I began learning all this at lunch, which began sometime after three PM. And soon I'll have to get ready for tonight's inaugural dinner and party. I have no appetite . . . .
Because of the theater performance of the translated Slave Coast text with Donald Harrison and his group doing the music, I am in with those classified by the festival as "artist." So far it seems I am the only woman! Anyway, I was the only woman sitting at lunch. (In Xalapa I am not only taller than everyone else, I am the only blonde I've seen.)
Veracruz is where Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, set up the first Spanish shop in New Spain - Mexico. He'd already helped do so for Cuba back in 1519, but he and the Cuban governor didn't get along, so into the Gulf of Mexico and to the mainland he sailed, despite the Cuban governor telling him to stay put.
|Rio Huitzilapan (Hummingbird River) down a bit from Cortés's compound.|
|Horses are honored here, at the spot where they were landed to conquer the Aztec Empire for Spain.|
|Ceiba trees and their roots are everywhere in Cortés's palace compound ruins.|
|Coral from the Gulf was used with the basalt and mortar to make the walls of Cortés's compound, as well as the walls of fortification at San Juan de Ulúa.|
It was in la Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz where Hernán Cortés first landed his armaments and men via the small barcos from his ships anchored in the Veracruz bay, up the Rio Huitzilapan. We saw it! and the ruins of his personal palace compound.
The official administrative and military center was at what became the port of Veracruz -- begun 498 years ago at San Juan de Ulúa, a small island in the Gulf there. We toured that fortress as well, which compound is enormous -- and now entirely surrounded by the present day port facilities (petroleum and petroleum products from the fields here, as well as many many other goods manufactured in this state including automobiles) and contemporary Mexico's naval yards and other military facilities. It's so extensive and complex that it is impossible to show it in an entire spread with any kind of camera. Keep in mind, it was from this fortress that the Spanish beat the butts of Hawkins and Drake in the 1568 Battle of San Juan de Ulúa -- much to their shock and surprise.
So this is why the state of Veracruz feels so intensely Spanish-Spanish -- there's even Arabic language elements in signage and naming of places and things and people here. This is where the conquistadores came first to the southern hemisphere mainland, which soon they'd claim all of for Spain. This is part of the great colonial territory that made the Spanish Empire an empire. So many of the men who did this had little prospect of advancement, riches and prestige back in Spain, particularly since the conclusion of the Reconquista -- so to the New World they came, searching for fame and particularly fortune. And it is the Caribbean and Mexico where they first found both. Cortés died happy and rich, at home, in Spain, with a Spanish wife and children -- while historians continue to debate what happened to Malinche, his Azteca translator-concubine and the son he had by her, in his palace compound by the Hummingbird River.
As the festival begins now, maybe the sightseeing is over.