The Mexican state of Veracruz was the first place in Mexico where the Spanish arrived. From 1519 to today, the city has experienced different architectural styles, with outstanding buildings still part of its landscape.

The town’s buildings reflect its historicity, showing the different constructions and styles. They are silent witnesses to the origins of its city and people.

“Veracruz’s buildings have made a great impact in all of Mexico, due to the abundance of styles. They were also built by important architects.  Many of their buildings continue to stand, despite being several centuries old,” said Ricardo Cañas Montalvo, a historian living in Veracruz. “They are full of histories of men and women who became the pillars of today’s society and culture.”

Many of the buildings dating to the colonial era were made with lime, stone, dead coral, planks and wooden beams.

The Benito Juárez Lighthouse used to be a convent in colonial Mexico. (Carlos Ramírez)

The first buildings built in Veracruz soil were for military use. The fortifications were established on sandy beach terrain or in plains, which gave security to the conquistadors. The San Juan de Ulúa Fort is an example of construction that protected the port and ships sailing in bad weather.

Renowned military engineers participated in its construction, such as Bautista Antonelli and Felix Prosperi, Adrian Boot and Jaime Franck.

Veracruz 500 years of Mestizo history began when the Spaniards arrived to Mexico. Even to this day, the conquistadors’ presence continues to show.

“The buildings of that time — colonial Mexico — have a myriad of European styles, such as Tuscan or Baroque. The most important building of that time are: San Juan de Ulúa, the Benito Juárez Lighthouse, the Clavijero Theater and the Veracruz City Hall. The Mexico Post Office is another relevant building; it is one of the first modernist buildings of the country,” said Cañas Montalvo.

The former convent of San Francisco de Asís, known as Benito Juárez Lighthouse, is a Tuscan-style building. It is full of history dating back to the 16th century. It was built with dead coral and on completion, was at the service of the Catholic Church. It provided accommodation for sailors and priests who visited the town on pilgrimages.

When the convent’s tower was built at the end of the 16th century, it was used as a lighthouse to safeguard ships.

The Francisco J. Clavijero Theater is an example of French architecture style admired and imposed by Porfirio Díaz. (Carlos Ramírez/Café Words)

French-style theater

Under the dictatorial regime of President Porfirio Díaz, Veracruz benefited from his Francophile tendencies. He ordered a new theater, influenced by French styles and built by a French architect. With a neoclassical façade, it soon became the must-attend place for Mexico’s aristocrats.

It opened in 1900 and, for almost a century, became the city’s main theater. The interiors have a sparse decoration with a marble-styled lobby and sculptures and fine mirrors, which complement the aristocrat touch of the time.

Thanks to these buildings, Veracruz is a noted historical landmark of Mexico that honors its colonial past.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Fern Siegel)

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