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Introducing Veracruz City

Veracruz, like all great port cities, is an unholy mélange of grime, romance and melted-down cultures. Conceived in 1519, this is Mexico’s oldest European-founded settlement, but, usurped by subsequent inland cities, it’s neither its most historic, nor most visually striking. Countless sackings by the French, Spanish and Americans have siphoned off the prettiest buildings, leaving a motley patchwork of working docks and questionable hybrid architecture punctuated by the odd stray colonial masterpiece. But Veracruz’s beauty is in its grit rather than its grandiosity. A carefree spirit reigns in the zócalo (main square) most evenings where the primary preoccupation is who to cajole into a danzón (traditional couples dance). Well known for their warmth and animation, jarochos (people from Veracruz City and surrounding low-lying coastal areas) are lovers not fighters, a fact reflected in their musical dexterity which has a notable Afro-Cuban influence. Fear not: there are kid-friendly aquariums and interesting museums here, but Veracruz’s best ‘sights’ are the less obvious things: its energetic plazas, its cafes full of chin-wagging locals and the unscripted encounters that await in its wild urban pastiche.