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XALAPA

MEXICO

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XALAPA

MEXICO

The fog is like a tenuous veil of mystery… no! It is a delicate tulle of romanticism, a thin shadow of nostalgia that meddles on the amplitude of the modern avenues, on the reflexive concentration of a lecture room, on the quietness of three urban lakes, on the rumours of a picturesque, legendary, colonial alleyway.

The veil (or should we say the tulle?) seems to spread out from the mountains, whose summits form a sort of biorhythm on Xalapa's horizon, the capital of the State of Veracruz, the modern and veteran City, academic and industrial, surrounded by stiff sierra peaks and the depths of various ravines, deep, quivering, void daring.

Mysterious or romantic; perhaps a bit of both; a bit of mystery in the truculent stories that sustained the christening of traditional alleyways with names such as May Jesus Shelter You, and Diamond; a bit of romanticism in the ambiences of the Hacienda Museum of El Lencero, which inspired Chilean poetess Gabriela Mistral, Literature Nobel prize winner in 1945.

And what else? Is there something more? Churches and big old houses, the first college of teachers in Mexico, streets and alleyways, rides on artificial lakes, also gardens and an anthropology museum, amazing, splendid, the second in importance in the country with 29000 archaeological pieces that synthesise the evolution of the Olmecas, Totonacas and Huaxtecas, the main pre-Hispanic Cultures in the State of Veracruz.
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    The clues of history reveal themselves on its aisles, the millenarian swings of Xalapa or Xalapan, a word of the Náhualt language that translates as Spring of Sand, a spring that was filled with life with the presence of the Totonacas, Chichimecas, Toltecas and Teochichimecas, peoples that were subdued by the Aztecs in 1457.

    Then the Spaniards would arrive with their horses, swords and evangeliser crosses. They arrived in 1521 to impose their norms and laws, destroy the indigenous temples and erect the churches of the new faith, the Catholic, that of heaven an hell, which had its first home in the Convent of San Francisco, finished in 1555, on their remains.

    Xalapa, located at 1700 metres above sea level, consolidated and started to grow. A City of Spanish features, a place of transit between Mexico and Veracruz, prosperous and commercial, picturesque due to its narrow streets that seem to climb along the capricious gradient of the terrain. But nothing is forever and the vigour of the nascent City transformed into faintness when new routes for trading were opened.

    To reborn, cast the pause away and break oblivion's shell. But how, when, was it possible? Yes, and it happened in 1720 with the organisation of the Fair of Xalapa, an event that caught the attention of traders in New Spain (Mexico), and marked the beginning of a new age of prosperity. It was the foundation that would sustain its upgrading to State Capital 104 years later.

    Then would come that of "Veracruz' Athens". This denomination began to take shape in 1886, when the first College of Teachers (Normal) in Mexico was founded. Since then, new high-level instruction centres would be created, thus giving the City a university campus' flavour. Nowadays, Xalapa is the main seat of Veracruzana University, the most important in the State.

    History comes up to here, the memory, the remembrance; we better get out to the steep streets to discover the Cathedral, where the Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patron of the City, is venerated. One must also visit the Museum of the blessed fifth Bishop of Veracruz, Rafael Guízar y Valencia (1877-1937), standing right beside the temple.

    The Promenade of the Lakes, a path of reverie with huge gardens and leafy trees; the Chapel of the Souls, alongside the old road connecting Xalapa and Veracruz; the Francisco Javier Clavijero Botanic Garden, with more than 700 flora species; and the Cofre del Perote National Park with mountains, canyons, cliffs and cascades, are but a few of the spots of interest in the City and its surroundings.

    We need to draw the veil (or is it the tulle of fog?) to meet Xalapa, a colonial and modern City, with its lecture rooms full of knowledge, its rippled streets, its museum plethoric of the past, its peaks that create biorhythms, and its deep ravines. Uh, and of course, I almost forgot that detail: with its bit of mystery and its bit of romanticism.

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