Wednesday, August 27, 2014

VERACRUZ, VERACRUZ: A WONDERFUL MELTING POT





Welcome to the exciting Mexican state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico! I refer to Veracruz as the state of wonderful variety because of the differences found in its cultures, climates, topography, cuisines, music, and industry. Each city and each region offers an intriguing opportunity to experience and explore what seems like many different states, but they are all conveniently wrapped up in one.



We will be visiting three very different cities which to me illustrate the wonderful variety to be found in the state of Veracruz. The first will be the exuberant city and port of VERACRUZ and is the subject of this post. My second post will cover the vibrant capital of XALAPA (aka JALAPA) and the enchanting colonial coffee town of XICO.



I believe it would be good idea to understand in general terms the climate of the state of Veracruz. The large variation of altitude in Veracruz results in a large mixture of climates from cold snow capped mountain tops to warm and wet tropical areas on the coast. Thirty two percent of the state is classified as hot and humid, fifty two percent as hot and semi humid, nine percent is warm and humid, six percent as temperate and humid, and one percent is classified as cold. Makes you want to grab a cold drink just thinking about it doesn't it! 



The city of Veracruz is classified in the hot and humid zone. The cities of Xalapa and Xico are found in the warm/temperate and humid category What this means is that there is a lot of climate variation which makes for interesting changes. So if you are ready, let’s go!


Driving from Mexico City or Puebla to the city of Veracruz we pass Pico de Orizaba (a dormant volcano) at 18,000 feet which is the highest in Mexico and third highest in North America.



 Veracruz is serious coffee country, but this is cactus, not coffee! 


Then we pass through the rich, productive countryside in the state of Veracruz.


Veracruz also has an abundance of rivers, lakes, and gorgeous tropical mountains to explore and enjoy.


NOW FOR YOUR LITTLE HISTORY LESSON:  

The city of Veracruz is officially known as “Heroica (heroic) Veracruz” because of its amazing role in the dramatic history of Mexico. Veracruz is a major port city on the Gulf of Mexico and is also the name of the municipality and the state in which it is located. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519 he founded a settlement here. 

He named it Villa Rica (rich place) de la Vera Cruz (true cross). This name was in reference to the area’s gold and also in dedication to the "True Cross" which was because he landed on the Christian holy day of Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion. It was the first Spanish settlement on the mainland of the Americas. Over the course of centuries the city of Veracruz and the state of Veracruz have played significant roles in Mexican history.

Veracruz is Mexico’s oldest, largest, and historically most significant port since European colonization. It was the port of entry for the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the “New World” to conquer the native people and for the Spanish priests who arrived to save and convert the native people to their Christian Catholic beliefs. Both the “men of the sword” and the men of the cloth” were unbelievably successful in a relatively short period to time.

The port of Veracruz was also the port of export for the country's natural resources, including vast amounts of silver and gold, that were plundered and shipped home to “mother” Spain. With time, the shipment of native food products and spices also became very lucrative. The “importation” of the Spanish culture, language, and religion would forever change not only Mexico, but also other Latin American cultures. The “New World” in the western hemisphere was to be forever changed after the arrival of the Spaniards.


There is a significant Mexican Navy presence in the large commercial port of Veracruz.




 
Modern sculpture at the port of Veracruz. I think it's doubtful the Catholic Conquistadors would have approved of this art!

Veracruz also has a well-deserved reputation for being boisterous and fun loving with people dancing and listening to music in the plazas late into the night only to wake up early the next morning to drink coffee at the sidewalk cafes. The pre-Lent celebration In Veracruz with its colorful and riotous Carnival has been celebrated every year since it was started in 1866 during the reign of Emperor Maximilian. From what I understand it is one of the best Carnival celebrations in Latin America and not to be missed!

                                        

The action is a blur on a typical Saturday night on the plaza dancing under the hot tropical moon.


Carnival in Veracruz with gorgeous floats, gorgeous ladies, and hot, hot music.


The Plaza de las Armas, which is commonly referred to as the zocalo (an indigenous word for plaza) is the main plaza in Veracruz. It is a lovely tree-filled square which is the center of social and cultural life in Veracruz. It is occupied from morning until late at night with people playing dominoes, selling food, cigars, cold drinks, playing music and dancing.



A bird's eye view overlooking the cafes which surround the main Plaza in Veracruz. Cafe or rum anyone?


The Cathedral of Veracruz on the Plaza de Armas are built in the customary Spanish layout which embodies the heart and soul of Mexico.


This is classic Mexico: the presentation of the flag on the main zocalo (plaza) under the bell tower of the Cathedral 365 days a year.

The Plaza de las Armas is even more crowded in the evening when almost every night of the week the danzón is danced. This dance was brought over to Mexico from Cuba by refugees in the 1870's. It was originally restricted to the lower classes but eventually gained accepted by all levels of society. The state's best-known musical style is called the "son". A is a musical variation which traces its origins to Spain and developed during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the state’s most popular musical style which shows influences from the many cultures who have lived in Veracruz including indigenous groups, Portuguese, Italians, Africans, French and others.


The traditional dances and dancers of Veracruz are stunningly beautiful!


Now that we have thoroughly exhausted ourselves with the exuberant city of Veracruz I believe it’s time to hit the road and head up to the lovely capital city of Xalapa and to the peaceful colonial town of Xico. Please see the following blog post for a visit to these wonderful places which are also in the state of Veracruz.


I remember many, many years ago hearing that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is a link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting. 

VERACRUZ PHOTO ALBUM

I always appreciate hearing from my blog visitors. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments, suggestions, or questions. Until next time, saludos and muchas gracias. Laura



                                       Memories are just a click away!