The wooden facades with colorful tones follow each other in a neighborhood whose aromas evoke bleach and a history of African slaves, Mesoamerican natives and stealthy Spaniards.
In the heart of the port of Veracruz, founded by the Spaniards almost 500 years ago in front of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, “fragile” houses of wood of American pinote and Marseille tile of French style of old boats, resist the time with a dignity surprising.
The Barrio de la Huaca, built more than 300 years ago by African laborers and slaves, is the origin of a Mexican identity forged by a third root: African blacks, with everything and their music, food and joy for life.
“It is the only vestige that gives us the identity and amalgam of races that came to America,” says Noemí Graciela Palomino Galván, known as “La Güera Palomino”, the leader of the residents of the neighborhood consisting of 28 courtyards and eight blocks built In XVII century.
Cradle of 500 slaves, located on the outskirts of the wall that protected the old port ended up in a mess of fishermen, day laborers, porters, town cries, laundresses, artisans, prostitutes and musicians, children of the docks and the sea.
“We are people from the sea and by sea, thanks to Spain, civilization came in. Veracruz is historically and sociologically born: the hotbed of joy, of passion for music and dance,” says Palomino.
Formerly called “City of Tables”, the distance is officially recognized – by the National Institute of Anthropology and History – the authenticity of three neighborhood patios: “San Nicolás”, “San Salvador” and “La Favorita”, the latter considered one of the oldest in Latin America.
Every morning, La Güera walks through the alleys, those where in 1914 there was a civil revolt against the US troops who invaded Mexico and where in the twenties there was a “rebellion of women” with a massive protest against the payment of excessive rents .
From their point of view not only Spaniards, Indians and Africans were formed into one, but also blood of Cubans, Lebanese, French, Italians and Chinese who arrived in merchant ships.
A descendant of Cubans is María Lorena Valeria, a 58-year-old dark-skinned woman who is part of the everyday prints of a neighborhood that, by force of reason, is an obligatory tourist stop.
“I like living here because it’s happy and I feel like I’m in my town, with friendly people,” she says and looks at the plazas and halls where, for the first time in Mexico, she danced and sang to the rhythm of son, danzón, rumba and the guaguancó.
Songwriters of great renown as Toña “La Negra”, Agustín Lara “El Flaco de Oro”, Manuel “El Negro” Peregrino, Pedro Domínguez “Muscovita”, were inspired by La Huaca, that little corner of land with black roots.
“Here is sung and recited in a fusion of cultures: mestizo and Caribbean, an impressive fusion”, describes the director of the Historical Center of Veracruz 2014-2017, Manolo Ruiz Falcón.
He is an architect who, together with the federal government, promoted the renovation of this piece of history through an investment of 40 million pesos (two million dollars) that involved the recovery of public spaces, safe corridors, renovation of banquettes with stamped concrete, luminarias with style of the year 1900 and the resurgence of the alley in honor of Toña La Negra and Agustín Lara.
“Their wealth is tradition and culture because here people come out, take out their chairs and talk, that is the essence of the neighborhood with black roots,” he adds.
Miguel Contreras Córdoba, a 70-year-old colonist who claims to be proudly African in a Mexican neighborhood, has part of those roots. “I am African, my brothers are black, Chinese hair and that’s how my dad was: black, he was two meters tall and had green eyes”.
It gives a little to the fortress of the native of the Iberian country and to the indigenous people who inhabited this land centuries ago, but with a smile discovered by his few teeth, he says that “the black root is the strongest”.
Perhaps that is why, in the wide-open windows and doors of these houses of labyrinthine alleys, there always emerges a hodgepodge of music with the stamp of passion, joy and the feeling that balances the soul from the yoke of a whole day’s work.