Sunday, April 3, 2011


A 19th-century Mexican commentator once remarked that his favorite part of Mexico was "Veracruz, because it is from there that one leaves." Though it was only tenuously connected to Mexico City by a bad road for much of the country's history, Veracruz was the great port, through which countless invaders came and countless exiles left.

Today that great port, no longer haunted by pirates and foreign militaries, is a thrumming commercial town. The coral-and-brick battlements of San Juan de Ulua, where Benito Juarez was once imprisoned, now guard over the peaceful passage of modern container ships. Around the bustling harbor tourists and locals gather to watch freighters steam out to sea and Navy vessels arrive. Farther along the malecón fishermen hang their nets, their simple launches tied to worn wooden docks. In Mexico's oldest city, history and tradition bob quietly up against the present.

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