Palace of the Captain Generals (Guatemala)
History and museums
The Captain General Palace, or Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, is a large building localed in the Central Square of Antigua Guatemala. It serves as the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism, the Antigua Tourism Association, National Police and the Sacatepquez Department government.
In the southeast corner of the Central Plaza, is located the first two-story building constructed in 1558. Made with a wooden floor and arches that support the whole structure. The General Captaincy of Guatemala was governed from this building , and inside it all the government, administrative and military offices worked there. The General Captain's, life was full of luxuries for himself, his family and friends. Construction of the Captain General residence and the Real Audiencia member began in 1558. The building also lodged the Royal Tax office, jail, Army headquarters, horse facilities and warehouses.
By 1678, the Captain General Palace was already a two-story building, with a wooden main entrance and columns.
The San Miguel earthquake severely impacted the city of Santiago de los Caballeros; the Royal Palace suffered some damage in rooms and walls. This earthquake made the authorities think about moving the city to a new location less vulnerable to earthquakes, but the city inhabitants strongly opposed this measure and they even went as far as to invade the Palace to make their point. The city did not move, but a considerable number of troops were needed to restore calm. Diego de Porres, city master building fixed the Palace damage and finished by 1720; although he made some more improvements that lasted until 1736.
The San Casimiro earthquakes that stroke the city of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala in 1751 damaged the palace again. Its façade and levels were destroyed, but the remaining basis permitted its rebuilt, in 1755, finishing it in 1764. But the nature stroke again, when an earthquake in 1773 shook the city. An intended for transferring the building's columns was made when the city moved into the Ermita Valley, but it wasn't possible because they were too heavy.
On July 29, 1773, day of Saint Martha of Bethania, a very powerful earthquake hit the city of Santiago de los Caballeros at around 3:00 p.m. One hour later, an even more devastating tremor that lasted for about a minute hit the city again, in the middle of a strong thunderstorm, destroying churches, government office buildings and private homes. It also broke water and food supply chains, as the natives that provided the city fled to the mountains.
On August 2 and 4, captain general Martín de Mayorga presided over the "General Meetings" with the local authorities, including archbishop Pedro Cortés y Larraz, criollo City Hall members, and regular clergy representatives. They concluded to inform king Carlos III and the Indian Council about the destruction and the eventual move of the city to neighbor "La Ermita" valley, which was not as close to the volcanoes, which were considered the culprit for the destruction of the city at the time.
On December 13, 1773 two strong earthquakes hit the area again, resting the case of the group that wanted to move to a different location. Once 1774 the Indian Council pronounced its verdict on the city status and approved the move to "La Ermita" valley. Matías de Gálvez, between 1779 and 1783, was in charge of coordinating the move.
Possibly the damage caused by the earthquake itself was serious, but not as destructive as the one caused by the city abandonment. On January 16, 1775 master builder Bernardo Ramirez start pulling out all reusable construction material from the destroyed buildings to move it to the new capital city, because of a legal order to do so. After this, the Palace was left without doors, windows, balconies, ornaments, and so on.
The city remained relatively abandoned during the 19th century, and as such, the Guatemala archbishop sold what was left of monasteries and churches to regular citizens. Some families went back to Antigua to settle there once again, so eventually there had to be some sort of authority that was established in the city and used some of the old buildings to work. Towards the end of the 19th century the old Palace façade was rebuilt, using the stone columns that had been for almost a hundred year in makeshift warehouses in front of the Palace, on the south section of Central Square. After this work, the less damaged sections were reopened: the jail and the government offices.
On February 4, 1976 Guatemala was struck again by a powerful earthquake of 7.5 in the Richter scale, which destroyed most of country infrastructure and severely damaged the Palace. Its eastern façade had to be demolished. The Palace, along with the rest of Antigua Guatemala was declared monument of humanity by UNESCO in 1979.