The Outlandish Guatemala Pavilion in Seville

The Mayan-style ornaments across the pavilion's walls

photography by: Omri Westmark

Reading time: minutes

27 years after Spain relinquished control of its last Latin American colony, the city of Seville was chosen as a venue for a global fair, where the country sought to restore some of its former influence over the region. While most pavilions were ultimately demolished, some have managed to dodge a grim fate, including the quaint Guatemala Pavilion. The blue and white building might not showcase Guatemalan culture anymore, yet apparently it still retains much of its original beauty.

Following the decolonization of Latin America, Spain lost much of its imperial status as more and more of its former colonies gained their coveted independence. To revive part of their global influence, the Spaniards hosted the Ibero-American Exposition at Seville in May 1929, aimed at strengthening the cultural and economic ties between Spain and Latin nations across the new world.


The exposition, which took place at the city’s Maria Luisa Park, was participated by a group of Latin American countries, the US, Portugal as well as each and every province of Andalusia, the region where the event was held. In the months that preceded the event, Seville underwent a massive a facelift and construction boom, where over a hundred pavilions were erected for the participating countries.


Like so many events of this scale, one question remained open – what would be the long-term fate of the dozens of facilities built especially for that exposition. It turns out that out of the 117 original buildings, only 25 have survived to date, including the architecturally marvelous Plaza de España. A far lesser-known survivor though is the Pavilion of Guatemala, sitting unassumingly in a verdant strip of land between a major thoroughfare and the Canal de Alfonso XIII.


Due to multiple internal disputes, the Guatemalan edifice was completed more than 6 months after the fair began. But what the pavilion lacked in time accuracy, it made up for in ample coffee tasting, attracting swarms of fastidious caffeine addicts.


The 18 meter long and 10-meter-wide building is covered almost entirely by blue and white tiles, depicting a plethora of indigenous motifs, affiliated with the Mayan civilization. The only ornaments that deviate from this color scheme are the main façade’s greenish national emblem and a striking pair of Resplendent Quetzals, Guatemala’s national bird.


In 1931, a year after the fair has officially ended, the Guatemalan pavilion was ceded to the local municipality, which in turn converted the building into a children’s library. Few years later, the place was abandoned for over a decade until in 1953, the Murillo institute that operated in the nearby Argentine pavilion utilized the empty edifice for a preparatory school. When the school was relocated ten years later, the building was abandoned once again, falling into a state of disrepair.


The derelict building was classified for demolition for many years, but somehow it miraculously evaded its impending demise. After many years when its ground floor was used as a gym and its partly-basement floor as a storehouse, the former pavilion finally became a dance conservatory, which for now, is its current use.


Whilst the modest-size building is vastly outshined by its larger counterparts and the nearby park, the absence of tourists in an otherwise ultra-touristy district makes it a worthy place to explore as well as a visual prelude to any future trip to Guatemala.