May was a busy month of traveling and interestingly enough, visiting port cities. Not only did we check out the resort city of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific coast, but we also headed in the opposite direction to the Port of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf coast. It was interesting to see just how different these two cities and regions are, especially since they’re each about the same distance from Mexico City.
Veracruz state is a long, narrow strip of land that runs along Mexico’s Gulf Coast. The Port of Veracruz, or Veracruz city, is centered along the coast of Veracruz just east of Mexico City. It’s the state’s major port city and the oldest port in Mexico dating back to the year 1519 and the arrival of Hernán Cortéz. Veracruz is home to a unique style of music and a rich blend of Spanish and Afro-Cuban cultures. Each year the city of Veracruz hosts one of the largest Carnival celebrations in all of Mexico.
The traditional music of the region, called son, originated in the southern part of the state. The style of music that’s typically associated with the port city is called son jarocho. It’s a blend of indigenous Huastecan, Spanish and African musical elements. The song “La Bamba”, popularized in the movie of the same name, is likely the most internationally known of the son jarocho style.
I was concerned that there wouldn’t be that much going on given that we were in town on a Tuesday, but I shouldn’t have worried. Veracruz’s central plaza or zócalo fills up nightly with people out to have a good time. Restaurants and bars extend their seating well out into the plaza, street vendors make their way through the crowds and roaming musicians take turns entertaining diners — 70 pesos ($6) gets you the song of your choice. And there’s dancing too. The Veracruz style of dance is fast-paced and emphasizes intricate footwork. If you’re lucky you might just catch a live performance.
If You Go: The Veracruz airport is located 11km (7 miles) outside the city center. Deluxe and first class buses travel between Mexico City and Veracruz. There are frequent daily departures and the ride takes 5.5 hours. Don’t miss a stroll along the malecón, an evening out on the plaza listening to music and taking in the festive atmosphere and breakfast at the Gran Café de la Parroquia (Av. Gómez Farías 34), a Veracruz institution.
Photos by Suzanne Delaney