Historic Fortified Town of Campeche (Mexico)

Historic Fortified Town of Campeche (Mexico)

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 16:16
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Campeche is a typical example of a harbor town from the Spanish colonial period in the New World. The historic center has kept its outer walls and system of fortifications, designed to defend this Caribbean port against attacks from the sea.

The Historic Fortified Town of Campeche, located in the Mexican State of Campeche, was founded in the 16th century on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the Maya region of Ah-Kim-Pech by Spanish conquerors.

It was the most important seaport at the time and played a major role for the conquest and evangelization of the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala and Chiapas. Its commercial and military importance made it the second biggest town in the Gulf of Mexico, after Mérida.

Due its port importance in the sea route: Spain, Havana, Campeche, and Veracruz; as point of embarkation of the natural riches of the peninsula and political differences of the kingdoms of the old continent, ring the second half of the 16th century, Campeche, like other Caribbean towns, was systematically attacked by pirates and corsairs in the pay of enemies of Spain; this is why a large-scale defensive system was installed.

This military defensive system for mid-17th century was inadequate and poorly strategic so a new fortification, hexagonal wall, integrating eight bastions, four doors and walls, was authorized, with construction started in 1686 and concluding in 1704.

Subsequently, to complete the system of fortifications, the redoubt of San Jose on the east hill of the village and the redoubt of San Miguel on the west hill, as well as the batteries of San Lucas, San Matias and San Luis, is mainly in the area of historic monuments, at both ends and facing the sea were constructed.

The sea was the starting point of the Villa of San Francisco of Campeche and the construction of the military defensive system directed the urban growth and the development of this walled and baroque city. An urban checkerboard plan was chosen, with a Plaza Mayor facing the sea and surrounded by government and religious edifices. The walls enclose an irregular hexagon corresponding to the defensive belt encircling the town. The surrounding areas, named barrios, encompass religious buildings, civil and military architecture with Renaissance, Baroque and eclectics characteristics, emphasizing the military.

In the 19th century, the town endowed itself with a fine theater, harmonized with the urban fabric. A section of the wall was pulled down in 1893 to open up a space with a view of the sea, and the main square was turned into a public garden. In the 20th century, the traditional areas of the town center were little affected by the modernization movement owing to a relative slackening of the economy.

The area of historic monuments is in the shape of an uneven polygon spread over 181 ha (447 acres), including 45 ha (111 acres) surrounded by walls, with the town stretching out on each side, following the configuration of the coast and the relief. The protected group consists of two subgroups: area A with a high density of buildings of great heritage significance, and area B, which is not so dense but which forms a transitional and protective zone.

The almost 1,000 heritage buildings include the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, several churches, the Toro theatre and the municipal archives, among others.