The history of the city known today as La Antigua Guatemala (the old Guatemala) is bound up with the natural forces that surround it. Antigua was founded in 1543 when the previous capital of Guatemala was destroyed by a lahar (mudslide) from Agua Volcano. Antigua was the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala for over 200 years. The colony embraced today's Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, and Guatemala -- as well as the state of Chiapas in Mexico. (I have also heard that some of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was included??) A major earthquake in 1717, magnitude 7.4, destroyed over 3000 buildings and caused people to consider moving the capital. Another earthquake 56 years later sealed the deal. The Santa Marta earthquake of July 1773, magnitude 7.5 with aftershocks through December, killed 500-600 people immediately, and over 600 more died from starvation and disease in the aftermath. In 1776, the Spanish Crown ordered the establishment of a new capital city instead of rebuilding Antigua. The city received its current name, La Antigua Guatemala, and the new capital was named Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción -- today's Guatemala City. Antigua's population reached 60,000 in the 1770's. Today it is closer to 35,000. (source: Wikipedia, early 2011) Volcano Agua dominates the southern aspect of Antigua. Volcano Fuego, active today, can be seen spouting off in the west.