During the pre-Hispanic period, the region that now constitutes modern-day Veracruz was inhabited by four indigenous cultures. The Huastecos and Otomíes occupied the north, the Totonacas resided in the north-center, and the Olmecs, one of the oldest cultures in all the Americas, dominated the south between 1300 and 400 B.C.
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. Veracruz continues to be a very important part of Mexico’s economy. The state is rich in natural resources and represents approximately 35 percent of Mexico’s water supply.
Fort at San Juan de Ulua
This fort–originally built by the Spanish to protect against pirates and, later, against foreign invaders–became the Spaniards’ last refuge before they were defeated and forced to leave Mexico. After the Mexican War of Independence, the fort was converted into a prison infamous for its harsh conditions. During the Porfirio Diaz era, many prisoners died before being released. The fort gained new fame when it was featured in the film Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
The Museo de la Ciudad de Veracruz (City Museum) showcases historical artifacts from colonial times through the present. Displays include archaeological treasures from Indian civilizations that shaped Veracruz’s culture as well as paintings, craftwork and photographs from the city’s past.
Originally a naval officer’s school, the Museo Naval (Naval Museum) was restored and opened in 1997 as a tribute to Mexico’s naval history and evolution. The museum displays nautical paraphernalia, historical records of the naval academy and relics from Mexico’s struggles with other countries. In the courtyard, visitors can see remnants of the old wall that used to encircle the city.