Veracruz, a bustling port city on Mexico’s Gulf coast has been recognized as the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Mexico settled by Europeans. But years of neglect has taken a toll on its many historical landmarks. Now a major restoration project is underway – just in time for the city’s 500th anniversary.
CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports from Veracruz, Mexico.
Follow Martin Markovits on Twitter @MartinMarkovits
Veracruz, Mexico sees major restoration ahead of 500-year anniversaryVeracruz, a bustling port city on Mexico's Gulf coast has been recognized as the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Mexico settled by Europeans. But years of neglect has taken a toll on its many historical landmarks. Now a major restoration project is underway - just in time for the city's 500th anniversary. CCTV America's Martin Markovits reports from Veracruz, Mexico.
Veracruz was founded in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. While the 500th anniversary of Veracruz’s founding is more than two years away, construction to restore many of the city’s historic buildings is in full swing.
“Veracruz was connected with the whole world, Here, boats and ships would come from Europe, the United States, Cuba and other places,” said Ricardo Canas, culture subdirector of the city of Veracruz. “So Veracruz was a crucial part in the development of international trade. And above all the main door to our country, which we have to celebrate.”
Restoration of the city will be made easier with more than $12 million in funding it won in a recent Mexican architecture competition. Its design stood out in the ‘public spaces’ category.
The centerpiece is a revitalized Plaza de Las Armas, consisting of Spanish architecture, a grand church, and restaurants where people can gather to soak in the city’s rich history.
Other restoration sites include the city’s former defense positions such as the Baluarte de Santiago, crucial in defending the city from pirates hunting for gold in the 16th and 17th centuries.
One of the reasons why the Spanish found this area so appealing was its proximity to early Spanish settlements in the Caribbean, now Veracruz is one of the main ports of Mexico.
While many are looking forward to the 500-year celebration, the festivities are not without controversy.
Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz in 1519 — and they brought new diseases, mistreated the native population, and conducted mass killings of many indigenous people.
“We still need to reconcile with our past since it was a Spanish conquistador who landed on our shores,” said Jaime Vaca, president of the 500 Years Foundation.
“After Mexico became independent we turned our back to our origin. But in actuality were not really descendants of the Spanish, or the indigenous population. Instead we are a product of that encounter.”
Officials say the restoration project is now 65 percent complete, and organizers are confident that the project is on track for the big celebration in 2019.