Esquipulas, Guatemala Print
Written by Vern   
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:55

Esquipulas Guatemala is a small town in the south eastern part of Guatemala near the borders of Honduras and El Salvador. This part of the world is often referred to as the “Land of Eternal Spring” because of its tempered climate with an annual mean temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Esquipulas is in the Guatemalan department of Chiquimula on the border with Honduras. It serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name.

The town is famous for the Basilica of Esquipulas which houses the Shrine of the Black Christ (Christo Negro). Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Guatemala, the United States, Europe and other Central American countries flock here to pay homage to the dark wooden image of the crucified Christ, the most revered Catholic shrine in Central America.

Esquipulas was also the site of the initial meetings which led to the Esquipulas Peace Agreement, with which a measure of peace finally returned to Central America after the "36 Year War" that tore this area apart.

The city of Esquipulas was founded by the Spaniards between 1560 and 1570 with the name of Santiago de Esquipulas. The image of the Black Christ dates back to March 9, 1595, when the Portuguese sculptor Quirio Cataño presented it to the mayor of the city.

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".

Living adjacent to the basilica is a Benedictine Community of monks, who keep a watchful eye on the priceless Christo Negro.

In Guatemala, juvenile gangs are spreading rapidly. Orphaned children as a group are the most likely to join gangs and fall into a lifestyle of criminal activity.

Because the number of orphans are so high in this area, we often volunteer with one of the two orphanages here in Esquipulas and are in the process of starting classes in English for the orphans so they can become better equipped for when they leave the orphanages and re-enter society.

Neither the local communities, nor governmental institutions are able to appropriately handle the situation of orphans or homeless elderly persons due to the extent of the problem. As a consequence, thousands of children as well as many abandoned old men and women currently live on the street here in Guatemala and especially in this part of the country as it is so close to the border of two countries... Honduras and El Salvador.