Guatemala City

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Guatemala City
La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción
Ciudad de Guatemala
From upper left: Grand Tikal Futura, skyline of the zone 14 or area of residential buildings, the National Palace of Culture in zone 1, skyline of the zona viva or zone 10, The Tower of the Reformer, buildings in the Zone 10 of day, underneath the current Museum of Post and Telegraph, Palace of the Ministry of the Interior of Guatemala, panorama of the zone 13 from the La Aurora International Airport, Paseo Cayalá in Zone 16, Plaza Fontabella, buildings "Zona Pradera", Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias, Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala City.
From upper left: Grand Tikal Futura, skyline of the zone 14 or area of residential buildings, the National Palace of Culture in zone 1, skyline of the zona viva or zone 10, The Tower of the Reformer, buildings in the Zone 10 of day, underneath the current Museum of Post and Telegraph, Palace of the Ministry of the Interior of Guatemala, panorama of the zone 13 from the La Aurora International Airport, Paseo Cayalá in Zone 16, Plaza Fontabella, buildings "Zona Pradera", Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias, Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala City.
Flag of Guatemala City
Coat of arms of Guatemala City
Coat of arms
Motto: "Todos somos la ciudad" (We all are the city), "Tú eres la ciudad" (You are the city)
Guatemala City is located in Guatemala
Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Location within Guatemala
Coordinates: 14°36′48″N 90°32′7″W / 14.61333°N 90.53528°W / 14.61333; -90.53528Coordinates: 14°36′48″N 90°32′7″W / 14.61333°N 90.53528°W / 14.61333; -90.53528
Country  Guatemala
Department Guatemala
Established 1776
 • Type Municipality
 • Mayor Alvaro Arzu (PU. Partido Unionista)
 • City 692 km2 (267 sq mi)
 • Land 1,905 km2 (736 sq mi)
 • Water 0 km2 (0 sq mi)
Elevation 1,500 m (4,900 ft)
Population (2011 Estimate)
 • City 1,110,100
 • Metro 4,100,000
Time zone Central America (UTC-6)
Website Municipalidad de Guatemala

Guatemala City (in full, La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción; locally known as Guatemala or Guate), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala, and the most populous in Central America. The city is located in the south-central area of the country and has a large number of green areas. In 2009, it had a formal population of 1,075,000, but the metropolitan population is believed to be at least 2.3 million.[1] Guatemala City is also the capital city of the local Municipio de Guatemala, and Guatemala Department.

The city is located at 14°38′N 90°33′W / 14.633°N 90.550°W / 14.633; -90.550, in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita in the south central part of the country Guatemala.


Within the confines of modern Guatemala City is the ancient Maya city of Kaminaljuyu. Kaminaljuyu was first occupied between 1200 and 1000 BC and the city continued to be inhabited for about 2000 years before it was abandoned in the Late Classic Period of Mesoamerican chronology (600–900 AD).[2] It is one of America's most notable archaeological sites. The center of Kaminaljuyu was located a short distance from the oldest part of Guatemala City. However, in the late 20th century, the city grew around the ruins, and, in some cases, over some of the outlying ruins before they were protected.

Many of the several hundred temple mounds have been built over with freeways, shopping centers, commerce, luxury hotels and residential areas. The central ceremonial center of Kaminaljuyu was however protected by the Guatemalan government and is now a park within the city. There are also many ruins still in existence, protected by the government.

In Spanish colonial times, Guatemala City was a small town. It had a monastery called El Carmen, founded in 1628. The capital of the Spanish Captaincy General of Guatemala, covering most of modern Central America, was moved here after a series of earthquakes—the Santa Marta earthquakes that started on July 29, 1773—destroyed the old capital, Antigua Guatemala.[3] On September 27, 1775, King Charles III of Spain officialized the moving of the capital. This dramatically increased the potential for expansion of the city, an expansive that involved the rebuilding at a significant distance from the volcanos believed to have caused the earthquake. This new building gave way to the name New Guatemala by Europeans.[4]

Guatemala City was the scene of the declaration of independence of Central America from Spain, and became the capital of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821.

Contemporary times[edit]

Guatemala City from Carretera a El Salvador

Guatemala City is the economic, governmental, and cultural capital of the Republic. The city also functions as the main port of entry into the country, with international airport, La Aurora International Airport and most major highways in the country originating or leading to the city. The city continues to be a pole for the attraction of immigrants from the country's rural areas as well as foreign immigrants.

In addition to a wide variety of restaurants, hotels, shops, and a modern BRT transport system (Transmetro), the city has a wide variety of art galleries, theaters, sports venues and museums (including some fine collections of Pre-Columbian art) and continually offers an increasing amount of cultural activities. Guatemala City offers all the modern amenities along with important historic sites that a world class city can be expected to have ranging from an IMAX Theater to the Ícaro film festival (Festival Ícaro) featuring films produced in Guatemala and Central America.


Despite its location in the tropics and the many micro climates found within the country, Guatemala City’s elevation and the resulting moderating influence of the higher altitude enable it to enjoy a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb). Guatemala City is generally mild, almost springlike, throughout the course of the year. It occasionally gets warm during the dry season, but not as hot as cities located at sea level in the tropics. The hottest month is April. The rainy season extends from May to October while the dry season covers the remainder of the year. The city is also very windy, which may decrease the apparent temperature.

The average annual temperature ranges from 22 to 28 °C (72 to 82 °F) during the day, and 12 to 17 °C (54 to 63 °F) at night.

Average morning relative humidity: 82%, evening relative humidity: 58%. Average dew point is 16 °C (61 °F).[5]

Climate data for Guatemala City (1990–2011)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30.0
Average high °C (°F) 24.3
Average low °C (°F) 13.2
Record low °C (°F) 6.0
Rainfall mm (inches) 2.8
Avg. rainy days 1.68 1.45 2.00 4.73 12.36 21.14 18.59 19.04 20.82 14.59 6.18 2.64 135.5
 % humidity 74.3 73.4 73.2 74.3 77.3 82.4 80.8 80.9 84.5 82.0 79.2 76.0 77.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 248.4 236.2 245.6 237.9 184.4 155.3 183.4 191.8 159.0 178.0 211.7 209.2 2,441.2
Source: Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia, e Hidrologia [6]

Structure and growth[edit]

Evening view from a plane
Plaza España at Night

Guatemala City is subdivided into 22 zones designed by the urban engineering of Raúl Aguilar Batres, each one with its own streets and avenues, making it pretty easy to find addresses in the city. Zones are numbered 1-25 with Zones 20, 22 and 23 not existing as they would have fallen in two other municipalities territory.[7] Addresses are assigned according to the street or avenue number, followed by a dash and the number of meters it is away from the intersection further simplifying address location. The zones are assigned in a spiral form starting in downtown Guatemala city.

The city's metro area has recently grown very rapidly and has absorbed most of the neighboring municipalities of Villa Nueva, San Miguel Petapa, Mixco, San Juan Sacatepequez, San José Pinula, Santa Catarina Pinula, Fraijanes, San Pedro Ayampuc, Amatitlán, Villa Canales, Palencia and Chinautla forming what is now known as the Guatemala City Metropolitan Area.

Zone One is the Historic Center, (Centro Histórico), lying in the very heart of the city, the location of many important historic buildings including the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura (National Palace of Culture), the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Congress, the Casa Presidencial (Presidential House), the National Library and Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Plaza, old Central Park). Efforts to revitalize this important part of the city have been undertaken by the municipal government and have been very successful thus far.

C.C. Miraflores
Paseo Cayalá

In an attempt to control rapid growth of the city, the municipal government (Municipalidad de Guatemala) headed by longtime Mayor Álvaro Arzú, has implemented a plan to control its growth based on transects along its important arterial roads and exhibitting Transit-oriented development (TOD) characteristics. This plan denominated POT (Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial) aims to allow taller building structures of mixed uses to be built next to large arterial roads and gradually decline in height and density as you move away from such. It is also worth mentioning, that due to the Airport being in the city, to the south, many Aeronautic Height Limits have been applied to the construction code. This limits the maximum height for a building, at 60 Meters in Zone 10, up to 95 Meters in Zone 1.[8] The city is located in the South-Central area of the country and has a lot of green areas.

The city offers a portfolio of entertainment in the region, focused on the so-called Zona Viva and the Calzada Roosevelt as well as four degrees North. The activity of Casinos is great and possesses several located in different parts of the Zona Viva, although East market is still in the stage of initiation, although the date has been restructuring this area and is becoming more modern. There are many shopping malls, a few of which are: Galerías Miraflores, Oakland Mall, Portales, Pradera Concepción, Metrocentro of Villa Nueva; Shopping malls; Plaza Fontabella, The Village, Majadas, Los Próceres, Bonus Galleries, Via Majadas, Mall of zone 4, Tikal Futura, Galerías Primma, Metronorte, Korea Center, Geminis 10, Unicentro, Plaza del Naranjo, Galerías Pradera, Pacific Center, Metrosur, Century Plaza, Los Manantiales, Peri-Roosevelt, Gran Via Roosevelt, Santander Commercial Plaza, Quinta Samayoa, Gran Via, Eskala Roosevelt, Megacentro among others.

Street of Guatemala city.
Zone 14 of Guatemala City

One of the most outstanding mayors was the engineer Martin Prado Vélez, who took over in 1949, and ruled the city during the reformist Presidents Arevalo and Arbenz. Of cobanero origin, married with Marta Cobos, he studied at the University of San Carlos. Under his tenure, among other modernist works of the city, it was built or started the El Incienso bridge, the construction of the Roosevelt Avenue, the main road axis from East to West of the city, the town hall building, and numerous road works which meant the widening of the colonial city, its order in the cardinal points and the generation of a ring road with the first Shamrock in the main city of Central America.

In the financial district are the tallest buildings in the country including: Club Premier, Tinttorento, Atlantis building, Atrium, Tikal Futura, Building of Finances, Towers Building Batteries, Torres Botticelli, Tadeus, building of the INTECAP, Royal Towers, Towers Geminis, Industrial Bank towers, Holiday Inn Hotel, Premier of the Americas, among many others to be used for offices, apartments etc. Also include projects such as Zona Pradera and Interamerica´s World Financial Center The location of the La Aurora international airport within the city limits the construction of skyscrapers, changing the limits permitted directly by its location within the urban area.

Skyline of the zone 10 of Guatemala City in the evening.
Skyline of the zone 14 or residential buildings zone.


Aerial View of Guatemala City

As of the 2002 census, the metropolitan area had a population of 2.3 million.[9] However, it has grown in excessive amounts throughout recent years.[citation needed] The people of Guatemala City have a diversity of origins, with Spanish and Mestizo descent being the most common[citation needed]. Guatemala City also has a sizeable Indigenous population and minority groups of foreign people[citation needed].

Guatemala City's population has experienced drastic growth since the 1970s with the influx of indigenous migrants from the outlying departments as well as a large influx of foreign groups. For this reason along with several others, Guatemala City has experienced some growth problems such as transportation saturation, availability of safe potable water in some areas at certain times as well as increased crime. The infrastructure, although continuing to grow and improve[citation needed], at times appears to be lagging in relation to the population explosion. In other words, Guatemala City faces problems common to many other rapidly expanding cities.


Guatemala City is home to many communication company headquarters, the most popular being Tigo, Claro-Telgua, and Movistar-Telefónica. All three companies often provide "double days" where prepaid users get double the value of the cards. For this reason, prepaid phones are more popular than monthly flat rate plans. These companies also offer TV-Cable, Internet and International Roaming. There are 7 local television channels, apart from all kinds of international channels ranging from kids channels such as Nickelodeon or Disney Channel to channels such as E!, HBO, etc. As well as informational, news, European and Asian channels.

Financial sector[edit]

Guatemala City's banking headquarters include banks such as CitiBank, Banco Agromercantil, Banco Promerica, Banco Industrial, Banco GyT Continental, Banco de Antigua, Banco Reformador, Banrural, Grupo Financiero de Occidente, BAC Credomatic, Banco Internacional, among others. The city's most popular department/general stores include Siman, Hiper Paiz & Paiz (Walmart), Price Smart, ClubCo, Cemaco, Sears, Office Depot, etc.

Places of interest by zones[edit]

Palacio Nacional, Guatemala City.
Relief map of Guatemala
Tower of the Reformer
Zone 10 of Guatemala City
Buildings in Guatemala City as seen from La Aurora Int'l Airport Concourse with the old historic airport in the forefront.

Guatemala City is subdivided into 22 zones designed by the urban engineering of Raúl Aguilar Batres, each one with its own streets and avenues, making it very easy to find addresses in the city. Zones are numbered 1-25 with Zones 20, 22 and 23 not existing.[7]

Zone 1[edit]

Zone 2[edit]

  • Mapa en Relieve (giant map of Guatemala, unique in the world) and surrounding parks [10]

Zone 3[edit]

Zone 4[edit]

Zone 5[edit]

Zone 6[edit]

Zone 9[edit]

Zone 10[edit]

Zone 10, along with being the financial district of the city, is among the most popular areas for pop culture, shopping and entertainment. A district within Zone 10, known as Zona Viva, contains many of the city's most popular and most expensive hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues for urban dwellers. Also, many of the embassies are located in Zone 10.

  • Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena (Mayan dress museum) [11]
  • Museo Popol Vuh
  • Zona Viva entertainment district
  • Botanical garden [12]
  • Plaza Fontabella
  • Oakland Mall

Zone 11[edit]

  • Museo Miraflores [8], Miraflores one of the biggest malls in the city and Central America.

Zone 13[edit]

  • Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología [13]
  • Museo de Arte Moderno (Art Museum)
  • Museo de los Niños (Children's Museum)
  • Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum)
  • La Aurora Zoo [14]
  • La Aurora International Airport
  • Avenida de las Américas
  • Domo Polideportivo Indoor Sports Stadium
  • Mercado de Artesanías, Artscrafts and handicrafts Market
  • Reloj de Flores (Landscaped Floral Clock)
  • Antiguo Aqueducto (Remains of the Historical Aqueduct)
  • Justo Rufino Barrios Monument (Monument of one of Guatemala's much acclaimed past President, responsible for the introduction of the railroads among other services to the country.)
  • Tecún Úman Monument (Monument to a famed Mayan leader and warrior in Guatemala's History)
  • Velodromo Nacional (Nacional Velodrome)


  • Urban public transportation is provided mainly by bus and supplemented with a BRT system. Guatemala City is the spot where three (continuous) highways of the country start. (CA9 Transoceanic Highway - Puerto San Jose to Puerto Santo Tomas de Castilla-, CA1 Panamerican Highway -From Mexican frontier to Salvadorian frontier-, and to Peten.) The construction of freeways and underpasses by the municipal government, the implementation of reversible lanes during peak rush hour traffic flows, as well as the establishment of the Department of Metropolitan Transit Police (PMT) has helped traffic flow in the city; however, the Guatemalan metropolitan area still faces a growing transportation problem.
  • A BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system called Transmetro, consisting of special-purpose lanes for high-capacity buses, began operating in 2007, and aimed (since its impact has been huge, it can be considered a success[citation needed]) to improve traffic flow in the city through the implementation of an efficient mass transit system. The system currently consists of two lines. In the future, it is expected to be made up of around 10 lines, with some over-capacity expected lines considered to be made Light Metro or Heavy Metro.

[9] Traditional buses are now required to discharge passengers at central stations at the city's edge to board the Transmetro. This is being implemented as new Transmetro lines become established. In conjunction with the new mass transit implementation in the city, there is also a prepaid bus card system called Transurbano that is being implemented in the metro area to limit cash handling for the transportation system. A new fleet of buses tailored for this system has been purchased from a Brazilian firm.

La Aurora International Airport

Universities and schools[edit]

There are 10 universities, Universidad Mariano Gálvez, Universidad Panamericana, Universidad Mesoamericana, Universidad Rafael Landivar, Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Universidad del Valle, Universidad del Istmo, Universidad Galileo, Universidad Rural and Universidad de San Carlos, the only public one and third oldest university in America. The city also has some of the most expensive private schools in Central America[citation needed], The American School of Guatemala and The Mayan International School.


Guatemala City possesses several sportsgrounds and is home to many sports clubs. Association football is the most popular sport, with CSD Municipal, Aurora FC and Comunicaciones being the main clubs. The Estadio Mateo Flores, located in the Zone 5 of the city, is the largest stadium in the country, followed in capacity by the Estadio Cementos Progreso, Estadio del Ejército & Estadio El Trébol . An important multi-functional hall is the Domo Polideportivo de la CDAG.

The city has hosted several promotional functions and some international sports events: in 1950 it hosted the VI Central American and Caribbean Games, and in 2000 the FIFA Futsal World Championship. On July 4, 2007 the International Olympic Committee gathered in Guatemala City and voted Sochi to become the host for the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.[15] In April 2010, it hosted the XIVth Pan-American Mountain Bike Championships.[16]

Guatemala City hosted the 2008 edition of the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, played at the Domo Polideportivo from June 2 to June 8, 2008.[17]

Natural disasters[edit]

View of Guatemala City with the Agua, Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes in the background.

Volcanic activity[edit]

Four volcanoes are visible from the city, two of them active. The nearest and most active is Pacaya, which at times expels a considerable amount of ash.[18]


Due to heavy rainfalls some of the more impoverished neighborhoods built at the edge of steep valleys are frequently washed away and buried under mudslides, as in October 2005.[19]

Piping pseudokarst[edit]

The 2010 sinkhole in Zona 2

In February 2007, a very large, deep circular hole with vertical walls opened in a poor neighborhood in northeast Guatemala city (14°39′1.40″N 90°29′25″W / 14.6503889°N 90.49028°W / 14.6503889; -90.49028), killing five people. This hole, which is classified by geologists as either a "piping feature" or "piping pseudokarst", was 100 metres (330 ft) deep, and apparently was created by fluid from a sewer eroding uncemented volcanic ash, limestone, and other pyroclastic deposits underlying Guatemala City.[20][21] As a result, one thousand people were evacuated from the area.[22] The piping feature has since been mitigated[how?] and plans to develop on the site have been proposed. However, critics believe municipal authorities have neglected needed maintenance on the city's aging sewerage system, and have speculated that more piping features are likely to develop unless action is taken.[23]

In May 2010, another piping feature, which was larger than a street intersection, developed after Tropical Storm Agatha. It engulfed a three story building and a house (14°39′7.50″N 90°30′21.5″W / 14.6520833°N 90.505972°W / 14.6520833; -90.505972).[24] This 2010 piping feature is at least 18 m (60 ft) wide and 60 m (200 ft) deep.[25] The distance between the 2010 piping feature and the 2007 piping feature is about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) (according to their coordinates). Geologists Sam Bonis and T. Waltham argue that the recurring piping features in Guatemala are caused by sewer leaks eroding soft volcanic deposits underlying Guatemala City.[20][26]

Panoramic views of Guatemala City[edit]

View of Guatemala City from the La Aurora International Airport
Panoramic view of Guatemala City.

International organizations with headquarters in Guatemala City

International relations[edit]

Twin towns — sister cities[edit]

Guatemala City is twinned with:

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ World Statistics Pocketbook | United Nations Statistics Division
  2. ^ Sharer & Traxler 2006, pp.194-195.
  3. ^ José Omar Moncada Maya. "En torno a la destrucción de la ciudad de Guatemala, 2773. Una carta del ingeniero militar Antonio Marín". Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  4. ^ Baily, John (1850). Central America; Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. London: Trelawney Saunders. p. 72. 
  5. ^ Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Guatemala City, Guatemala
  6. ^ "Ministerio de comunicaciones Infraestructura y Vivienda". Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  8. ^ ":::... Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial - Tú eres la Ciudad, Municipalidad de Guatemala, cumple ...:::" (in Template:.e icon). Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  9. ^ "Guatemala: metropolitan areas". World Gazeteer. Archived from the original on 5 Jan 2013. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  10. ^ "Mapa en Relieve de Guatemala". Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  11. ^ "Museo Ixchel". 2008-02-02. Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  12. ^ "Jardin Botanico". Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  13. ^ "Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia de Guatemala -".<!. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  14. ^ "Zoológico". Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  15. ^ rga-online, Remscheid, Germany. "Topnews - Sport - Remscheid: Remscheider General-Anzeiger / rga-online ...weil wir hier zu Hause sind!". Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  16. ^ XIVth Pan-American Mountain Bike Championships
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ "MTU-VP Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala". 1995-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  19. ^ Carlos, Juan (2005-10-07). "Mudslide in Guatemala kills dozens | The San Diego Union-Tribune". Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  20. ^ a b Waltham, T., 2008, Sinkhole hazard case histories in karst terrains. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology. vol. 41 no. 3, pp.. 291-300.
  21. ^ Halliday, W. R., 2007, Pseudokarst in the 21st century. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies. vol. 69, no. 1, p. 103–113.
  22. ^ David L Miller (2009-07-04). "Massive Guatemala Sinkhole Kills 2 Teens". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  23. ^ Constantino Diaz-Duran (2010-06-01). "Sinkhole in Guatemala City Might Not Be the Last". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  24. ^ Walker, Peter (2010-06-01). "Tropical Storm Agatha blows a hole in Guatemala City". The Guardian (London). 
  25. ^ Hole that swallowed a three-story building, Sydney Morning Herald, June 2, 2010
  26. ^ Michael Reilly (2010-06-02). "Don't Call the Guatemala Sinkhole a Sinkhole". Discovery News. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  27. ^ Madrid city council webpage "Mapa Mundi de las ciudades hermanadas". Ayuntamiento de Madrid. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  28. ^ "Taipei - International Sister Cities". Taipei City Council. Archived from the original on 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  29. ^ Estey, Myles. "A generation of young artists is gaining recognition for their gritty depictions of the modern realities of the Central American nation." Global Post. 15 Aug 2011. Retrieved 11 Feb 2012.
  30. ^ "10 Big Thinkers for Big Business - The Daily Beast". 2005-06-19. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 


External links[edit]