1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guatemala la Nueva

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19836261911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Guatemala la Nueva

GUATEMALA, or Guatemala la Nueva (i.e. “New Guatemala,” sometimes written Nueva Guatemala, and formerly Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala), the capital of the republic of Guatemala, and until 1821 of the Spanish captaincy-general of Guatemala, which comprised Chiapas in Mexico and all Central America except Panama. Pop. (1905) about 97,000. Guatemala is built more than 5000 ft. above sea-level, in a wide table-land traversed by the Rio de las Vacas, or Cow River, so called from the cattle introduced here by Spanish colonists in the 16th century. Deep ravines mark the edge of the table-land, and beyond it lofty mountains rise on every side, the highest peaks being on the south, where the volcanic summits of the Sierra Madre exceed 12,000 ft. Guatemala has a station on the transcontinental railway from Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic (190 m. N.E.) to San José on the Pacific (75 m. S. by W.). It is thrice the size of any other city in the republic, and has a corresponding commercial superiority. Its archbishop is the primate of Central America (excluding Panama). Like most Spanish-American towns Guatemala is laid out in wide and regular streets, often planted with avenues of trees, and it has extensive suburbs. The houses, though usually of only one storey, are solidly and comfortably constructed; many of them are surrounded by large gardens and courts. Among the open spaces the chief are the Plaza Mayor, which contains the cathedral, erected in 1730, the archiepiscopal palace, the government buildings, the mint and other public offices; and the more modern Reforma Park and Plaza de la Concordia, now the favourite resorts of the inhabitants. There are many large schools for both sexes, besides hospitals and an orphanage. Many of the principal buildings, such as the military academy, were originally convents. The theatre, founded in 1858, is one of the best in Central America. A museum, founded in 1831, is maintained by the Sociedad Economica, which in various ways has done great service to the city and the country. There are two fortresses, the Castello Matamoros, built by Rafael Carrera (see Guatemala [republic] under History), and the Castello de San José. Water is brought from a distance of about 8 m. by two old aqueducts from the towns of Mixco and Pinula; fuel and provisions are largely supplied by the Pokoman Indians of Mixco. The general prosperity, and to some extent the appearance, of Guatemala have procured it the name of the Paris of Central America. It is lighted by electricity and has a good telephone service. Its trade is chiefly in coffee, but it also possesses cigar factories, wool and cotton factories, breweries, tanneries and other industrial establishments. The foreign trade is chiefly controlled by Germans.

The first city named Guatemala, now called Ciudad Vieja or “Old City,” was founded in 1527 by Pedro de Alvarado, the conqueror of the country, on the banks of the Rio Pensativo, and at the foot of the volcano of Agua (i.e. “Water”). In 1541 it was overwhelmed by a deluge of water from the flooded crater of Agua; and in 1542 Alvarado founded Santiago de los Caballeros la Nueva, now Antigua. This city flourished greatly, and by the middle of the 18th century had become the most populous place in Central America, with 60,000 inhabitants and more than 100 churches and convents. But in 1773 it was ruined by an earthquake. It was rebuilt, and ultimately became capital of the department of Sacatepeques, and a health-resort locally celebrated for its thermal springs. But the Guatemalans determined to found a new capital on the site occupied by the hamlet of Ermita, 27 m. N.E. Here the third and last city of Guatemala was built, and became the seat of government in 1779. The remarkable regularity of the streets is due to the construction of the city on a uniform plan. The wide area covered, and the lowness of the houses, were similarly due to an ordinance which, in order to minimize the danger from earthquakes, forbade the erection of any building more than 20 ft. high. Many of the belfries of convents or churches, added after the ordinance had fallen into abeyance, were overthrown by the earthquake of 1874, which also destroyed a large part of Antigua.