Guatemala, Travel

Visiting Antigua Guatemala Churches

May 13, 2019

 

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Antigua Guatemala Churches

Someone told me while I was in Antigua that there are 37 churches in Antigua Guatemala! Now I didn’t go around counting, and I didn’t visit each one. What else they don’t tell you but is pretty easy to figure out is that many or most of these churches are not operating churches and are ruins from the earthquakes that happened in the 1700s. The many earthquakes forced the government to move the capital from Antigua to what is now Guatemala City. The result is that the entire town of Antigua Guatemala is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I could have spent another week visiting the churches in Antigua Guatemala, but I ran out of time. However, I saw plenty of them. Here is my list of the churches or ruins you should see on a trip to Antigua Guatemala.

Santa Clara Church and Convent

Antigua Guatemala Churches

This was my favorite ruin of all the churches in Antigua. It is so beautiful inside, and I think it is one of the most underrated things to do in Antigua Guatemala. The ruins have been restored without losing their ruin like appearance, but best of all they have created a beautiful garden inside. The flowers are amazing, and there are two working fountains inside. It was also clear that they were doing some work to make portions of it more stable and to make more areas accessible to the public. Of the few other people inside, most were relaxing enjoying the weather.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

The convent was started when nuns came from Mexico to Antigua in 1699, but it took about 16 years to build the convent and church. Not long after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1717. Over many years the convent and church were rebuilt and reopened around 1734. It was all destroyed again in 1773 along with many of the other buildings in Antigua.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

The entrance fee is 40 Quetzals, which is about $5.20. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5. Be aware they may be closed for special events.

Iglesia de La Merced

This church is one of the larger churches in Antigua Guatemala. It has a wonderful Baroque exterior that is painted yellow. This church was not damaged in the earthquakes in the 1700s, but when the capital was moved from Antigua Guatemala to Guatemala City, it was forced to close. Many of the statues inside the church were relocated. During Semana Santa, La Merced puts on many processions and make some of the largest carpets in the city. Another great feature is the street market that happens on the grounds of the church almost daily. Although on the weekends, the number of vendors and people swell and you can hardly get in to buy food. It makes for great people watching. If you want to enter, make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. The church is not always open so go inside when you see the main doors are opened.

Hospital de San Pedro

Antigua Guatemala Churches

San Pedro is another beautiful yellow church. I recommend going to see it at night as it is all lit up beautifully. Not only is San Pedro a church, but it is also a hospital for the poor. It also serves as a home for the elderly and mentally ill. The entrance for the church and the hospital are right next to each other. San Pedro is also huge and takes up a whole city block. San Pedro was not destroyed during the earthquakes. Some of the other entrances to the hospital portion are gated allowing you to see inside to the beautiful courtyard. One night I was walking by San Pedro, and there was a fantastic service going on with music and kids dancing outside. San Pedro also participates in many of the Semana Santa celebrations, especially on Easter Sunday.

Iglesia El Carmen

Antigua Guatemala Churches

El Carmen was one of the first church ruins I came across during my time in Antigua. You cannot go inside the church, but the facade is made up of beautifully ornate carved columns. The church was rebuilt many times during the many earthquakes. The first church was built in 1651 and destroyed in the same year. Next, the church was rebuilt in 1686 and heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1717. It was never rebuilt after this. You can see photos from the early 20th century, and the church looks better than it does today, but the domes fell during the 1976 earthquake. Outside the church and in the building next door is an excellent handicraft market.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

Iglesia and Convent de las Capuchinas

Antigua Guatemala Churches

Construction on this convent began in 1731 and was blessed in 1736. It was the last convent to be built in Antigua Guatemala. Much like the others, it was heavily damaged by the 1773 earthquake and subsequently abandoned. You can see that much of the convent has been restored since the earthquake. This convent was busy with people working in offices and about the building, but it was unclear what the offices’ function was. On the second floor was a small museum covering the history of the convent and the history of Antigua. Much of the convent isn’t open to the public, but it was nice to see a space being used for something and being well cared for.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

Antigua Guatemala Cathedral

Antigua Guatemala Churches

You can’t miss this the main church in Antigua as it is located right in the main square. While this is an active church, there are ruins behind the main building. Here you can see how large the cathedral used to be. The original church was 1561 and then demolished in 1669. I couldn’t find any information on why the original church was demolished. By 1680 another cathedral had been built in its place.  As you can imagine, this new building did not make it through the 1773 earthquake, and only the facade remained intact. In the 180os, the building was again a church with a parish, but the local government lacked enough funds to restore the entire church. So behind the main facade around the corner, you can enter the ruins and see how large the cathedral once was. You can also go into the lower levels here. There is a rumor around town that all the churches in Antigua are connected by tunnels, but no evidence has ever been found to support it. The entrance fee here is also 40 Queztals.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

Escuela de Cristo

Escuela de Cristo is not a ruin! It is also not as ornate as many of the churches in Antigua. However, it is a fully functional church and always seemed to have activities going on inside. The church participates heavily in Semana Santa activities, and if you go right before their procession starts on Good Friday, you can see the floats and andas lined up inside the church waiting to get started. Escuela de Cristo also contains a convent, but it is not open to the public. You may be able to sneak a peek inside if the door is open. This usually happens in the afternoon.

One day I walked by here and noticed preparations for a big wedding happening. Later I walked by, and the wedding had started after about an hour, I walked back by on my way to my Airbnb, and the wedding was still going on! Something to look for is the German Shepard that hangs out above the entrance to the convent. He/she is up there many days and usually has on a purple bandana!

Iglesia de San Francisco

Antigua Guatemala Churches

Not too far from Escuela de Cristo is Iglesia de San Francisco. This large church compound also takes up a full city block in Antigua Guatemala. Outside the church is a parking lot so be careful when entering through the gate. Also outside is a market. During Semana Santa, the parking lot and the market were packed with people and vendors. It is a great place to pick up some souvenirs or presents.

Iglesia de San Francisco was damaged in the 1773 earthquake and was not restored until 1967. Much of the convent area is still in ruins, and you can pay to go inside to see them. The facade of the church is stunning, and my recommendation would be to go as the sun is setting as it casts a beautiful glow around San Francisco.

La Recolección Convent

Antigua Guatemala Churches

One of the largest ruins is La Recoleccion Convent. It is located on the outside of town right near the local market. The complex was started in 1701 and was finished in 1707. The buildings were greatly affected by the 1717 earthquake, but the buildings were repaired. By 1740 there were 35 friars living at La Recolección Monastery. Like many of the other churches, it was destroyed in 1773 although some of this destruction was from the 1751 earthquake. Over the years following, the complex was used for many other things leading to more destruction. Now the complex is protected. It also costs 40 Queztals to enter.

Antigua Guatemala Churches

This is only a small fraction of the churches to see in Antigua Guatemala, and if you wanted to, you could spend weeks seeking out each one. I am sure they each have something unusual to offer. I only wish I had discovered some of them sooner so I could visit them more than once.

Have you been to Antigua Guatemala? What was your favorite church or ruin?

Travel

Semana Santa in Antigua Gautemala

April 29, 2019

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

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Semana Santa or Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter. In Antigua Guatemala, Semana Santa is a huge celebration in which Guatemalans from all over the country come to watch. The population of this town swells to capacity. With over 30 churches it is easy to see why people come here for Semana Santa. This tradition was brought by the Spanish when they colonized Guatemala. The celebration also happens in Spain.

Lent

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Before Semana Santa is Lent. You can tell the city is preparing for a massive celebration as activities begin before the Holy Week. The day I arrived there were processions. What I didn’t know at the time was that in the churches there were velaciónes (holy vigils) happening almost every day. The churches are elaborately decorated. Then there may be a procession from that day as well. During Lent, as many as 60 activities are happening around Antigua Guatemala.

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

The Alfombras

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Before the processions, people and business come out to build elaborate alfombras or carpets. Some carpets are well planned and have extensive designs while others are more natural and spontaneous. I noticed many carpets being made with homemade stencils. Most of the carpets are made with sawdust that has been dyed into bright colors. Some carpets will have fruits and vegetables as decorations as well. I saw one that was three dimensional and featured Jesus and Mary. Jesus was made out of wood pellets. Not sure how walking over this worked though! During the making of the carpet, someone will spray the carpet with water to keep the sawdust from blowing away.

 

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

The carpets represent the sacrifice that Jesus made with his life. The carpets are deeply respected, and only the people carrying the andas (floats) walk on them. Watching people make them was moving as well. They spend hours and maybe all day making the carpet and then it is destroyed within minutes of the procession passing over it. The Alfombras, as a result, stay with Antigua for a few days after a procession despite the city’s best efforts to clean them, they litter the cracks between the cobblestone streets.

The Processions

The Processions start early in the day, sometimes before dawn, and will go till late in the night. During that time, the andas are carried by cucuruchos and each block they take turns carrying the andas. Each andas can be as long as a bus so there are lots of people carrying them sometimes up to 80 men. The andas that feature Mary are carried by women. This doesn’t mean that the andas is smaller though! There is even procession for children. Depending on their age, they may carry the andas alone or with the help of adults. During Semana Santa, the robes they wear are purple until Good Friday when they become black.

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Following behind the andas is a funeral procession band. This band plays throughout the entire day. The mood is somber. People walk along with the procession either waiting their turn to carry the andas or to follow a family member. Behind the band is the bank. Each person participating in carrying the andas must pay for the privilege. Each block is 50 Queztals, which is about $6.50. However, you can only carry it once unless they run out of people near the end of the day. On important holy days, that is unlikely to happen.

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Good Friday

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Surprisingly, Good Friday is the biggest day, not Easter. There are four processions on Good Friday. One procession starts at around 4 am and goes till the afternoon. This procession reenacts the crucifixion of Jesus. There are people playing Roman soldiers on horseback. The andas for this procession is one of the largest and most popular ones to carry. This procession was extremely moving for me personally. I think it was the dedication of faith that got to me. People here are much more rooted in their faith than we are in the United States.

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

The rest of the procession started in the late afternoon. One of these featured Mary but was so popular, I couldn’t get close enough to observe the women carrying the andas. People seemed to be following this procession as I had a hard time getting close to each and each block I went to was full. Good Friday seemed to bring out the most elaborate alfombras of the week. One near the Arch in Antigua was so large you needed a drone to see the entire thing and it featured a woman backstrap weaving.

Easter Sunday

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

I was told that Easter Sunday was less busy and that it was quieter. Someone lied! Since Easter Sunday is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, the whole city comes out to celebrate. There are fireworks, drums and cannons. There are even more alfombras and processions this day. The cannons are constant and are shot off all over the city. The continuous loud noise discouraged me from getting out for most of the day. However, I did go see an alfombra near me that circle almost a whole block. People were so happy and you could feel that the mood in the Antigua Guatemala had changed.

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

Visiting During Semana Santa

Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

I purposely came to Antigua Guatemala during Semana Santa so I could see it. If you want to come, book your accommodation early! There are many hotels and hostels in the city, but the prices go up during Semana Santa and the rooms fill up fast. Expect large crowds, especially on the weekends and Good Friday. I would recommend coming during the week as the traffic getting into Antigua Guatemala on the weekends is really bad. Some shuttle services were only dropping people off outside the city and you had to walk in.

Depending on the time of year Easter occurs, the weather could be hot or a bit cool. Rain is a possibility as well so bring an umbrella. Wear closed-toed shoes and drink plenty of water. Patience is key not only for the crowds but waiting for the procession as well. Cell service was also terrible most of the week since so many people are in Antigua Guatemala.

 

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Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala

 

Travel

My First Week Working While Traveling

April 15, 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Ever since I left Qatar, my goal has been to be able to work and travel. After a few failed attempts at finding a full-time remote position, I decided that the universe was trying to tell me that working full-time remote wasn’t my path. Back in December, I decided to start my own business. Starting your own business, no matter what is it, can be a slow start.

Things started to look up in January when I got a job with a company doing content curator freelance and remote. This gave me the flexibility to quit my part-time job at Starbucks and to focus on getting more clients for my freelance business. Not long after, I was getting more and more clients. I finally felt comfortable deciding to go on my first work and travel trip!

The First Week

Working while traveling isn’t as easy as it sounds. I knew this before I set out, though. I also knew that this would be a learning process for me. You have to start somewhere, right?

I picked a quiet hostel or so I thought! In the pictures, it looked like there was plenty of spaces to work at and plugs. However, the hostel plays music all day long. It isn’t too loud, and they will turn it off, but they will not turn it off. Thankfully, I have noise canceling headphones, so that helps.

The other issue is that the other people staying in the hostel are really nice and I have wanted to chat with them. Many of them are here taking Spanish lessons and not sightseeing, so they are around the hostel a lot. Which, usually when traveling solo, is a great thing. All of this takes distraction to a higher level than I had at home.

Lessons Learned

The beauty of this is I have learned what I need to work successfully. I need a private room in a hostel or an Airbnb. Even though I prefer a luxury hotel, it just isn’t practical when traveling for so long. I love hostel living because I meet interesting people, but I have to keep my clients to keep doing this.

When working at home, I prefer to work during the day and have my nights free to hang out with my family. But when traveling, I prefer to work in the morning and then in the afternoon to do some sightseeing and finish my work day in the evening. It allows me to be productive and still see a few things during the week.

I am also trying not to work on the weekends so I can have some work-life balance. I will respond to email, but that is about it. There is no point in working remotely, for me at least, if I can get out and see the city I am in.

Week Two

For week two, I plan on staying in the hostel to work in the morning. Then I will try to find a cafe or two to get some other work done in. I found one last week that might work. I may also work during the afternoon a few days because people tend to leave the hostel to see things after breakfast and don’t return until the late afternoon. I am sure week two of working and traveling will teach me even more things.

Do you work remotely or travel and work? What are some tips you could share? I would love to hear them!

First Week of Working and Traveling

 

Blog, Travel

Do You Make Money From Your Blog?

April 1, 2019

Do You Make Money from your blog?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

This is a question I get all the time, and while some people might be offended by it, I am happy to answer. Not because I make tons of money from my blog, but because I believe in honesty in blogging. So do I make money from my blog?

My Blog

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple. Directly, I make very little from the blog. I have affiliate links scattered throughout the blog. The sales usually come hotel bookings, car rentals, and Amazon. These do not make me a big commission, however. Of course, it would be great if I did make more money from these affiliate links. I do not have a big enough audience to get paid to write about my experiences on my blog. However, I didn’t set out to make money from my blog when I started.

Indirectly, I do make money from my blog. The blog has presented me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It started out as sharing my blog posts on other platforms and have made small amounts of money here and there from that. I am still getting some commissions from these, but again they are small, and they usually required a minimum amount before I can receive the payments. I have also received some free hotel stays as a result of my blog but never had payment in addition to the stay.

Now I am writing for other sites and getting paid for it. I also help other bloggers and business owners help other bloggers and business owners with their blogs and websites. Much of this revolves around making sure their sites are running optimally and seeing that their content is searchable via Google. In addition, I help manage some small business social media. All of this has come about from my blogging. I have taught myself so much about writing, the technical side of blogging and social media in the past six years. While I never set out with this to be the goal, I am happy to say now that I am loving what I do and hope to see what it can bring me in the future. I am now working remotely as a result and will be trying out the digital nomad lifestyle starting this weekend!

Other Bloggers

All bloggers are different, some have no intention of ever monetizing their blogs. In the beginning, I didn’t either. However, the costs of running a blog do add up. Most, like me, realized that the blog could pay for itself with a lot of hard work and determination. I enjoy blogging and wouldn’t continue to do it if I didn’t. I have taken my fair share of blogging breaks over the years.

Many bloggers to do make money from their blogs and social media. Some make their living blogging! I wish I was at that point. They do this in several ways as well. They have affiliate links, sponsored posts and bigger bloggers will have deals with brands. Travel bloggers that have larger audiences make money by going on press trips and writing about the experiences on their blogs and sharing on social media. Hopefully, the bloggers you follow are telling you they are on these trips because you deserve to know and in most countries, it is the law now.

What Does This Mean To You

I think a lot of people ask because they want to know if what they are seeing is real. If you are reading my blog, I can guarantee it is. For other bloggers, I think you can figure it out if you have followed them for a while. It may be more difficult if they are new or you haven’t followed them for a while. If you really want to know, just ask! Genuine people will tell you the truth.

If you feel that a blogger’s article has helped you in some way, support them! Buy the product you loved that they share with their affiliate link, it doesn’t cost you extra. Book the hotel they recommended with their link. Leave a comment or share. Any kind of support, whether financial or not is helpful. I for one love comments and interaction. Of course, I would love to make money from the blog but I also want to know you are loving the content or that it helped you. That is my ultimate goal!

Let me know if you have questions about this or anything else about blogging! I will be happy to answer.

do you make money from your blog