Verzcruz is a large city of 500,000 and a major port for Mexico. Much of the produce we have been driving through for the last few days is exported from here. Our guide said there is also a major ebb and flow of Volkswagen products. The parts are produced in Germany, shipped here to be assembled into cars and then shipped back to Germany and other car customers. Interlaced with the container port is a large fortification, San Juan de Ulúa. It was built in the Spanish colonial era, starting in 1565. It was expanded several times later. Verzcruz saw a lot of military activity over the years as battled were fought here with the Spanish, French and the US. Pirates from the Caribbean were also a factor at times. For much of the nineteenth century it served as a prison, especially for political prisoners. The fort was constructed primarily of coral which readily soaks up water from the humid air. Every time the fortress is painted, a few months later the paint starts peeling off again. It gave the fortress a dilapidated look, but to be frank, many buildings in Mexico look like they could use a fresh coat of paint.
On our way to the zocalo (main square) we passed a line up of floats. We are here toward the end of the nine days of Carnival and parades will be taking place from Saturday until Fat Tuesday. The queen is being crowned tonight in the zocalo. Viewing stands were erected all over the square and crowds were milling about. Media trucks sported filming towers. Road crews set up stages for musical performers to the side. It was imossible to see what the zocalo looked like. The square was so full of equipment, it did not seem like there would be much space left for spectators. I would have liked to see the coronation, but our guide was quite nervous about keeping us in the area after dark. She kept referring to an incident that had occurred with a previous tourist, but was never very specific. We may be able to get in on some other carnival activities in the towns further down the road.
Our guide recommended a coffee shop with a long history in Verzcruz. The coffee we ordered came in a glass that I would use for a coke and was filled only about two inches with the strong brown stuff. The waiter clinked a spoon on the glass and the sound brought another waiter with a huge kettle full of hot milk. He made a great show filling the glass to the brim with the milk, pouring from great heights. Compared to the black coffee I usually drink, this seemed like a hot milkshake. There are probably lots of other interesting drinks and eats to try here, if only we could read the menu.