The original core of Guatemala City, dating to its foundation, is composed of 1a to 17 Calle and 1a to 12 Avenida, known today as the Centro Histórico. Most of the architecture is neoclassical, a sharp departure from the baroque architecture found in the previous capital of Antigua Guatemala.
Few of the original buildings remain, having largely been destroyed by earthquakes in 1917 and 1976 or modified with the passing of time. Yet some excellent examples of the original architecture can still be found and there is an ongoing campaign to restore several historic buildings in the downtown core.
This program, known as RenaCENTRO, is a collaboration between several entities, including the local municipality, INGUAT, the private sector, and Argentinean, Spanish, and French cooperation.
Guatemala City was once nicknamed “The Silver Teacup” for its urban Spanish Renaissance design and architecture, including elegant theaters, large colonial mansions, broad avenues, imposing churches, and charming side streets.
Although its aesthetics are badly deteriorated, they are not beyond rescue and this is precisely RenaCENTRO’s mission via a multifaceted, holistic approach to restoring the grandeur of Guatemala’s colonial-era capital. The restoration inexorably hinges upon local economic reactivation. Things are starting to come around, as evidenced by the numerous new cafés opening on downtown streets.
Given Guatemala’s huge tourism potential, it seems only fitting that its capital would become a welcome stop along the visitor’s path, though this is still an ongoing process.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com