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230 anniversary of the establishment of Guatemala City

Tivoli Neighborhood, Zone 9


Streets of the Tivoli neighborhood

Guatemala City, May 2006/ The act of naming places, persons, things, and animals is part of the natural evolution of language... and language is an integral part of humankind’s history. Etymology, the study of the origins of words, helps us find out why men granted certain names to things and places. Some neighborhoods, places, villages and landscapes of Guatemala owe their names to the origins of its first inhabitants; other names make reference to the places where the grandparents of the settlers were born, and a few other names were just thought up by the first inhabitants. These cases have given origin to the concept of “sister cities” among villages that share the same names.

Tivoli is the name of a city in the Lazio Region of Italy, 32 Km away from Rome. The city is located on the shores of the Aniene or Teverone River, an affluent of the Tiber, which forms the famous Tivoli cascades. The terrain is mostly plains and hills. The most important tourist centers of the region are the Roman temples dedicated to Vesta, goddess of the Home, and Sibilla, a prophetess. Other places of interest are the Cathedral, the Church of St. Sylvester, and the Rocca Pia Castle, a 15th century building that used to be a vacationing place of Popes and friends, as important as artists Michelangelo and Rafaello de Sanzio. The magnificent Villa d’Este dates back to the 16th Century; the stupendous Villa Adriana or Tiburtina was built between 118 and134 B.C.


Map, 1,894.

Tivoli was formerly known as “Tibur” which probably existed since the 8th Century B.C. Legend goes that Tibur was founded by the sons of King Argos, one of which was called Tiburno. The city was strategically located in the valley of the Aniene River, which was close to the Sabines and of the rural region of Italy. Its privileged location allowed that other non-Latin towns contributed to the ethnic melee of the region. Tibur was finally conquered by Rome in 338 B.C. and became a favorite vacation spot for the wealthy, who built fabulous villas there. The poets Catulus and Horatio owned property in the region, as well as Brutus, Caesar’s murderer. Tibur and Rome were linked by the Tiburtine road.

The name Tibur gradually became “Tivoli” mainly due to the very many ethnic groups and languages that took over the region. Nowadays, Tivoli is one more neighborhood of the greater Rome.

Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898-1920) became the President of Guatemala after the assassination of President Reyna Barrios. Estrada’s tenure is considered the second phase of the Liberal Reform, although it was not as bold as the former government. Estrada found a State divided between a financial crisis and the sturdy development of education, public health, infrastructure, national defense, police, and agricultural exports. He merely pursued what his predecessor had begun.

Instead of canceling the projects and programs of the former government, Estrada successfully finalized the Inter-Oceanic Railroad in January 1908 and inaugurated new public buildings and parks, such as the Estrada Cabrera and Minerva in the Jocotenango neighborhood, where school festivities of the goddess Minerva took place; the monuments to the Army (in Reforma), to Fame (in March 11 Plaza), and many statues in honor of prominent citizens were placed in public plazas and gardens. Estrada also built several Temples of Minerva throughout the country.

There was an inordinate amount of national and foreign investments during Estrada’s tenure. For this reason, the neighborhood of Tivoli was planned as a continuation of the Exposición Neighborhood in the same fashion as Engineer Claudio Urrutia’s original plan of 1894. One of Tivoli’s most notorious features is that the streets are oriented towards the 4 cardinal points. Engineer Urrutia also designed the south expansion of 7th Avenue. Only the latter was carried out in its entirety; of the first project, only “Exposición” was finished.

During a meeting of the Municipal Council, chaired by Mayor Ignacio G. Saravia, in August of 1911, an agreement was drafted by means of which the new neighborhood would be called “La Reforma” (which would encompass the Tivoli, Roble, and Terminal neighborhoods). The agreement also called for the “September 15” Boulevard (a south elongation of 7th Avenue up to the Pinula Aqueduct). The Municipal Decree was publicly ratified during an official act held in the Estrada Cabrera Asylum (where the Education Ministry now stands) on September 15, 1911. For this reason, the Tivoli Farm (formerly a hamlet) was annulled and annexed to the Reforma neighborhood in Guatemala City, in today’s zone 9.

The name “Reforma” was only used during Estrada’s tenure, until his dismissal in 1920. Everybody called it Tivoli, even when the area was divided into lots and land was sold.

Tivoli neighborhood was slow in recruiting inhabitants. After the Exposición Neighborhood was established in 1890, more and more people started settling in Tivoli, mainly because the area was easily accessible due to the expansion of Guatemala City into the south. This neighborhood’s architecture was quite different from those of downtown, because most of the tenements were in the “chalet” style brought here by the many European immigrants. There are still homes of this style in the area.

Some historic data point to the statement above. In 1915, there were only 10 chalets and many empty lots along South 7th Avenue. For this reason, the lots were used as emergency camps during the 1917-18 earthquakes. A census of 1926 reports 600 inhabitants in the Tivoli neighborhood.

Between 1930 and 1960, the Tivoli neighborhood became more sought after. On December 11, 1929, President Lázaro Chacón declared that the extension of South 6th Avenue, from the Calvary Church to the Pinula Aqueduct, was a tangible need and it therefore was built and named “George Washington” Avenue.


Tivoli Emergency Camp, 1918.

Later, something peculiar happened, merchants and store owners started to settle along 6th, 7th, and Reforma Avenues, in Zones 4, 9 and 10, mostly because they were already accessible. In the 1970s, many tall buildings mushroomed in the area; one of the most notorious is “Plaza del Sol”, which was developed by Architects Rafael Tinoco and Juan Lacape and Engineer Juan José Hermosilla. Many shopping malls were also built: Paiz Montúfar Plaza, Lorenzo Plaza, and Montúfar Strip Mall, which increased the value of the properties. Gradually, the neighborhood lost its residential environment and became a bona-fide commercial area.

The Tivoli neighborhood of today is a commercial sector with plenty of specialized stores that sell electronics, electric supplies, home and office furnishings, etc. The area that limits with Liberación Boulevard is almost exclusive of automobile dealerships: Nissan Panamotor, Continental Motors, Grupo Los Tres, Transequipos BMW, Kawasaki, VCR Motoshop, Bike Store, Fiat, Mitsubishi Motors, Toyota Cofiño Stahl, Gustavo Molina, Excel Automotriz, etc.

There are also very many diners and restaurants that offer national and international fare: Ni Fu ni Fa, Media Cancha (Argentinean fare), Lai Lai, China Queen, Palacio de Cristal (Oriental food), La barra de Don Pepe (Spanish fare), Tacomex, Jalapeños (Mexican food), Nais, Burger King, El Mostachón, Danny’s pancakes, and many more.

Lecturas: 2417