In early sixteenth century, "Can Pech", which was then
the capital of the province, was spotted by the expedition commended
by Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba.
He renamed it San Lázaro on March 22, 1517. Years later,
after several incursions in the region, Francisco de Montejo El
Mozo founded the city of San Francisco de Campeche on October 04, 1540. Since it was the only seaport in the area, Campeche became the departure
point of the Spanish colonial expansion towards Yucatán inland.
Left picture : Historic center of Campeche
After the conquest of the territory the Villa de Campeche became – as many other cities on the Caribbean coast - the
target of the pirate attacks. Effectively, the pirates of the
late sixteenth century intended to seize the richness of these
newly discovered lands. The first invasion of Campeche dates from 1559. Then in July 1675, it showed the assaults of
Pie de Palo and Diego el Mulato. After the violent attack from
the pirate Lorencillo, known as the Battle of Campeche (1685), the inhabitants of the city lobbied the Spanish Crown
to have an effective system of defense built in the city, according
to the typical Spanish plan of the time, meaning a grid.
picture : historic center of Campeche
The decision of walling the city dates from January 3, 1686. The
work started with the construction of an irregular 8 side polygon,
with a bulwark at each corner and four doors looking outside.
The work lasted 18 years. The walls surrounded an 80 ha (198 acres)
area. Later, during the mid seventeenth century, they built the
forts of San José and San Miguel, with their own series
of reinforcements. At this time, the Mayan population was confined
in Campechuelo, where a Franciscan convent was built.
During the nineteenth century, Campeche was involved in diverse politic and economic crises due to confrontations
between the Yucatán peninsula and the central government
of Mexico, also due to rivalries between Mérida and Campeche. The state also
suffered from the repercussion of the separatist attempts of Yucatán
(1840-1846), the Yucatán civil war (1846-1847) and the
war of Castes (1847-1854) which affected the social and economic
stability of the whole region. Campeche finally separated from
the government of Yucatán in 1858. This was ratified by
the central power of the country in 1863. However, under the Empire
of Maximilian, which started one year later, Campeche lost again its autonomy. When the republican forces triumphed
(1867), the separation of the state of Campeche became again official.
The end of the nineteenth century marks the beginning of the Porfiriat
in Mexico. With Porfirio
Díaz, dictator who governed from 1887 to 1911, the
economy of Campeche remained
based on farming (corn, rice and sugar cane), livestock for the
domestic market and export of logwood (palo de tinto), salt and
woods. At the same time, the state started the adventure of the
exploitation of "chicle" (from náhuatl tzictli),
a booming activity at the twentieth century.
In addition to this important economic activity, Campeche kept producing resin of sapotier, logwood and sisal and started
to exploit oil on its territory. The discovery, in the country,
of the palo de tinto, tree of Campeche used as a dye base, insured the economic prosperity of Campeche.
Campeche became one of the richest cities in New
The first set of
shootings is on Campeche City, the boat scale model museum and the walls. The second
set is on the archaeological site Edzná
city of Campeche not only conserved
the original plan from the sixteenth century but it also preserved
the architecture inherited from the colonial époque. It
is the reason why UNESCO declared the Historic fortified Town
of Campeche, a World Heritage
Site on December 1, 1999.
The two criteria retained for this inscription on the list are
1.” The harbour town of Campeche is an urbanization model of a Baroque colonial town, with its
checkerboard street plan; the defensive walls surrounding its
historic centre reflect the influence of the military architecture
in the Caribbean.
2.” The fortifications system of Campeche,
an eminent example of the military architecture of the 17th and
18th centuries, is part of an overall defensive system set up
by the Spanish to protect the ports on the Caribbean Sea from
picture : San Miguel bastion
The inhabitants of Campeche,
aware of the responsibility of living in a world heritage city,
watch and protect the historic richness with rules set up by the
State Government, the city Council and the civil society.
What was used, at the colonial time, to protect Campeche from the corsairs, is now one of the most important architectonic
richness of the State. It is a rampart forming an irregular polygon
whose six sides, seven bulwarks and two gates are still remaining.
Two additional forts built on the hills still remain.
Left picture : the Zócalo of
300 years after their construction, most of the fortifications
are still in good shape. Only two gates are missing. There are
the Sea Gate, rebuilt during the mid twentieth century and the
Land Gate, built in 1732 (it is the only original gate in place).
A Light and Sound, called "El Lugar del Sol" (the sun
place), is held at this Land Gate ("Puerta de Tierra"),
close to the bulwark of San Juan, at 8 PM. There are reenactments
of old pirate fights and diverse documentaries on colonial history
in five languages.
In addition to the two gates, seven bulwarks still surround the
historic center. These stone monuments have different functions.
The Bulwark of Solitude (Baluarte de la Soledad),
for example, houses the Museum of the Mayan Steles, Calle 8 between
55 & 57 (open 9:30 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, MXN$31) while the Bulwark
of San Carlos (Baluarte de San Carlos) houses the City Graphic
museum, Calle 8 x 63 (open 9 AM-9 PM, Tue-Sun, MXN$31). This museum
displays a photographic exhibit of old Campeche as well as scale models of the fortified city.
The Museum of the Mayan Steles displays an important collection
of steles and architectonic sculpted fragments from Mayan sites.
The bulwark of Santiago houses a botanical garden
"Xmuch-Haltún" (open 9 AM-4 PM, MXN$10), where
you can admire more than 150 species of typical flora from the
area. There is, in particular, the famous palo de tinto or palo
de Campeche. The visit of the
Bastion Santiago is an interactive visit in five languages.
The bulwark of San Pedro houses a free craft
museum open daily from 9 AM to 9 PM.
The bulwark of San Francisco houses the INAH
(National Institute of Anthropology and History) Library.
picture : one fort of Campeche
On the nearby hills, the two forts San José el Alto and
San Felipe stand. The first one is a museum of boat scale models
and colonial weapons (open 9:30 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, MXN$30) .You
also have a wonderful panorama of the city and the sea. The Museum
tells the history of the city trading activity.
The fort of San Miguel still has a pit, drawbridge, observation
tower and canons. It is worth the visit. It houses the Archaeological
Mayan Museum (open 9:30 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, MXN$37). It is dedicated
to the Mayan civilization with nice Mayan pieces from the state
of Campeche. Among them, there
is an important collection of Pre-Hispanic pieces such as magnificent
jade masks discovered in Calakmul.
What to see in town except for the walls ?
The Zócalo, place of Independence, with huge flowerbeds
and benches, is at the geographical center of the city. The Franciscan
Cathedral of Campeche is worth
a visit for its venerable age. The construction started in 1540
on a Pre-Hispanic sacred site and ended in 1705. It housed the
Catholic cult far before the conquest of Mérida.
So it is the oldest conventional church in Yucatán since
even the chapel San Isidoro of Chichén
Itzá is more recent.
picture :Cathedral of Campeche
Facing the Cathedral is the Cultural Center, Casa # 6, sumptuous
residence dating from the eighteenth century with antique furniture
(open daily 9 AM-9 PM, free admission). There is also a tourist
information booth open daily from 9 AM to 9 PM.
800m (2624feet) southeast from the Cathedral, the Church San Francisco
is also worth the detour. It is said to be built on the very same
place where the first mass of the New World was said. You can
see, in an apse, the venerable baptismal font used in 1562 for
Jeronimo, Cortès’ grand-son.
By the Land Gate, the Alameda Park and the surroundings offer,
with the cool and bright atmosphere, a welcomed contrast with
some poor and dirty parts of the city.
Facing the old constructions, the new modern city stands with
some futurist and sometimes strange buildings. On the huge Malecon
along the modern harbor, the haughty Palace of Governors (nicknamed
the "Juke-box" by its detractors) and the flat oval
of the Chamber of deputies ("the flying sauceboat”)
symbolize this architectural renewal. In fact, these buildings
are well made and well integrated in the huge Malecón.
The ultra-modern University of Campeche is located at the southern end of this Malecon.
World Patrimony Plaza (Musical Fountains) : Inaugurated
on December 1, 2002, it offers a musical interactive fountain
that allows unifying the height of different water jets for a
20 minute show, starting every hour from 6 to 10 PM.
Colonial Houses : Behind the Cathedral (17-19th centuries),
the Mansion Carbajal, converted into offices and craft shop is
an excellent example of the rich colonial houses, with marble
floor, Arabic columns and archways. Other colonial houses can
be visited such as "Casa # 6", partly furnished in nineteenth
century style, Casa de Artesanias "Tukulna" (calle 10,
between 59 and 61, open 9 AM-9 PM except Sunday), built at the
eighteenth century and Casa del Teniente del Rey (18th century).
All have a similar structure, with a central courtyard, surrounded
with archways, leading to the rooms of the house and a well in
the middle of the court. Another court was reserved to the service.
Left picture : one of the colonial
houses with view on the Cathedral
Go to the Municipal Market of Campeche located on the east side of Calle 53.
You can also take the tramway called "Tranvía"
or "Super Guapo" to ride the historic center. Tranvia is a 45min ride, departing every hour from Parque Principal, from
9 AM to 9 PM, MXN$70. Super Guapo is a 30minute ride departing
every 30minutes from the Zócalo, MXN$35 (2 on morning and
2 on afternoon).