Today was centered around taking in the history and culture of Antigua. After yet another delicious breakfast prepared by Monica we set out to hike Cerro de la Cruz, a large cross on the mountaintop overlooking the valley below and both Volcan Agua and Volcan Fuego (Volcano of water and fire). The view was truly breathtaking and provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on our time in Guatemala thus far. Our reflection begged the questions: Why is this beautiful city such a hidden gem? And why aren't more tourists climbing over one another to visit?
Pull up your leather chair and grab your pipe, it's time for a history lesson. First, let's talk about Antigua. The city itself, formerly called Santiago de los Cabilleros began in the 16th century as the capitol of Guatemala. Due to a massive eruption from El Volcan de Agua (the volcano of water) the city completely flooded, forcing the surviving inhabitants to rebuild. And as if a flood wiping out most of the population was not enough, a destructive earthquake in the late 18th century finally convinced the Guatemalan government to relocate the capital to Guatemala City. Due to the two natural disasters, the city of Santiago remained largely uninhabited for many years until it became known as a national historic center. Since then, the city has been renamed "Antigua", which loosely translates to "traditional", and continues to earn it's new name through it's historical architecture and religious ceremonies. This culture loves its fireworks. To date, Antigua has transitioned into a must-see for tourists from countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, Holland, Israel, Sweden, Australia, etc. Besides its picturesque views and amazing climate, Antigua is most known for its many language schools, as mentioned in an earlier post. The city is not only one of the cleanest in Guatemala but also the safest which to us is important when visiting a potential program site. That being said, no matter how beautiful a city may be, to better understand any country you must first understand it's people- their past, present and future.
We have been fortunate to live amongst the hard-working, friendly locals here in Antigua and in just three days we have a better understanding of the family and culturally driven life they lead. It truly helps us to gain perspective of our own priorities. The Guatemalan people of this region prioritize in this order: God, family and then work. What is our American culture known for? What order are our priorities? And to dig deeper, what are your personal priorities, and are they in the "right" order?
Now, we turn in our leather chair and pipe for some steel drums and reggae music because we are off to the Caribbean side of Guatemala. Tomorrow we pick up our other Director Blaire, overnight in Guatemala City and then head to Livingston where we will get to immerse in a different region of this great country while spending some time with the children of Manas Amigas'.