The Cobblestones of La Antigua

A characteristic of the colonial appearance of La Antigua is the cobblestones, as it is the way in which the Spanish Crown imposed for its public spaces as a measure of health and adornment. Thanks to these cobblestones, La Antigua is considered one of the first planned cities of America – because it was the capital of Guatemala for a little more than two hundred years until its transfer to la Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción.
The tendency to mark and cover the streets with stones was a trend that began in Madrid and then spread to the colonies. The cobblestones were a practice that the Romans had already been using – as a more assertive way to avoid having sanitary problems – as well as being a proper way of conduction that was later replaced with the use of sewage, which at the time was something that had not been seen before.

Although the colonial city was already in an independent period when it was covered in cobblestoned streets, the idea of doing so took place as a preventive method before the epidemics and diseases that are transmitted from the same land and the accumulation of water; according to the study carried out by Francesco Sabatini in the eighteenth century.

Placing the cobblestones requires detailed plans, as it is necessary to know the type of stone that will be placed on the streets. As a principle, they are flat, with a certain unevenness for the water to flow in case of flooding from east to west, with master stones – the larger ones – that serve as a guides so that the other stones do not move due to the passage of carts. These guiding stones are readily available in Guatemala, since the main material is basalt; and the center of the streets are uneven, due to the study conducted by Sabatini, for the health of the villages.
What we see today is a visual ornament of the cobbled streets that project its smell and its color, as a space that becomes part of the history of this place.

Written by: Erick Reyes Andrade

Translated: Melissa Schroden

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