral. Built in 1680 , this was once the main house of worship. Today after the eartquake of 1780 all that is left is a wonderful ruin . As with other churches in Latin America the cross and alter that remain face the east and the Holy land.
AS we roamed in the evenings around Antigua to the markets or a restaurant we often stopped to here some local street musicians . They dress in colorful typical dress of the indigenous people. The group of young children in the pictures were there every evening working long hours with their Dad. For the few Q we gave them we were rewarded with the most beautiful smile!
Lots of people criss cross through this plaza. We arrived here first in search of a bank , there are many surrounding the square. The colonial architecture is gorgeous all around the plaza . It's a good plce to stop and spend some time people watching.
I'm sure everyone who has ever come to Antigua would have a picture of this beautiful historic arch. There is a spectacular view of the volcano on the other side. The trick is to come early to get a picture without the tourists.
This beautiful yellow arch is all that's remaining of what was the Convent of St Catherine.
The nuns who lived here were isolated from the outside world. They depended on donations for there exsistence. Looking at the tiny rooms where they stayed , I wondered what unknown life they might have fled to come here and how many died in these tiny cells.
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