A summary of how Antigua came to be might look like this:
After Cortes had landed in Central America and completely screwed the Aztecs in 1521, his most brutal lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, went south into Guatemala like a 3:00 a.m. nightmare.
Bastard of a bad breed, he arrived with 120 horseman, 300 foot soldiers and a similar quantity of recruits from the Cholula and Tiaxcala tribes and started slaughtering the population. To quote from Wiki, Alvarado’s inhumanity knew no bounds. He murdered the population ‘ by means such as hanging, burning and feeding them alive to dogs’.
I read the eye witness account of Cortes and Alvarado and the vileness of their existences in Bernal Diaz’s book The Conquest of New Spain when i was in my twenties.
Anyway, the people of Guatemala who survived, shocked to their depths of their souls, were easy pickings for the Catholic Church who treated them better.
The town of Antigua, then known as Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemalan, was founded in 1524 and almost instantly had 38 major churches and one cathedral. In the vicinity of 38 volcanoes… To borrow from William Blake, what fearful symmetry. Or from Dorothy Parker, what fresh hell is this?
So the population, clustered around this capital city, after some time to catch their breath, bought the farm a second time when the city was destroyed by two earthquakes in the 1770’s. So total was the destruction that the Spanish themselves were shocked into moving the capital out of harm’s way to what is now Guatemala City.
There are ruins everywhere. In fact the small Hotel which is my new home for a while is built in the typical Antiguan aftermath.