Campeche used to be the principal town of the Mayan province of Ah Kin Pech, which means "serpent tick" and which was founded around the 3rd century A.D. It was fairly unknown to the Western world until, on March 22, 1517, Spanish soldiers commanded by Francisco Hernandez de Cordova reached the village of Kin Pech to replenish their water supply. Afraid of being attacked by the native population, they quickly left. A few days later the Europeans encountered a storm at sea, causing them to land in Champoton (40 miles south of the city of Campeche). Here, their fears were fulfilled, as they were attacked by native troops led by Moch Couoh. The triumph of the Mayan forces over the Spaniards was obvious. Hernandez de Cordova was so badly wounded that he died of his wounds a few days later. The bay near the battleground at Champoton where this happened has been called 'the bay of the bad fight' ever since.
In 1527 Commander Francisco de Montejo failed to enter the land of the Campechanos, and his son, trying some years later, was also unsuccessful. In 1537 Francisco de Montejo the Younger returned to Champoton and again there was fighting between the Mayas and the conquistadors.
On December 24, 1540, Montejo the Younger arrived in Champoton, this time determined to conquer. He eventually won the fight, and on the 4th of October 1541 Francisco Montejo founded the Villa de San Francisco de Campeche. Later he also defeated the nearby Mayan towns of Tenabo, Hecelchakan and Calkini.
A visit to Campeche will give young and old alike a glimpse of what life was like in the time of pirates. For years after Montejo's triumph, this town was pummeled by pirate attacks. The spirits of those pirates still seem to be hanging around here. At the height of the pirate attacks (and probably the reason for them), Campeche had become one of the main ports of New Spain, exporting many Yucatecan products. Much energy was expended building battlements to defend the city. As a result, local inhabitants endured the constant tension of wars, conflicts and alliances between England, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal. The unfortunate result was that they were prevented from taking advantage of any economic boom due to their port location, spending all their energy constantly refortifying their city.
San Carlos Bulwark:
One of the first fortifications ever built, this one was named for Carlos II, King of Spain. In 1766, the fort confronted approaching enemies on the vulnerable side of the city with 12 cannons.
The San Carlos Bulwark still contains the rooms used for the guards and the prison; visitors can also view the supply storeroom. The Bulwark hosts the very excellent City museum, where you can learn about the role the forts played in the history of Campeche, and you can see the Key to the City, an important symbol for the city of Campeche.
Museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
The inland gate was built in 1732 and is one of the main symbols of Campeche. Almost all of its original elements have been preserved, such as gun placements, gunpowder stores, and loopholes. Three roads exit the inland gate. Two pass by the Guadalupe and San Roman forts, the third one goes to the Santa Ana neighborhood with its beautiful estates. A light and sound show is held at 7:00 pm in autumn and winter and at 8:00 pm during spring and summer. Gate Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Sunday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. For more information go to the tourist office next to the Cathedral on the main square.
The Fort of San Miguel:
In addition to the wall surrounding Campeche, the city was also protected by an outer defense system, making Campeche one of the best-defended cities at the end of the 18th century. One of these outer forts is called San Miguel. Today it houses the Campeche Regional Museum, where you can find an exhibition of pre-Hispanic and colonial pieces. Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
The Fort of San Miguel el Alto:
This is a second fort that was part of the outer defense system. In 1762 when there was a lull in the pirate attacks, this fort was built to protect the Campechan port against the greatest naval power on earth: England. Today the fort hosts a nice exposition of "Boats and Arms". Museum hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
La Casa 6:
This completely renovated 18th century house of beautiful Moorish architectural design is situated on the main square. Inside, you will find antique furniture, dating from the end of the 19th century.
A tour through the house takes around 15 minutes and the entrance is free. Hours: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
This reconstructed wall is now home to a small botanical garden containing more than two hundred plant species. Visitors can see beautiful examples of the Ceiba, Campeche wood and Balche trees that are significant in the region. Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad:
This bulwark was built around 1690 and is one of the biggest of the Campeche defensive system. It was used to protect the nearby Puerta del Mar. In 1766 this site had thirteen cannons, two stores, an arms room, two corridors and two rooms where the artillery was kept. Now it hosts the Stella Museum, which has an exceptional collection of Mayan sculpture. Museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, Sunday from 8:00 am to 1:00