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230 years of the foundation of Guatemala City

Neighborhood Ciudad Vieja, Zone 10

Denomination and toponymy

Main plaza of the neighborhood.

Guatemala City, November 2006 / The history of the creation of the neighborhood known today as “Neighborhood  Ciudad Vieja” goes way back to the time when the capital city was moved to the Valley of La Ermita, after the earthquakes of Santa Marta, close to the year 1773.

 Around that time, besides the urban planning measures for the new city, it was also decided to displace the so called “Pueblos de Indios” (“Indian Villages”). These, originated with the encomiendas or entrusts which ordered that a conqueror could have certain measure of land and together with the land he was entrusted or in charge of a certain number of Indians, which could sometimes mean even an entire town, on which he would exercise his authority.

The Spanish encomenderos, from their parts, had the obligation to protect the indigenous against aggravations and injustice; they had to Christianize and Hispanicize them; give them agricultural and domestic tasks and organize their own government, as well as their institutions: Cabildos de Indios and Cofradías (Indian Chapters and Brotherhoods). In exchange of these cares, the indigenous had to pay an annual tribute to their encomendero, which consisted of a sort of tax in metals, fruits and agricultural products or personal work.


On the other side, the convenience of having these Pueblos de Indios, who possessed a pretty consolidated organizational structure, surrounding the Spanish cities, consisted of the possibility of acquiring cheap labor for the construction of houses, tracing of streets, grazing of cows, agricultural jobs and domestic aims.

Therefore, the movement of the Pueblo de Indios of Ciudad Vieja was effective at the end of the year 1777, locating it in the southeast of the capital city, in the Llano de la Culebra, with a distribution of land of 6 caballerías and 134 cuerdas. As well as in its previous settlement, it was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady


But, the inhabitants of Almolonga that were transferred to this valley presented a strong resistance to be settled in here. According to stories, they were brought by day and by night they went back and requested shelter in their church, disobeying any order of the Captain General, Don Martín de Mayorga. In spite of everything, on August 2, 1781, the Indian Pascual Daniel, was appointed as Governor of the new town of Ciudad Vieja.


However, the displacement was slow and that is why there is not a specific date for the same. In 1787, there were around one hundred and ten mud wall houses and a simple church made out of hay and sticks. For this last one, they requested funding in order to rebuild it, since it was about to collapse. The authorities of that time agreed to their request and collaborated so that the Cabildo would assign them fragments of the altarpieces that were left in Antigua Guatemala, and who belonged to the Cathedral back there.

As the labor jobs started to decrease, the inhabitants of Ciudad Vieja started dedicating to agriculture, while others desisted and went back to Sacatepéquez. In this place, as in any other Hispanic tracing in America, there was a plaza and chess traced streets. At the end of the XVIII Century, as it was customary of that time, a Ceiba (national tree) was planted. 

The resistance showed, according to historic information, was due to the fact that the inhabitants of Almolonga or Ciudad Vieja in the Valley of Antigua Guatemala, were descendants of Mexican and Tlaxcaltecan allies who guided Pedro de Alvarado from Tenochtitlan in 1524 and helped him in the conquest of these lands, therefore creditors of certain privileges..


Possibly, this particular status was what made them more independent and willful than the rest of indigenous of Guatemala, around that time. Other problems that they had to face were the power of the church, the poverty of the kingdom in matters of physical construction of the towns and bureaucracy.


According to data from the General Population Census of 1880, in relation to this town it was said:

It is a town of the Department of Guatemala, away from the capital city for half a legua; with 819 inhabitants. It is located in very fertile lands, with enough water; its products are coffee and corn. The naturals come to work to Guatemala and do not have any special industry. There is a military hospital which reunites the necessary sanitary conditions, and with its several and new buildings is capable of attending 200 patients. There are also washrooms, with very healthy waters and two elementary schools.


For its historic importance, the Neighborhood of “Ciudad Vieja” is considered part of the Cultural Patrimony of the Nation; as it was regarded in 1998, when they created the Historic Center of the New Guatemala of the Assumption, with Agreement No. 328-98 from the Ministry of Culture and Sports, dated August 13, 1998.

During the administration of General José María Reyna Barrios (1892-1898) they used lands of this neighborhood to trace the Boulevard 30 de Junio (1896) affecting the future of this ancient town, which during his administration was inside the Santa Clara District; and constructions were carried on for the Great Central American Exposition of 1897.

Since the moment when this town was declared an annexed neighborhood of the City of Guatemala, it has developed as a very resourceful area, which shelters a medical network around prestigious institutions such as Hospital Herrera Llerandi, Centro Médico, University Hospital Esperanza, aesthetic clinics and all types of clinics which cover the different medical specialties. In the same way, its lands include the Embassy of the United States of America and the one from Mexico..

This last one, besides possessing a particular architecture and its diplomatic and consular purpose, offers to the Guatemalan public, the quarters of the Cultural Center “Luis Cardoza y Aragón”, on which, since its inauguration three years ago, innumerable cultural activities have been performed.

This neighborhood also stands out for its museums, such as the Museum of Natural History of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, located inside the quarters of the Botanical Garden, and which includes several specimens of national woods, local reptiles, some dissected birds and a few fossils. It is worth to be mentioned that this museum, as well as the Botanical Garden, are managed by the university, and therefore, are closed to the public on the days on which the university has holidays, including the whole month of December.

It is also worth naming the State institutions located in this sector, such as the Secretariat of the Vice-presidency of the Republic –SECCATID for its initials in Spanish–, behind the Academy of Mayan Languages, whose building, the Casa Crema (Cream House), in the XXth Century was the Residence of the Minister of National Defense. The quarters of the Presidential Staff were previously occupied by the Military Hospital, and over 6th Avenue, the Torre Marfil Building shelters the Hall of Appeals of the Judicial Branch.


To complete the landscape of this neighborhood, there are several commemorative monuments such as the bust to the distinguished “Benito Juárez” in the interior of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; as well as a bust to “Justo Rufino Barrios”, inside the quarters of the Presidential Staff; a monument to those who have died in the fulfillment of their duties, another one who commemorates peace, and several types of weapons which ornament its gardens.

Ah! And if you wish to taste a good meal and spend a nice time, you can choose from the different options: “Altuna” and “7 Caldos”, (seafood); “Alfredo” (Italian food); “Suchi Itto” (Japanese food); “Tapas y Cañas” (Spanish food); “La Estancia” (Barbecues), “Patsy” (Gourmet); “Los Alpes” (Bakery and pastry shop), Bar and Restaurant of the Hotel San Carlos (International).

Beloved Neighborhood Program
Dr. Frieda Liliana Morales Barco
Lecturas: 2019