25 April 2015
 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: Rebirth of the Resplendent Quetzal

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Guatemala is a place of resplendent beauty, terrible poverty, great history, tragic bloodshed, vibrant culture, and a tentative rebirth with a still uncertain future.

It has balanced on a knife’s edge for centuries.

One of the symbols of Guatemala is the Quetzal, its national bird.

The Quetzal is a reminder of defeat at the hands of the Spanish and a yearning for liberty.

Today it also symbolizes a hope for enduring peace in a place that has seen terrible suffering.

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A street vendor in Guatemala La Antigua

The Resplendent Quetzal—to give its full name—is native to Guatemala, with a close cousin in Costa Rica.

About 14 inches or 36 centimeters in length; the pretty males add a tail streamer of as much as 25 inches more.

A big guy, then, might stretch 39 inches—or one full meter—from stem to stern.

They have a green, iridescent body and a red breast.

Guatemalans describe the Quetzal’s song as a “whimpering pup.”

But there is also a legend that says that the quetzal sang beautifully before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, and he will sing once again when the land is truly free.

At the heart of the country is La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción: Guatemala City, very much representative of the nation.

It is a wild and somewhat dangerous city—the largest in Central America; some four million people live in and around it.

A bit further inland is La Antigua Guatemala, the old city, begun in 1543.

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La Antigua

The city served as the capital of the Spanish Kingdom of Guatemala, which for more than two centuries stretched from Mexico City to Peru.

All in one place we see vestiges of the Mayans, the ruins of the Spanish and above it all…the volcanoes.

I have visited La Antigua many times and it never fails to thrill. On our approach this morning La Volcan Fuego erupted, just for us. Not a big explosion…just a boom and a cloud of ash. A welcome back to a special place.


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The author, on a previous visit, midway on a climb of the Pacaya volcano

The remnants of its Spanish colonial architecture have been preserved as a national monument.

All photos copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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