After the 1773 earthquake, which destroyed the city of Santiago de los Caballeros, today Antigua Guatemala, the capital was moved to its present location in the Valley of the Hermitage.
New Guatemala of the Assumption, as it was to be known, was founded in 1775, not far from where the Maya city of Kaminal Juyu flourished a thousand years before.
Although much of the original splendor of the city has fallen to the onslaught of further earthquakes, the center still has some monuments dating back to its founding.
The Metropolitan Cathedral and the churches of La Merced, San Miguel de Capuchinas and Santo Domingo are examples of a transition stiles from the Barroque to the Neoclassic.
The Hermitage of El Carmen, which gave name to the valley where the capital is settled, goes back to 1620.
The 20th Century has imprinted different architectural styles on the city.
The Post Office, the National Police Building, the National Palace and the Yurrita Church were built in the first half of this century.
In the second half of the century, visual artists incorporated their work into the architecture, which can be seen in the buildings of the Civic Center, with murals by national artists of the caliber of Carlos Merida.
Today, Guatemala City has two million inhabitants. Its location, facilities and services make it the starting point for visits to the rest of Guatemala and the entire Maya world.
Guatemala City has an active cultural life throughout the year. Most of the country's museums are to be found here which, in addition to their permanent collections, they hold seasonal shows and give lectures on topics such as: pre-Hispanic art, anthropology and ethnology, textiles, popular culture, Colonial art, and modern art.
There are more than 30 galleries showing Guatemalan artists in painting, photography, engraving and sculpture. Theaters present a wide range of plays, especially by national playwrights.
The city also has an impressive cultural complex, the Miguel Angel Asturias Cultural Center, where a range of activities are presented, from recitals in the Chamber Room to the Guatemala Ballet in the Great Room to rock concerts in the Open Air Theater.
Guatemala is rich in musical creativity, and the works of its performers and composers can be enjoyed in theaters, taverns and night clubs.
Guatemala City and nearby Antigua, have had a university tradition since 1676, when the University of San Carlos, the first in Guatemala and third on the American continent, was founded. Today, there are five universities in Guatemala City offering regular programs, short courses and lectures on specialized subjects.
The universities have academic units engaged in research, which can support researchers interested in studying the country. In some cases, these universities have signed cooperation and assistance agreements with universities abroad.
There are also others research centers, especially in the fields of social science, history, archaeology, anthropology and environmental sciences. In recent years, Guatemala has been a preferred destination for people wishing to learn Spanish. Most of these schools are in Antigua, whose environment charms the students. There are other Spanish language teaching centers in Guatemala City, including the Center for the Learning of Languages of the University of San Carlos, where Maya languages are also taught.
Guatemala City is an ideal place to shop. Visitors interested in handicraft will find them in the Central Market, located a block away from the Cathedral. They will find textiles, leather, wood carvings, ceramics, and basket work. Downtown, especially 6th Avenue, is the liveliest shopping area.
Thousands of people move daily through this sector, where they can buy what they need at favorable prices.
But those who wish to shop in greater comfort will go to the large shopping centers in the south of the city, where the most exclusive shops in Guatemala are located. There are more than fifteen shopping centers, outstanding among them are Los PrÛceres, La Pradera, GÈminis and Unicentro-Plaza Cemaco.
They offer a fine selection of clothing and other wares, as do the shops in the hotel area, known by Guatemala City dwellers as the Zona Viva. Antigua, just 45 minutes away from Guatemala City, is ideal for buying delicate gifts, particularly ceramics, forged iron, glass and jade jewelry.
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