Tlacotalpan is a Spanish colonial river port located in the southern Mexican state of Veracruz; it is a beautiful town, surrounded by the waters of the Papaloapan and San Juan Rivers, which has preserved its original urban fabric to an exceptional degree. It is a town bursting with color, wide streets lined with colonnaded houses; it’s full of live at every turn, with tropical vegetation carefully framed in its plazas and gardens, the combination of which makes this town one of the most colorful places of our beloved state.
Its history goes back to pre-colonial times, during which it is said to have been settled by the Totonacas and then the Toltecas. Historians believe that Montezuma named the town Tlacotalpan in 1475. This word is derived from the Náhuatl language and translates to “land between the waters,” alluding to its original form as an island, until a modification of the northern bank of the river joined it to the mainland.
Tlacotalpan’s colonization was slow; Census reports state that there were no more than 320 Spaniards in 1777 but there is less precise information on the growth of Indian and pardo (mixed-race descendants of Indians and blacks) population. While the city was slow to grow, the mix of cultures and races were all factors in making Tlacotalpan the birthplace of many aspects of Veracruz’ culture. In the 1800s Tlacotalpan experienced an economic boom, as it became an important port for communication between Mexico City and the rest of the world in times of conflict for the port of Veracruz. It maintained its importance until economic activities declined during the first half of the century, due to the introduction of the railroad in Mexico.
After the economic downturn, Tlacotalpan remained an important cultural centre, but difficult terrestrial access made it be forgotten by many for decades. Yet, its people remained and so did its culture. Almost untouched by time, Tlacotalpan holds the beauty of its golden years, with amazing architecture and rhythm of life. It is still a quiet town, perfect for bike ride in the afternoon or a nice walking tour.
There are many things to see and enjoy in this “Pearl of the Papoaloapan”
Ignacio Zaragoza: A plaza located in the city center, it is characterized by its center a Moorish style gazebo, and its English style garden surrounded by palm trees.
Plaza Doña Martha: This is the setting for the yearly “Encuentro de Jaraneros,” where musicians gather to play and sing the traditional music of Veracruz.
Chapel of Our Lady of la Candelaria: This beautiful chapel was decorated in a Mozarbic style, painted in pastels; inside you can appreciate beautiful neoclassical architecture. It was finished in 1786, in honor of the patron saint of Tlacotalpan, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. There is an important festival in honor of this saint from January 31st to February 2nd.
San Cristóbal Church: This church is recognized for its main alter which is all wood work, and contains a canvas bearing the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe.
Salvador Ferrando Museum: Located as an annex to the Chapel, it holds a collection of works by Salvador Ferrando, a Tlacotalpan native, whose work depict daily life of the town.
Agustín Lara Museum: This house-museum was donated by his widowed wife, Mrs. Yolanda Gasca. This house exhibits photographs trophies and other artifacts of the late musician. It also holds temporary exhibits by distinct artists.
Since its inauguration in 1891, it was witness to countless plays and operas until 1910 when it became a movie theatre. After this, the theater was transformed in to a box arena, a storage facility and even a jail. Today it has recovered its original splendor and is again a space for theatre and art. The original facade remains in its French style and with its tiffany windows.