Volcán de Fuego

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This article is about the volcano in Guatemala. For the Mexican volcano, see Colima (volcano).
Volcán de Fuego
Volcan de Fuego October 1974 eruption.jpg
Volcán de Fuego, 1974 eruption.
Elevation 3,763 m (12,346 ft)
Volcán de Fuego is located in Guatemala
Volcán de Fuego
Volcán de Fuego
Range Sierra Madre
Coordinates 14°28′58″N 90°52′58″W / 14.48278°N 90.88278°W / 14.48278; -90.88278Coordinates: 14°28′58″N 90°52′58″W / 14.48278°N 90.88278°W / 14.48278; -90.88278
Type Stratovolcano (active)
Age of rock 200 Kyr
Volcanic arc/belt Central America Volcanic Arc
Last eruption 2002 to 2015 (ongoing)

Volcán de Fuego ("Volcano of Fire") is an active stratovolcano in Guatemala, on the borders of Chimaltenango, Esquintla and Sacatepéquez departments. It sits about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to the west of the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, one of Guatemala’s most famous tourist attractions.[1] It has erupted frequently since the Spanish conquest. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare. On 9 August 2007 Fuego erupted spewing lava, rock and ash. Guatemala's volcanology service reported that seven families were evacuated from their homes near the volcano.[2] The volcano is joined with Acatenango and collectively the complex is known as La Horqueta. A new round of activity began on 19 May 2012, with lava flows and ejections of ash.[citation needed]

Early expeditions[edit]

Volcán de Fuego summit as seen from the saddle that separates it from volcán Acatenango in 1899. Photograph by Alfred Percival Maudslay.[3]

In 1881, French writer Eugenio Dussaussay climbed the volcano, then practically unexplored.[4] First, he need to ask for permission to climb to Sacatepéquez governor, who gave him a letter for Alotenango major asking him for guides to help the explorer and his companion, Tadeo Trabanino.[5] They wanted to climb the central peak, unexplored at the time, but could not find a guide and had to climb to the active cone, which had a recent eruption in 1880.[6]

British archeologist Alfred Percival Maudslay climbed the volcano on 7 January 1892. Here is how he described his expedition: "[...] so we arranged to start the very next day for the village of Alotenango. On the 7th January we left that village about 7 o'clock in the morning with seven Mozos, carrying food, clothing, and my camp-bed, and rode for an hour towards the mountains, when we dismounted and sent back our mules. The first two hours' climb was not so very steep, but it was tiring work walking over the loose mould and dry leaves under the thick forest. [...] we recommenced our climb under shadow of the forest by a steep path cut through the undergrowth. At the height of about 9500 feet we, for the first time since starting, got a sight of the peak rising on the other side of a deep ravine. The whole of the slope on which we looked was bare of vegetation, and presented to the eye nothing but desolate slopes of ashes and scoriae broken higher up with patches of burnt rock; we scrambled on through the thick undergrowth, often with loose earth under foot, and by degrees the vegetation changed and we got amongst the pine-trees. At about 11,200 feet we came to a spot where the earth had been levelled for a few yards by the Indians, and there we determined to pass the night. [...] then returned and watched the reflection of the sunset over the more distant peaks and against the perfect cone of Agua. [...] but the cold which followed the sunset soon took all our attention. [...] We turned out of our shelter at about half-past four in the morning, and felt all the better after drinking hot coffee ; we then sat for an hour watching a most beautiful dawn and sunrise. At the opposite side of the valley rose the Volcano of Agua, sloping on one side to the plain of Antigua, and on the other in a long unbroken sweep to the sea, more than forty miles away. Peak after peak stood out against the red light into the far distance, and on the right the low coast-line and the sea showed up very clearly. As soon as the sun was up we started for the summit. I stopped on the way to get a photograph of the cone, which lay to the left of us as we ascended ; but the clouds came over just as I was ready, and I had to give it up. A little over 12,000 feet we left the scraggy pine-trees and arrived at the northern end of a cinder ridge, called the Meseta, which is at the summit of the slope we had been climbing."".[7]

Notorious eruptions[edit]

Photographic composition of Volcán de Fuego as seen from Alotenango in 1897. Composition by Alberto G. Valdeavellano.
Volcán de Fuego notorious eruptions
Date Brief description
1581 Reported by historian Domingo Juarros. Caused damage in the surrounding area. It is possible the damage was related to earthquakes.[8]
27–30 August 1717 Strong eruption right before the San Miguel earthquake.
1732 Reported by historian Domingo Juarros. Caused damage in the surrounding area. It is possible the damage was related to earthquakes.[8]
ca. 1800 Did not have any catastrophic consequence, although it lasted for several days and heated up a nearby stream to the point that beasts would not dare to cross it.[8]
1880 Reported by Eugenio Dussaussay.[9]
1932 Strong eruption that covered Antigua Guatemala in ash.
1974 Strong eruption that causes heavy agricultural losses. Pyroclastic flows destroyed all vegetation in the surroundings of the active cone.
1–6 July 2004 Small eruption preceded by internal explosions.
13 September 2012 The volcano began ejecting lava and ash, prompting officials to begin "a massive evacuation of thousands of people" in five communities.[10] More specifically, the evacuees, roughly 33,000 people, left nearly 17 villages near the volcano.[11] It ejected lava and pyroclastic flows about 600 metres (2,000 ft) down the slope of the volcano.[1]
8 February 2015 A further eruption resulted in 100 nearby residents being evacuated, and the closure of La Aurora International Airport due to the amount of falling ash.[12]

Destruction of Santiago de los Caballeros[edit]

Main article: Antigua Guatemala
Ruins of the Society of Jesus church interior in 1880.

The strongest earthquakes experienced by the city of Santiago de los Caballeros before its final move in 1776 were the San Miguel earthquakes in 1717 . At that time, the power of the Catholic Church over the Spanish Empire citizens was absolute and, therefore, any natural disaster was considered as divine punishment. In the city, people also believed that the proximity of the Volcán de Fuego (English:Volcano of Fire) was the cause of earthquakes; great architect Diego de Porres even said that all the earthquakes were caused by volcano explosions.[13]

On August 27 there was a strong eruption of Volcán de Fuego, which lasted until August 30; the residents of the city asked for help to Santo Cristo of the Cathedral and to the Virgen del Socorro who were sworn patrons of the Volcan de Fuego. On August 29 a Virgen del Rosario procession took to the streets after a century without leaving her temple, and there were many more holy processions until 29 September, the day of San Miguel. Early afternoon earthquakes were minor, but at about 7:00 pm there was a strong earthquake that forced residents to leave their homes; tremors and rumblings followed until four o'clock. The neighbors took to the streets and loudly confessed their sins, bracing for the worst.[14]

The San Miguel earthquake damaged the city considerably, to the point that some rooms and walls of the Royal Palace were destroyed. There was also a partial abandonment of the city, food shortages, lack of manpower and extensive damage to the city infrastructure; not to mention numerous dead and injured.[14] These earthquakes made the authorities consider moving to a new city less prone to seismic activity. City residents strongly oppose the move, and even took to the Royal Palace in protest; in the end, the city did not move, but the number of elements in the Army Battalion to safeguard the order was considerable.[15] The damage to the palace were repaired by Diego de Porres, who finished repairs in 1720; although there are indications that there were more jobs done by Porres until 1736.[15]

In 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town, which led to the third change in location for the city.[16] The Spanish Crown ordered, in 1776, the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Assumption), and its patron saint is Our Lady of the Assumption. The badly damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left, and was thereafter referred to as la Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala).[16]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Guatemala's Volcano of Fire erupts, 33,000 evacuated". USA Today (Guatemala City). AP. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  2. ^ INSIVUMEH (retrieved 14 August 2007)
  3. ^ Maudslay & Maudslay 1899, p. 39.
  4. ^ Dussaussay 1897, p. 180.
  5. ^ Dussaussay 1897, p. 179-182.
  6. ^ Dussassay 1897, p. 179.
  7. ^ Maudslay & Maudslay 1899, p. 37-39.
  8. ^ a b c Juarros 1818, p. 352
  9. ^ Dussaussay 1896, p. 179.
  10. ^ "Eruption at Guatemala volcano forces evacuations". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  11. ^ "Guatemalan emergency official tells AP more than 33,000 fleeing volcano eruption". The Washington Post (Guatemala City). AP. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  12. ^ "Guatemala Volcano Eruption Forces Evacuations". The Guardian. Reuters. 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Melchor Toledo 2011, p. 103.
  14. ^ a b Melchor Toledo 2011, p. 104. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEMelchor_Toledo2011104" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  15. ^ a b Rodríguez Girón, Flores & Garnica 1995, p. 585.
  16. ^ a b Foster 2000.


External links[edit]

Media related to Volcán de Fuego at Wikimedia Commons