Mexican Land of the True Cross

by José Luis Ovalle

en Español⇒

Gateway to the Americas

The port of Veracruz was Europe's only gateway into the Americas for more than a century. Antonio Haas the excellent award winning journalist explains in his masterpiece MEXICO (1982). "Before long, Veracruz became Europe's door to the Orient as well. The Phillipines - the real Indies Columbus had looked for but missed - had been clearly placed on European maps since Magellan discovered them in 1521." This reference demonstrates that long before the Panama Canal was devised, Veracruz was the forced point to cross from the Atlantic onto the Pacific.

Veracruz holds a special place in Mexican culture. Anything that came from Spain had to go through Veracruz: Music, art, dance, people, fashion, cuisine, etc., all passed their first "Mexicanity" filter there.

The Son Jarocho (From the Spanish "jaras" or Bamboo: Inhabitant of the bamboo region) is not a very distant relative of the first sones interpreted by the locals and based on what they heard fresh off those Spanish vessels. This music also holds a special place in people's hearts, as well as its typical dance has become a show stopper and most dancers' preferred region.

La Bamba

The Son Jarocho is the result of a mixture of Spanish Seguidillas (For some reason this word has been deformed into "Seguiriyas") and Fandangos, with Cuban "Zapateados and Guajiras".

A unique 39 string harp is the very soul of "Jarocho music", does not only carry the melody, but the also the harmony, the speed and the ambiance of the "Son". Accompaniment is provided by other string instruments and the most commanding selection is "La Bamba". Regarded as the Veracruz anthem, La Bamba is just as popular as the famous Hat Dance for Mexicans. The song was definitely composed in Veracruz, but a strong Cuban accent can be perceived in the rhythm. Dancing is Spanish in essence, it is a courtship dance where partners take turns to execute an intricate foot stomping routine while tying a ribbon into a bow.


The female costume has a close resemblance with Cuban fashions, but includes a touch of Spanish elements: the fan, the flowers on the headpiece, the apron, the lace top, and the Spanish shoes.

The men wear a garment of Cuban origin named "Guayabera" because of the four pockets big enough to hold more than one guava fruit.

Ethnicity of the People of Veracruz

Veracruzanos' racial composition involves the typical Indigenous-Spanish mixture, but also a powerful Afro-Caribbean presence that was brought in during the Colony. There is also an important number of Indigenous groups, remnants of pre-Columbian faded cultures.

© Copyright José Luis Ovalle, 2007 - 2017. All Rights Reserved. Derechos reservados.

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