Tlecotalpan, once the largest port in Mexico is now a sleepy little town barely touched by time. In population it is a little smaller than Ipswich, about 11,000 we’re told, but the entire town covers a few blocks in any direction. One side is bordered by a deep river that made the port viable for nearly two hundred years. It was eventually replaced by Vera Cruz.
The apartment that we rented for the week in the center of town is surrounded by single story, brilliantly colored stucco homes. The town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998 because it retained the colonial homes and atmosphere of a century ago. Exterior facades cannot be altered without permission, no plate glass windows on the shops but the owners are encouraged to be creative with paint. No pastels here. Emerald green, lime green, purple, magenta, violent yellow, fire engine red, intense blue, bright aqua, shocking pink, and every combination imaginable adorn the houses.
The town is preparing for the Candelaria celebration. It is a nine day festival that starts every year on January 31st. Thousands of people descend on the town; every room is taken, including the great apartment that we’ve enjoyed for the past week.
For the past two days there has been feverish activity in the central part of town. The main road through town and all streets leading to the central square are closed. Workmen are putting covered structures over all the streets, some big tents others made of wood. These are already lined with booths and shops, vendors of all kinds.
Platforms are being built in one of the squares. Bands from all over Mexico will play music 24 hours a day. The highlight of the second day of the festival will be the running of the bulls. They swim from ranches across the river and are herded into a corral near the river. At the appointed time, they are released to run through the streets.
Barricades are erected on the route of the bulls but they often don’t respect the rules. Two years ago a man, walking down a side street, taking no part in the festivities was killed by an errant bull.
The third day the statue of the Virgin is taken from the church, placed on a boat and floated out onto the river to bless the fishermen and the people. There are fireworks nightly and partying around the clock.
Our information came from our host Bill Pandolf.