52 years that were not in vain

The fate of Antigua Guatemala, an iconic city of the 18th century frozen in time, was marked with the publication of the Protective Law on November 21, 1969.

The Protective Council has been in operation since 1972. Its first actions transformed the image of the city, beginning by eliminating signs of all kinds, whether they were on the facades of houses, on flags or on poles, painted or illuminated, an image that gave the streets the grotesque market appearance. The task was accompanied by educational programs for children and youth, as well as cultural campaigns for the population, which in principle rejected the new conservation regime as it was considered an attack on private property.

By then the Jesuit complex made up of the temple, the three cloisters of the Colegio Mayor, the monastery and the garden, since 1912 it was occupied by the municipal market. For that, its interior spaces had been partially mutilated and the exterior windows turned into doors for the commercial premises to the street, spoiling its nature and architectural value.

The earthquakes of February 4 and 6, 1976 showed the fragility of the city, making the already difficult task of conserving it more difficult. The tragedy stimulated requesting and receiving international support, including the study to request the Unesco World Heritage Convention to be included in the list of protected cultural property, a privilege achieved in 1979 and registered with No. 65. One of the first works to On a large scale, in that same year, was the recovery of the Jesuit complex, having its own funds and those contributed by Unesco in the face of the emergency.

From the management as Curator of the City (1978-1985) it became clear to me the need to have the support of residents aware of the importance of conserving the cultural asset, since the institutional efforts of the CNPAG-Municipality were always insufficient. With a first group, in 1985 we recovered the Friends of Antigua Association, whose statutes date back to 1932. In 1992 I founded the Diego de Porres Association of Architects. In 1999 we created the Salvemos Antigua Association, dedicated to educational programs, cultural activities, conferences and forums, in order to support the authorities.

Salvemos Antigua and Diego de Porres have criticized threatening projects, while making concrete proposals. The most important, the creation of the Technical Unit for Municipal Development (2001) that prepared the 2002 Territorial Ordering Scheme. In 2006 the Civic Council of Neighbors brought together nine committees and 12 associations; It is the most representative group of the custody of the historic city.

In 2013, an arbitrary project in the village of Santa Ana, of 77 lots, provoked their collective rejection, determining that it lacked authorization. In 2020, the Municipal Council omitted the precedent and approved the change in land use, again causing local reaction, this time from the Community Development Council of the village (Cocode), made up of young professionals and determined neighbors. Today I see with pleasure how the 52 years that have elapsed since the publication of the Protective Law, together with the work and effort driven, personal and collective, did not pass in vain.

Neighbors of Santa Ana and other villages value the importance of living in a historic city, whose validity, they know, depends on the protection and development of its urban enclaves created in the 16th century. They make conservation their own as a source of identity and present strong opposition to new projects that do not provide any benefit given their speculative nature, putting at risk the quality of life to which they are accustomed.


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