Ya-a-a-y!!! Central America! So much to discover!
We arrived yesterday and don’t plan on spending much time in Guat City as it’s like #12 on the list of “Most Dangerous Cities in the World.” God willing, as long as we stay in the touristy areas, guard our belongs and are aware of our surroundings, it’ll be fine. A young woman researcher living outside Guat City says to stay off our smartphones in public – phone snatchers are watching. Even her locally purchased phone was stolen.
*Tip: If getting quetzales at the airport – walk out the airport door, cross the drive to the parking lot side and take the elevator on the right, up to the third floor location of Banrural. Kiosks inside the airport exchange rate – 6.51. Banrural exchange rate – 7.78!
A taxi picks us up to go to the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura (National Palace of Culture) in the Parque Central. I pull out my camera and start snapping away. The driver glances over his shoulder and quickly tells me to put it down! (Later, I find out that thieves on motorbikes have been known to drive up to a vehicle, point a gun and grab purses and other valuables before making a speedy escape.)
I have to say that when we arrive at the palacio, there are no English speaking guides. We’re told there ARE no English speaking guides. Reading Tripadvisor, many mention English speaking guides. Oh well, I like researching interesting places …
The palace was once known as the most important building in Guatemala as it’s the point from which ALL the roads in the republic originated – amazing! It looks to be centuries old, but was completed in 1943 when Presidente Jorge Ubico was in power. Forced prison labor toiled many years to build the residence. The bricks are green(-ish), Ubico’s wife’s favorite color.
From what I’ve read, this presidente was a totally self-absorbed despot. He had a thing about the number “5.” Wonder if it started when he noticed his first and last names have five letters each. The building has five main pillars, five fountains, arches in fives, there are five stories, etc.
He even had his fingerprint imprinted onto all 500 door handles in the building. Thankfully, in time, he was removed. He later died in exile in New Orleans.
There are many detailed murals depicting various stages of Guatemala’s history. Can it be true that the stair rails are made of spent bullet casings?!?
We walk across the plaza to Catedral Primada Metropolitana de Santiago (First Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago). Building started in the late 1700s, with full completion 86 years later. (I apologize for the poor quality of this photo. I couldn’t get a clear shot in the bright sunshine.)
The Metropolitana is not just another cathedral. It holds immense meaning for Guatemalans.
It has survived three major earthquakes within two centuries and weathered countless events, including a bloody prolonged war, coups, and a revolution.
It houses the country’s oldest icon and its very first pipe organ.
The twelve pillars in front are etched with thousands of names, a heartrending tribute to those who disappeared or were murdered during Guatemala’s brutal 36-year civil war. It is still recovering and will take decades to do so.