Earthquakes in Guatemala

Published: February 23rd 2013
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1.Tectonic plates of central America1.Tectonic plates of central America1.Tectonic plates of central America

The North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate collide all the way across Guatemala
Guatemala has the honor to be transected by the collision of two major tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Carribean Plate. They are still moving, one pushing up and over the other, leaving an easily visible fault in the surface of the earth, called the Motagua Fault, that runs right across the whole country. See photo 1.

This fault runs right near Antigua, and is responsible for its distinguished history of earthquakes. There was a fairly big one in 1717, and another in 1751. In 1765 they had an 8.2 that ruptured the earth all the way into Chiapas. Then the Big One hit on July 29 1773, leaving most of the city of Antigua in rubble. With that, the Antiguans had had it. Formerly the capital city, Antigua was essentially abandoned for many years, with the survivors moving to a new capital, called Guatemala City, about 45 miles away. But the quakes continued. There were twelve more until the next Big One in 1976 which hit the new capital and killed 22,000 people. They continue; the latest being a 7.4 out the jungle somewhere in 2012 that did not kill anyone that they know of.
2.Capuchin ruins A2.Capuchin ruins A2.Capuchin ruins A

2. Ruins of the Capuchin convent, with gorgeous garden

This is why there are so many huge ruins in Antigua. There are at least six that you can visit, all with beautiful gardens surrounding the ruin of a monastery or convent or a church. See photos 2 and 3. Even the main Cathedral of Guatemala, down in the Plaza Mayor, was never completely rebuilt after 1773. They built only a small part of the old cathedral back, but that is plenty big enough. We witnessed a service there last Sunday, indistinguishable from any other Catholic service except for the TV screens on which those in the far recesses of the church could see face the celebrant. It was just an ordinary Sunday, and the Bishop was not present.

On the way to see the big cathedral, you pass the ruins of a convent that are not particularly restored or beautiful. One collapsed side is used as a storage yard for the Semana Santa floats, usually locked up, but for some reason accessible last Saturday. There are dozens of them, all extremely heavy and full of painted Catholic statues of the Passion, which as you may know, was a fairly normal Roman execution of a dreadful
3.  Capuchin garden with bride3.  Capuchin garden with bride3. Capuchin garden with bride

3. There was a wedding there the afternoon we visited.
man who had desecrated the main Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. He got what he was asking for as I see it, but not many see it that way. Semana Santa is huge here, with a huge parade that is in many ways quite terifyingly fascist.

Next time: Our trip down the Rio Motagua, and then north to Tikal.

Additional photos below
Photos: 7, Displayed: 7


4. Calle Arco4. Calle Arco
4. Calle Arco

The arch was for the nuns to cross from side of the convent to the other without being seen by the vulgar
5. Floats for Semana Santa5. Floats for Semana Santa
5. Floats for Semana Santa

These are stored along Calle Arco beside the convent ruin, used only once a year for the big Semana Santa parade.
6. Ouch!6. Ouch!
6. Ouch!

Normal protestants are not used to seeing this stuff. But some Catholics and Evangelicals can't get enough of it.
7. Descent7. Descent
7. Descent

This was the end of a nasty little execution. Or so the Romans thought.

24th February 2013

Hi Martin, I enjoyed reading this update and am thinking of you and Carol enjoying everything. Love, Meredith

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