Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gulf Coast

Nicole and I made a weekend trip to the Mexico's Gulf Coast, to take some time to think (away from the archives), while at the beach. Our first stop, about a six hour bus ride through a surprisingly diverse range of ecosystems, was the port city of Veracruz. I suppose Veracruz is probably most famous for getting invaded, sometimes significantly. Like Cortes, on his way to "Mexico City," in 1519. Or the US Navy, occupying the port during the Mexican Revolution in 1914. The city's highlight (for me, at least) was the site of San Juan de Ulúa, where fortifications were built in the sixteenth century, and where subsequent phases of building have added depth and complexity. (An overhead view of the place can be seen at its Wikipedia article.) You can see three of the main phases of the building in this photo, with the tower at the back left belonging to one of the oldest phases:

The base level (which is really large), is, astonishingly, made of coral. Sometimes bits of wall have worn away, and the coral can be seen underneath. Other times it seems not to have been covered at all. Here, you can the coral seawall (SJdU used to be an island, but filled land has since made it a peninsula) and a bridge over a canal.

Other parts of the site have been used as a prison, including to house future President Benito Juarez. The cells were very damp, and in a short period of time (a couple hundred years) stalactites and stalagmites have formed there. Water torture--constant, inescapable dripping on one's head--was apparently used to make some of the prisoners crazy. (It is a myth, a tour guide said, that the water would eventually bore through your skull. Not a myth I'd heard before, actually.) Apart from the cells and part of one tower that holds a bizarre assortment of bombs and shells belonging to the Mexican Navy (and a couple of seamen), the ex-island is now quite a nice place: a nice place, that is, to employ my one photographic skill. Thus:


Mary said...

Beautiful photo! The flower is a great color and shape. Lovely.

P said...

It was a beautiful place...certainly for me the highlight of Veracruz.

Thanks for your comment!