Guatemala City Founded - History

Guatemala City Founded - History


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The Spanish found Guatemala City. They created the Spanish capitaincy general of Guatemala. It comprised present day Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

In 1523 a group of Spanish conquistadores led by Pedro de Alvarado swept into what is now northern Guatemala, where they came face to face with the descendants of the once-proud Maya Empire. After defeating the mighty K’iche kingdom, Alvarado was named Governor of the new lands. He set up his first capital in the ruined city of Iximché, home of his Kaqchikel allies. When he betrayed and enslaved the Kaqchikel, they turned on him and he was forced to relocate to a safer area: he chose the lush Almolonga Valley nearby.

The previous city had been founded on July 25, 1524, a day dedicated to St. James. Alvarado thus named it “Ciudad de los Caballeros de Santiago de Guatemala,” or “City of the Knights of St. James of Guatemala.” The name moved with the city and Alvarado and his men set up what essentially amounted to their own mini-kingdom. In July of 1541, Alvarado was killed in battle in Mexico: his wife, Beatriz de la Cueva, took over as Governor. On the unlucky date of September 11, 1541, however, a mudslide destroyed the city, killing many, including Beatriz. It was decided to move the city once again.


Walt Disney Company is founded

On October 16, 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy found the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood, California. The studio, now known as the Walt Disney Company, has had an oversized impact on the entertainment industry and is now one of the largest media companies in the world.

A talented artist from a young age, Walt Disney drew cartoons for various publications and became interested in cel animation while working for the Kansas City Film Ad Company. After his Laugh-O-Gram Studio went bankrupt in 1923, Walt moved to Los Angeles, where Roy was recovering from tuberculosis. While there, he finally sold a short film produced by Laugh-O-Gram, Alice’s Wonderland, and signed a contract to make six more such films. In order to produce the series, the brothers founded their company and persuaded both Virginia Davis, who played Alice, and their collaborator Ub Iwerks to join them in Hollywood.

After the success of the Alice Comedies and a series based on a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney began work on his most famous creation. With the 1928 release of Steamboat Willie, the world was introduced to Mickey Mouse. The character would go on to become one of, if not the most recognizable cartoons in history.

The popularity of the Mickey Mouse shorts convinced Disney his studio could produce a feature film, which he began to do in 1934. The project, which some dubbed 𠇍isney’s Folly,” went 400 percent over budget and required over 300 animators, artists, and assistants, but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a smash hit when it debuted just before Christmas 1937.


The People of Guatemala

Type of Government: constitutional democratic republic

Languages Spoken: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National Holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Nationality: Guatemalan(s)

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs

National Symbol: quetzal (bird)

National Anthem or Song: Himno Nacional de Guatemala (National Anthem of Guatemala)


Guatemala Facts

From its forty-percent indigenous Mayan population to its incomparable physical beauty, Guatemala is an incredible place. Here's a selection of interesting facts about Guatemala.

Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala, and at 3.7 million people in the metro area, the largest city in all of Central America.

Obsidian projectile points are the earliest evidence of human inhabitants in Guatemala, dating as far back as 18,000 BC.

Antigua Guatemala, one of Guatemala's greatest tourist attractions, was founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1543 as Guatemala's third capital city. Back then, it was called La Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala”, or “The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago of the Knights of Guatemala”.

Guatemala boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Antigua Guatemala, the Mayan ruins of Tikal, and the ruins of Quiriguá.

More than half of Guatemala's citizens are under the country's poverty line. Fourteen percent live on under $1.25 US per day.

Antigua Guatemala is famed for its elaborate Semana Santa celebrations during Easter's Holy Week. Most notable are the week's costumed religious processions to commemorate the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The processions march along brilliantly colored sawdust carpets, called "alfombras", that decorate Antigua's streets.

While Guatemala is no longer at war, the country's civil war in the late 20th century lasts 36 years.

The median age in Guatemala is 20 years, which is the lowest median age in the Western Hemisphere.

At 13,845 feet (4,220 meters) the Guatemala volcano Tajumulco is the highest mountain not only in Guatemala, but also in all of Central America. Hikers can climb to the summit on a two-day trek, typically leaving from Quetzaltenango (Xela).

Mayans in Guatemala were some of the very first to enjoy one of today's favorite treats: chocolate! Chocolate residue was found in a vessel at the Mayan site of Rio Azul, dating back to 460 to 480 AD. However, Mayan chocolate was a bitter, frothy drink, nothing like the sweet, creamy variety of modern times.

Guatemala and Belize never formally agreed upon the border between the two countries in fact, Guatemala still (passively) claims part of Belize as its own, though the rest of the world recognizes the established Belize-Guatemala border. Negotiations are still underway via the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The national flag of Guatemala includes a coat of arms (complete with quetzal) and blue stripes on either side, representing the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Guatemala has the second-highest concentration of ozone in the world, according to The Economist World in 2007.

Approximately 59 percent of Guatemala's population is Mestizo or Ladino: mixed Amerindian and European (usually Spanish). Forty percent of the country is indigenous, including K'iche', Kaqchikel, Mam, Q'eqchi and "other Mayan".

Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken by the indigenous people of Guatemala, as well as two dialects: Xinca and Garifuna (spoken on the Caribbean coast).

Around 60 percent of Guatemala's population is Catholic.

The Resplendent Quetzal – a brilliantly green and red bird with a long tail – is the national bird of Guatemala and one of the country's most celebrated inhabitants, so much that Guatemala's currency is named after the quetzal. Quetzals are hard to spot in the wild, but it's possible in certain locations with good guides. For a long time it was said the quetzal couldn't live or breed in captivity it often killed itself soon after being captured. According to a Mayan legend, the quetzal used to sing beautifully before the Spaniards conquered Guatemala, and it will only sing again when the country is entirely free.

The name "Guatemala" means "land of trees" in the Mayan-Toltec language.

A scene from the original Star Wars movie was filmed in Tikal National Park, representing the planet Yavin 4.


Spread over a valley in the south of the country, Guatemala City covers 267 square miles of land. That’s approximately 1.5 times as much as Greater Manchester.

It might seem like a familiar system in cities, but in Guatemala City some of them are missing. Zones 20, 22 and 23 do not exist, due to the fact that they would have encroached on the territory of other municipalities.


Guatemala City: History

Topics include Dining Scene, Guatemala: For Foreign Visitors & more!

In the ancient Mayan era, modern-day Guatemala City (“Land of Trees” + City) had the name Kaminal Juyu and was a leading commercial center, thriving economically and, as a result, politically. Flourishing centuries came to a close with the opening of the area to Spanish invaders, the first being Cortes in the 1520’s.

Guatemala had a multitude of capitals prior to its current one—the previous selections having suffered nature’s wrath in the form of mudslides or earthquakes. In the nineteenth century, Guatemala City became the capital and underwent a minor period of revitalization, though it still lags behind Antigua in tourist attraction to this day. The city’s University was built mid-century and the population spiked into the ten thousands around this time.

At the close of the 1800’s, towers, botanical gardens, new avenues and overall renovated infrastructure brought prosperity to the city…until 1917, when earthquakes demolished everything. Shanty towns housing the unemployed became ubiquitous and the city’s population grew rapidly until 1954-1998, when a civil war displaced residents and destroyed the economy. The 1976 earthquake did not help matters, killing over 20,000 and leaving a million-plus homeless. Two million Guatemalans currently live in horrible poverty—hopefully the future will look up for its residents.


President Jacobo Árbenz was democratically elected in 1944, but his socialist policies attracted the attention of the United States. Historians have shown that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had a hand in the 1954 coup d’etat which brought down the Árbenz government and ushered in a period of military rule. Civil war broke out just six years after the coup.

Civil war raged in Guatemala from 1960 to 1996, and its effects are still felt throughout the country today. It is estimated that 200,000 people were killed during the 36-year conflict, making it the longest in Latin American history.


Yax Mutal

Hieroglyphic records found at the site suggest it was seen as the seat of power for the Mayan ruler, Yax Ehb Xook, who ruled much of the surrounding lowland region at the time. The city thus took the name Yax Mutal in his honor.

By the early third century A.D., the leader Chak Tok Ich�k ruled Yax Mutal he is believed to have ordered construction of the palace that eventually formed the foundation of the city’s Central Acropolis, the remains of which are still standing today.

The next 300 or so years marked a period of near-constant warfare for the city and its occupants.

By the start of the fifth century A.D., the city’s rulers commissioned construction of an elaborate system of fortifications, including ditches and earthworks, along the northern periphery of the city, which joined with natural swampland defenses to the south, east and west to effectively form a protective wall around the city.

The fortifications protected the city center as well as its agricultural areas—in all, a total of more than 40 square miles.

Subsequent rulers continued to expand the city well into the eighth century A.D. and, at its peak, Yax Mutal is believed to have had a population as high as 90,000 people.


About Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Quetzaltenango is the second-largest city in Guatemala, with a population of 200,000 people. It is situated near several volcanoes in the heart of the Sierra Madres, 200 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Quetzaltenango’s altitude of 2,333 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level ensures warm days, cool nights, and no mosquitoes.

The name Xelajú originates from the indigenous name for Quetzaltenango: “Xe laju’ noj” which means “under 10 mountains”.

The city of Quetzaltenango was officially founded by the Spanish on the 15th of May, 1524, though the name “Quetzaltenango” came from the Mexican indigenous peoples, the Tlaxcaltecas, who accompanied the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his forces during their invasion of the Guatemalan highlands.

The area quickly became the site of many small towns which formed the city of Quetzaltenango, often called Xelajú or Xela by the local people.

Quetzaltenango is an active city, which does not depend on tourism, nor does it have the high concentrations of language students as do tourist centers such as Cuernavaca, México, Antigua, Guatemala, and Quito, Ecuador.

As a result, students have more opportunities to interact with the local population and participate in Guatemalan life. Xelajú has a rich history and with its six universities and several technical schools, it is often referred to as Guatemala’s cultural center and most progressive city.

There are 35,000 students from all over the country and the city taking classes at universities and high schools. Xelajú has the highest number of elementary, middle, high school, and universities per capita than any other city in the country.

Video # 1 about Quetzaltenango

Some of the most celebrated people in Guatemalan history were originally from Quetzaltenango including Otto René Castillo, who is considered the most influential writer in the country, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, who was overthrown by the CIA in 1954, and Jesús Castillo, the best-known marimba composer in Guatemala and the world.

With a population 50% indigenous and 50% mestizos, the city is an example of how traditionally impoverished indigenous people have obtained economic and political power in Guatemala running small and big businesses. In 1986, Xelajú elected its first indigenous mayor in 150 years.

Within a few kilometers of the city, there are several Mayan towns that are famous for their busy markets and colorful traditional costumes and woven goods.

Around Quetzaltenango, there are many opportunities to learn about Guatemalan culture. Locals make chocolate and tortillas by hand in their shops, and many are happy to show off their abilities and knowledge if asked.

Tourists can find examples of the traditional weaving-styles of the area at local women’s cooperatives in Xela and Zunil, where lessons in traditional back-strap loom weaving are given daily.

Another way to support the local economy is to buy a pound or two of locally grown organic fair-trade coffee or go on a trip to a local indigenous-owned coffee Finca.

The trips to the fincas are a great experience in the outdoors due to Guatemala’s temperate climate, a function of both the latitude and altitude

The city of Quetzaltenango has many museums and theaters. One is the old Court Building and city jail, now the Cultural Center, a museum that includes local wildlife, Mayan history, and the history of the marimba.

The Courthouse, and many of the other buildings which surround Central Park, are in the colonial style of the Spanish invaders.

The historical Teatro Municipal still hosts theatrical presentations, and other theaters and cultural centers around the City Center also host a wide variety of art exhibits, dance expositions, and conferences on topics such as indigenous issues and youth empowerment.


Watch the video: History of Guatemala