Campeche is located in southeastern Mexico and is part of the Yucatan Peninsula. The state and its capital share the same name. With an annual average temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity of just over 60 percent, you’ll rarely have need of a sweater or coat.
With a very rich history,Campeche was home to the great ancient Mayan culture along with the present-day states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán and Quintana Roo and the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.
The name of Campeche comes from the Mayan language. Its meaning has given rise to various interpretations, the most accepted is that of Can = Snake and Pech = Tick, or Place of snakes and ticks; The name is reflected in the sculpture found in one of his temples formed by a big snake with a tick on its head.
The Mayas are one of the most important prehispanic cultures of Latin America. Thanks to their cultural and scientific advances, especially in the areas of architecture, astronomy, hydraulic systems and mathematics. The Mayan vestiges that are still preserved in Campeche have provided a greater knowledge of the functioning of this advanced society, such as the archaeological sites of Calakmul, Chicanna, Becan, Edzná, Xpujil, Anthill, Balamku, El Tigre, among many others.
In 1517, when the Spaniards arrived at the Campechan coast, the Mayan society was controlled by the followers of Alan, ah Kin Pech, Champotón and Ah Canul. The local leader Moch Couoh defeated the invaders on many occasions. His death and thanks to the division of powers of the indigenous territory, the Spanish were able to take control in 1540.
The process of evangelization that the Spaniards put into operation throughout the country was particularly difficult in the Mayan territory, since the polytheistic religion of this civilization controlled all aspects of their lives.
The advantageous port position that Campeche holds was exploited by the new colonial government, resulting in a boom in commercial activity. The salt, precious woods and the Ink Stick (wood of a tree called ink since from its wood colors like blue and violet can be extracted), were sent abroad through its port.
But this was attractive not only to the conquistadors installed there, but also to the European pirates who during the 17th century dedicated themselves to attacking the Campechan population.
In 1704, the construction of a wall of octagonal shape was completed. It had four bastions (fortifications located at the point where two walls converge), which went into the port forcing the boats that wanted to dock to enter the fortification.
At the end of the Mexico’s War of Independence (1821), political conflicts began in the new sovereign country between liberals and conservatives, between Federalists and centralists.
And in the Yucatan Peninsula, which includes Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, began the indigenous rebellion known as the War of the Castes. The Mayans revolted against the government controlled by whites. The Mayans sought to retake control of their lands.
Likewise, the peninsula was one of the areas that rejected the imposition of a federal government in the country. And if this were not enough, in its interior, Campeche and Yucatán also had countless economic disputes.
On May 3, 1858, the separation of Campeche from Yucatan Territory was signed, but was not officially recognized until 1863 when its sovereignty was ratified by then President Benito Juárez.
From the time of the dictatorial regime of Porfirio Diaz (1877–80, 1884–1911) the free and sovereign State of Campeche maintained its economy on the basis of the export of fine woods and salt. Internally, the production of corn, sugarcane and henequen were the main activities.
But the economy was transformed starting in 1975 with the discovery of a rich oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico within its territory.
Though production has declined in recent years, the Bay of Campeche continues to be a major source of Mexican petroleum. The nation’s oil industry is Mexico’s third largest source of revenue.
The Catedral de la Concepcion Inmaculada, stands just off the main Zocalo (Parque Principal); it was completed early in the 18th century.
The Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) is an ultra-modern building, built on reclaimed land, northwest of the Parque Principal just off the Plaza de la Republica.
Fuerte de San Miguel (St Michael’s Fort) on the southwest side of the city is host to a fine archaeological museum, housing Mayan artifacts from the archaeological ruins at Edzna and Jaina.
The city’s narrow streets and pastel-colored houses are a major attraction. In the famous neighborhood of San Roman, you can visit the church where the Black Christ is hosted; a six feet ebony statue brought to Mexico from Italy in 1575. .
The Bulwarks (“Baluartes”)
The Bulwarks (7 of the original 8 still stand) can be toured on foot, along Avenida Circuito Baluartes (Baluartes is Spanish for bulwarks); some of them now house visitor attractions.
- Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is host to the Museo de Estelas Maya; offering a collection of Mayan artifacts.
- Santiago hosts the miniature Jardin Botanico Xmuch Haltun, a collection of tropical plants and fountains.
- San Pedro, situated in the middle of an intersection is a local crafts exhibition and sales center.
- San Carlos has the Museo de la Ciudad (city museum) which includes a scale model of the old city. There are sea views from the roof.
- San Francisco, Baluarte de San Juan and Baluarte de Santa Rosa are the last three of the Bulwarks which can be visited.
Campeche is a coastal city, and although the beaches immediately adjacent to it are not ideal for beach-goers, there is a small fishing village a few kilometers away called Lerma near where you’ll find some beaches to relax on at Playa Bonita (“Pretty Beach”).
Campeche’s Trams (“Tranvias”)
One of the best ways to see the delights of the city is to take a ride on one of the Tranvias (Trams) which offer bi-lingual commentary (English and Spanish). The Tranvia de la Ciudad passes by most of the main attractions and picturesque colonial neighborhoods in Campeche including San Roman; while El Guapo (“The Handsome One”) takes a route along the seafront to the Fuerte de San Miguel (see above). Both trams start the Zocalo (Parque Principal).
Calakmul, “The City of Twin Pyramids”, is located in the state of Campeche, just north of the Petén region and is somewhat difficult to reach. It is north of El Mirador and south of Balamku. It was one of largest Maya cities, and may soon take the place of Tikal and Caracol as one of the most important Maya sites. This site, in its golden age, was an important regional capital. It sprawls over an approximately 42 square mile area, where 6,700 structures of various types have been located. Located in the vast Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, one of the last Yucatan rainforests. It is distinguished by its least one hundred engraved stelae, which is the largest number found at any know site.
Most of the stelae depict luxuriantly attired personages, probably local rulers, standing on top of prisoners. They also have calendar glyphs that show dates between 500 and 850 A.D. Among these there are two acropolis, a ball court and numerous temples and pyramids including one of the largest monuments in the entire Maya area.
Recent investigations there have led to the finding of a tomb with rich offerings. Archaeologists also have discovered the remains of high-ranking captives, providing further evidence of Calakmul’s power and influence.
Becan, “The Road of the Serpent”, was an active city for a very long period of time, dating as early as 600 B.C. and as late as 1450 A.D. The ruins are linked with Chicanna one mile away and Xpuhil four miles away; both are easily reached by car. The site covers 63 acres, although the entire site boundaries are still undefined. This archaeological site was built from carved limestone. Becan represented an important political and military control place and is considered the Capital of the Rio Bec region. The core area of Becan is ringed by a moat and there are remains of a wall almost 11 feet high. The formation of the ditch and protective wall is very rare in the Maya civilization.
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