Quetzaltenango on the map of Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, also known by the Maya name Xelajú (pronounced as " Sche -La- Hu " ) or its short form Xela known, is the second largest city in Guatemala and the capital of the department of the same name.

Located at 2234 m above sea level near the Pan-American Highway in the southwest of Guatemala City has about 140,000 inhabitants.


Quetzaltenango is about 200 km west- northwest of Guatemala City is one of the largest valleys of the Guatemalan Sierra Madre. Southwest of the city, the volcanoes Cerro Quemado, Santa María and Siete Orejas that form a natural border to the Pacific lowlands rise. The 127 km ² large, densely populated municipality of Quetzaltenango has very fertile soils of volcanic origin, their agricultural use had gradually recede in favor of urban and industrial development. The climate is temperate to cold in Quetzaltenango. Night temperatures can, especially from December to February, fall below freezing. The rainy season is typically from May to November.


Originally living in the territory Mam Maya were expelled by the Quiché expanded to the northwest in the 14th century. 1524 succeeded the Spanish conquistadors under Pedro de Alvarado and their allies to decisively defeated the K'iche ' in the vicinity of the city. The last Quiché king Tecun Uman was killed by the Spaniards in the city. The Spaniards gave the city Xelajú (probably " among the 10 mountains " ) the Nahuatl name that was used by their central Mexican (especially TLAXCALAN ) allies, Quetzaltenango were (either " Quetzal - place " or " place, built on the walls "). During the colonial period, the city developed a commercial center in the western highlands.

After independence from Spain Quetzaltenango received city rights in 1825. From 1838 to 1840, Quetzaltenango capital of Los Altos, one of the states of the Central American Confederation. When the Union broke up, the city of Rafael Carrera was conquered and again part of Guatemala. However, Quetzaltenango regarded itself as a competitor of Guatemala City, in particular in the fields of culture and economy. In 1845, Quetzaltenango capital of the department of the same name. The city was built in the neoclassical style and experienced towards the end of the 19th century an economic boom, which was based directly or indirectly on the increased cultivation of coffee. For economic success were mainly German, Austrian and Italian immigrants in, and not least the staff employed by them and often exploited " indigenous ".

1902 destroyed the now dormant volcano of Santa María, the city almost completely, and thus their decades-long efforts to exceed Guatemala City economically and culturally. In the reconstruction we tried architecturally at least partially to build on the size of the last century. Despite quadrupling of the number of residents, the city never recovered properly from the effects of the volcanic eruption.


In Quetzaltenango mainly live Ladinos and quiches. Universities and technical schools attract many young people to from the near and far. Quetzaltenango is generally regarded as the second largest city in Guatemala, although Mixco and Villanueva are significantly larger, each with about half a million inhabitants. However, the latter part of the metropolitan and are generally considered part of Guatemala City. Quetzaltenango is in each case, the second largest metropolitan area in the country.

Economy and Transport

Today Quetzaltenango is due to its location between Guatemala City, Mexico and the Pacific, a relatively prosperous service and commercial center with several universities. Among the products of the manufacturing industries include wool, cotton, textiles, shoes, canned food and beer. The city has also become in recent years one of the tourist centers of Guatemala, among other things because they are very well suited as a base for touring the Western Highlands. As in Antigua Guatemala, many schools have earned a good reputation in Quetzaltenango. Mostly North Americans and Europeans learn here in a relatively quiet environment Spanish.

Quetzaltenango is connected by national roads 1 and 9, and on the few kilometers north running Panamericana (CA 1 Interamericana ) quite well with Guatemala City, the rest of the Highlands and the Western Pacific lowlands. Guatemala City you can reach both the running in the highlands curvy Interamericana, as well as about Retalhuleu and Escuintla in the lowlands, where there are multi-lane highways. In the 1930s, Quetzaltenango had a rail connection. The technically very demanding, electrified railway line to one Retalhuleu ( Ferrocarril de Los Altos ) built Krupp and AEG. Lack of economic profitability and due to a landslide, the operation had to be stopped after a few years. Public transport is carried out in Quetzaltenango mainly of buses. The city has a small, recently modernized commercial airport.


The sights are limited to the neo-classical building at the Parque Centro América in the old town. This includes the former headquarters of the Banco de Occidente, founded in 1883, one of the oldest banks in Guatemala, but this was completely taken over by Banco Industrial few years ago. Other attractions include the town hall, the cathedral, the cultural center Casa de la Cultura, and finally the Railway Museum Museo del Ferrocarril de Los Altos. In addition there are shopping centers, which by Italian architects planned, recently renovated shopping mall Pasaje Enríquez and several smaller shops and pubs. Further north is the beautiful Teatro Municipal, with its impressive facade.

At Easter, Semana Santa is celebrated similarly expensive as in Antigua Guatemala.

Sons and daughters of the town

  • Ricardo Castillo (1894-1966), composer
  • Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1913-1971), President of Guatemala
  • Manuel Lisandro Barillas Bercián (1845-1907), President of Guatemala
  • Manuel José Estrada Cabrera (1857-1924), President of Guatemala
  • María Encarnación del Corazón de Jesús (1820-1886) nun, first Blessed Guatemala
  • Mario Campo Seco (1921-1951), football player