With a natural opening in the middle of a formidable mountain range Veracruz Mexico has been a very strategic city for as long as humans have inhabited the area, which is a long time! It was in Veracruz, Mexico that Hernan Cortez met Montezuma in 1519 and Europeans started to conquer the Americas.
Veracruz is a city that has been attacked many times. The Olmecs in about 1300 BC, the Huastecos in about 600 BC, the Totonacas in time of Christ, the Aztecs in the 1100s, the Spanish in 1519, the Independents in 1810, the French in 1838, the United States in 1847, the French again in 1861, the United States in 1914, and the Narcos in the 1990s. Not to mention endless pirate raids over millennium. It is not surprising to see that the Spanish developed a system of fortifications, Baluarte Santiago and San Juan de Ulua are two important ones open to the public. Also, the Mexican Navy has it’s headquarters and a very nice museum in the city.
While visiting the Aquarium and having a special encounter with pinguins, we confirmed our tour with Tours y Tickets (http://www.toursytickets.com/en) for an all day tour of the capital city of Xelapa along with cities and towns on the outskirts of Veracruz.
Due to the fact that Veracruz is so susptible to attacks it makes since to to have the capital high up in the mountain city of Xelapa. While visiting Xelapa we were able to see the Hacienda del Lencero, which was the home to General Santa Ana, he was a General and President of Mexico who is known for losing half of Mexico to the United States. In the city center is the Governor’s Palace with colonial architecture and many murals. The city center also has a cathedral with the remains of Rafael Guízar Valencia, who was a Catholic Bishop that was recently named the Saint of the Poor (if you go to the tomb expect people to beg for money). On the way out we visited the Xelapa Anthropology museum, the second most important anthropology museum in Mexico featuring an exhaustive display of the Olmec civilization, including seven giant Olmec heads.
On the way out of Xelapa we visited Coatepec, which is known for all the coffee that they grow in the region. We don’t drink coffee, so that was not so interesting to us, but back in Veracruz we made a point to visit the Gran Cafe de la Parroquia, the oldest cafe in the Americas (established 1705). We had some hot chocolate, listened to the marimba music, and enjoyed the flamboyant way in which they served cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
The last part of our tour was Xico in which we learned about Veracruz mole and hiked to two waterfalls. Veracruz mole is different because unlike in Puebla where they use it to drown chicken, in Veracruz it becomes a sauce for enchiladas. It is very distinctive in flavor.
Our hotel for the three nights we were in Veracruz was the Hotel Mocambo. The Hotel Mocambo is a grand old hotel that was built in the 1940s and was known for once hosting many Mexican celebrities. It is beautiful, but unfortunately, it has not been up kept maybe as well as it should have been. It is also a little outside the city center, but we were OK with that because it had the bonus of being right across the street from the Veracruz Temple, where we were the first American patrons seen in over two years (as said by the Utah Senior Missionaries). Despite minor setbacks, at $48 a night the price was right. The hotel had great views looking over an almost unpopulated beach, included breakfast, and included WIFI. The people in Veracruz were so kind.
Veracruz is a Mexican tourist town, which is a lot different than an American tourist town in Mexico. The difference is things are laid back, there is no up selling going on, and all the prices were very apparent. It is so less stressful than one of those all inclusive’s where I always end up feeling like a walking wallet.