DescriptionCapital of the state of the same name, Campeche (kahm-PEH-cheh) is the largest city between Villahermosa and Mérida. Its waterfront, dotted by offshore oil rigs, is the base of Mexico's largest gulf coast shrimp fleet.
Hernández de Córdova and his conquistadores stopped in this area in 1517 to obtain fresh water. Founded in 1540 by Don Francisco de Montejo, the city flourished from the export of hardwoods and dyewoods to Europe. One of the foremost cities of New Spain in the mid-16th century, Campeche preserves buildings that date from this period in its old San Francisco section. One such structure was the house where Montejo planned his conquest of the Yucatán.
Campeche's most remarkable attraction is a massive 1.5-mile hexagonal wall with eight fortresses that was erected for protection against repeated sackings by European pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries. Begun in 1686, the fortification took 18 years to build. The historic fortified section of the city was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
Fort Soledad (Fuerte de la Soledad), 3 blocks north of the ancient Puerta del Mar entranceway, has been converted into a museum displaying Mayan artifacts, an arms collection and exhibits on colonial history. Fort San Carlos (Fuerte de San Carlos), a government-sponsored handicrafts market today, has intriguing secret underground passageways. Linked to many houses in the city, the tunnels provided a hiding place for women and children when pirate ships came to plunder. Most passageways are sealed off with bricks, but guides offer tours into the fort's basement for a small fee. The fort's roof, complete with ancient cannons, offers a spectacular view of the gulf.
Although the city is studded with ancient walls and fortresses, the Government Palace and the Legislative Palace are respectively referred to as “the jukebox” and “the flying saucer” for their modern architectural styles. Local markets sell such handicrafts as Panama hats and articles made of alligator skin. The regional cuisine features exotic dishes like shark stew.
Other points of interest include the 1540 Franciscan Cathedral, the oldest convent church in the Yucatán Peninsula; the 1546 Convent of San Francisco, the site of one of the first masses in Campeche; the Temple of San Francisquito, which now houses the Campeche Cultural Institute (Instituto Cultural Campechano); and the House of the King's Lieutenant (Casa del Teniente del Rey), which contains colonial furnishings. Alameda Park's Bridge of Dogs (El Puente de Los Perros), a colonial bridge guarded by carved stone dogs, honors the Dominican missionaries called the “Dogs of God” for their zealous hounding of converts.
Among the words coined in Campeche is campechano, used to describe a pleasant, easygoing person. Local tradition has it that the word “cocktail” originated here centuries ago because English pirates were served drinks adorned by palm fronds resembling cocks' tails. Happily, the root of Campeche's name, taken from the Mayan words kim and pech, meaning “serpent” and “tick,” has no modern application.
Visitor InfoCampeche State Tourism Office Parque Principal CAMPECHE, CP . Phone:(981)127-3300
Things to SeeEdzná Ruins