February 3, 2016

2260 MEXICO (Veracruz) - Casa de Cortés in La Antigua


Located just 20km north of Veracruz, the small town La Antigua reveals little of its past identity with its languid grid of sleepy, cobbled streets and moss-covered ruins. Regarded (wrongly) as the first Spanish town in Mexico, it was actually the second incarnation of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (which means "the rich village of the true cross). The first location of the settlement was on the sand dunes to which the city now stands, where Hernán Cortés and his band arrived in 1519. But this was never more than a camp, which existed only a few weeks.

After a while, the conquistadors built the first European settlement on the American mainland north of Panama on a bay near Quiahuiztlan, where today is an obscure fishing village, Punta Villa Rica. Only after the conquest of the Aztec Empire, in about 1524, the town was moved south, to the present town of La Antigua, at the mouth of the Huitzilpan (or Antigua River). In 1599, the city was moved again, to its present location. For a while, the city was named Antigua Veracruz, to distinguish them for the new one, but in time the name was shortened to La Antigua (the old one).

In the semi-ruined centre of the village stand some of the oldest surviving Spanish buildings in the country: on the plaza are the Edificio del Cabildo, built probably in 1524, which housed the first ayuntamiento (local government) established in Mexico, and the Casa de Cortés (Cortés' House), a fairly crude stone and coral construction, which, despite the name, was probably never lived in by Cortés and is now a ruin, completely covered with roots and vines

Nearby is the tranquil Ermita del Rosario, the first church built in New Spain, which also dates from the early 16th century, though it’s been altered and restored since. On the riverbank stands an old tree, gnarly and gigantic (the Ceiba de la Noche Feliz) to which it is claimed that Cortés moored his ships. He may have, but not in 1519. And the buildings mentioned above how can they be "the firsts" or "the oldest", when, as I said, the town moved here in 1524? On the first location, the town had no church, and no government?

About the stamps
The first two stamps are part of the series México creación popular (Folk Art Mexico), about which I wrote here. The last stamp is one of the four of the series Mexican Christmas 2013, about which I wrote here.

La Antigua, Veracruz - Wikipedia
La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz - Peter Rashkin's website
Introducing La ANtigua - Lonely Planet
The Second Veracruz - John Todd Jr.'s website

Sender: Benjamin Arredondo / El Bable
Sent from Salamanca (Guanajuato / Mexico), on 05.02.2014

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