Saturday, April 2, 2011

Campeche.

Painting by Paul Cross
Located in the southwestern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula along the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Campeche was named after the ancient Mayan kingdom of Ah Kin Pech (Canpech). The capital city shares its name with the state.

The city of Campeche, formerly known as Villa de San Francisco de Campeche, was founded in 1541 by Francisco Montejo the Younger after several previous failed attempts by his Spanish predecessors.

After Spanish occupation, Campeche was terrorized by pirates and marauders until 1686 when a French engineer by the name of Louis Bouchard de Becour was commissioned to surrounded the city with a wall.

Campeche still has the appearance of a fortress. Historic monuments and buildings, Mayan ruins and the old city wall, which is an eminent example of the Spanish military architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries, all add up to why Campeche was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The city wall is a predominant feature of the landscape.  At its completion, the wall surrounding the city of Campeche was 2,560 meters in length, forming an irregular hexagon around the main part of the city.

 


Four gates allow entry in to the city.  The two main entrances are the Puerta de Tierra ("Land Gate"), built in 1732, and the Puerta del Mar ("Sea Gate"). The  other gates are Puerta de Gudalupe and Puerta de San Román.

 




Eight bultwarks serve as defensive bastions (bulwarks) on the corners of the wall. These bulwarks now serve different functions.    
Baluarte de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
  • Baluarte de Santiago. A botanical garden.  
  • Baluarte de San Pedro. Former prison.
  • Baluarte de San Francisco. Protects the Land Gate. Houses a library. 
  • Baluarte de San Juan. Protects the Land Gate.  
  • Baluarte de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. Also protects the Sea Gate. It is the largest one and holds the Museum of City History. 
  • Baluarte de San Carlos. Houses the City Museum. This fort was the first one built. Protects the Sea Gate. 
  • Baluarte de Santa Rosa.
Two main forts protected the city from two nearby hills on each side, the forts of San José el Alto (built in 1762) and San Miguel. These forts gave long-range artillery coverage and served also as look-outs. They were built before the walls of the city. Today, the fort of San Miguel is used as a museum and houses a collection of pre-Hispanic items and the of San José houses a collection of boats and weapons of the period.

Located 60 km (37 miles) southwest of the Campeche lie the Mayan ruins of Edzna one of the most advanced Mayan cities of its time.

Edzna is a Mayan name which means "House of the Grimaces". The city was founded around 600 to 300 BC as a small agricultural community. Edzna reached its most important era as a grand regional capital between 600 and 900 AD.

According to archeologists, Edzna is one of the most interesting Mayan cities because of technological advances developed there including an advanced system of hydraulic works and a sophisticated water drainage system.

Camarones al coco
Aside from its fortifications, Spanish colonial buildings, and Mayan ruins, Campeche is also known for its cuisine which is mix of Spanish and Mayan influences. Being a coastal city, seafood is king. Dishes such as camarones al coco (coconut shrimp),  pan de cazon (shark bake with tortilla, beans and salsa) and believe it or not, shark stuffed chilies are common items on restaurant menus.Yum!

I'm seeing a meal of wonderful seafood to close out my day sightseeing in Campeche!