DescriptionVillahermosa (vee-yah-ehr-MOH-sah) was founded in 1519 under the name Santa María de la Victoria. Hernando Cortés established the settlement to commemorate his defeat of an army of Indian warriors who had attacked him during his march toward the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. In tribute to their conqueror, the Indians gave Cortés an Indian princess. Baptized Doña Marina, she became Cortés' mistress and trusted translator, an invaluable asset in his conquest of Mexico.
A strategic location along the banks of the navigable Río Grijalva, which flows northward out of rubber, cacao and coffee country, makes Villahermosa an important distribution center. The 1970s discovery of some of the world's richest oil fields, as well as the development of extensive hydroelectric projects and successful agricultural programs, energized this hot, humid port city. A booming business center and the regional hub for Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco and eastern Veracruz, it also makes a convenient base from which to explore points of interest in these states.
The city's central downtown district of stores, hotels and restaurants is known as the Zona Luz. It extends from Juárez Park (Parque Juárez) south to Plaza de Armas, the main plaza, and is roughly bounded by Avenida Zaragoza on the north, Avenida 5 de Mayo on the west, Avenida Allende on the south and waterfront Calle Madrazo (the malecón) on the east. Many of the streets are brick-paved pedestrian malls, closed to traffic.
The newer hotel and shopping district, Tabasco 2000, is about 6 kilometers (4 miles) northwest of the Zona Luz; it can be reached via Avenida Ruiz Cortines (Mex. 180), the main east-west thoroughfare. The wealth generated by oil is evident in this complex's contemporary government buildings, upscale hotels and sleek Galerías Tabasco 2000 mall. The Tabasco 2000 area also has the city's nicest accommodations.
First-class bus service to Campeche, Mérida, Mexico City, Palenque, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Veracruz and other cities is offered by ADO. The ADO bus terminal is at Calle Javier Mina #297 at Calle Lino Merino, about 10 blocks northwest of the Zona Luz and 3 blocks south of Avenida Ruiz Cortines. Taxi fares within the area encompassing the city center north to Avenida Ruiz Cortines average about $2 (U.S.) in shared colectivo taxis, about $4 in especial taxis. Street signage features arrows indicating the direction of traffic flow, a boon for motorists who must navigate the hectic, congested downtown area.
West of the city are prosperous cacao plantations and the important archeological site of Comalcalco. A driving tour of this region reveals lush countryside that contrasts sharply with Mexico's more common arid expanses. Along Mex. 180 toward Cárdenas are masses of banana plants laden with clusters of fruit, which is sold at roadside stands.
Cárdenas itself is a cacao processing center, and some chocolate plantations and factories offer guided tours (check with travel agencies in Villahermosa). The cacao tree grows everywhere; its large, elliptical pods bear the seeds from which cocoa and chocolate are made. The harvesting season is November through April. Small family-run operations throughout this region grow and process cacao beans that end up as boxes of chocolate. You'll also see mounds of the beans for miles along the highway, drying in the sun.
Visitor InfoTabasco State Tourism Office (Subsecretaría de Turismo)
Things to SeeComalcalco Ruins