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Campeche, the most relaxed city in the American continent

by Yucatan Times
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The word “Campechano” became an adjective from the character that the Spanish conquerors detected among the settlers of Campeche, when they first arrived in 1517.

Campeche, Campeche, (April 12, 2021).- In a distracted walk inside the fort, the traveler can remain standing before the sign “Instituto Campechano”. It is not an institution where classes are conducted in a relaxed and friendly manner. 

It is only the name of the city of Campeche, the state capital of the Mexican state of the same name (although the official one is San Francisco de Campeche, almost no one remembers the first part). It is generally unknown that the adjective “Campechano” comes from the character that the Spanish conquerors detected among the settlers of this area when they first arrived in 1517.

Campeche, relaxed and beautiful, is located in a corner of the southwest of the Yucatan peninsula

It is true, however, that after a few days of stay it is perceived among the folks that they are very hearty. The city is laid-back and beautiful, situated in a southwestern corner of the Yucatan peninsula. Although it has state governing bodies and parliament, it lives at a leisurely pace, with the main square and its beautiful cathedral with two bell towers as the epicenter of daily activity.

Campeche is a colonial beauty. The houses inside the walls have bright colors, generally pastel tones, and are spotless. The explanation lies in the subsidy that families receive annually for repainting their facades, balconies, doors, and window sills. 

The main square of Mexico is currently the Plaza de la Independencia
The main square of Campeche is currently the Plaza de la Independencia. Photo: (EMI)

The roads have narrow streets with polished sidewalks and the road is made up of cobblestones that refer to times when more horse-drawn cars roamed the streets. This harmonious and careful aspect earned it the designation of World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1999.

The main square looks like a Hollywood set. In the center, gardens dominated by a bandstand. On the sides, retro trams and buses waiting for foreign visitors to take a tour of the old town.

It is surprising that Campeche is the least visited state in the Yucatan Peninsula. Foreigners dive headlong into Yucatán itself and also Quintana Roo, attracted by its beaches and archaeological sites. Campeche has attractive equals that, however, stay far from the hubbub of buses and groups.

A few centuries ago, Campeche lived the torture of the constant siege of the Caribbean pirates. In 1663, there was such a virulent attack that the Spanish colonial authorities had the walls built, which can now be admired. They completely surround the historic center and have two forts. 

Fort of San Miguel, Campeche
Fort of San Miguel, Campeche. Photo: (Andres Balcazar)

The bastion of San Francisco today contains, precisely, a modest exhibition on the world of pirates. It is not very rigorous, but it is fun. On the contrary, the fort of San Miguel is occupied by a wonderful archaeological museum, the most important in all of Mexico as far as Mayan culture is concerned. In a mysterious semi-darkness, ten rooms give way to sensational pieces collected mainly in the deposits of Calakmul and Edzná. 

Ritual jade masks, engraved columns, friezes, funerary stelae, or figurines are mixed with everyday objects such as shell necklaces, plates, vases, weapons. At the end of the visit, you can access the roof terrace and, together with the twenty cannons that guarded the city, you get a sensational panoramic view of an iridescent sea of ​​blue and green.

The Campechano tends to talk in a relaxed way and lives somewhat flattened by the humid heat of the Yucatan

To complete this immersion in the Mayan culture, in the bastion of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad there is another museum explicitly dedicated to its architecture. In the middle, the Casa Number 6 Cultural Center shows how well-positioned Mexicans lived in the 19th and 20th centuries, with original furniture and an interior patio that invites you to linger forever rocking on one of the venerable rocking chairs.

The Campechano lives up to its name, is prone to relaxed chatting and lives somewhat flattened by the hot and humid tropical environment of the Yucatan coast. Things are done slowly here, whether it is visiting modest Baroque churches or having a good ice cream shake on the boardwalk, a promenade that is almost the only place to cool off naturally, as the wind from the Gulf of Mexico is always present.

Main temple in Edzná, Campeche
Main temple in Edzná, Campeche. Photo: (Barna_Tanko)

Campeche is worth a visit in itself. But, in addition, it is the ideal base to approach the archaeological sites of Edzná, with perfect pyramids between grass fields; and Calakmul, in an adventure film rainforest. They are ruins that are outside the usual circuits of the Mayan route and, therefore, their route is free of crowds.

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