The day the Covid lockdown started in Puebla, we drove eastwards from Puebla towards Veracruz, a city on the Gulf of Mexico, which we had made sure was not in a “Red Zone” as defined by the Mexican Govt for Covid issues. The first stop on the way was in Xalapa, pronounced Ha-la-pa. Xalapa is a small city by Mexican standards and is the capital of the state of Veracruz. The city’s nickname, “City of Flowers is a reference related to the city’s older colonial history. According to folklore, the Spanish believed that Jalapa was the birthplace and home of the world’s most beautiful woman, La Florecita, which literally means ‘little flower”. Today, the city is a hub for higher education and culture. The residents of Xalapa are called Xalapeños or Jalapeños, which is the name given to the popular large peppers cultivated in this area.
The biggest single attraction here is the Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa (Xalapa Anthropology Museum the second most important facility of its kind in all of Mexico, after Mexico City’s immense Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology). We headed straight there and were pleasantly surprised as to how well designed it was and the 25,000 artifacts displayed here, from the Aztec to the Huastec, Totonac, and Mayan civilizations. Some pictures below from the Museum
After this very nice visit, we continued driving westwards to Veracruz city. We had visited Veracruz previously in 2011 but did not remember much and had not written any blog about this place; not sure why. We arrive late evening and located the hotel we had booked which was close to the central square where we had wanted to stay. We walked to the central square that evening for dinner and were happy to see that it was busy and lively, and not locked down.
Evening entertainment in the central square of Veracruz
Local and local tourists enjoying the evening
After this nice evening of music and dancing, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night. The hotel we were staying at was a Holiday Inn, but it was a converted 17th century convent; so, it was quite different from regular Holiday Inns, in that it had colorful tiles, large rooms etc. Interesting.
Veracruz is a major port city and municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Veracruz. Developed during Spanish colonization, Veracruz has been Mexico’s oldest, largest, and historically most significant port. During the Spanish colonial period, this city had the largest mercantile class and was at times wealthier than the capital of Mexico City. Its wealth attracted the raids of 17th-century pirates, against which fortifications were built. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Veracruz was invaded on different occasions by France and the United States; during the 1914 Tampico Affair, US troops occupied the city for seven months. For much of the 20th century, the production of petroleum was most important for the state’s economy but, in the latter 20th century and into the 21st, the port has re-emerged as the main economic engine. It has become the principal port for most of Mexico’s imports and exports, especially for the automotive industry.
We spent a few days here, around and including New Year’s Eve. Below are some pictures of the city.
The Barrio la Huaca was founded 300 years ago by slaves from Africa who built their homes from timber recovered from wooden ships that were wrecked near the bay. This settlement was outside the Veracruz city walls, and the different peoples (migrants, slaves, freedmen, laborers etc.) came and settled here as the port boomed and provided lots of jobs. When the city walls were torn down in 1790, this area grew into a more middle class. Some images from this Barrio below
We checked out the seafood mercado of Veracruz, images below
One evening, we had parked our car at the edge of the zocalo and had dinner at one of the many restaurants in the zocalo.
It was close to 8PM when we decided to leave and as we tried to get into the car and drive, there was a man pointing to the car and saying something which I could not understand. We tried to drive away, but the car would not move. Strange. Got out to see what the man was pointing to and saw that our car had been “booted”; whereby the driver side rear wheel had a metal contraption on it that was locked that prevented the wheel from turning. Not knowing what to do and not knowing enough Spanish to understand the locals, we went into the hotel near where we had parked and fortunately found an employee who spoke some English (not many people in Veracruz spoke English)
After some deliberation, this hotel employee told me that I needed to go to the traffic office and pointed it out to me (round the corner from the zocalo), and told me to hurry there with the little ticket that had been placed on the windscreen (that I had not seen), pay the fine, and that I needed to do all this asap, as the traffic office was going to close very soon at 8PM. So, I rushed over to where this office was supposed to be and found a small service window which looked like the traffic office. The man inside did not speak English, but after checking my ticket, informed me that I need to pay $9 in a fine for parking illegally. OK; so, I paid the fine, what now? He indicated me to go back and said someone would come by shortly. I went back to the car and waited. Surely, about 10 mins later, a guy on a motorcycle came by and took off the boot and we drove away.
Another unique experience chalked up. The traffic policing system in Veracruz worked well and was very efficient as I got all the stuff done in a short amount of time.
Another day, we drove to a small town called Mandinga which is a small town in a lagoon about 20 miles from Veracruz, which was supposed to be good for seaside-bayou dining as the lagoon provided both fresh water and salt water fish and seafood. Nobody spoke English here, but the music, fish and seafood was very good, and it was lively with many people in multiple seaside restaurants; see video and images below
Live music dining
Back in Veracruz, on New Year’s Eve, the zocalo was again very much alive with live music, drinking, dining, dancing with many people and families enjoying the evening. See below
New Year’s eve dancing
Midnight Dec 31 2020, people expecting something to happen behind the city hall
After breakfast, we drove back to Mexico City, with a short stop in La Antigua, a small village which was the first real Spanish town, and was the original Veracruz town, before it was moved to the existing location due to better port and protection. The oldest church in the Americas was founded here by Hernán Cortés in 1519. Some images below
The drive to Mexico City was uneventful
When we arrived in Mexico City was under lockdown, and eerily quiet compared to other times we had visited when it is very busy and boisterous.
View of Mexico City
We met up with our friends Ricardo and Martha (we meet with them every time we are in Mexico City) and they took us to their house and treated us to Pozole. In Mexico, pozole is typically served on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the new year & is also frequently served as a celebratory dish throughout Mexico and in Mexican communities outside Mexico. Very nice hospitality by Ricardo & Martha; so good to catch up with them
Next day, we flew off to Los Cabos, Mexico, to enjoy some time with Imran, Naveera, and grandson Idris.
An excellent trip to another unique part of Mexico; well worth a visit. Covid restrictions were well enforced and people were taking good care not to get Covid and not to pass it on to others. Safe and wonderful trip with many pleasant interactions with locals. Especially Ricardo and Martha and their family.
Our trip so farThis entry was posted in Mexico