Hernán Cortés arrived at the site of present day Veracruz on Good Friday, April 21st 1519 and began his siege of Mexico shortly thereafter. By 1521 he had crushed the Aztec empire…Veracruz provided Mexico’s gateway to the outside world for over 400 years. Invaders and pirates, incoming and outgoing rulers, settlers, silver and slaves – all came and went, making Veracruz a lynchpin in Mexico’s history (Mexico, Lonely Planet Global Limited, 16th ed, 2018).
Typical of many great port cities, Veracruz is a mixture of beautifully restored historic buildings sitting alongside less attractive and sometimes disused grimy ruins – all in the shadow of a busy shipping port.
There are some beautifully restored buildings around the zocolo (or Plaza de Armas) framed on three sides by café filled arcades.
On the weekends a brass band plays in the zocolo where locals come to dance and others come to watch and listen to the merimbas playing outside the cafes that line the beautiful plaza.
Street sellers sell freshly cut fruits in plastic cups, cigars, ice creams, chips, shell themed souvenirs and will shine your shoes for a couple of dollars. The macelon(wharf) has been recently restored for the 500th (yep, 500th) Anniversary and is filled on the weekends with people strolling along the waterfront, eating ice-creams, buying trinkets from street stalls and Veracruz t-Shirts.
Along with its significance as a major shipping port, Veracruz is a popular seaside destination for Mexicans. On the weekend, we thought we’d been invaded, as tour buses filled with ‘locals’ from Mexico city rolled into town and filled the main plaza and wharf area shops and stalls. South of the ‘old’ town is Boca del Rio, a 10km+ stretch of beach resorts akin to Surfers’ Paradise in Queensland but with black sand and less surf and all the fast food restaurants you can name!
Although probably not a place you’d spend time in Veracruz unless you had to (like us, waiting for the car), after you’ve visited a museum or two, discovered the great coffee, browsed the antique bookshops and wandered the streets, the old town sort of grows on you. Add to this the security afforded by the armed police, marines, or military who frequently pass by standing in the back of their vehicles. What’s not to love about Veracruz?
Well, after the predicted wait to get paperwork approved to temporarily import our vehicle (4 days), get access to the port to unload the car from the container and have it inspected (1 day), and then a further wait (2 days) for paperwork to be signed off to get the car released by Customs and off the docks, we reckon we have given Veracruz a ‘good go’ and are looking forward to getting on the road again on 30th May.