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Ciudad Vieja
Coordinates 13°51′33″N 89°01′58″W / 13.85917°N 89.03278°W / 13.85917; -89.03278

Ciudad Vieja, is an archaeological site in the Cuscatlán department of El Salvador.[1] The name Ciudad Vieja is Spanish for "Old City".[1] The site is also sometimes known as Hacienda La Bermuda, the name of the landholding in which the site was once located.

Ciudad Vieja was the first permanently-occupied location of the Spanish Colonial city of San Salvador. It was founded in 1528 CE and occupied until 1545. It was the capital of the Province of El Salvador, part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala.[2]

The archaeological site covers an area of 0.45 km2, and consists of the remains of a number of structural foundation platforms laid out in a grid plan and centered on an open civic plaza. The major structures of Ciudad Vieja include the cabildo hall and a church.[1] The architecture, while laid out on a Spanish Colonial plan, has many features, especially in the form of the house lots and terraced platforms, in common with pre-colombian structures.[1]


The ruins of the city are 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) to the south of the modern city of Suchitoto.[3] Ciudad Vieja occupies 45 hectares (110 acres) of a plateau northeast of a small volcanic cone called Cerro Tecomatepe, at the southern margin of the valley of the Lempa River.[4] The location would have been rugged and wooded at the time of the city's occupation, requiring significant labor from surrounding conquered native communities to build the city and supply it with food.[4]

The site appears to have been intentionally located in an area of low indigenous population. The valley of the Lempa River may have approximated a cultural boundary between the Nahuat-speaking Pipil state of Cuzcatán to the south and west and areas occupied by Maya and Lenca peoples to the north and east.[4]


The site was founded by XX in 1528. An earlier attempt to found the city of San Salvador in 1525 had been abandoned in 1526 due to native resistance.


Spanish conquistadors under Pedro de Alvarado entered the territory of what is now El Salvador in June of 1524. Several skirmishes and two major battles were fought between the Spaniards and armies from the Pipil states of Itzalco and Cuzcatán. This first Spanish expedition into El Salvador entered the capital of the Cuzcatán state, but was unable to fully pacify the Pipil. In the face of resistance, and desiring to consolidate his power among the Mayas of highland Guatemala, Alvarado withdrew into the Guatemalan mountains to found the city of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala on the site of the Kaqchikel capital of Iximche.

Following this withdrawal, Pedro de Alvarado appointed his brother, Diego de Alvarado, who had participated in the first expedition, to return and pacify the Pipil of Cuzcatán. This second expedition, which involved at least three hundred native auxiliaries from the Soconusco region, and probably many other contingents of native from Mexico and the Highland Maya area, entered the Pipil states in 1525. Diego de Alvarado founded the city of San Salvador in that year, appointing Diego Holguín as its first alcalde. This first foundation of the city was short-lived, and was abandoned by 1526, apparently due to strong native resistance. The location of the first San Salvador is uncertain, but it may have been at or near the Ciudad Vieja site.

From 1526 to 1528, there was little or no Spanish presence in El Salvador. This period saw dissent among the conquistadors who remained in Guatemala and insurrection by the Kaqchikel and K'iche' peoples there.


Diego de Alvarado returned with yet another Spanish expedition in 1528. The city of San Salvador was refounded for a second time. This second foundation of San Salvador is definitely represented by the Ciudad Vieja site. The site was apparently chosen for its location in a sparsely inhabited area between the Pipil states to the south and southwest and the Lencas, Mayas, and other peoples to the north and northeast. The conquest of surrounding areas was still ongoing at this time, and San Salvador was placed, at least in part, as a military outpost and supply center.



Modern history[edit]

Site description[edit]

The site can be visited, although little restoration work has been done to it.

Plaza Mayor[edit]



Other structures[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kelly 1996, p.200.
  2. ^ Sharer & Traxler 2006, pp.621-622.
  3. ^ Carmack 2001a, p.218.
  4. ^ a b c Cite error: The named reference Sharer & Traxler 2006, p.623 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


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Category:Maya sites in Guatemala Category:Former populated places in Guatemala Category:Quiché Department Category:K'iche'