Projects
El Camarón, Veracruz

Historical Accuracy vs. Politically Correct
Trying to make them match up for two proud countries

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

To Build a Movie Set for Showtime
In March, because of the previous stories here about my first trip to el Camarón, and a visit to the annual celebration last year, a person whose company is building a scale model of the monument for a special project sent me an email asking for help on the technical and historical details on the parade ground monument dedicated to the French and Mexican soldiers in El Camarón, Veracruz.

She told me they are building a movie set in Los Angeles to resemble the parade ground monument for Viacom Productions. It will be a one hour episode of a series called "The Cell" to appear on Showtime in a couple of months. It is an action/terrorism film. She said they were looking for accuracy and asked to see some larger photos of the monument in order to get the scale and proportions right. She also asked if I´d seen a monument in French and English placed there by the Mexican government.

It sounded like something interesting to do, so I put together the following photos to help with the accuracy of her model. Since my original pictures didn´t have the exact details she was looking for I made a special trip back to El Camaron to search for the details she was asking about.

The Monument at the Parade Ground
To give you an idea of the height, I think the mixed stone wall on both sides is about 6 feet tall.

Below is the same picture cut into 3 sections so you can see it up close.

I also added some pictures of the head table during the celebration last year, as well as some unique looking cedar trees that are planted on the grounds behind the Navy troops.

The red blooming trees are called "Framboyan Trees" and bloom in late April and May. They are also common to the Caribbean.

A Second Monument
In the Village on the main street is an obelisk. I went to take a closer look at the inscription to see if this is what she was looking for.

This is the plaque that is part of the movie script.

ILS FURENT ICI MOINS DE SOIXANTE
OPPOSES A TOUTE UNE ARMEE
SA MASSE LES ECRASA
LA VIA PLUTOT QUE LE COURAGE
ABANDONNA CES SOLDATS FRANCAIS
LE 30 AVRIL 1863

HERE, THEY WERE LESS THAN SIXTY
AGAINST A WHOLE ARMY
ITS NUMBER CRUSHED THEM
BUT LIFE RATHER THAN BRAVERY
LEFT THESE FRENCH MEN
ON THE 30TH OF APRIL 1863.

TO THEIR MEMORY THE COUNTRY BUILT THIS MONUMENT.

I asked several townspeople, including the mayor, if they had seen this monument, but nobody knew anything about it.

The Monument in the Village
These are the plaques on the sides of the obelisk.

"Monument Committee
Mexican Heroes
April 30, 1863
Private Donation
Camarón, Ver 1964"

This plaque says:

"Honor and Glory to the Patriot Governor
Military Commander of the state
FRANCISO P. DE MILAN
Conqueror of the French Legionaires
In this place 30 April 1863
May the country remember them!
Camaron, Ver. 30 April 1964"

This plaque says:

"In memory to the patriotic Mexicans
Heroes ????? who died in
This town fighting against
The French Intervention
April 30, 1863
Camarón, Ver. April 30, 1964"

The Platform in Front
March 31, 2005
It was a cloudy windy day with a strong "norte" forecast by noon with 120 kph winds.It´s not so much the wind, but here on the Mexican Gulf Coast the blowing sand makes it very uncomfortable.

People say as you go inland the wind is less, so it sounded like a good day to go back to El Camarón and take a closer look at the monument and get some of the details she had asked for. No blue skies, but for the details, it would be a good day.

One of the problems was to get an idea of the dimensions and scale. Since I was the only one there, I couldn´t get someone to take my picture.

I took a picture of my hand next to the word, "Camerone". Maybe you can put these values in AutoCAD, and scale it from there.
The Hand with Indented Letters
The Connecting Wall

The French Eagle
The Mexican Eagle
The French Eagle with "Regiment Etranger" Below
Mexican Eagle and Letters

This will give you a better feeling for the monument along with the cedar trees.

There are Two Flag Poles on Either Side of the Monument

The Platform
An Idea for a Small Museum
After taking the pictures at the parade ground, I went back to the village and took a look at the abandoned railroad station.

On a whim, I stopped by the small city hall and even met the mayor of El Camarón. He is new and full of enthusiasm.

I told him about the photos I was taking and about the interest in El Camarón in the "outside world". He told me at one time there had been plans to convert the railway station into a small museum with the help of donations from France.

But, like many projects in little out of the way villages in Mexico like this, it sometimes takes years to get something like this off the ground.

Yet, I wonder if there is anyone out there interested in helping out this small town.
Empty Tracks to the Coast
Water Tower Built by the British in the 1860´s

Main Street
El Camarón is like any Small Rural Town in Mexico
Perhaps you have never been to a small village in Mexico. El Camarón is like many small towns in this part of Mexico.

To give you a feeling for the little town of El Camarón, these short video clips were taken on another trip to the town on a Sunday.

I had stopped and talked to Geronimo at the Water Tower where he was living. We talked for awhile and watched his turkeys.
Families on a Sunday
Across the street is a bar, and we listened to a song by Los Tigres del Norte.

This is another quiet street scene. In the background, you can make out the obelisk monument and the church.

A Coke and Chips
Like many small businesses, there will be a little grocery store, and separated by a partition will be a restaurant.

These are very small family business and can be attended by one person.

When I am in small villages in Mexico, I always try to buy something.

So, before leaving town I stopped at a little store-restaurant for a Coke and a bag of Sabritas potato chips.

Since I was the only customer, the girl went back to watching TV.
A Coke and a Bag of Sabritas
On the Drive Back to Veracruz
On the drive back to Veracruz through the sparsely populated badlands, I was remembering some of the history of the highway.

During the French Intervention, this was the main highway for supplies from France to Mexico City. The Camino Real through Xalapa was cut off at Puente Nacional and Plan del Rio and this was the shortest way.

Along the road to Orizaba, the French had troops based in Veracruz, Tejería, Soledad de Doblado, and Chiquihuite. Later, the railroad used the same route because it was the fastest route.

I have always enjoyed my trips to El Camarón because of its special ambience and most of all the friendly people.

April 30 is coming up in another couple of weeks, and maybe I´ll go back for another visit. And, maybe this time, I will find out more about where the missing plaque is.

April 30 Again
It was getting close April 30 again, and I had the time, so I planned another trip to El Camaron for the annual festivities. I wondered what I would find this time.

Back to the History Section

>>> Another Celebration at El Camarón, Veracruz