Minerva, what is it?
In short, a Roman goddess. Among other things, responsible for trade and commerce.
And what has she to do with Guatemala?
Now – here in Guatemala, there are still six temples of this Roman goddess, all built at the beginning of the last century. Originally there were many more, but due to earthquakes and destruction, caused by political upheaval (the mightiest temple in the capital was blown up during the Guatemalan revolution) only 6 temples survived.
Who came up with that?
Manuel Jose Estrada Cabrera, President of Guatemala between 1898-1920, was a great fan of antiquity and ordered to build temples in honor of Minerva in all departments, big or small. So finally, culture came to Guatemala?! The president, in reality the dictator, had a very interesting career. He became president by accident, after the assassination of his predecessor and only as transitional president. He remained in power under pressure, using violence, intelligence and electoral fraud for 22 years. After he became increasingly unpopular in the course of his reign, he was named, among other things, “El Indio”. His (racist) opponents accused him of being mixed race / mestizo. But the word Indio, generally is used in Guatemala, as a bad word and means something like: The savage – the crazy. And that certainly applies to Cabrera in the broader sense.
The 6 temples Minervas
Anyone traveling in Guatemala, should take the time to visit these temples while in the vicinity. They are found in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Huehuetenango, Barberena, Chiquimula, Salama and Jalapa.
The largest one in Xela, is close to the bus station. Unfortunately, you can only enter it on special occasions. He seems to be a bit neglected.
In Huehuetenango, the temple is a lonely place on the outskirts. From there, you have a nice view over the place.
In Barberena, the temple is situated in a park. This park is located directly at the noisy street to Cuilapa / Jutiapa. A pleasant place to rest.
In Chiquimula, by the way a very likeable, though hot place in the east of the country, the temple is also located in a small park. Only a few blocks from Central Park and the city administration.
There is no pretty environment in Salama, but the temple, which is within walking distance, is well preserved and well worth a visit.
In Jalapa, the Temple of Minerva looks a bit abandoned and neglected. Renovations are planned, but only God knows when this will happen.
Here are some photos to have an impression!