Guatemala

Guatemalan Developers Build Private City

Safe heaven for the well off in a troubled country

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The highway climbs toward the edge of Guatemala City, past deep ravines where the poorest residents of the capital live in thousands of cinderblock huts, roofed with plastic sheets and powered by black cables stealing electricity from nearby lampposts.

Seven miles (11 kilometers) south of the historic center, the rutted, two-lane road comes to a set of towering white stucco walls and a pair of broad cast-iron gates that open onto apartment buildings and storefronts designed in Spanish colonial style. Cupolas top red-tile roofs. Residents sip cappucinos and lattes under red umbrellas in the sleek silver chairs of cafes facing a cobble-stone promenade.

Guatemalan developers are building a nearly independent city for the wealthy on the outskirts of a capital marred by crime and snarled by traffic. At its heart is the 34-acre (14-hectare) Paseo Cayala, with apartments, parks, high-end boutiques, church, nightclubs, and restaurants, all within a ring of white stucco walls.