The temp was mild, but my desire definitely wasn’t. My camera was in hand, and I had learned from previous travels that second looks weren’t guaranteed. There were too many things that could happen from that point forward. Plans could change, I could get distracted, forget my Canon, or the weather could be inclement. Right then was an opportune moment to get my pictures. So I forewent a much-needed nap in my hotel room to capture the beauty of Antigua, Guatemala.
It was the middle of the afternoon, and I was in the middle of the city. The majestic Volcán de Agua towered from the south. It seemed like the colossal volcano was watching me as I circled the square. I slowly walked the tree-lined paths of Central Park, taking in the sounds of a five-piece band, giggling children, and water peacefully flowing from the reconstructed fountain at the plaza’s bull’s-eye. I decided to give my dogs a rest. I sat on the fount’s edge for a while and observed my surroundings.
To the north sat El Palacio del Noble Ayuntamiento. The departmental (Sacatepéquez) and national flags proudly stood atop city hall; both stories fronted by numerous stout arches. I glanced right. La Catedral de Santiago gleamed on Parque Central’s eastern edge. It was immaculate. I was captivated by the way the ivory church brilliantly shined in the afternoon sun.
I looked behind me. El Palacio de los Capitanes Generales presided over Plaza Mayor’s southern border. Having read it was once the center of the Spanish colonial government in Central America, I wasn’t surprised by its almighty presence. The double-arcaded, two-story office building powerfully loomed above the cobblestones below. Then, I faced west. I studied the colorful, antiquated structures lining Fifth Avenue. Intrigued, I took a deep breath, rose to my feet, and chose to see where the road would lead me.
I stumbled upon an entertaining stopping point. Halfway down the block dozens of people circled a street performer. The crowd loudly cheered as a mime juggled atop his unicycle. The Guatemalan put on quite the display. He jumped, spun, and rapidly zigzagged while somehow maintaining his balance. Impressed with his act, I stepped in front of my fellow onlookers to take his picture. He saw me immediately. Instead of looking the other way, though, the young man posed as he pedaled towards me, putting his right hand on his hip and his left behind his head. Fighting off laughter, I steadied my camera, and snapped the mime’s photo just before he turned around.
The show was good, but I had to go on. Near the avenue’s northern end. I checked out the Santa Catalina arch, which spanned the width of Fifth. I examined the colonial curve. Reaching a T, I turned left. On the corner of First Street West and Sixth Avenue North boomed the magnificent Iglesia La Merced. I was in awe. Ogling the ornate yellow façade of this stupendous church for several minutes, I finally took a picture. It would be my last of the day. Shortly thereafter, I was pushing open the door to my room at Posada Los Búcaros.
Within a few days, I was back in the States and happily reliving my trip to Guatemala as I eagerly perused my pictures. When I came across the images from Antigua, however, I was instantly reminded of the beauty of this colonial city.
Revisiting Antigua in my mind, I roamed its cobblestone streets, admired the colonial structures, and appreciated their striking colors. I sauntered to Parque Central, weaved through the arches of the surrounding buildings, and took a seat at the relaxing fountain. I soaked in the tranquil ambience. Then, I gazed at the tremendous Volcán de Agua, and realized how lucky I was. Where else could a person leisurely stroll through a park eclipsed by a 3800-meter-tall volcano?
So I reflected upon the choice I made that Saturday—trading sleep for snapshots—and wondered if I had made the right move. Sure, I was tired at the time. But I spent an afternoon touring incredible Antigua; a chance I may never get again. I scrolled through my photos one more time. I sighed. The price was well worth it.
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Learn more about service-learning and student development in this interview with Julie Rogers Bascom.
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