What’s in a name? That which we call La Antigua Guatemala

La Antigua Guatemala's Emblem

What’s in a name? That which we call La Antigua Guatemala. By any other name would enchant us the same.

This is a BIG controversy. This is a petty controversy.

The English-language speaking community refuses to recognize the official name of La Antigua Guatemala because it is too long or lack of knowledge or poor Spanish-language skills; who knows really?. They just want to call it Antigua. But Antigua is a Caribbean Island. Yet, they refuse to call it La Antigua Guatemala, which, by the way, simply means The FORMER Guatemala City, or La ANTIGUA Ciudad de Guatemala.

To add to this confusion, many Guatemalans just call it Antigua too, although more often they say La Antigua. This error is even published by newspapers and magazine. Even, the road signs just say Antigua Guatemala. Even Wikipedia just have it listed as Antigua Guatemala, which by the way means Old Guatemala.

So what is the big deal? Nothing much really. Just like Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. I believe I have touched the subject a couple of times before, but I believed it needs further clarification. Below is the quoted text from April 30th, 2007.

… La Antigua Guatemala means almost the same thing; it could be translated as The Old Guatemala City. So, now that you know Antigua means old, you can understand that calling the city OLD or ANTIGUA is a misnomer since the word old is only the adjective modifying the name Guatemala. When people just use Antigua instead of La Antigua Guatemala is almost like if we only used “new” for New York or New Zealand or “San” for San Francisco. On top of it, the single word Antigua refers to a Caribbean Island.

Now for the really interesting part of the controversy we have to deconstruct Harry the FOUR pieces of the name. That is right I said four (4) pieces of the name. Let us begin:

LA: The article is very important because it is the only part of the name which really makes the location unique. La or The is what separates La Antigua Guatemala from any Old Guatemala.

ANTIGUA: The adjective modifies the noun Guatemala in many different ways. It could be translated as antique, old, former, ancient, previous, just to name a few. Antigua by itself does not mean La Antigua Guatemala or Former Guatemala City or The Old Guatemala City.

CIUDAD de/CITY of: This invisible part is my contribution to the controversy. This part is invisible because in Spanish sometimes we obviate the obvious. We say I am going to Guatemala/Mexico if we are in the rural areas and we mean to say our going to the capital city or to Guatemala City. When we say La Antigua Guatemala we really are saying The Old Guatemala City or The Former Guatemala City. So, believe when I say the word city is there, we just don’t pronounce it. Okay, let see if it flies.

GUATEMALA: The noun Guatemala has an invisible last name which is city. Guatemala City and Mexico City are only two of the capital cities that carry the name of the country and thus need the word city to differentiate it.

Would this entry change any minds? I hope so. It is okay to call La Antigua Guatemala, Antigua, La Antigua or Antigua Guatemala in informal situations. People do that all the time with LA (Los Angeles), NYC (Nueva York), Vegas, Frisco, et-cetera. But, it is unacceptable to use a short name in formal situations like maps, travel guides, travelblogs, newspaper articles, books, magazines, and so on. I think?!

© 2007 – 2020, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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