Antigua Guatemala Semana Santa 2012

 

IN THE WORLD, there is no better place to be than Antigua, Guatemala for Semana Santa (Holy Week)! You cannot step more than a few feet in Antigua during this time without seeing an alfombra (spectacular carpets made of flowers and colored sawdust) which adorn every single cobble-stoned street here.

 

You have to be sure to snap your photos when you see the alfombras, because it is not long before one of Antigua’s many processions comes along and tramples them underfoot, as is the custom.

 

Antigua’s Semana Santa is the most spectacular celebration of Holy Week on the planet. Tourists from around the world converge on Antigua (quadrupiling its population for a week) to see this amazing, one-of-a-kind celebration of Jesus Christ‘s crucifixion and resurrection.

  Alfombras of Semana Santa - Antigua, Guatemala 2010

Feliz Semana Santa!!

For more information about Semana Santa visit: http://www.Georges-TravelClub.com or send an e-mail to George@Georges-TravelClub.com.

Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano Fire in the Sky

The ongoing global disruption being caused by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano got me to thinking about our own neighborhood volcanoes here in Antigua, Guatemala. Our volcanic neighbors include Agua and Acatenango (both dormant) and Fuego which is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level.

From my garden in Antigua, I am able to see all three of these spectacular natural wonders and for years now I have enjoyed waking up and gazing at them while having my morning coffee. Of course Fuego is the most fun to watch because it is often “puffing away” and it can sometimes put on a very dramatic show with its “blasts” of ash and smoke plumes.

Fuego’s most recent major eruption occurred on August 9, 2007 and this extraordinary event was something I was lucky enough to see with my very own eyes! For a full day and night – without interruption – Fuego violently spewed lava, rock and ash. I spent nearly the entire night of Aug. 9, 2007 in my garden watching this astounding display of volcanic power and beauty. A column of bright red lava shot straight into the air, as high as a skyscraper, and continued to do so for nearly 24 hours. In my life I have never seen anything as amazing and awe-inspiring as Fuego’s 2007 eruption.

After this incredible experience, I was motivated to do a little research on Fuego. Following are a few things – both interesting and disturbing – that I discovered about our volcanic neighbor:

* Fuego has had more than 60 eruptions since 1524 with 25% of these eruptions involving significant lava flows.

* Even more “major” than the 2007 eruption was Fuego’s October 1974 eruption. With this event there was a series of powerful blasts that produced up to 10km high ash columns and multiple pyroclastic flows. The longest flows reached over 10km but were fortunately restrained in uninhabited valleys. Thousands abandoned their homes due to this eruption and many roofs collapsed under the weight of the ash that was deposited. Additionally many local crops and grazing areas were destroyed by the ash layer.

* Fuego was essentially quiet from 1987 to 1999, but it is now experiencing a period of ‘heightened’ activity. The most common activity is sporadic, small eruptions that produce ash clouds (events like this can be minutes or days apart), but in more recent years lava flows have become more common and at night incandescence can often be seen at the base of eruption column.

Future eruptions are, of course, hard to predict but you do not have to look any further than Fuego’s sister volcano’s history, Agua, to get a glimpse of what could happen…

Volcán de Agua, which dominates the local landscape of Antigua, has been inactive since the mid 16th century. In 1541, however, Agua’s volcanic activity triggered a mudflow of biblical proportions and the nearby “original” Antigua (now known as Ciudad Vieja) was completely destroyed and many lives were lost. This event is the reason Antigua was “moved” to its present location.

With any luck, Fuego will not repeat Agua’s destructive past and our beautiful home of Antigua will be spared. In fact, I feel confident that Fuego will continue to safely entertain us with low level eruptions for many years to come. If, however, Antigua is destined to be destroyed once again by a volcanic event, I can only hope that when it happens I will be surfing with friends in El Salvador! Of course since Guatemala sits at the center of three tectonic plates, Antigua could always be destroyed by one of the country’s frequent earthquakes, but I think I will save that for another blog

Note – Guatemala has 33 volcanoes of which three are active. Volcan Fuego is not accessible to hikers, but another nearby active volcano (Pacaya) is and it is one of Guatemala’s most popular tourist attractions. Just an hour’s drive from Antigua, Pacaya offers visitors the extraordinary experience of seeing hot, flowing rivers of lava up close! For more information about Pacaya Tours visit: http://www.Georges-TravelClub.com or send an e-mail to George@Georges-TravelClub.com.

Guatemala and Feel the Earth Move!

Cathedral Roof Ruins - Antigua

Earthquakes are a fairly frequent occurrence in Guatemala, and they have played an important part in the country’s history. This is most evident in the picturesque city of Antigua where spectacular 200-year-old Colonial Ruins can be seen on nearly every corner.

Lying on top of a major fault zone between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, Guatemala is no stranger to the destructive forces of earthquakes. The most recent major quake (a 7.5 magnitude) occurred in 1976 and caused 23,000 fatalities and widespread damage.

It is a 1773 earthquake, however, that is Guatemala’s most famous – it changed the country’s history and it is the reason that present-day Antigua is now “decorated” with beautiful colonial ruins throughout its cobble-stoned streets.

The 1773 earthquake (also a 7.5 magnitude) destroyed much of Antigua and killed more than 600 people immediately (another 600 died later from disease) and it produced aftershocks that lasted more than four months! This quake – and its destructive aftermath – is also the reason Spanish authorities decided to abandon Antigua as its Central American Capital and move it to present-day Guatemala City.

Concepcion Ruins - Antigua

 

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The beautiful ruins left by the 1773 quake help add a unique charm to the city of Antigua, and they are most certainly part of the reason that Antigua was recognized in 1979 by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Mankind site.

Today tourist from around the world visit Antigua to marvel at its dramatic ruins. Add to this Antigua’s colorful squares, white-washed churches, museums, world-class restaurants, art galleries and traditional markets and you begin to understand why Antigua, Guatemala is the most visited city in Central America!

For more information about Tours visit: http://www.Georges-TravelClub.com or send an e-mail to George@Georges-TravelClub.com.