Colonial History

Colonial History

Spanish conquest

Overview of Colonial History

Guatemala was ruled by different Mayan kingdoms before the Spanish Conquest. It was a rich land in 1524 when Pedro de Alvarado, Hernan Cortes most brutal lieutenant, discovered the magical land of Guatemala.

Together with his army of Spanish and Mexican soldiers, Alvarado defeated a small K'iche force in Quetzaltenango. The K’iche’s leader, Tecun Uman, was killed during the battle. In 1960 Tecun Uman was declared National Hero of Guatemala. Alvarado then raided the K'iche's capital K'umarcaaj and defeated also other Mayan civilizations.

In the beginning of the colonial history there was one Mayan tribe, the Kaqchiquels, which allied themselves with the Spanish and fought against the K'iche' and Tz'utujils. The Spanish took advantage of the situation and set up their first headquarter in Iximché near Tecpan the Kaqchiquel's capital. Their alliance didn't last much and thanks to the Mayan hostility, the Spanish moved their capital to a different place: Almolonga's Valley (1527), today known as Ciudad Vieja.

This first capital at Ciudad Vieja began to acquire Spanish characteristics in their structures and it became a base for manufacturers supplying arms. It was located on the foothills of Volcan de Agua. 11 years after their settlement, a destructive lahar swamped the village and its survivors were forced to move to a different place. They discovered Panchoy's valley (1543), today known as Antigua Guatemala. Attracted by its fertile land and location, they settled themselves in this beautiful place and imposed a strong baroque-influenced architecture style. Antigua served for more than 200 years as one of the most important Spanish colonies. Later in 1773 a catastrophic earthquake killed hundreds of people. In 1776 the Spanish relocated again, this time to Ermita's valley (Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncion). They then founded Guatemala City which nowadays is the biggest city in Central America.

Traveling throughout Guatemala you will find churches, buildings and fountains original from the Colonial times. Most colonial history buildings and other artefacts can be seen and experienced in Guatemala City and Antigua. Antigua is a slow paced historic town to chill and make new friends. From Antigua you can easily visit Cuidad Vieja and imagine the Spanish Conquest. A mix of Spanish and Mayan arts and surrounded by three volcanoes make this region a unique area of Guatemala. From its architecture to its beautiful natural surroundings; experience the splendors of Guatemala, a treasure hidden in Central America!