Southwestern Guatemala, at an elevation of 5,029 feet (1,533 metres). Capital of the former captaincy general, Antigua Guatemala was once the most important seat of Spanish colonial government between Mexico City and Lima, Peru.
Founded as Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala in 1527, it was destroyed by an eruption that swept down from the slopes of Volcán de Agua (“Volcano of Water”). The village that became reestablished on the site came to be called Ciudad Vieja (“Old City”).
Another capital city with the name Santiago was constructed in 1542 near the site of Ciudad Vieja, and it became a thriving political, economic, religious, and cultural centre of some 60,000 persons. When Santiago was demolished by an earthquake in 1773, the capital was moved 28 miles (45 km) to the site of Nueva Guatemala (“New Guatemala”)—now Guatemala City—and Santiago became known as Antigua Guatemala (“Guatemala of Old”) or Antigua.