October 2005 Issue: A Latin American Town Without a Central Park? Weird…

octoberNewcomers to Quetzaltenango may notice a heartening sight – the central park is temporarily closed for renovations. Long-termers are facing a different reality: this has become pretty much a permanent situation.

The park dates from 1880, but took its present form back in 1938. Until 2004, it was one of the social centers of town – a place for buskers, sunbakers, pigeon-feeders, gossips and heavy petters to hang out. Then the Committee for the Historical Center announced its intentions to renovate the park. Six wells were dug and various archaeological specimens were extracted. These are still in laboratories, being carbon tested to determine their age, but it is fairly sure that they are from both the pre- and post-Colonial eras.

Work began in earnest in October 2004. The north end of the park was fenced off. The initial idea was to repair the paving, which was lifting and cracking in various places. The plan soon grew to incorporate four stages: 1) restoring the paving and access stairways; 2) restoration of monuments and decorations such as the columns, kiosk, urns and lights; 3) improving disabled access to the park; and 4) finding a “solution” to the informal vendors (shoeshiners, newspaper and fruit vendors, etc) who bring life to the park, but also can impede access.

A semi-controversial plan is also on the table at the moment – to make the sections of the 11th Avenida and 7th Calle that border the park into pedestrian walkways.

There have been various re-opening dates for the park, the most recent of which, the 16th of September, sailed past without an official murmur. A major problem confronting construction has been the lack of available funds… it appears that work was started with about half the required cash available. Thanks to a hastily cobbled (sorry) together “buy a brick” campaign and the release of some Municipal emergency funds, work is progressing, and a new date, the 28th of October has been set.

Vamos a ver.

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