The Spanish first arrived in Veracruz in 1518 under the command of Juan de Grijalva. The expedition also included Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who later became a champion of indigenous rights.
Because the first expedition detected the presence of gold in the region, a second expedition under the command of Hernán Cortés was launched in 1519. It was during this expedition that Cortés disembarked and founded the place he and his men called Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz or the Rich Village of the True Cross. In the mid 1500s, massive amounts of gold and silver were harvested throughout the state.
As was the case in most parts of Mexico, new European diseases and enslavement decimated the indigenous population in the first years after the Spanish arrived. As the population decreased, African slaves were brought over to work on the sugarcane plantations. The port city of Veracruz quickly became Mexico’s most important port of entry. Veracruz had the largest enslaved population in Mexico during this time.
In 1570, an African slave named Gaspar Yanga led an uprising and established San Lorenzo de los Negros. In colonial Mexico, this was one of the only settlements of African blacks to gain its independence and freedom through revolt. After attempting to recapture the slaves and end the revolt in 1606 and 1609, Spanish authorities decided to negotiate with the community. In exchange for the settlement’s freedom, Yanga agreed to no longer raid Spanish communities. In 1630, the settlement established the town of Yanga.
Before Europeans arrived at the future Port of Veracruz, Totonacs and Olmecs lived on nearby island they called Chalchihuitlapazco. It was discovered by Juan de Grijalva during his exploration of the Gulf of Mexico in 1518.
The Port of Veracruz prospered from being the main link between Spain and colonial Mexico. Through the Port of Veracruz, products like cotton, rice, textiles, wine, domestic animals, and wheat were shipped to Europe.
Because of its access to Mexico City and Puebla, the Port of Veracruz fell victim to many attacks from British pirates. In response, the Spanish built a fort on Callega Island (called Castillo de San Juan de Ulua) that is a tourist attraction today.
During the Mexican-American War, U.S. troops captured Veracruz, and the French used it as an entry to Mexico during the reign of Emperor Maximilian during the 1860s. Both of Mexico's constitutions (1857 and 1917) were proclaimed in the Port of Veracruz.
The Port of Veracruz is Mexico's major seaport on the east coast. Its hot climate does not deter tourists, especially for weekend holidays away from Mexico City, who enjoy the native culture, regional cuisine, and colonial-era architecture. The Port of Veracruz is also an important fishing port, and it offers water sports, beaches, and sport fishing.
The Port of Veracruz is Mexico's biggest and most important port, serving all of central and southern Mexico through railways and roads. It also serves North, Central, and South America and Europe and Africa.
History of San Juan de Ulua
Construction began in the 1530s, during the Spanish Colonial period: the fort was built in order to protect the country’s most vital port, Veracruz.The Spanish used Veracruz to import and house many Spanish treasures and, as such, San Juan de Ulua was built to the highest specifications, with 3-foot thick stone walls and an imposing 250 cannons. San Juan de Ulua eventually became the main entry point for all
newcomers to Mexico throughout Spanish colonial rule.
In 1568, San Juan de Ulua was put to the test as an English fleet carrying slaves tried to dock at Veracruz. Although a shaky truce was in place between Spain and England, a battle broke out, known as the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, and the English were defeated, losing most of their five ships. In fact, so formidable was San Juan de Ulua that the Spanish would hold on to it throughout the Mexican War of Independence and until 1825, four years after Mexico became independent.
In 1848, during the Mexican-American War, the US did manage to overcome the defences of San Juan de Ulua, capturing Veracruz. The fortress was heavily damaged by this attack. San Juan de Ulua then went on to become a nineteenth century prison, becoming the home of some of Mexico’s most notorious criminals. Legend has it that sharks were kept in the waters surrounding the prison to deter any potential escapees