Quetzaltenango, also known by its indigenous name , is the second largest city of Guatemala. It is both the capital of Quetzaltenango Department and the municipal seat of Quetzaltenango municipality.
It has an estimated population of 224,703. The population is about 61% indigenous or Amerindian, 34% Mestizo or ladino and 5% white Latin American. Quetzaltenango is located in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,330 meters (7,640 feet) above sea level at its lowest part. It may reach above 2,400 meters within the city.
The Municipality of Quetzaltenango consists of an area of 127 square kilometres (49 sq mi). Municipalities abutting the municipality of Quetzaltenango include Salcajá, Cantel,Almolonga, Zunil, El Palmar, Concepción Chiquirichapa, San Mateo, La Esperanza,Olintepeque, and San Andrés Xecul. All these municipalities are part of the Department of Quetzaltenango, except San Andrés Xecul which is a part of the Department of Totonicapán.
|POPULATION :||• City 225,000|
• Metro 661,375
|FOUNDED :||May 7, 1524|
|TIME ZONE :||Central America (UTC-6)|
|AREA :||120 km2 (50 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||2,330 m (7,640 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||14°50′40″N 91°30′05″W|
|SEX RATIO :|
|AREA CODE :|
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Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela(pronounced SHAY-la) or Xelaju, is the second largest city in Guatemala. There are a number of attractions in town, and it's also a good base for exploring Guatemala's Western Highlands ("Los Altos"). Situated at the southwest of the country, the surrounding department has a variety of landscapes extending from the cold highlands to the warm Pacific coast. There are numerous volcanos, hot springs, valleys, mountains, rivers. The region provides a harvest of numerous products such as coffee, wheat, fruits and vegetables, as well as sheep and cattle breeding.
The city of Quetzaltenango, the Department of the same name's capital and largest city, is situated on an extensive plain and surrounded by hills and volcanoes. The city of Quetzaltenango conserves the old K'iche' Maya traditions and the colonial past, while maintaining the dynamism of modern life.
The city's roots go back to the Pre-Columbian Maya era. The Mam authority, calledKulahá, reached its most important expansion. The K'iche' lords later conquered the area, and founded the city of Xelajú here, moving it from a previous location at the base of the volcano Santa Maria.
The city was already some 300 years old when Spanish Conquistadors came to conquer Guatemala in the early 1500s. Their native allies the Nahuas from Central Mexico called the city Quetzaltenango, meaning "the place of the Quetzal bird" in the Nahua language. The Spanish took the name from the Nahuas. It's still the city's official name, but locals are more apt to casually call it "Xela" from the ancient name of Xelajú.
It was the administrative capital of the Western Highland region in the Spanish Colonial period. With Central American independence from Spain in the 1820s it was part of the Central American Federation. Conflicts between the interests of Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City led to the creation of "Los Altos", the "Sixth State of the Central American Confederation ", consisting of Western Guatemala (and a slice of what is now part of Chiapas Mexico) with Quetzaltenango as its capital. When the Central American Federation fell apart in 1839-1840, Los Altos was briefly a de-facto independent state, until the army of Guatemalan dictator Carrera brutally conquered the city and hung its leaders.
The city enjoyed prosperity with the boom in coffee production in the late 19th and start of the 20th century, when many of the city's "Belle Époque" style landmarks still seen were built. Plans for a railway to Quetzaltenango dated back to the 1890s, and construction was started in the 1920s and finally completed in 1930. The "Ferrocarril de los Altos" was proclaimed the engineering marvel of the age-- until it was destroyed by landslides in 1933. The fabled railroad is still remembered in local song and story, and there's a museum dedicated to it in town.
Quetzaltenango's prosperity declined from the Great Depression through the Guatemalan Civil War in the later 20th century, and for a time much of the city looked on the scruffy side. With the new millennium, however, better times are back. The old landmarks have been refurbished and new ones added, and the city is more beautiful and vibrant than ever.
Quetzaltecos are proud of their city, its distinct regional culture, and its rich heritage.
Historically, the city produced wheat, maize, fruits, and vegetables. It also had a healthy livestock industry. They exported throughout the country and with El Salvador. As of 1850, wheat was their largest export, followed by cacao, sugar, wool and cotton.
Pre-Columbian times Quetzaltenango was a city of the Mam Maya people called Xelajú, although by the time of the Spanish Conquest it had become part of the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj. The name may be derived from xe laju' noj meaning "under ten mountains". The city was said to have already been over 300 years old when the Spanish first arrived. With the help of his allies,Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeated and killed the Maya ruler Tecún Umán here. When Alvarado conquered the city for Spain in the 1520s, he called it by the Nahuatl name used by his Central Mexican Indian allies, "Quetzaltenango", generally considered to mean "the place of the quetzal bird." Quetzaltenango became the city's official name in colonial times. However, many people (especially the indigenous population) continue to call the city "Xelajú" (pronounced shay-lah-WHO) or more commonly "Xela" for short, and some proudly, but unofficially, consider it the "capital of the Mayas".
From 1838 to 1840 Quetzaltenango was capital of the state of Los Altos, one of the states or provinces of the Federal Republic of Central America. As the union broke up, the army of Guatemala under Rafael Carrera conquered Quetzaltenango making it again part of Guatemala. In 1850, the city had a population of approximately 20,000.
During the 19th century, coffee was introduced as a major crop in the area, as a result the economy of Xela prospered. Much fine Belle Époque architecture can still be found in the city.
On October 24, 1902, at 5:00 pm, the Santa María Volcano erupted. Rocks and ash fell on Quetzaltenango at 6:00 pm, only one hour after the eruption.
In the 1920s, a young Gypsy woman named Vanushka Cardena Barajas died and was buried in the Xela city cemetery. An active legend has developed around her tomb that says those who bring flowers or write a request on her tomb will be reunited with their former romantic partners. The Guatemalan songwriter Alvaro Aguilar wrote a song based on this legend.
In 1930 the only electric railway in Guatemala, the Ferrocarril de Los Altos, was inaugurated. It was soon destroyed by mudslides and finally demolished in 1933. It had been built by AEG and Krupp, and was travelled by 14 train cars. The track connected Quetzaltenango with San Felipe,Retalhuleu. The people of Quetzaltenango are still very proud of the railway. A railway museum has been established in the city centre.
Since the late 1990s Quetzaltenango has been having an economic boom, which makes it the city with the second-highest contribution to Guatemalan economy. With its first high-rise buildings being built, it is expected by 2015 to have a more prominent skyline, with buildings up to 15 floors tall.
In 2008, the Central American Congress PARLACEN stated that every September 15, Quetzaltenango will be Central America's capital of culture.
Quetzaltenango was supposed to host the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, but dropped out due to lack of funding for the event.