Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/193

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"It was on Holy Thursday, of the year 1519," says the stout old chronicler, Bernal Diaz, whom we shall encounter at intervals throughout our journey, "that we arrived at the port of San Juan de Ulua, and Cortes hoisted the royal standard." He first landed on the island now crowned by the castle, where Grijalva had preceded him by a year. Though the first buildings erected by the Spaniards were upon this spot, yet the site was changed several times, before it was finally fixed at the present location in the year 1600.

Though Vera Cruz has suffered probably above every other city in Mexico, from the combined influences of plagues, pirates, and hurricanes, yet to-day it exists as a prosperous and well conditioned city. As the only port on the eastern coast with any semblance of a harbor, it has monopolized Mexican commerce with foreign nations, and has always been opulent and animated. In olden times, like Havana and Cartagena, it was exposed to the assaults of pirates and buccaneers, into whose hands it fell in 1568, and again in 1683, when the pirates Agramont and Lorencillo sacked the city, and destroyed more than three hundred of the inhabitants. In 1618 a terrible fire swept over it.

In 1803 the first great road was commenced to the city of Mexico, there having been till that time little more than the footpaths worn by mules and asses coming down from the mountains. In the war for independence Vera Cruz was the theatre of strife between the opposing factions on many occasions, and in 1822 and 1823 was terribly bombarded by the Spaniards in the fortress of San Juan. The city bears the distinguishing title of "heroic," especially granted it by Congress, in honor of the many sieges it has gallantly sustained. In 1838 city and castle were attacked by the French without any provocation; and in March, 1847, suffered from a cannonade by the American fleet, the effects of which may be seen to-day. In 1856 a hurricane destroyed nearly all the shipping in the harbor; in 1859 Juarez, the republican President, landed here after his circular voyage around Mexico, and here he was besieged by General Miramon. In 1861 the "intervention" fleet made its appear-