Guatemala City, city in south central Guatemala, capital of the country and its Guatemala Department. Located in a valley in the volcanic highlands, it is the nation’s largest city and its chief economic, transportation, and cultural center. Most of the country’s manufacturers are in the city and its suburbs, which form a metropolitan area of nearly 2 million people. The University of San Carlos of Guatemala (1676), Francisco Marroquin University (1971), and the National Conservatory of Music (1880) are located in the city. Landmarks include the National Palace (1943) and the cathedral (1815; partially reconstructed after damage in 1976). Other points of interest include a relief map of the nation in Minerva Park; Olympic City (1950), built for the Central American Olympic Games; and the ultramodern civic center complex. Nearby are several noteworthy Mayan ruins.
Guatemala City was founded in 1776 as the country’s third capital. The first capital, Ciudad Vieja, founded nearby in 1527, had been destroyed by flood and volcanic activity in 1541. The second capital, now calledAntigua Guatemala, also located nearby, was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Under Spanish rule Guatemala City developed into the chief city of Central America. After the country gained independence from Spain in 1821, the city was for a time (1823-1834) the capital of the United Provinces of Central America, a federation of states that disbanded between 1838 and 1840.
Guatemala City was rebuilt along chiefly modern lines following a series of devastating earthquakes in 1917 and 1918. Northern parts of the city were again heavily damaged in a great 1976 earthquake, and new buildings were built at the southern end of the city. Population (1994 census) 823,301.
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