Following the Footsteps of Cortés in Xico, Veracruz

Yeah, yeah…what a corny title, you may be thinking.

Granted – it could work as just the right title for the kind of blog post written by someone who’s never set foot on the place, based on online information.

But hey, we were there. And it was our plan to redo part of Cortes’ 1519 route from Veracruz to Mexico-Tecnochtitlan.

And, no less, Alejandro, the admissions officer cum guide at the Museo Xicochimalco, made every effort so that we would walk on the very paths the Spanish conquistador and his men must have walked. Or so he claimed.

IMG_20200110_165726Took us to

Museo Xichomalco was  modest yet informative museum in the beautiful highlands a short drive from Xico. Oh and, what a drive. Felt like we were in Switzerland, with meadows, creeks and cottages.

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Of course Cortes’ route was one of the highlights of the museum.

After some time checking out the exhibits, Alejandro mentioned a guided walk to what sounded like a pre-Hispanic hamlet.

Too bad it’s late, he said. It’s almost dark. And it takes one hour to climb up there.

Despite our long day, we were thrilled with the prospect. Maybe come back tomorrow?

But Alejandro knew his history, and was all too glad to be able to converse with other people who had also read Bernal Díaz and Cortes’ Cartas de Relación.

“You know what? Let’s go now!” he said enthusiastically, and we all hopped into our rental car.

We parked next to a Catholic Cross.

“This is probably the same place where the Spaniards put their first Cross”, our guide said.

Bernal writes about it in the Historia Verdadera. In Socochima (Xico) and other towns in the regions, Spaniards encountered peoples of good will, as the locals were on friendly terms with Cempoala (friends of Cortes), and they refused to pay Moctezuma his tribute. In all these towns and hamlets, the Spaniards laid crosses, and explained their meaning to the townspeople.

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Alexandro started to walk at a lively pace. The climb had some slippery patches, and it was not always easy to keep up.

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The views from the ridge were fine, but it was hard to make sense of them from a historical perspective. Yes, allegedly one of the tribes that Cortes spoke to may have lived up here. But there were no ruins or other evidence of the Pre-Hispanic settlement. Oh well.

I know somewhere else we can go, said Alejandro. Cortés mentioned it in the Cartas de Relación. It’s the staircase-like trail that can only be reached on foot:

“…y a la cuarta jornada entré en una provincia que se llama Sienchimalen; en que hay en ella una villa muy fuerte y puesta en recio lugar, porqué está en una ladera de una sierra muy agra y para la entrada no hay sino un paso de escalera, que es imposible pasar sino gente de a pie…”.

But it’s late, almost dark, said one of us.

No problem, he assured us. Plenty of time to get there. It’s right next to the road.

So we got down, got into the car and drove speedily to the next stop.

There it is, he pointed.

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Admittedly, it was not far, but not exactly next to the road. It looked like a pass a 10 minute climb away. So we headed there.

Not much to see, really. But Alejandro’s enthusiasm didn’t wane.

“Yes. This must have been the pass that Cortes and his men must have crossed”.

And the colors at dusk were simply spectacular.

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It was, we thought, a great finale after all our ramblings around Xico. Only Alejandro was not quite ready to let us go.

Listen, he said. May I invite you to a local liquor in Xico? It’s called verde and it’s really tasty…

But that’s another story. Not a bad one, but not one to be shared here.

 

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