Hi, amigos! Have you ever gone back to a place and started wondering why you hadn’t been there sooner? That’s exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I visited the city of Cordoba, in Mexico’s magical Veracruz province. It was the first time I was visiting in 10 years, and the thing I feel sorry about is not having gone back sooner.
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Cordoba is a big and busy city, nestled on the skirts of the formidable Eastern Sierra Madre mountain range. It is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest and it is always warm and humid there. For some reason, places like Cordoba always have a lively, party-like atmosphere, and you will find it easy to kick back and have some fun even if nothing is going on. In fact, you’ll feel that way all over Veracruz.
The City of 30 Gentlemen
Cordoba was founded in the 17th century, when Mexico was a Spanish colony. Back then, in Veracruz, there were many sugar cane plantations where African slaves toiled endlessly. Conditions for them were terrible. Many slaves died after a short while, and soon the Spanish authorities had a full blown slave revolt on their hands. Many slaves ran away and hid in the nearby mountains.
After a while, the runaway slaves began attacking carriages and convoys on the road from the port of Veracruz to Mexico City. It was soon decided to build a city near their hideout to counter the attacks. The Viceroy, Diego Fernandez de Cordoba, chose 30 Spanish heads of families to build a city which would named after him- Cordoba, the city of 30 gentlemen.
Cordoba soon became the center of trade in the region, and so it grew and prospered. Even today, it is home to large companies and industries, but it hasn’t lost the old colonial charm of the original Spanish city.
The Heroic City of Cordoba
Cordoba also became important in Mexican history. The last battle of the War of Independence was fought here, and the city then earned the title of Heroic City of Cordoba. On September 24, 1821, General Agustin de Iturbide, leader of the insurgent army, and Juan O’Donoju, the last Viceroy of New Spain, signed the Treaty of Independence. You could say Mexico was born in Cordoba.
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What To Do In Cordoba
You must let yourself wander the streets of downtown Cordoba, and marvel at the old, 17th century buildings and churches. You will also find plaques or small monuments that mark the places where something important took place. If you feel up for it, you could also explore the many charming little towns around the city, or go hiking in the hills.
You can have lunch in a restaurant across from the city park. The cuisine has a marked Spanish influence, but you can also find the most Mexican of dishes. The city is famous for its coffee, so you can have a cup in one of the many charming cafés. In the evening, you can visit one of the many bars and nightclubs and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere.
The Melting Pot of Cordoba
Since the city has always been a reginal center of trade, it has also become the home of immigrants from numerous countries. The population is a mix of the descendants of Spanish, Italian, French, South American, Caribbean, and African immigrants, and indigenous people. Long ago, there were separate neighborhoods for each, but nowadays you will only find faint echoes of those immigrants in the faces and last names of the people of Cordoba. Everyone there has a multiethnic past!
My father was born in Cordoba, and I have numerous relatives still living there. According to family legend, we are descended from a French soldier that was severely wounded during the French Invasion in the 19th century. He was saved by an indigenous woman who nursed him back to health, and they were later married. Romantic, right?
Another family legend says that we are also descended from one of those runaway African slaves. They were powerful people! The leader of the revolt was an African prince of the Yang-Bara tribe, who was enslaved and taken to the shores of New Spain in chains. He refused to remain a slave forever, and he fought for his and his people’s freedom. He founded the first free community in the continent, San Lorenzo. It was a town of freed slaves that grew into a city, and it is now named after him, Yanga.
A Legend From Cordoba
When Mexico was a Spanish colony, several different ethnic groups lived here together. Even though mixed-race marriages were forbidden, there was a multitude of biracial and multiracial people. However, most of the population had few, if any, rights. Those were reserved only for Spanish-born people and their families.
During that time, there lived a beautiful woman in Cordoba. She was a mulata, a woman of white and black descent. There were rumors that she was a witch, for it was said that men would fall at her feet at a glance.
Eventually, she was accused of witchcraft. She was taken to prison, and sentenced to burn at the stake. The night before her execution, she begged her jailer to bring her a piece of chalk, so he did.
At dawn, the jailer looked inside the cell and saw that she had drawn a ship sailing on a calm sea on one of the walls. The chalk drawing was so lifelike, it almost seemed real. Amazed, the jailer stared at the picture, and she asked him if he thought the ship needed anything else. “It just needs to move!” he exclaimed. “Watch now,” she replied. The mulata then boarded the chalk ship, and turned to wave good-bye as she sailed away on a chalk sea. She was never seen again.
If those stories were not enough to interest you, there’s another reason you should visit. The best thing about Cordoba, is that it’s in Veracruz province, and that makes anything wonderful. Did I mention the beach is just a short drive away? We didn’t have time to go on this occasion, but I think we’ll go back there soon. I certainly won’t let ten years get between Cordoba and me again!