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The principal port of entry for Mexico lies on a low alluvial plain bordering the Gulf coast. Cortés landed near here at Isla de los Sacrificios on 17 April 1519 and went on to conquer the Aztecs in 1521. The first settlement was called Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz; its location was changed several times, including to La Antigua . The present site was established in 1599. Following the Conquest, Veracruz became an important Atlantic port and a vital gateway for the soldiers, slaves, workers and missionaries who forged the great colonial project of New Spain.
The freshly plundered wealth of the New World also passed through the city en route to Europe. Treasure-laden galleons drew scores of Dutch, British and French pirates, who regularly pillaged the city, partook in its vices or otherwise harassed the Spanish forces. This led to the construction of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa. Years later, during the war of Independence, the Spanish made a final stand there, holding out for four years after the country’s liberation. The city, strategically vital, was subject to four more major bouts of hostility, which is why it is sometimes called ‘Four times heroic’. In 1838, it was occupied by the French navy during the Pastry War, but General Antonio López managed to see them off. Then, in 1847, US General Winfield Scott occupied the city, killing over 1000 Mexicans in an extended siege.In October 1861, Mexico defaulted on its foreign loan repayments, causing Spanish and British troops to occupy it. They soon departed, however, making way for eager Napoleon III, who sought nothing less than complete dominance of Mexico. He installed the poor, ill-fated Emperor Maximilian, whose troops remained for several years. They were later expelled by Juárez in 1866 and Maximilian was promptly executed. In 1872, a railway was built connecting Veracruz with the capital, bringing new wealth and investment. But then, in 1914, Major General Frederick Funston occupied the city for several months during the Tampico Affair. Today, Veracruz is an important deep-water port and party town that’s popular with both Mexican and international tourists.
Best Time To Go
Best time to visitIt is generally hot, however, if visiting between July and September, check the weather forecast because tropical storms blow themselves out in this region, bringing heavy rain. From October to January the weather is changeable, with cold, damp winds. At this time the beaches and Malecón are empty and many resorts close, except over Christmas and New Year when all road transport is booked up five days in advance.
Getting aroundAll places of interest are within easy walking distance of Plaza de Armas. From Zaragoza and Serdán, frequent buses run along the seafront to Mocambo or Boca del Río during the day, but at night you may have to take a taxi.
Aeropuerto Las Bajadas (VER) is 12 km from the city centre and has a shuttle service into town. The bus terminals (first and second class) are about 3 km from the town centre, on Avenida Díaz Mirón. To get downtown, take a blue-and-white or red-and- white bus marked ‘Díaz Mirón’, which pass one block from the Zócalo (US$0.50); or a colectivo (US$0.50). Taxis cost about US$3. Highways 150 and 150D (supercarretera) link Mexico City to the Gulf coast at the port of Veracruz. Route 180 runs north–south along the coast.
Airport Las Bajadas (VER), 12 km from the centre, several flights daily to the capital and flights to coastal cities. Flights also to Houston, San Antonio and Havana.
AeroMéxico, Bolívar No 952, T229-937 1765. Mexicana, Av 5 de Mayo y Aquiles Serdán, T229-932 2242.
Referred to as ADO the bus station is divided into 1st and 2nd class; the 1st-class part, mostly ADO company, is on the main street, Díaz Mirón y Xalapa, T229-938 2968; Autobuses Unidos, mostly 2nd class, is on Lafragua y Xalapa (2 blocks from ADO), T229- 937 2376. Buses to the main bus station run along Av 5 de Mayo, marked ADO, US$0.50, or colectivos, also US$0.50. Taxi to ADO terminal from the centre, US$3.
The majority of buses are booked solid for 3 days in advance throughout summer and holiday periods; at other times queues of up to 2 hrs possible at Mexico City booking offices of bus companies (best company: ADO). Book outward journeys on arrival in Veracruz, as the bus station is some way out of town and there are often long queues.To Catemaco, 9 daily, 3½ hrs, US$9. To Córdoba, every ½ hr, 1½ hrs, US$8. To Mexico City, hourly, 0600-0200, 5-6 hrs, US$30. To Mérida, 4 daily, 14-18 hrs, US$59-71. To Oaxaca, 3 daily, 0800, 1515, 2230, 7 hrs, US$30. To Orizaba, every 30-60 mins, 2½ hrs, US$9. To Papantla, 6 daily, 4 hrs, US$13. To Puebla, 12 daily, 3½ hrs, US$18. To San Andrés, 14 daily, 3 hrs, US$8.50. To Santiago Tuxtla, 9 daily, 2½ hrs, US$8. To Tampico, every 1-2 hrs, 9½ hrs, US$30. To Tapachula, 2 daily, 1345 and 1830, 13-15 hrs, US$56. To Tuxpan, 13 daily, 6 hrs, US$17. To Villahermosa, 18 daily, 6-8½ hrs, US$30. To Xalapa, frequent, 24 hrs, 2 hrs, US$7.
Stay In Touch
Bancomer, Independencia y Juárez, has casa de cambio for dollars and TCs, good rates, Mon-Fri 0930-1730, Sat-Sun 1100-1400. Banca Serfín, Díaz Mirón, 2 blocks from bus station, changes US$ cash and TCs. Banamex is at Independencia esq Juárez. American Express agency is Viajes Olymar, Blv Avila Camacho 2221, T229-931 3406. La Amistad, Juárez 112 (behind the hotels on the Zócalo), casas de cambio rates not as good as the banks but quicker; Hotel Veracruz changes money at similar rates.
Embassies and consulates
US Consular Agency, Francisco Javier Mina 506, T229-932 0227.
Plenty to choose from in the downtown and tourist areas, US$0.50-1. Networld Café, Callejón Clavijero 173, near Francisco. Stationet, 5 de Mayo, between Lerdo and Zamora, Mon-Sat 0900-2100. Micro Café, Ruiz Cortines, 100 m on from Museo Agustín Lara, Mon-Sat 1000- 2300.
Madero 616, US$4 per 3 kg, open 0730-2300.
Post officeMain post office by bridge to San Juan de Ulúa fortress, a fine building inaugurated in 1902 by Porfirio Díaz, Mon-Fri 0900-1200; also Palacio Federal, 5 de Mayo y Rayón, Mon-Fri 0800-1900.
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