Meet Alotenango, a Guatemalan town located nine miles southwest of Antigua and nestled between two volcanoes, one which is active, Volcan Fuego – literally “Fire Volcano”. Because of Alotenango’s close proximity to Volcan Fuego, the town is regularly subjected to evacuation orders and it’s often the recipient of copious amounts of ashes when Fuego decides to put on a fireworks display.
Long before the Spanish arrived in Guatemala, Alotenango already had an established population. Historians are divided over the origins of the town’s name and it’s debated that “Alotenango” may either mean “land of tender corn” or “house of the parrot”. In any case, the land here is very fertile and it is known to produce some of the best coffee beans in the world. Today, the town is inhabited mainly by Maya peasants who are mostly engaged in the cultivation of corn, beans, and the coffee beans I just mentioned.
Alotenango is most active during June, which is when the town honors San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), the saint which the Spanish assigned to residents for veneration when they christened the town as San Juan Alotenango. The town’s church (above) was built in 1615 and has been rebuilt many times due to earthquakes, last in 1929.
Even though Alotenango is relatively close to Antigua, it is well off the radar of most visitors who come to the area. There aren’t any gated communities inside the town, the closest one for expats being Antigua Gardens, a residential development located half a mile outside the entrance to the town, on highway RN-14. Of interest to visitors in this area will be La Reunion Golf Course, one of the most unusual golf courses in the world. Not many golf courses can boast having fairways with a live volcano for a backdrop.
Alotenango also has trails to ascend to Volcan Agua, Volcan Fuego, and Volcan Acatenango, though the trails are not well-marked and are dangerous and in bad shape. If you seek to climb any of these volcanoes, seek paths other than those leading from Alotenango.
Because of the poverty level, there has been an increment in the number of gang-related crime, such as robberies and extortions, which show no signs of slowing down. Residents have been known to attempt to lynch criminals caught red-handed, and when Police intervene, things often threaten to spiral out of control. While the plaza and stunning view of Volcan Fuego are interesting for a short daytime visit, the town is not recommended as a place to live.
Have you visited Alotenango?
Would you live at the foot of an active volcano?