A beautiful city to the north of Zacapa, it was once the capital of Guatemala before the capital moved to Guatemala city. Originally called "Antigua Guatemala", literally meaning "old Guatemala", you can see the mixture of centuries worth of architecture. Ruins of buildings stand next to small houses along the same street.
Founded by the Spanish in 1523, the indigenous Mayan people of the region were enslaved. However, they rebelled against the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and forced him to find a safer place to live. His wife Beatriz took over the city but was killed, along with many other citizens of the city, in a mudslide in 1541. The third time the Spanish rebuilt the city, a series of earthquakes destroyed a lot of it in 1773. This event was the final push to move the capital to Guatemala City. As the capital grew, the indigenous people and citizens of Guatemala returned to Antigua to rebuild. It still prospers as a major tourist destination today.
The city is overseen by three volcanoes. They are called Agua (water), Fuego (fire) and Acetanango, an indigenous Mayan name. The largest of the three is Agua, seen below from the Cerro de la Cruz, Cruz of the Hill.
Antigua is a beautiful combination of old and new. Preparing for Semana Santa, or the Easter festivities, purple banners hang from many buildings. Semana Santa is an important holiday in Latin American countries. An old building in downtown Antigua houses religious figurines ready to line the streets. Men will actually carry a real life crucifix through the streets as an honor as well.
Hearts in Motion brings its students here for what I like to think is a little R&R&R&R. Students get some relaxation, exploring the city, shopping, eating and spending time together. Other students indulged in a little recreation, either choosing to go ziplining, hiking or on a tour. For a lot of people this is a time of recuperation. Either with stomach issues or serious bug bites, it is good to have so many medical personnel surrounding us.
However, the final R, and the most important I feel, is that it is a time of reflection. It is easy to go through the motions and just experience what happened in Zacapa and to move on. But for a lot of people, including myself, I believe that this is not a trip that will stay in Central America. Some people have started considering changing their majors to a medical profession or have already started planning on returning. Others' hearts have changed so much and have been humbled by their experiences that their heart is permanently in motion.
Tomorrow we return to the United States. No matter the original reason that a person joined Hearts in Motion, I know for myself personally, and for a lot of people I spent this time with, we will not return the same.