May 8, 2012
When is the Palace of the Captains General going to re-open?
By Elizabeth Bell
Good question. Major restoration of the 1764 Palace was carried out between 2008-2011 through the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture and Sports and the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala. Most recent works include the restoration of the tile fountain (originally from Santa Clara Convent) in the courtyard of what used to be the Governor’s offices by Guatemalan expert, Margarita Estrada. The St. James’ Museum was also relocated from the City Hall Palace.
The private sector united to present a formal petition for the new use of the Palace through Agrupación de la Sociedad Civil de Sacatepéquez on October 13th, 2011. In a very well written document presented to the City Council and the Consejo, we opposed the commercial use of the recently restored Palace. We also proposed that the Governor’s Office move back to the Palace, that the Policía Nacional Civil have an office for victims to report crimes and the Palace be used for appropriate public uses. Since then, many of us have requested that INGUAT move back to its traditional location on the Palace corner. A series of articles and reports written appeared in various news media supporting this. Dedicated residents have attended weekly meetings trying to make this happen. Indeed, our voices were heard through peaceful protests and, thus, the Palace did not re-open as scheduled by the Colom administration in December 2011.
Within UNESCO guidelines that we follow, it is important to hear local people’s educated opinion on its new use. While the Ministry of Culture and Sports argued that they carried out workshops for this, we argued that it was before the restoration efforts and the consensus may have changed since 2008 and that few people from Antigua had been invited to the previous workshops. In the effort of creating a current consensus of its future use, workshops are being scheduled for May and June 2012 to decide this. Since October 2011, we have a new Conservador of the City and a new President of Guatemala. We hope the workshops allow the Palace to re-open with a new (and perhaps traditional) appropriate use.
Elizabeth Bell is a historian and writer. Her books are available at amazon.com, booksandbooks.com or at: Books & Books 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables, Fl 33134.