Occupied by several indigenous cultures between 1300 and 400 B.C., Veracruz‘s roots run true and deep. Your short history lesson, coming right up: these cultures were eventually replaced by Mexican and Mayan civilizations, who later were overrun by the Aztecs. By 1400, the Aztecs ruled over Veracruz until the Spanish came on the scene in 1518. When word spread that gold was detected in the region by a group under Spanish conquistador Juan de Grijalva, Hernán Cortés launched a second expedition in 1519 that would lead to the creation of what we now know as Veracruz. The group of men dubbed the gold- and silver-filled area Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, or the Rich Village of the True Cross, and there it began.
Not long after, diseases wiped much of the early population, and slaves were brought to Veracruz to work on the plantations; the city became both Mexico’s top port of entry and home to the largest enslaved population in the country. A revolt led by Gaspar Yanga, an African slave, led to a settlement called San Lorenzo de los Negros, the only slave community to gain independence and negotiate rights. Now, this historic compromise is marked in time by the town of Yanga, which was granted by Spanish authorities so long as Gaspar stopped raiding Spanish communities.
Moving ahead to the Mexican Revolution, Veracruz served as a battleground in a variety of areas of the state. Upon the war’s end in 1920, Veracruz began its growth into the vibrant place it is today. And while Boca del Rio and Veracruz are most often used interchangeably, the capital of the state of Veracruz is actually Jalapa (sometimes spelled Xalapa) — a nearby, high-altitude city frequented by Veracruz visitors seeking fresh scenery and reprieve from the heat of Veracruz.
Besides boasting tropical weather, Veracruz’s culture distinguishes it from other popular destinations in the region. With a blend of indigenous origins, Spanish history and Afro-Cuban influences, the stage is set for the town’s famous jarocho dancing, music and fashion. Hotel Indigo Veracruz Boca Del Rio brings this flair for the dramatic into its design; billowing white drapes mimic the dresses of traditional Veracruz dancers, and the hotel’s colors — and cuisine — reflect the importance of the sea. From Hotel Indigo, walk to Plaza Banderas for a taste of local culture, or head to Veracruz’s standout malecón, a seaside promenade. As you’re walking, you’ll find delicious traditional food and views of the port, lighthouse and the San Juan de Ulúa fortress, one of the most famous sites in Veracruz for the role it played during the Mexican War of Independence.
Rich in natural resources, Veracruz is still a hub for agriculture, with sugar cane, mangoes, fertilizer and vanilla all in the city’s wheelhouse. However, perhaps the most popular product of Veracruz is coffee. This magical bean arrived at the end of the 18th century and continued to spread widely throughout the next 200 years as coffee plantations began to cover the land, particularly around Japala. You shouldn’t miss a cup of coffee in Veracruz, especially if you can get to the original Gran Café La Parroquia for your caffeine fix — shot of hot milk recommended.