Guatemala City (Daytrip to Antigua), Guatemala

Silver and other precious minerals ensured the Spanish had plenty of money to spend on churches in Antigua.

Guatemalan fabric and embroidery

Hammocks for sale at one of the many tourist shops in Antigua

The official school photographer insisted these La Salle graduating seniors turn serious for a photograph, but these young women continued to giggle in excitement.

Graduating seniors from La Merced

Women wear traditional dress at a mass held at La Merced for seniors graduating from La Salle School.

Jim stands next to a beautiful, blooming bougainvillea inside the La Merced convent remains.

Details of the central fountain at La Merced

Nuestra Senora de La Merced (Our Lady of Mercy) is one of the sensational structures in Antigua. Originally built in 1545, but destroyed by an earthquake in 1717, the church opened again in 1767 and later, in 1773, withstood the earthquake as the final architect made the church earthquake-proof.

Jim watches as Marvin presses another orange to concoct fresh juice for US 65 cents.

Marvin, 11 years old, cuts an orange to make juice for Jim.

Small, colorful homes, shops, restaurants and hotels are perched along the cobblestone streets of Antigua.

Also in Plaza Mayor is the Town Hall, still the seat of the city council and, now, also home to two museums.

A cloth holds fabrics to be sold in Plaza Mayor. Each region of the country offers its own fabrics.

Guatemala’s Indians are Mayan, but are divided into 22 ethnic groups with slight differences of dress, culture and, sometimes, language. Here, the girl in red plays jacks, which must be popular in Antigua, as we saw five separate groups of girls playing this old-fashioned game.

Completed in 1680, Catedral de San Jose reigns supreme over the Plaza Mayor in Antigua. The 1773 earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and only two chapels remain today.

During Spain’s reign over Latin America, Antigua – along with Lima and Mexico City – was one of the three most important cities in the Americas. Here, with cobblestone street in view, is one of Antigua’s well-preserved, and colorful, homes.

After the earthquake in 1773, Convento de las Capuchinas was abandoned and not restored until the 1940s, as a cultural site.

Foreigners are charged 15 times what nationals pay at Convento de las Capuchinas. The silver lining is that the convent’s well-kept structures and grounds show reinvestment is taking place.

Tiny bedroom area for one of the Capuchin nuns

Bathing area of Convento de las Capuchinas

Antigua is filled with convents, which tend to be centered around a central fountain and courtyard – of course, near the church.

Visiting Antigua, just a short drive from the capital city, is like stepping back a couple of centuries to the time when the Spanish prevailed over Guatemala. If only the walls could talk inside Convento de las Capuchinas, founded in 1736 by the Capuchin nuns from Madrid.

25 October 2001 – The central area of Antigua is picture-perfect, with a beautiful cathedral in the main plaza, charming café-filled, cobblestone streets, pastel colored homes and enchanting convent ruins, and still-active churches. Exploring Colonial-built Antigua is simply fun and relaxing, due to her slow pace, scores of antique, jade and tourist shops, as well as friendly locals, who greet visitors with a smile, but don't push too hard to sell their ever-present rug, hammock or trinket.

Historically, Antigua is rich, as this was once one of the three great cities in the Americas, along with Lima and Mexico City. Evidence of this is obvious when viewing the ornate and grand architecture cluttering the city center. Too frequent earthquakes, which destroyed many churches and closed convents, led the Spanish to abandon the city, after a horrible shake in 1773, and move the capital to Guatemala City.

  Money not a motivator (Paige)
  Antigua (Jim)