1773 Guatemala earthquake

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1773 Guatemala earthquake
A damaged convent near Volcán de Agua
Relief map of Central America.jpg
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Antigua Guatemala
Local dateJuly 29, 1773 (1773-07-29)
Local time15:45
Magnitude~7.5 Mi
Epicenter 14°36′N90°42′W / 14.6°N 90.7°W / 14.6; -90.7 Coordinates: 14°36′N90°42′W / 14.6°N 90.7°W / 14.6; -90.7
Areas affectedAt or near Antigua Guatemala
Max. intensity VII–VIII
Casualties500–600 fatalities

The 1773 Guatemala earthquake struck Guatemala on July 29 at 15:45 local time. [1] It had an estimated epicentral magnitude of 7.5 Mi. [2] It was part of a sequence that started in May that year. There were two strong foreshocks on June 11 and the mainshock was followed by numerous aftershocks which lasted until December 1773. [1] The series of all these earthquakes is also referred to as the Santa Marta earthquake(s) as it had started on the feast day of Saint Martha.

Guatemala republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

A foreshock is an earthquake that occurs before a larger seismic event and is related to it in both time and space. The designation of an earthquake as foreshock, mainshock or aftershock is only possible after the full sequence of events has happened.

An aftershock is a smaller earthquake that follows a larger earthquake, in the same area of the main shock, caused as the displaced crust adjusts to the effects of the main shock. Large earthquakes can have hundreds to thousands of instrumentally detectable aftershocks, which steadily decrease in magnitude and frequency according to known laws. In some earthquakes the main rupture happens in two or more steps, resulting in multiple main shocks. These are known as doublet earthquakes, and in general can be distinguished from aftershocks in having similar magnitudes and nearly identical seismic waveforms.


With an intensity of approximately VII (Very strong) to VIII (Severe) on the Mercalli intensity scale, [2] the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala (modern Antigua Guatemala), which was at that time the colonial capital of Central America. About 500–600 people died immediately and at least another 600 died from starvation and disease as a result of the earthquake. [2] The event had significant impact on the number of religious personnel in the area, especially the Mercedarian Order, with the count reduced almost by half and a similar reduction in the amount of income received. [3]

Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala

Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala was the name given to the capital city of the Spanish colonial Captaincy General of Guatemala in Central America.

Antigua Guatemala City in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala, commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

The Royal, Celestial and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of the Captives, also known as the Mercedarians, is a Catholic mendicant order established in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco in the city of Barcelona, at that time in the Principality of Catalonia, for the redemption of Christian captives. Its members are most commonly known as Mercedarian friars or nuns. One of the distinguishing marks of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is that, since its foundation, its members are required to take a fourth vow: to die, if necessary, for another who is in danger of losing their faith. The Order exists today in 17 countries.

Relocation of the capital

Spanish authorities had previously considered moving the capital to a different location after the devastation of the 1717 Guatemala earthquake and decided after the 1773 event not to rebuild the city again. Thus in 1776 the capital was moved to the new city of Guatemala of Asuncion, known today as Guatemala City. [2]

1717 Guatemala earthquake

The 1717 Guatemala earthquake struck Guatemala on September 29 with an estimated moment magnitude of 7.4, and a Mercalli intensity of approximately IX (Violent). The earthquake essentially destroyed much of the architecture of Antigua Guatemala, which was the colonial capital of Central America at the time. Over 3,000 buildings were ruined including many temples and churches. Such was the effect of the disaster that the authorities considered moving the headquarters to a settlement which was less prone to natural disasters.

Guatemala City City in Guatemala, Guatemala

Guatemala City, locally known as Guatemala or Guate, officially Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, is the capital and largest city of Guatemala, and the most populous in Central America. The city is located in the south-central part of the country, nestled in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita. It is estimated that its population is about 1 million. Guatemala City is also the capital of the Municipality of Guatemala and of the Guatemala Department.

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  1. 1 2 Espinosa A.F. (1976). "The Guatemalan earthquake of February 4, 1976, a preliminary report" (PDF). Geological Survey Professional Paper. United States Government Printing Office. pp. 7, 88. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  2. 1 2 3 4 William I. Rose; Julian J. Bommer; Dina L. Lopez; Michael J. Carr; Jon J. Major, eds. (June 2004). Natural Hazards in El Salvador. Geological Society of America. p. 394. ISBN   978-0-8137-2375-4.
  3. Nancy Johnson Black (1997). The Frontier Mission and Social Transformation in Western Honduras: The Order of Our Lady of Mercy, 1525–1773. Brill Academic Pub. p. 85. ISBN   978-90-04-10219-4.