Monday, February 8, 2010

The Historic Center

The place to start a sightseeing tour through the historic center of Guatemala City must be the Constitution Square (officially: Plaza Mayor de la Constitución), which has also been called Central Park, since it is in the heart of Zone 1, the city downtown.
This Plaza is always a center of activity, but especially so on Sundays when hundreds of local residents gather there to stroll, gossip, buy, sell, dance, sing, neck, preach and play. Most of the Plaza is an open paved area, suitable for parades, concerts, public manifestations, among others. There are also splashing fountains where children play and quieter shaded areas, where young lovers seem to occupy every bench. Underground, there is an ample and secure parking lot. The fountain in the center was designed by the sculptor Rodolfo Galeotti Torres and erected in the park in 1943.
Surrounding the Constitution Square, we will see some other important landmarks of the city. By the way, all the images are direct links to galasdeguatemala.com for you to enjoy more of the beautiful photos by Maynor Mijangos.
The Culture National Palace, built between 1939 and 1943 to be the National Palace or house of the government, was declared Historic, Cultural and Artistic Patrimony of Guatemala in November, 1980 and it is now open to the public as a museum, an art gallery for a permanent and temporary exhibits. The ball room and other big areas within the palace are used now to celebrate official ceremonies, like the signing of Guatemala's historic Peace Accords, held on December 28, 1986.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is an imposing twin towered structure. It stands 300 feet long and 100 feet wide on the east side of the Constitution Square. It was designed by the Spanish architect Marcos Ibáñez and built in the neoclassical style with completion in 1815. The cathedral has survived three major earthquakes: 1830, 1917, and 1976. Here you will appreciate the image of the Virgen del Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), the oldest catholic image in Guatemala, brought by Hernán Cortés in 1522.
The Centennial Park, built in 1921 as a national monument to conmemorate the first centennial of the independence in 1821, in the same lot where once was the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales de la Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (literally: Palace of the General Captains of the New Guatemala of the Assumption). This park is now scenario for popular concerts and other performing arts presentations.
In the south side of the Constitution Square is a beautiful  colonial structure known as El Portal del Comercio (literally: commerce portal) built in 1788 and since then, used for commercial purposes. I do not have a photo to share with you; however, once in the Constitution Square, you will be able to see it across the street.

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