After the week-long MBA Field Study, my husband and I headed over to Antigua, Guatemala for a long weekend. Antigua was originally the capital of Guatemala until an earthquake destroyed it in 1773. This colonial city is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The city is full of history, beautiful architecture and ruins, abundant with arts and crafts, and culinary delights. We didn’t have time but I would like to return and tour a coffee plantation and climb the volcano.
We stayed at the Hotel San Rafael. This former home boasts a lush and tranquil inner courtyard with fountains, wide walkways, ample seating areas, excellent food and large elegant rooms and suites. Here are the fountains in the center courtyard and the comfy sitting area outside our room where we spent evenings talking and enjoying cocktails.
This smaller courtyard was behind our room. We could hear the soothing water from our bathroom window.
If you do a search for Antigua, undoubtedly you will find photos of the Arco de Santa Catelina. This archway dates back to the 1600’s and was constructed so that nuns could cross the street without being seen. From a distance, you can see one of the three volcanoes that surround the city.
The city’s spiritual center is the baroque church, Iglesia de la Merced, with its yellow facade. I don’t know if that giant rosary is a permanent fixture but it was a sight to see!
The Iglesia y Convento de la Compañía de Jesús (Church and Convent of the Society of Jesus ) was destroyed by several earthquakes and rebuilt only to be destroyed again. What is interesting about these ruins are the headless saints. Many statues lost their heads after the earthquakes and they could not determine which head went with which statue so they were never replaced.
Convent of the Capuchins
One of the most beautiful and interesting ruins are that of the Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas (Convent and Church of Our Lady of Zaragoza) which was consecrated in 1736. I spent a relaxing morning exploring the ruins and gardens of the convent.
After many twists and turns, I found my way to the Edificio Circular (Circular Building), the circular dormitories where the nuns lived.
The nun’s “cells” were approximately 8′ x 10′ and had the most modest accommodations – an arched doorway, what appears to have been a narrow toilet, one or two niches presumably for religious statuary, and a small window.
View of the mountains through the window of a nun’s cell.
Standing inside a cell looking towards the inner courtyard.
The bathing room was located near the circular dormitories.
The sótano (basement) was particularly intriguing. A long flight of stairs led down to a barren circular room. The room is dark with only a couple of windows situated beyond reach letting in natural light.
I heard that the basement was used to punish the nuns by leaving them there for extended periods of time. I don’t know if this is true but it was chilling nonetheless.
Arts and Crafts
As you might imagine, the city was abundant with arts and crafts. There were large warehouse-like stores filled with pottery, textiles, woodwork and more. There were countless smaller stores with beautiful hand crafted items. Everywhere you walked there were peddlers on the streets carrying armfuls of textiles. My favorite were the colorful tote bags made from upcycled huipils.
With the abundance of textiles, several purveyors displayed the plants from which they made natural dyes such as achiote, cedar, ilamo and wood from the blackberry tree.
In one courtyard, a woman sat at a back strap loom weaving. I watched for a long time as she methodically wove the multi-colored threads on her loom.
A relaxing and fun weekend after a week of interviews and translating.