The small harbour town at the mouth of the Río Papaloapan in the state of Veracruz captivates by the overwhelming colourfulness of its house facades, which merge to an ideal film or photo scenery.
Destroyed by several devastating fires, Tlacotalpan was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. The last catastrophe in the city’s history was the devastating flooding of September 2010, when 500 historic houses were hit by the brown floods and 8,000 inhabitants had to be evacuated.
The fact that Tlacotalpan has been part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage since 1998 probably contributed significantly to the fact that the old picture perfect idyll was restored at an astonishing speed, at least on the surface. Tlacotalpan’s countless arcades not only offer protection from the glistening sun, but also create delightful interplays of light and shadow, which offer fans of black-and-white photography an abundance of motifs.
In contrast to the colour splendour of the neoclassical buildings is the quiet, almost sleepy atmosphere of the village. Only once a year, on the famous “Fiesta de la Candelaria”, this changes all of a sudden. At the end of January the Feria (Fair) begins with a fair, dance performances and markets. From 31 January to 2 February, the place is crowded with devotees and celebrants. Parades of horsemen dressed in the traditional costumes of the “Jarochos”, as the people from the southern part of the state of Veracruz are called, start the round dance. This is followed by a procession of giant figures, the so-called “Mojiganga”, masses, boat regattas on the river, and of course there is plenty to eat and drink. In the Plaza de Doña Marta music groups play the traditional “Son Jorocho”, which is very similar to the Cuban Son. In addition, ten-line impromptu poems, the so-called “Decimistas”, are declaimed.
Another questionable highlight is the “Corrido”, where bulls are driven through the city and the river by ” Vaqueros” (cowboys). Finally, on February 2, the birthday of the Virgin of Candelaria is the climax and conclusion of the festivities: After a mass at dawn and the birthday serenade performed by Mariachi and Jaranero musicians, the statue of the Virgin is carried in a procession from the church and along the promenade to a pier where a decorated barque is waiting. Procession members either storm the boat or accompany it on other boats. The other spectators watch the spectacle from the riverbank.
Strolls along the riverbank are a favourite activity for locals and visitors alike.
Among Tlacotalpan’s attractions apart from the fiesta days are the Capilla de la Candelaria at the northern end of the Plaza Zaragoza, the Casa de Cabildo – the seat of the city administration – with its large archway leading to the harbour, the Iglesia de San Miguel Arcangel, 3 blocks north of the Plaza Zaragoza, as well as the Plaza itself with its almost oriental kiosk, which also serves as a music pavilion. Like Vercruz, Tlacotalpan also has its Agustín Lara Museum, albeit smaller, as the bandleader and musician, who died in 1970, was a real Tlacotalpeño.