Historic Fortified Town of Campeche
Historic Fortified Town Of Campeche
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean State Of Campeche

The harbour town of Campeche is an urbanization model of a Baroque colonial town, with its chequerboard street plan;the defensive walls surrounding its historic centre reflect the influence of the military architecture of the Caribbean. the fortification system of Campeche, an eminent example of the military architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. It forms part of an overall defensive system set up by the Spanish to protect the ports on the Caribbean Sea from pirate attacks.

Campeche was founded in 1540 by Francisco Montejo El Mozo in the south-west of the Maya region of Ah Kin Pech, which had been explored and occupied by Spanish conquerors from 1517 onwards. From the start, the port played a major role as a starting point for expeditions to the Yucatán peninsula and the Petén region of Guatemala. Its commercial and military importance made it the second biggest town in the Gulf of Mexico, after Mérida.

During the second half of the 16th century, Campeche, like other Caribbean towns, was systematically attacked by pirates and corsairs in the pay of enemies of Spain;this is why a large-scale defensive system was installed. At the beginning of the 18th century, the town was surrounded by an impressive hexagonal wall with a perimeter of 2,536 m, 6-8 m high and 2.50 m thick. An urban chequerboard plan was chosen, with a Plaza Mayor facing the sea and surrounded by government and religious edifices. The walls enclose an irregular hexagon corresponding to the defensive belt encircling the town.

In the 19th century, the town endowed itself with a fine theatre, harmonized with the urban fabric. A section of the wall was pulled down in 1893 to open up a space with a view of the sea, and the main square was turned into a public garden. In the 20th century, the traditional areas of the town centre were little affected by the modernization movement owing to a relative slackening of the economy.

The area of historic monuments is in the shape of an uneven polygon spread over 181 ha, including 45 ha surrounded by walls, with the town stretching out on each side, following the configuration of the coast and the relief. The protected group consists of two subgroups: area A with a high density of buildings of great heritage value, and area B, which is not so dense or valuable but which forms a transitional and protective zone. Among the almost 1,000 buildings of historic value are the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, several churches, the Toro theatre and the municipal archives.

The system of fortifications, with the redoubts of San Joséand San Miguel, and the batteries of San Lucas, San Matiás and San Luís, is mainly in the area of historic monuments, at both ends and facing the sea.