Building opportunity : disaster response and recovery after the 1773 earthquake in Antigua Guatemala




Pajon, Mauricio A.

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Building Opportunity centers on disaster response and recovery after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake destroyed the city of Antigua Guatemala, the capital of colonial Guatemala, on July 29, 1773. It also concentrates on the colonial government’s decision to relocate Antigua Guatemala and establish a new capital, New Guatemala. This dissertation examines how the cultural, economic, political, and social views of inhabitants -- bureaucrats, clerics, Indians, architects, and the poor -- shaped their reactions to the tremor. Furthermore, it contends that the migration from Antigua Guatemala to New Guatemala created socioeconomic opportunities through which individuals made strong efforts to rebuild their lives. Debates on natural catastrophe in colonial Latin America have emphasized the ability of calamity to ignite power struggles over competing ideas about emergency management. However, in addition to an analysis of such disputes, this dissertation advances new understandings of the ways in which the earthquake gave victims chances to reshape their world. How did individuals' beliefs influence their attitudes toward the cataclysm? How did the effort to create a new city forge openings for survivors to refashion their identities? This study shows that individual groups' notions of fear, hazard mitigation, history, and socioeconomics defined arguments about whether or not to move. It also demonstrates that the tragedy produced spaces in which officials, ecclesiastics, indigenous peoples, and the impoverished worked to improve their lives. In various ways, administrators and victims turned adversity into an opportunity to become disaster managers and survivors, respectively.




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