Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ciudad Vieja and San Juan Alotenango

Photos by galasdeguatemala.com, used with authorization. 
Heading south west from Antigua Guatemala, the closest town is Ciudad Vieja, name that literally means Old City and was the second capital of the Reign of Guatemala. As in most of the towns in Guatemala, the main festivities are related with the celebrations honoring the saint patron, and in Ciudad Vieja, the saint patron is Our Lady of the Conception. The photo above, is actually the first cathedral built in Guatemala and as you can see, an image of the Virgin dominates the facade.
The day dedicated to the Virgin is December 8; however, the celebration on December 7 is bright, colorful, meaningful... That is the day to scare away the bad spirits so that Our Lady of Conception may become pregnant in an absolutely safe and clean environment. 
A few kilometers from Ciudad Vieja, we will visit San Juan Alotenango, which according to the Popol Vuh, the Mayas Sacred Book, was called "Vucuc caquix", Kakchiquel voice that means Seven Macaws. Probably there were lots of scarlet macaws in that region, unfortunately, not any more.
The saint patron of San Juan Alotenango is Saint John the Baptist; however, in this town, it is also very important the Day of Our Lady of Conception, and the celebration includes folkloric dances, among others: Moorish and Christians, the 24 Devils Legion, el Torito (the little bull, which actually is a wire frame covered with fire works and worn by a dancer), and the Conquest.
In the Guatemalan culture, the Conquest dance is important because it represents the battle between Pedro de Alvarado and the national heroe, Tecun Uman -who died in that encounter; this event has been used to entertain and also to educate the population.
Before finishing this post, I just want to mention that La Reunion Antigua, one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country, it is located in San Juan Alotenango. The place is surrounded by wide areas of an ecological reserve, with impressive views of the volcanoes and the south coast.
This town, just as many others throughout the country, has become part of the global world and, despite its efforts to maintain its customs, costumes, culture, and traditions, the modernity has knocked and entered through its doors. Not withstanding this fact, I am proud to see that Guatemala's traditions and its historical heritage are alive!

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