Antigua Guatemala: a living museum!
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of International Museum Day on May 18th, we also celebrate Antigua Guatemala as a living museum! Walking through the cobblestoned streets of Antigua, protected by the Guatemalan Protective Law of Antigua Guatemala (1969) and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List (1979), we enjoy that the city has come to life particularly this year with countless cultural activities, new museums and fun activities – most of these free to the public. A walk around town is abundant with colonial churches, houses, sculpture, painting, silver, mermaid fountains (inspired from Homer’s Odyssey), gardens and an abundance of contemporary artistic celebrations!
Santiago de Guatemala, as the capital of colonial Guatemala (southern Mexico through Costa Rica) enjoyed 38 active churches in 1773 before the capital was moved to present day Guatemala City and the city was referred to as “La Antigua Guatemala”. Many of these are in various stages of ruin, restoration and use today as the city slowly came back to life over the centuries and much more since the 1990s through tourism. Few are in use by the Catholic church with highlights of year-round traditional processions throughout Antigua’s streets & others are open to the public for all genre of events, ceremonies and fiestas! We are, indeed, a fabulous wedding destination today! This provides thousands of jobs improving the quality of life for locals. The Protective Law of the City keeps its colonial heritage and allows us to be innovative with fun events. Antigua, more recently, has opened to the international film industry!
Antigua Tours has been active, since its foundation in 1992, in promoting cultural activities and sponsoring the restoration of colonial art – particularly at the Colonial Art Museum/Old University of San Carlos with the Villalpando (1649-1714) and Correa (1646-1716) collections and the Apostles by Juan Correa at San José Cathedral (1680). While most of city’s art was moved to the new capital, the Apostles remained here and are shared between both locations.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) puts it concisely: “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples…All around the world, more and more museums participate in International Museum Day. Last year, more than 37,000 museums participated in the event in about 158 countries and territories.” Guatemala is well known for its participation.