Antigua Guatemala remains resilient
Antigua Guatemala suffered a lockdown on March 16th due to the COVID-19 virus and remains partially closed today. Tourism is 80% of our city’s economy with hotels, restaurants and tour operators currently closed. Many property owners reduced rents in the hope of weathering out 2020 but a number of businesses have closed. Antigua Tours will reopen at our Casa del Conde and Lobby/Hotel Casa Santo Domingo offices when permitted.
The Guatemalan government’s efforts, at the helm of the President, Dr. Alejandro Gammattei, have been no easy task as so few funds were invested in the health care system over the centuries. Masks must be worn in public by law. New hospitals were built and qualifying workers given financial assistance through June 30th. Two out of every 10 of any remaining workers in July hold contracts with others hired within the informal economy with few benefits. We have been hit hard!
Local efforts, directed by Antigua’s Mayor, Víctor Hugo del Pozo, and countless committees remain very active. Food donations have reached many and Guatemalans, in their great ingenuity, now offer food-to-order delivery with anything from vegetables to deliciously prepared local dishes like chiles rellenos and tamales. Local shopping groups continue to pop up on face book promoting homemade businesses. We are all anxious to re-open safely. About 80 of us, as key tourism experts, participate in SETUR meetings (Secretaría de Economía y Turismo) to make changes to re-open even better!
Indeed, Antigua has shown to be resilient! Earthquakes, mud-slides, volcanic eruptions and pandemics have played a role throughout our 477 years of history. In colonial times, the sculpture of the Virgen del Socorro processed during pandemics, in the belief that the plagues were due to the population’s sins. When the capital moved to Guatemala City in 1773, Antigua’s residents were nicknamed “panza verde” (green belly) referring to the inhabitants’ resilient character when, due to poverty in the 19th century, locals survived on green spinach-like foods and avocados. We remain resilient during these challenging times. Stay home. Stay safe.
(Photos courtesy of Carlos López Ayerdi.)