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Campeche

Patrimonia Cultural de la Humanidad--World Heritage

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Campeche is a uniquely beautiful city founded by the Spaniards in 1540  on the site of a Mayan settlement, Ah-Kin-Pech, with a charmingly modern location on the gulf coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is the capitol city of the state of Campeche and is lovely to visit for a few days or longer. 

 

Locals proudly claim that except for Cartagena, Colombia it is the only walled city the Spanish built in the western hemisphere. Many of the walls are now missing, but the forts or baluartes are still extant and well used for modern purposes such as museums and a botanical garden. The walls were originally built to keep out pirates. and punctuated a succession of booms and busts in the local economy. 

 

In the past the sources of wealth have been palo de tinto wood, henequen for rope, and chicle for chewing gum. Oil and tourism may be its future.

 

The city is very polished to appear in the photographs of tourists. The colonial architecture in the San Francisco district and the colorful facades and the city square cause a visitor to keep his camera clicking, when he is not visiting the many outstanding restaurants or chatting with the welcoming Campechanos. Its proximity to Merida, the gulf, and the fascinating Mayan ruins make it a place this writer hopes to frequent. Our club is keeping its collective fingers crossed because our sister city has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it would certainly make a good one in our mind. (MaryLou Deely, Former President of Sister Cities of Volusia)

 

We (Mary Lou Deeley, Christina Cruze, myself, and Emma Brombin and Kevin Miller from DBCC) have just returned from two wonderful but hectic days in Campeche. We were treated like royalty. We were honored guests, along with delegations from Sherman, Texas; Colon, Cuba; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Vera Cruz, Mexico at civic and state events marking the annual commemoration of the January 26, 1848 birth of Campeche’s most historically famous person in Mexico’s recent history, Justo Sierra Mendez, and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) 1 December 1999 designation of Campeche as a "world historical site" (Patrimonio Cultural de la Humanidad.)At a special session of the Campeche city council on the evening of January 26, we were all presented with commemorative scrolls of our visit (a personal one and one for Sister City; the latter I intend to frame and ask to be placed in the Volusia County administrative center.) We were called forward to be greeted by the mayor of Campeche, the governor of the state, the head of the state legislature, the head of the state supreme court, and a representative of the Mexican foreign office from Mexico City.

 

In two days, we were faced with the Campeche cuisine of six of their local restaurants (to be recommended for its salubrious quality!), and visited among other places the Mayan ruins at Edzna, and a ruined hacienda being restored as luxury tourist accommodation (for me, this was a symbol of what I know from Latin American history of the socio-economic reality of Mexico.) Above all, we enjoyed the company of our Campeche friends, like Jose Aranda, Eduardo, Fernando, Alejandro, and the other delegates. We discussed future exchanges (I accompanied Emma and Kevin to the Instituto Campechano where Eduardo and Fernando introduced us to the director, and the head of the communications department, who discussed with Emma and Kevin students spending time in Campeche and Daytona, and had her musician son play selections for us in her office on the bassoon and another woodwind instrument.)

 

I was impressed by how much we could learn from Campeche about historic preservation (they got the UN award for the reconstruction of the ruins of their walled fortress city, which with Cartagena, Columbia is the only such place in Latin America-like St. Augustine, they had problems with English pirates!), cultural tourism, and town planning, among other things, and that we could reciprocate in economic infrastructue development. I had interesting discussions with the Nova Scotia delegate (he has been chief aide/executive secretary to the mayor of Halifax since 1972, and coming from the "old Scotland" we had much in common!) about developing sister cities’ exchanges, and the whole business of city and county government. He confirmed my views about the latter, as does the fact that Jacksonville is the only city in Florida rated in the national survey of US cities reported in today’s news. We have a lot to talk about and plan for the future (Michael O'Neill, Former President of Sister Cities of Volusia).

 

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