Basilica of Esquipulas

Location in Guatemala

Coordinates: 14°34′N 89°21′W / 14.567°N 89.350°W / 14.567; -89.350Coordinates: 14°34′N 89°21′W / 14.567°N 89.350°W / 14.567; -89.350
Country Guatemala
Department Chiquimula Department
Climate Aw

Esquipulas (Nahuatl: Isquitzuchil, "place where flowers abound"),[1] officially Municipality of Esquipulas, whose original name was Yzquipulas,[2] is the largest city located in the department of Chiquimula, in eastern Guatemala. Esquipulas' main attraction is the beautiful Black Christ located in the Basilica of Esquipulas, making the city an important place of Catholic pilgrimage for Central America. It is also one of the most important cities of the country and one that has had the most economic and cultural growth.[3]

In 2002 it was registered on UNESCO's tentative World Heritage list.[4]

The city is a tourist attraction due to its ecological and religious importance. It is the most visited city and town across eastern Guatemala and the second most visited in the country, surpassed only by the City of Guatemala, visited annually by approximately four to five million tourists and devout Catholics,[5][6][7] this due to its important and varied religious resorts and distributed in the 532 km2,[8] the smallest city was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1996 which entitled him recognition as Capital Central to the Faith,[9] whose recognition is currently known as to this city, which was also visited by Teresa of Calcutta,[10] hosted the Esquipulas Peace Accords during the mid-1980s.[11] The Basilica of Esquipulas headquarters in Central Catholic Faith is the first wonder of Guatemala competition held by the Industrial Bank on November 26, 2008.[11]

The territory comprises an area of 532 square kilometers, distributed in 20 villages, 123 sub villages, and one city and two villas which are Timushán Chanmagua and had, in 2012, a total population of 56.258 inhabitants; with the City Esquipulas having a population of 29.260, which represents 55% of the total population of the municipality. The city of Esquipulas is located 222 kilometers from Guatemala City, 9.5 kilometers from the border with the Republic of Honduras and 45 kilometers from the city of Chiquimula, bordering the municipalities of Olopa, Jocotán and the department Camotán Chiquimula to the north and the municipality of Metapan, El Salvador to the south. To the east it meets the departments of Copán and Ocotepeque, Honduras and to the west, the municipality of Concepción Las Minas and the Resume Chiquimula department.



The northern region and center of Esquipulas is located within the geographical area known as Region Ch'orti ' of Guatemala. Chorti culture and the Kingdom Payaki or Payaqui which was notable for leaving some of their old architectures developed within this municipality.[7]

Culture Chorti

The first settlers were descendants from Maya people of Copán (archaeological site) Copán, Honduras who came to these lands, shortly after they were forming groups or ethnic groups including ethnic Ch'orti ', these moved Esquipulas after leaving or moving of its ancient cities, this culture achievement develop for several years, even after of the Spanish conquest these were gradually disappearing from the municipality and moved to other municipality such as Camotan, Chiquimula and Jocotan, although they reached the Valley of Esquipulas, this culture is developed more in the villages Timushan and Chanmagua.[12]

Kingdom Payaqui

Another ethnic group who lived in this municipality was ethnically Payaqui. The priest Topiltzín Axcitl or Nacxit was the founder of the Kingdom of Payaqui. The origin of this town, is located in the depths of the mystery of the cultura maya (the name Isquitzuchil´ appears in the history from the earliest times in 1,000 BC).

16th Century

Spanish colonization

Esquipulas Basílica in 1895.

After the arrival of the Spaniards to Guatemala from South Mexico in 1523, they reached Esquipulas in 1525, where they found the Chorti inhabitants. After the violent conquest, they imposed all non-believers the Catholic doctrine, settled South of the Valley of the Monte Cristo and founded the village of Yzquipulas there. They formed a system of streets that ran from the main church which was the Santiago parish until the main aqueduct of the city, they built two seater (now the central park of Esquipulas and the Plaza of the municipality).[12]

Conquest of Isquitzuchil

In 1525 the captains Juan Pérez Dardón, Sancho de Barahona and Bartolomé Becerra under the command of Pedro de Alvarado conquered the province of Chiquimula the saw, and as a result, the Catholic religion imposed on conquered peoples. In April 1530 the locals led by chieftains Copantl and Galel again revolted against the conquerors and as a result, Don Francisco de Orduña ordered the captains Pedro de Amalina and Hernando de Chávez that they leave from Mitlan to placate the rebellion in Esquipulas, who departed along with 60 Marines, 400 Allied Indians and 30 horses. The city was well entrenched that hindered the entry of the Spanish army, and after fighting for 3 days, the inhabitants of Esquipulas finally surrendered the city, most for peace and public tranquility, for fear of the Castilian arms, in the words of the Chief.[13]


The village of Yzquipulas village was founded by the Spaniards between 1560 and 1570, who lived peacefully with the Chorti people of the region. For beginning of the 18th century it was one of the most numerous Spanish communities according to the book of baptisms with a population of 198 people. A century later, the Spanish community reached the 851 inhabitants, representing this to 30% of the total community of Chiquimula who were attracted to the region by the fertility of the valleys.[14]


Municipality villages and hamlets
Esquipulas is organized in 20 villages and 123 settlements
Village Surface
Square km
City of Esquipulas hamlets There are four hamlets within the city and, even though they are not outside city limits, there are considerably far away from downtown:

El Ciracil, El Sillón, Tizaquín and Vuelta Grande

Atulapa37Agua Caliente, Amatal, Agua Zarca, Bojorquez, Canoas, El Barrial, El Cerrón, Horno de Vides, La Brea, La Casona, Mesa Grande, Montesinas and Zompopero
Santa Rosalía31El Duraznal, El Jocotal, El Limón, La Cuestona, Las Toreras, El Portezuelo and Plan de La Arada
San Nicolás32El Barrial, El Cascajal, Chaguitón, Guayabito, Miramundo and Tecomapa
La Granadilla40El Chuctal, El Olvido, El Porvenir and Floripundio
Olopita46Cuevitas, El Bueyero, Las Crucitas, Olopita Centro, Piedra Redonda, San Cristóbal, San Juan and Tontoles
Valle Dolores33El Chaguite, El Chorro, Los Vados, San Juan Arriba and Tierra Colorada
Belén (El Tablón)10Agua Zarca, Chiramay, El Zapote and La Ruda
Cruz Alta27Curruche and Las Palmas
Jagua (Las Cañas)37El Empedrado, El Encino, El Jicaro, El Peñasco (Death plane), El Pinalito, El Salitre, La Cumbre, Las Sopas, Lagunas, Llano de Guerra, Ojo de Agua, Palmitas, Rincón de María, San Francisco Buena Vista and Tareas
Las Peñas30El Incienso, El Palmar, El Pesote, Joyas Verdes, La Fortuna, Miramundo and Queseras
El Zarzal19El Guineal, Malcotal, Potrerillos, Zapotal and Zapotalito
Valle de Jesús6 Valle de Jesús
San Isidro10Capucal, El Chuctal, Entre Ríos and Malcotalito
Chanmagua30El Pedregal, Las Pozas, Los Varales and Laguna Seca
Cafetales20La Aradona, La Rinconada, Loma Alta and Llano Largo
El Carrizal25Bailadero, Joyitas, Llano de los Toros, Pericos and Tabloncito
Horcones15Calzontes, El Zarzalito, Piedra de Amolar, Tablón de Gámez and Tishac
Timushán40Cañada del Pino, El Mojón, El Bajío, Loma del Mango, Los Fierros, Llano de San Gaspar, Malcinca, Pasaljá, San Antonio Sulay, San Miguel Mapa, Suyate and Tablón de Sulay
Monteros10El Horno and El Rincón de León
Carboneras10El Rincón
Source: Villeda Maderos, José Romilio (2006). "Aldeas y sus caseríos". Esquipulas en línea (in Spanish). Esquipulas, Guatemala. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2012. [15]

52% (27.664 inh.) of the population is made up young people within 0 and 25 years of age, of which 64% (17.705) of that 52% (27.664) of young scholars. Education quality is high active Esquipulas, +89.0, the best quality education across the east. The Esquipulas educational calendar is 180 days, the dates may vary, the most common are from 18 January to 12 October (10 months) and a total of 90 days or 3 months off. 70% (12.393) study in private institutions that are several in Esquipulas, while only 30% (5.311) study in the public institutions of government.

Esquipulas has stood massively in youth participation in National Science Olympiad in Guatemala, which is in charge of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, taking several gold medals, silver and bronze as well as awards for part of the young participants.

Esquipulan Winners in the ONC (USAC)

Esquipulan winners in the National Olympiad of Science (ONC) are various and Esquipulas has the largest share and the highest number of awards won. Participants go to various materials and are: mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, chemistry, physics and biology major, degrees from 1° to 3° basic or secondary and diversified.[16]


Esquipulas Basilica en 2010.

Because of its importance as a tourist and religious center, the population of Esquipulas is dedicated mostly to that trade, although there is also a strong coffee industry which produces some of the best varieties available. Currently, religious tourism and hospitality industry has boomed, fueled by the large number of pilgrims visiting the sacred image of the Black Christ of Esquipulas.

Tourism in Esquipulas grew gradually, since the area is a very attractive destination due to its natural resources and its colonial history, along with its culture expressed in its customs and cuisine. There is a strong interest of visitors on religious colonial places like the Basilica of Esquipulas, which was built in 1740 under the sponsorship of Monsignor Pedro Pardo de Figueroa (first Metropolitan Archbishop of Guatemala appoint in 1744) in order to meet the increasingly growing pilgrimages dedicated to the Black Christ of Esquipulas. Pardo de Figueroa commissioned the construction of a temple to Philip José de Porres, the son of Diego de Porres and grandson of Joseph de Porres, renowned architects from the capital city Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala and the funding came from the cotton fields owners.

Interesting tourist destinations are:

Basilica of Esquipulas

In 1956, Pope Pius XII erected the Prelature nullius for the Black Christ and established by the municipality of Esquipulas and the Santuario de Esquipulas Cathedral as its venue. The Archbishop of Guatemala, Monsignor Mariano Rossell y Arellano, was appointed the First Prelate of Esquipulas; one of the first concerns of Rossell y Arellano was to seek a religious order to take over the care of the sanctuary. Finally, he found support from the Benedictine Abbey of San José, located in Louisiana, USA. The order sent three monks in 1959 with the mission of founding the Benedictine Monastery of Esquipulas which is responsible for the care of the Basilica in the 21st century.

In 1961 Archbishop Rossell sent a request to Pope John XXIII, who, based in religious, cultural and historic shrine of Esquipulas raised to the rank of Minor Basilica.

Stone of the Compadres

In strange balance have stood the test of time and historical earthquakes. They are not small at all: the upper stone is about the size of a regular sedan and together they reach a height of about three meters and a calculated weight of 50 tons. A legend says that two friends became "compadres" in Esquipulas (a godfather to the son of another), but than in spite of this sacred pact, one of them was carried away by desire and seduced the other's wife. They were turned into stone as punishment for their sins, left for all to see their forbidden desire for each other, among the whispering wind and swaying trees. On the other hand, traditional communities believe that the stones are a manifestation of divine powers, or materialization of divine will; therefore, the place is scene of sacred rituals, prayers, sacrifices and penances. The stones are already blackened by the rituals performed where the sacrifice is often a beheaded cock that is placed between candles.

Mine Cave

The oral tradition dictates that it was in this place where Christ reveals the image of the famous sculptor Quirio Black Catano, creator of the famous statue venerated in Esquipulas.

Are located south of the city right next to the Basilica and one kilometer away from the road leading to Honduras, there are some hills which one was drilled in a cross lying north to south in the more margins of the Rio Chacalapa or Miracles. It is said that many went through all these places in search of a mine that salvation was to finance the work of the Basilica, but finally, up and down and doing tests, the savior was found, began drilling and operating silver mine that was a fact, when they needed was more like a miracle those deluded savior.

These caves were like a memory of that silver mine, which by its geographical location near the Basilica, they found there has been attributed to the miraculous Christ of Esquipulas, which is not true because the documents were later found which consists reliable that the image was burilado by the architect in Antigua Guatemala Quirio Catano, however many indigenous pilgrims from the West, with a mixture of Christian faith and traditions or beliefs, come to visit these caves, performing their own rituals, burn pon and candles, even money left within them.

The caves are within private land whose owner have taken advantage of the touristic value that they have, given the influx of pilgrims and the river that runs through the place. They installed the "Cuevas de las Minas" Ecological Park, which has a zoo with more than 25 species, and several modern amenities.

Park Chatún

Chatun is an Adventure and Fun Park, where all features are intended to show the diversity of our natural resources and our customs and traditions, based on two pillars: Adventure and Nature.


It also has advantages in agriculture, because that's coffee sertamenes Esquipulas has won several national and international as the best quality coffee and the richest of Guatemala, now there are two winners of these contests farm, Finca Finca Clouds and the Cascajal, according to the National Coffee Association ANACAFE(Spanish) coffee from Esquipulas to win the contest The Best Coffee in Guatemala and the World[17]


The Basilica

The cathedral at Esquipulas was proclaimed a Basilica in 1961 by Pope John XXIII, and in 1995, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the shrine, Pope John Paul II proclaimed it "the spiritual center of Central America." Every year, thousands of pilgrims from Guatemala, the United States, Mexico, Europe and other Central American countries flock to pay homage to the dark wooden image of the crucified Christ, the most revered Catholic shrine in the region.[18]

El Santuario de Chimayo, a major Roman Catholic pilgrimage site in Chimayó, New Mexico, United States, is closely linked with Esquipulas.

Tierra Santa tablets

Esquipulas is famous for its Tierra Santa (Holy Earth) clay tablets that are purchased by the pilgrims during Church festivals. The clay from the local deposits is cleaned and pressed into small cakes.[19] Such clay is also known as tierra bendita, or Tierra del Santo. The popularity of this clay is attested by the many names (for example, akipula, cipula, askipula, kipula) that are used for such medicinal clay tablets all around Central America. Pilgrims sometimes eat the supposedly curative clay, or they rub themselves with it.

Similar customs prevail at the sister shrine El Santuario de Chimayo in the US.

In 1987 the Trifinio biosphere reserve was created to protect the unique flora and fauna in the region.


Beauty contests

The maximum beauty event in Esquipulas is "Miss Beauty of Esquipulas", formerly "Señorita Esquipulas", followed by the National Queen of the Independence Party. These events are the second most important beauty contests in the country after only "Miss Universe Guatemala".

Famous residents


Climate data for Esquipulas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 27
Average low °C (°F) 10
Average precipitation mm (inches) 2.0
Source: INSIVUMEH. "Estación de Meteorología de Esquipulas". INSIVUMEH (in Spanish). Guatemala. Archived from the original on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 

Geographic location

See also


  1. "Origen del nombre Esquipulas (Origin of the name Esquipulas)". Revista Vida Diplomática. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  2. Nicolás Rodríguez. "Historia de Esquipulas (History of Esquipulas)" (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  3. Norma Guisela Acosta Zavala. "Centro Cultural de Esquipulas (Esquipulas Cultural Center)" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  4. UNESCO. "Route of the Peace and National Identity - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  5. Cidnewsmedia. "Ciudad de Esquipulas" (in Spanish). Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  6. ViajeporGuatemala. "Cristo Negro de Esquipulas" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  7. 1 2 Nicolás Rodríguez. "Historia de la Ciudad de Esquipulas (History of Esquipulas City)" (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  8. Turismo en Esquipulas
  9. CidnesMedia. "Esquipulas la Capital Centroamericana de la fe" (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  10. Nicolás Rodríguez. "Semana Santa en Esquipulas (Holy week in Esquipulas)" (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  11. 1 2 es:Acuerdo de Esquipulas
  12. 1 2 "Origen de la Ciudad de Chiquimula" (in Spanish). Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  13. Nicolás Rodríguez. "Historia de Esquipulas" (in Spanish). Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  14. José Romilio Villeda Maderos. "Historia - Esquipulas" (in Spanish). Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  15. Villeda Maderos 2006.
  18. See Linda Kay Davidson and David Gitlitz ‘’Pilgrimage, from the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia’’ (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2002), 173-75.
  19. Redman, K. . (1980). "Tierra del Santo, Blessed Clay Tablets of Middle America and New Mexico". Pharmaceutical Biology. 18 (4): 153–157. doi:10.3109/13880208009065197.
  23. educator with a great international experience in the Montessori method.


  • Villeda Maderos, José Romilio (2006). "Aldeas y sus caseríos". Esquipulas en línea. Esquipulas, Guatemala. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
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