Antigua: An Oasis of Culture and Security
While crime rates spike across Central American cities, visitors to Guatemala have found a way to safely enjoy the country’s riches without straying too far from the capital. The solution is a 40-minute bus ride through winding, mountain roads to an ancient capital nestled in the central highlands, La Antigua Guatemala. “Antigua,” as it is known to backpackers and locals alike, is a quiet town whose colonial charm and buildings are preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to thousands of visitors per year, the town also has picturesque views of cloud-enshrouded volca- noes, traditional colorful buses rum- bling through the streets, and nuns walking in and out of its decorative baroque churches.
Although kidnapping, theft and pickpocketing are common in sev- eral areas of Guatemala, Antigua has been spared this fate after a zero-tolerance policy toward crime was implemented.
“Twelve years ago, the city created a special tourist police to assist tourists coming to the city and to patrol the streets so that visitors can enjoy Antigua without worries,” explains Carlos Ramiro Dulián, official tour guide from the Sacatepéquez administrative area, where Antigua is located. Today, tourism is thriving in the tranquil and secure atmosphere of Antigua as visitors stroll down cobblestone streets brimming with fine hotels, restaurants and gift shops.
“Tourism employs almost everyone in Antigua and the sur- rounding areas,” Dulián says. “It is in our own interest that travelers want to come and stay here for a long time.”
Like many proud inhabitants of Antigua, Dulián knows there can be no prosperity for his beautiful city without security. “The example of Antigua is a model that could be repeated throughout Guatemala, so that all the other areas could also enjoy the calm and well-being we have here.”