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230th Anniversary of the foundation of Guatemala City

La Exposición District, Zone 4


4 Grados Norte.

Guatemala City, February 2006/ During the 1890s, the country underwent major changes that reported important benefits to many social groups.

The enhancements were inspired by the President, General José María Reyna Barrios (1892-1898), who belonged to the Liberal Party. Many important transformations occurred during his tenure, such as the conclusion of the railroad system, paid for by the State; the construction of the Port of Iztapa; the production of blueprints to build in La Aurora national farm a park similar to the ones in Bologna, Paris and Chapultepec, Mexico, and a building to house the Land Ownership Registry. Guatemala City was profusely embellished with marble palaces, boulevards, gardens, statues, and commemorative monuments.

Architect Roberto Aycinena’s “Arte Contemporáneo” (Contemporary Art – USAC, 1966: 35), states that, during Reyna Barrios’ government, “a regulatory plan was formulated with the purpose of spruce up the whole city”.  For this reason, the capital city began to grow stealthily into the south.


Urban plan of La ExposiciónDistrict, 1903.

In those days, the Liberals were also busy organizing several activities to consolidate the “Central American Union”. One of such activities was the First Central American Education Congress, 1893.  Between 1893 and 1894, “La República” newspaper published 20 literary essays by author Agustín Mencos Franco; the essays would become the first manifestations of Guatemalan literature of the 19th Century.

The first children’s textbooks were published In 1895 and 1896, Libros de Premio (Prize Books) 1-4 and Libros de Lectura (Readers).  On June 15, 1897, the “Treaty of the Central American Union” was published and approved by the Central American Judiciary Congress.  The Central American Exposition was inaugurated on March 15, 1897 and closed August 30 of that same year.
The Exposition captivated the citizens and was held at “El Recreo” national farm.  The Government Decree issued by General Manuel Lisandro Barillas’ government on April 12, 1890 declared that El Recreo would be known, from that day forward, as La Exposición (“The Exposition”) District.


The District was inspired by the IV Universal Exposition of Paris (France, 1889). The first exposition had been done in 1798 and, from that date onward, it became the best way to promote and disseminate commercial and industrial products.

The event in question was organized to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution and to celebrate the triumph of the second Industrial Revolution and the scientific and technological successes of the late 19th Century.  The Exposition became a sensation that drew 62,000 exhibitors and more than 32 million visitors.


Poster of the 1889 Universal Exposition, Paris.

It was decided to erect a monument to perpetuate the memory of the Exposition. The first idea was to build a huge guillotine but, fortunately, it was not deemed adequate and a contest was called.

The prize was awarded to Engineers Koechlin and Nouguier, who worked with the famous inventor Alexandre Gustave Eiffel.  Koechlin and Nougier designed a “monumental iron tower”, which the jury considered a perfect symbol of the triumph of the Industrial Revolution.  In time, the tower became the urban reference of Paris.

Eiffel financed the construction of the tower, which was therefore named after him.  The actual designers were soon forgotten. 

The Exposition brought together scientists, tradesmen and industry representatives of several countries of Europe, America, Asia and Oceania, who set up magnificent stands to showcase their products. Guatemala participated successfully and soon received several interesting investment proposals. 


In 1897, the Central American Exposition was held in Guatemala, modeled after the Paris experience. That year, the district got its new name.


The Guatemalan Exposition also called a contest that was won by Tomás Mur, who designed the national monument to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

Besides the commercial benefits, the Exposition gave origin to an urban planning boom that can still be appreciated: diagonal blocks, wide streets and sidewalks, plazas, gardens and public


La Exposición District was modeled after the street plan of Paris, whose streets stem off a central axle and stretch towards an enclosed circumference oriented towards the River Seine.  La Exposición is very different from the other districts of the city, which follow Roman urban patterns.



Beloved Neighborhood Program
Frieda Liliana Morales Barco, Ph.D.

Lecturas: 6707