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CAMPECHE                                                                                                                                                                       Printer friendly version


Founded in 1540 by Francisco of Montejo, it is the oldest Spanish city in the peninsula of Yucatán and was the only export port.

Campeche is part of the enormous plain comprising the Yucatán Peninsula, which it shares with Yucatán and Quintana Roo. It was inhabited by groups from the ancient Mayan culture, traces of which can still be seen in places like Edzná and Calakmul. On the shores of the Gulf of México, in what was once the Mayan city of Ah Kin Pech "Place of the Sun," Francisco de Montejo el Mozo ordered the construction of Villa de San Francisco de Campeche.

Owing to its strategic location, it suffered numerous pirate attacks, as a result of which a defense system of walls and forts was built, traces of which still remain, giving it its distinctive appearance. The state’s surroundings are tropical, and unlike its neighbors on the peninsula, it has several rivers, in addition to beaches, archeological sites, colonial buildings, 19th century haciendas and nature reserves with an astonishing variety of flora and fauna.

The silence of the city of Campeche is both magical and moving. This city, guarded like a precious relic by its inhabitants, is proud to celebrate its 465 years of existence. Possessing one of the best preserved historic centers in México, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. What was once the fortress of the Spanish crown in the Gulf of México is now a delightful city that appears to have been designed by the gods. Campache is really a colonial jewel.

Campeche is the westernmost of the three states comprising the Yucatán Peninsula. It is covered by forest and enjoys a tropical climate, with rains in the summer and autumn. The city of Campeche, its capital, is located on the east coast of the Gulf of México. Its historic center consists of three districts: the walled section whose mansions were inhabited by the Spaniards during the colonial era; the San Francisco district to the north of the fortification, where the Mayan population lived and San Román in the south, where Mexican indigenous peoples and mulattos brought in from the Caribbean Islands settled.

The city of Campeche, built on the site of the domain of Ah Kim Pech (Lord Tick) was the first Spanish settlement on the Yucatán Peninsula. Founded on October 4 1540, it was initially called San Lázaro and subsequently renamed Villa de San Francisco de Campeche. A few years later, the city became one of the most important ports in America for shipping the immense wealth produced in the inland forests. This era gave rise to the legend of the buccaneers. Morgan, Lorencillo, and the Mulatto are the mythical names of the men that besieged and plundered the city of San Francisco to seize the riches transported by the vessels of the Spanish Crown. The colonial authorities proceeded to fortify the city by erecting a massive wall, construction of which began in 1686.

Campeche is a beautiful city built in an elongated checkerboard shape due to the characteristics of the coast. The remains of the walls that encircled the town in the 18th century can still be seen at various points in the city today. Two of the four gates and seven bulwarks of incalculable architectural interest have been preserved. As the Campeche historian Román Piña Chan remarked, "Campeche’s history is written in the stones, bulwarks, doors and walls that speak to us of the past, of Spanish navigators and bloodthirsty pirates.”

In Campeche, time goes by slowly and peacefully. Although it is a maritime city, its residents encourage visitors to enjoy its nostalgia, cuisine, long walks and intense cultural life that manages to respect its traditions. The hospitable inhabitants of this state-the term "campechano" is synonymous with goodness and simplicity- are probably the proudest of their Mayan legacy of all those in the Mayan world. The state boasts a wealth of archaeological sites, all within easy access of the city of Campeche. Legendary Mayan settlements such as Edzná, Becán, Xpuhil and the magnificent Calakmul are just some of the archaeological sites that no visitor should miss.

Located by a flat coast open to the sea, Campeche was exposed to the attacks of the adventurers of the seas which could enter the city from the port or the fields. Surrounded by eight meter high walls, protected by bastions and coastal batteries, it was locked in a rigid shell of stone that, starting from the XIX century opened up to allow the city to extend freely. Facing the old perimeter wide lands have been won from the sea and the modern constructions make one forget the glorious times. No harbor is left.

We recommend you to visit the historical center where you find the Cathedral, the churches of Guadalupe, San Francisco, San Román and the church of Jesus. Other works of historical importance are the Mercedes' Bridge, the "Puerta del Mar" (Door of Sea), the "Puerta de Tierra" (Door of Earth), the theater Francisco de Paula y Toro. The city also has the museums of the Mayan Statues, the Historical Room of the Fortifications, Crafts museum, and the Botanical garden Xmuch-Haltún. The Southern Fort of San Miguel acted as masthead in the hills during the XVIII century and do not miss a visit to the beautiful Mayan Museum inside. Further down south the beaches of Campeche are a delight for the visitors. Important archeological zones are Edzná, Calakmul, Becán, Chicana and Xpujil worthy representatives of the early classic period of the Mayans.

From the southern Fort of San Miguel on the way to Edzná it is only 20 minutes to the Hacienda Uayamon, where you can enjoy the excellent restaurant and with advanced reservation the pool.

Becán is famous because there the fine palm hats are elaborated, well-known as" Panamás" or" Jipis." The jipi is the fiber of a very delicate dwarf palm. The industry of the palm hat began in the middle of the XIX century by the family García, and now the whole town is devoted to this handcraft. To conserve the palm flexible to be processed a warm and humid climate is needed. Almost all the houses of the town have in the patio caves where the humidity and the heat are constant. There, almost all the members of the family gather to knit the famous hats. The dwarf palm of which the ribbons are taken out to knit is called guano.

We recommend you to visit the old Open Chapel, rebuild and that keeps interesting features of the cloister that was the temple and Franciscan monastery, built between 1555 and 1561 dedicated to San Luis of Tolosa. Its characteristic ornamental are not common in the old religious buildings of this area. In May, they celebrate the festivals of San Isidro.



© Photo by visitmexicopress

Ruins at Kohunlich in Campeche

© Photo by visitmexicopress
The Pyramid at Edzná in Campeche
© Photo by visitmexicopress
Stone Carving at Kohunlich in Campeche
© Photo by visitmexicopress
The Pyramid at Becán in Campeche