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15 Cool Facts about Guatemala City
Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala and the largest city in Central America. It is situated about 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level on a broad highland in the Sierra Madre, 50 miles (80 km) north of the Pacific coast. The climate is mild, with little seasonal variation in temperatures. Most of the rainfall occurs between May and October. Guatemala City has a population of 1.022 million (2001).
1. Guatemala City -known to residents simply as Guatemala- is the nation's political, cultural, and commercial hub.
2. With its suburbs, Guatemala City holds more than 20% of the republic's population.
3. Guatemala City has most of Guatemala's government agencies, its leading banks, its major newspapers and broadcasting stations, and its most important schools, including the venerable University of San Carlos.
4. A diversified base of light industry in Guatemala City produces textiles, clothing, food, furniture, and other goods.
5. The city is divided into a number of urban zones, each with it own street grid. It lies on the Inter-American Highway and is connected by rail with Mexico and El Salvador and with most Guatemalan cities, including the port of San José on the Pacific and Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean.
6. An international airport in Guatemala City was opened in 1968.
7. Originally named Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, Guatemala City was founded in 1776 to serve as the colonial capital of Spanish Central America, replacing Santiago (modern Antigua), which had been leveled by earthquakes in 1773.
8. After the Spanish were expelled in 1821, Guatemala City became the capital of the Central American Federation (1823–1838) and subsequently of the Guatemalan republic.
9. Although it was built only 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the earlier capital, Guatemala City was thought to be safe from earthquakes; however, serious shocks occurred in 1874. In 1917 and 1918 a series of major quakes left the city in ruins. It was largely rebuilt by 1921 but again suffered heavy damage in 1976.
10. Architecturally, the city is a blend of late colonial and more modern elements, although major buildings in the colonial style are mainly 20th-century reconstructions.
11. At or near the central plaza (Parque Central), from which broad avenues extend at right angles, are situated the imposing National Palace (now a museum), the Presidential Palace, and the cathedral (1782–1815), one of the few structures that survived the earthquakes of 1917–1918.
12. Dominating the skyline of Guatemala City are multistoried buildings of contemporary design.
13. La Merced, an early-19th-century church rebuilt after 1918, contains altars and other treasures transported from Antigua.
14. Other points of interest in Guatemala City include the modern Olympic Stadium, the Central Market, University City, and the Cerrito del Carmen, where a reconstruction of an old hermitage is set in a hillside park. In the western outskirts are the Mayan ruins of Kaminaljuyú.
15. The recent history of Guatemala City has been one of purposeful commercial development hampered by the chronic instability of the national government and by a tremendous influx of indigent people from rural areas. That influx peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, a period of intense guerrilla warfare. The growth of the city was accompanied by the spread of slum areas in the poorest districts. Renacentro, a project to restore and preserve the historic center of the city, was initiated in 1994.