Antigua Guatemala (ăntēˈgwə gwätəmäˈlə, Span. äntēˈgwä gwätāmäˈlä) [key] [Span., = Old Guatemala] or Antigua, town (1991 pop. 58,114), S central Guatemala. It is the capital of Sacatepéquez dept. Founded in 1542 by survivors from nearby Ciudad Vieja, which had been destroyed by a volcanic mud and debris flow and earthquake, Antigua Guatemala became the third capital of Spanish Guatemala. In the 17th cent., it flourished as one of the richest capitals of the New World, rivaling Lima and Mexico City; by the 18th cent., its population had increased to c.60,000. Its university was a center of the arts and learning, and its churches, convents, monasteries, public buildings, and residences were characterized by massive luxury. Antigua Guatemala, dominated by the volcanoes Agua (12,310 ft/3,752 m high), Acatenango (12,982 ft/3,957 m high), and Fuego (12,854 ft/3,918 m high), was continually subject to disaster from volcanic eruptions, floods, and earthquakes. In 1773 a series of earthquakes leveled the city, and the Spanish captain-general subsequently ordered the removal of the capital to a plain supposedly free from earthquakes, there founding Guatemala city. Antigua Guatemala, which has many fine Spanish colonial buildings, is a major tourist center. It is also a commercial center and a rich coffee-growing region.
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