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Guatemala: Was Antigua the Inspiration for the Little Prince?

Photo of Ceiba Tree taken by Suttonhoo and used under a Creative Commons license.

For a relatively small country, Guatemala's magnificent scenery can awaken one's imagination. From the 37 volcanoes [es] that rise up from the landscape to the mystical Lake Atitlan, it is a country that has attracted intellectuals in the field of culture and arts, who may have been drawn to this magical land. Visitors such as Simone de Beauvoir, Louis de Aragon, Pablo Neruda, Ché Guevara, even Aldous Huxley visited this land of Ceiba trees and roses. One other author, Antoine De Sain Exupéry, who is best known for writing “The Little Prince,” also visited Guatemala by accident, and leads to the question: Was Antigua, Guatemala his Muse for writing about Asteroid B-612?

Bonjour Guate [es], a blog dedicated to the francophonie, tells us the introduction to our story:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry conoció Guatemala por accidente. Uno que destruyó su avión y lo dejó malherido.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry visited Guatemala by accident. He had a plane crash in Guatemala, his airplane was destroyed and he was seriously injured.

And as Bonjour Guate continues:

Han surgido teorías acerca de los lugares que inspiraron a De Saint-Exupéry a escribir El Principito: una de las suposiciones da cuenta de que el Asteroide B-612, la casa del Principito, es La Antigua Guatemala, donde el aviador se recuperó de los golpes de su percance aéreo

There are many theories on the places that inspired De Saint Exupéry to write The Little Prince: one is that Asteroid B – 612, Little Prince's home, is Antigua Guatemala, where he spent time in recovery from his accident.

Enchiel, a Guatemalan blogger that enjoys The Little Prince, explores the theories connecting Antigua Guatemala, the city of Roses saying that was Antoine's muse [es]:

¿Presunción o no la de afirmar tal cosa? Quien sabe! Pero lo cierto es que hay detalles de su asteroide que coinciden con Antigua, ejemplo: el asteroide del principito tenía dos volcanes activos y uno inactivo. De todos los lugares a los que viajó Exupéry, ¿qué otro lugar sino sólo Antigua Guatemala tiene igualmente dos volcanes inactivos (el de Agua y Acatenango) y uno activo (el de Fuego)?

It is just an assumption to say that it was? Who knows? But the truth is that there are details of the asteroid that match with Antigua, for example: The Asteroid had two active volcanoes and one inactive. What other places to where Exupéry traveled other than Antigua Guatemala had two inactive volcanoes (Water and Acatenango) and one active (the Fire Volcano)?.

Blogger Jorge Palmieri has another theory, he met his widow in 1972, the Salvadoran Consuelo Suncín , and he asserts that she was the spoiled rose :

Consuelo era una mujercita sumamente coqueta y excesivamente generosa con sus amores. Sin embargo, a pesar de sus defectos humanos, es indiscutible su papel de musa que jugó para El Principito . Sus defensores argumentan que el volcán extingido del minúsculo asteroide es un guiño metafórico a El Salvador, país natal de su problemática consorte, donde pudo haber sido inspirado por el extinguido volcán Izalco para escribir sobre el volcán extinguido en el asteroide B 612 donde vivía El Principito y se dedicaba a cuidar a la rosa que era para él.

Consuelo was a tiny, flirty woman, excessively generous with her lovers. However, in spite of her human defects, no one can contradict that she was The Little Prince's muse. Her supporters argue that the volcano of the small asteroid was a metaphor mocking her country, El Salvador. He could have been inspired by the extinguished volcano Izalco and wrote about Little Prince's home, Asteroid B 612 where he took care of a rose.

It might be the correct theory since De Saint Exúpery said once: “I recall my wife's eyes again. I will never see anything more but those eyes. They question.”

One Guatemalan blogger living and working in Africa, Desde Kinshasha [es], tells a small story about Baobabs, the famous tree in the book, paradoxically similar to the Ceiba, the national tree of Guatemala. Before coming back home, she was really sorry that she did not see a Baobab, but in the end she did see one:

Volví la vista a la derecha y a la izquierda y reconocí varios más. En ese último día de mayo en Kinshasa me di cuenta que siempre habían estado ahí, que los baobabs eran ceibas, y que, finalmente, no estaba tan lejos de casa.

I turned my eyes to the right, to the left and I saw many of them. On the last day of May in Kinshasha, I realized that the Baobabs were always there, and that they were Ceibas , and in the end, I was not that far from home.

Antoine de Saint Exúpery, the famous French writer of The Little Prince, the one who once said, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes,” saw our volcanoes, smelled our roses, and lived with our people before writing his master piece. He walked the streets of Antigua, loved a Central American girl, and spent time drawing while recovering from the plane crash. From there, hewent to New York City with a lot of inspiration. Whether or not Guatemala was the true inspiration, some accidents and random encounters with strangers have happy endings, like the book that I am holding in my hands.

15 comments

  • I had no idea. Now I really need to visit Guatemala.

  • One of my favorite books of all time. How sweet would it be to sit under a Ceiba tree, and ponder if that’s where it all began.

  • Great story Renata. The connection between Kinshasa and Guatemala is sweet.

  • Ale

    Hi Renata, thank you for mentioning my beloved baobabs. Baobabs and Ceibas are actually from the same family (but I didn’t know this when I wrote the original post), I suppose that is why I felt I was among friends.

    I love the little Prince, btw.

  • @Romi : i agree. . it’s really something sweet sitting under the Ceiba Tree specially remembering those good times .. now i’m starting to dream. …

  • Great Post Renata!

    I love El Principito.

  • Considering that his plane crashed in Guatemala, Baobabs could be mistaken by Ceibas, the coincidence of the three volcanoes and that the Little Prince´s rose was originally from nearby El Salvador, it´s quite possible that the author was inspired by La Antigua.

  • c

    Have you seen the Cerro de Oro from San Antonio Palopo? It is the snake that swallowed the elephant and that is shaped like a hat.

    Greetings.

  • c

    Have you seen the Cerro de Oro from San Antonio Palopo? It is the snake that swallowed the elephant and that is shaped like a hat.

    Greetings.

  • Sofia

    Renata,

    El Principito es mi libro favorito, gracias por un articulo tan precioso. Ahora sí que estoy curiosa de ir a Guatemala; aunque en Puerto Rico también tenemos Ceibas…

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