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  • Pacaya VolcanoPacaya Volcano Antigua, Guatemala
    Pacaya is still an active volcano in Guatemala, that erupted over 23,000 years ago, and has erupted 23 times or more in the last few hundred years. The volcanic mountain rises 8,373 feet into the sky and although it had been dormant for over a century, it did erupt in 1965, and has been blowing skyward ever since. Most of it is Strombolian, which means that they are low level eruptions with ejections of materials, with an occasional Plinian eruption, which causes columns of gas and volcanic ash to rise high into the sky, and does spew ashes on Antigua. During the latter part of the 20th century, armed robberies were at an all time high on its slopes, which didn't help their tourism trade too much, but the government soon stepped in and the violence has gone down immensely. The volcano is one of the most popular attractions in the country, lying 19 miles southwest of Guatemala City and nearby to Antigua. Pacaya is one of the chain of volcanoes that runs along the Pacific coastline of Guatemala, that was created by the subduction of the Cocos Plate under the Caribbean Plate. Pacaya is the biggest post-caldera volcano and one of Central America's best active over the past 5 centuries. Over a millennia ago, the edifice collapsed, which then created a huge landslide taking deposits over 16 miles from the volcano to the Pacific coastal plain. As it flowed down the mountainside, it carved a huge crater, which the current active cone has grown into. This presence of magma at such shallow depths has created an instability to the cone and that means that future landslides could be very dangerous to the surrounding areas. Because this volcano continues to erupt or spew forth magma and ash, it has grown in popularity with tourists, and since it is so easily reached from either Guatemala City or Antigua, they have created a Pacaya National Park. In 2006, there was a moderated increase in the volcano's activity which made numerous lava rivers that slowly flowed down the mountainside and local tourism skyrocketed.

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  • Casa PopenoeCasa Popenoe Antigua, Guatemala
    Frederick Wilson Popenoe was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1892, and began his avid interest in horticulture working at his father's nursery in Altadena. He went to Pomona College, but left in 1912 with his brother to collect date palms, and was soon offered a full scholarship to Cornell; or he could have a job as a plant explorer working for the US. Department of Agriculture; earning $1800 a year. Loving plants and horticulture, he soon started working for the department and spent the following 12 years in Central and South America. In 1923, he married Dorothy K. Hughes in Maryland, she coming here from her birthplace in England. In 1925, Popenoe started working for the United Fruit Company and was setting up and running many experiment stations in Honduras and Guatemala. He began the Pan American School of Agriculture in 1941, and ran it until 1957. During 1929, he and his wife, Dorothy, bought the ruins of a colonial mansion in Antigua, Guatemala and began a complete renovation. This house soon became the subject of a book, The House in Antigua, by Louis Adamic; and currently, two of his daughters live there; it becoming one of the most prominent colonial buildings in the country. In 1932, Dorothy passed on in Honduras, and Popenoe married Helen Barsaloux in 1939. She passed on in Antigua in 1961, and Popenoe married Alice Weiss in 1969. The house had originally been constructed for don Luis de las Infantas y Mendoza in the first half of the 17th century, who was a Spaniard and judge for the Royal Audencia; but had been falling into a bad state of disrepair. The house has been furnished with period antiques that the couple collected over the years, and brought back to put in the house, which like many homes built in this region, it sits almost atop the sidewalk. There is a tall wall that hides the house from public views, but inside the property, there are flowered patios that have cool shaded corridors on each side. The wonderful collections of colonial art and furnishings , plus the complete kitchen, baths and laundry areas, make this home a must see for visitors wanting to see what it was like for rich people in those days.

January 11, 2011