When traveling around the world what excites you the most?
Is it the art of the region or maybe the architecture of the buildings around you, the people or maybe it’s the food. I love all of that stuff too, but what really excites me is the culturally significant events that various people around the world celebrate. I could spend days if not weeks just watching festivals and learning about them. Recently while in Guatemala, I spent some time in Antigua, one of Guatemala’s most beautiful places (if you ask me). Antigua has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you would like to know more about Antigua, visit the UNESCO site here, Antigua
Over the years, Antigua retained its colonial charm and perfect climate and is today one of Guatemala’s premier tourist destinations. You’ll enjoy shopping at the markets, where you can purchase brightly colored textiles, pottery and more. Many of the old convents and monasteries are still in ruins, but have been made safe for tours. Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes: whose names are Agua, Fuego, Acatenango and Pacaya, and visitors like to climb them when it is safe to do so. Antigua is particularly known for the Baile de la Conquista Festival.
The Baile de la Conquista or Dance of the Conquest is a traditional folkloric dance from Guatemala. The dance reenacts the invasion led by Spanish Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras and his confrontation with the K’iche’ Maya ruler Tecún Umán. Although the dance is more closely associated with Guatemalan traditions, it has been performed in early colonial regions of Latin America at the urging of Catholic friars and priests, as a method of converting various native populations and African slaves to Christianity.
The dance begins in Utatlán, the capital of the K’iche’ kingdom, where the Rey K’iche’ (the king) receives word of the Spaniards’ approach from Aztec ruler Moctezum II in Tenochtitlan. The king then sends his sons and daughters to Xelajuj Noj (Modern-day Quetzaltenango) to recruit Tecún Umán to lead the army against the approaching foes. Following scenes depict the K’iche’ chieftains and then the Spanish officers swearing allegiance to their respective leaders. Soon after, ubattle ensues between the Spanish and native troops, culminating with the battle between Alvarado and Tecún Umán. The K’iche’ army is soon defeated, and echoing the Baile de los Moros, the dance concludes as the Kʻiche’ warriors submit peaceably to Spanish rule and embrace Christianity.
The confrontation between Tecún Umán and Pedro de Alvarado is the central theme of the Guatemalan version of the Baile de la Conquista. Since there is little documentation to prove the existence of a historical K’iche king or prince known as Tecún Umán, it has been suggested that he was simply created in order to replace the role of the Moorish prince, the central antagonist of the Baile de los Moros. This theory has yet to be proven, and is given little attention in light of pre-existing documents speaking of a historical Tecún Umán long before the first performances of Baile de la Conquista. I hope you enjoy this video which gives just a flavor of the Festival.
Like lots of people who travel the world, I purchase folkart and different souvenirs that I think are beautiful and should be displayed as art. My home is filled with these types of things, to say the least it’s an eclectic mix of art, culture and folklore throughout my home. On this visit I was so excited to have the opportunity to purchase a genuine Conquistador’s Costume that was worn by a child in the Baile de la Conquista Festival. I just the love the beauty of it, it’s importance to the culture of the region, and it’s workmanship. It is clear that it was made out of love and belief in the history of Guatemala. I am proud to honor Guatemala, Antigua and it’s people by showcasing it’s beauty in my home. I have compiled some of my photos from this trip and I hope you enjoy them.
Antigua, Guatemala, a set on Flickr.