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Where I stayed
In some ways it reminded me of Brighton, very much a city by the sea, but with other interests and history apart from tourism. We visited the very informative town museum in a colonial building, and followed the history of the town from its founding in 1519 by Hernan Cortes, the Spanish explorer and conquerer, through to the 1950's. At times it has been a very prosperous city, with numerous activities and industries such as developing trade and access to inland Mexico, developing commercial links with other countries, shipbuilding, supporting the fishing industry, and oil. What surprised me was the amount of immigration into the area, especially in the early 1900's and from countries including China, Lebanon, Iran, and Russia amongst others
When we walked out of the museum the guard shouted after us very gruffly, “Hey, you” and we stopped, wondering what we had done wrong. However, he only wanted us to write in the visitors book and he had struggled to find a couple of English words to stop us leaving, and that was why it had sounded threatening. I duly wrote a comment in my best Spanish and was rewarded with big smiles from both him and the female curator, and he added, “very good Spanish”, so we were all happy.
One of the pictures in the museum was of a famous cafe, Cafe Parroquia, founded in 1881 and still operating, so we went in to have a coffee. It had hardly changed from the museum photograph. If you order coffee the waiter brings a glass (on a saucer with a spoon) containing a small shot of coffee. Then another waiter walks around with 2 large old fashioned kettles, one containing more coffee, and the other hot milk and pours ( from a great height) the right combination to give the strength you choose. Once you have received your glass you are meant to hit it very loudly with the spoon to call the man with the kettles
Because of the prosperity of the town, the colonial heritage and its important naval role, some of the buildings are stunning, as are the numerous statues. In Yucatan the local culture was reflected in murals, in Veracruz it is in statues. They commemorate famous people and historical events, reflect the town's values and hopes for the future. We even found a statue of a woman holding a laptop.
Since the 60's/70's it looks as though the fortunes of the town have slumped and many of the hotels from that time are looking run down, but there seems to be an initiative to knock many of them down and replace them with more opulent resort style hotels. There are many poor properties but also some really superb houses. Unfortunately we had very strong winds on 2 days during our stay (so strong I thought the windows were at risk) so we probably did not see the beach of Veracruz at its best.