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Before the sixteenth century, Mayans inhabited the modern-day region of Guatemala City—as well as most of Central America and Mexico. Cultural remnants from this civilization live on not only in museums, but in a tiny native population that has been struggling to survive the waves upon waves of brutal political persecution they have been forced to endure since the Western “discovery” of a hemisphere.
Perhaps the most interesting cultural attraction of the capital city is not, however, related to ancient Maya. The Mercado Central, an underground bazaar of leather, wooden, and woolen goods, has been the city’s signature market for decades, though it serves as much more than a mere shopping center. Used as a military barracks in the nineteenth-century, it was rebuilt underground after the devastating earthquake of 1976. Items offered aside from fabrics and handicrafts include various meats and produce. Beware of expert pickpockets and hide your valuables in your shoes.
The Centro Civico includes gorgeous governmental buildings, such as the Guatemalan Supreme Court, Tourist Board, and Ministry of Finance as well as the capital’s City Hall. The Banco de Guatemala houses many Vazquez murals depicting the country’s history.
The Museo Ixchel displays indigenous artwork in all its forms: fabric, sculptural, photographic, painted. The attraction also boasts a collection of works by master artist Andres Curruchich, as well as interactive exhibits and a quality bookstore.
The city also sports several beautiful cathedrals, such as the Metropolitan, which epitomizes the colonial architecture now scarce in the capital.
Finally, the Cultural Center Miguel Angel Asturias, named after the nobel-winning author, contains a couple of the city’s best theaters.