Tlacotalpan, a Spanish colonial river port on the Gulf coast of Mexico, was founded in the mid-16th century. It has preserved its original urban fabric to a remarkable degree; with wide streets, colonnaded houses in a profusion of styles and colors, and many mature trees in the public spaces and gardens.
The Historic Monuments Zone of Tlacotalpan World Heritage site represents the townscape of the Spanish colonial river port located in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The town was established in 1550 on what was originally an island in the Papaloapan River.
Tlacotalpan is an exceptionally well-preserved Spanish colonial river port close to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The original urban plan, a checkerboard or grid pattern, laid out by the Spanish in the mid 16th century, has been preserved to a remarkable degree.
Its wide streets are lined with colonnaded houses that reflect a vernacular Caribbean tradition with exuberant decoration and color. Many mature trees can be found in the public parks, open spaces and private gardens. Initially settled by the Spanish around 1550, the settlement reached its major brilliance in the 19th century.
The surviving grid pattern consists of 153 blocks covering 75 ha (185 acres) and divided into two distinct sectors, the larger "Spanish" quarter in the west and smaller "native" quarter in the east:
The larger quarter is created by seven wide streets or calles laid out east-west parallel to the Papaloapan River and connected by narrow lanes or callejones.
The "public" sector, an irregularly-shaped area found at the intersection of the two quarters, has commercial and official buildings as well as public open spaces.
Arcades of arched porticos line the streets. These arcades are supported by pillars varying in form and style from simple beams to fluted columns with elaborately ornamented bases, capitals and molded cornices. Tlacotalpan has retained an unusual density of high-quality historic buildings that provide architectural harmony and homogeneity.
While the basic vernacular style is found elsewhere on the Mexican Gulf Coast, Tlacotalpan's single-story houses exhibit distinctive manifestations that include a profusion of brightly colored exteriors and original features such as the roof coverings of curved terra cotta tiles and the layouts with interior courtyards.