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Once the principal port for shipping gold, silver and other natural resources back to Spain, Campeche has a long and colorful history dating back to 1540 when the city was started. The wealth passing through its port attracted many pirates of various nationalities, and the city was raided on a regular basis until the late 1600’s, when massive walls were constructed all around it for protection. These walls, most of which are still standing, along with original churches, impressive homes and other monuments, have always provided Campeche with the potential to be an interesting destination to visit. Today it is a small state capital with a population of around 200,000, in fact the entire state only has a population of around 700,000, although it covers a rather large geographical area.

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It was probably fortunate that Cancun and the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan attracted the first decades of development and tourism, since it was easy to realize that the Cancun type of atmosphere was not appropriate for Campeche. With its hundreds of Mayan ruins and other monuments, vast areas of mangrove, jungle and rain forest, the coastal beaches where several species of protected sea turtles arrive each summer, it would have been a terrible loss to see this region converted to high rise resorts lined up along the beach. However, since no one paid much attention to Campeche until recently, this was not an issue, and these days the authorities and environmentally aware citizens insure that there will not be abuse of its natural resources and attractions.

By the early 1990’s, the city of Campeche was definitely showing its age, and needed some serious restoration. The state government went to work, organized public and private funding, and the project was underway. One key to its success was the decision of UNESCO to name the city a World Heritage Site, which added additional international funding and provided top quality experts as well. By the turn of the century, those of us who had seen the city a few years earlier could hardly believe the difference. Starting with the three mile Malecon or oceanfront promenade, the place had been restored, repainted, rebuilt, and plazas and corners all around the city had been meticulously brought back to life with a sense of style and history. Today, it’s truly a gem of colonial architecture, and small enough to stroll from one end of town to the other without getting a real workout. Several new hotels have opened, including the Puerta Campeche, a member of the Starwood group’s upscale Luxury Collection, and other excellent first class hotels such as the Plaza Campeche. A wider variety of restaurants has appeared, along the waterfront and near the main square, featuring Campeche’s famous shrimp and seafood, as well as Argentine style steaks, and gourmet Italian cuisine.

Campeche History & Atmosphere

There is now a fast growing modern section of the city as well, separated from the historic walled section so that the integrity of the old city is not affected. In this new section there is a Sam’s Club Supercenter, Office Depot, a multi-screen Hollywood Cinema where first run movies in English show up within a few days of their release in the United States, the usual American fast food chains, and there will soon be a huge Comercial Mexicana superstore, built by Costco’s Mexican partners. In other words, you don’t have to worry about shopping or entertainment.

Campeche also offers a substantial amount of educational and cultural opportunities and activities. There are several universities, public and private, including the State University, a branch of the prestigious Monterrey Technical Institute, and others. Language and other classes are available to part time residents and visitors. The Municipal Theater has been totally and lavishly restored, and hosts concerts, plays and other events regularly.

   

 


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