The Forgotten Man
Don Domingo Bureau

Architect of Modern Veracruz

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

En Español

Callejón Holtzinger
"El Callejón de la Campana"
I have always been lured by the attraction of foreign countries, because it feels very different from being at home.

In the old downtown area of Veracruz you feel the legacy of Spanish colonial times, especially in the buildings, many of which are still in use today as homes or offices.

Many of the quiet narrow side streets, like the "Callejón de la Campana", are barely the wide enough for two carriages to pass.

And, for a moment, I wonder where people parked their horses and carriages, and peak through a closed wooden door looking for an old patio.

There wasn´t much room in front of their homes.
The Area Around the Ciriaco Vázquez Park
The Streets of Old Veracruz
When I am walking in the streets of Veracruz, I enjoy the sounds of marimba music on the corner at mid morning, the smell of dark roasted coffee from a sidewalk coffee shop.

I really like the rich smell of seafood cooking, especially, "camarones al mojo de ajo", or simply sit on a bench in a quiet park, and watch the tropical world go by.

I guess it´s the way it has always been for the people of Veracruz.
El Callejón de la Campana
More Streets of Veracruz

Walking the streets of old Veracruz is like taking a stroll through a vast outdoor museum of small businesses, homes, small restaurants, and parks, many of which were built in the 19th Century or before.

I let my mind drift back to imagine Veracruz as maybe it once was back then, peeling away the layers of technology such as electricity, and telephone poles, and automobiles.

I wonder what the same streets must have looked like in those times.
El Callejón de la Campana

The Forgotten Man
Yet in the back of my mind is still the mystery of the life of a man I am pursuing, that of a forgotten man.

It´s the life of a man who is now unknown by many.

Yet his presence I can almost feel when I am walking in the old part of downtown Veracruz because I can see the results of the projects developed during his lifetime of public service.

These are the same scenes he must have seen when he walked the same vibrant streets of Veracruz some 150 years ago.

"La Callejuela de Santa María"
I am looking for the home on "Callejuela de Santa María", where he spent the last years of his life, but it remains elusive.
El Callejón de la Campana
While I have found the little "Calle de Santa María", (now called "Calle Arista"), the small "Callejuela" no longer exists.

I am convinced the street is close by, but now is known by another name.

And, so I continue to walk and search.

Neglected Monuments
My search has taken me to the Victorian style "Panteón Particular".

I have walked down the quiet pathways with its many elegant, yet now neglected, monuments dedicated to people who were great in their own time, but are now unknown.
The Area Around the Ciriaco Vázquez Park
And many of their homes can still be seen downtown now abandoned and in ruins, the properties probably still in conflict with distant heirs.

My Search is Personal
These are people whose accomplishments great in their own time, are now largely forgotten, some out of neglect, and others intentionally.

I continue to talk to people, and search for the answers to the mystery of what happened to this man, and perhaps I will discover an explanation or reasons why he has been forgotten.

Perhaps my search has become too personal.

What is Greatness?
At first glance it doesn´t look like a man like that would qualify for greatness.
A Forgotten Woman
He was a collaborator with the French invaders of his country, appointed by the Maxmiliano government as Prefect of Veracruz.

When the French were defeated and Maxmiliano was executed, he was forced into exile in Havana.

It is said that for his return trip from Cuba, he had no money for the steamship fare, and the people of Veracruz took up a collection to pay for his return trip home.

When he arrived he was elected mayor of the city.

A True Public Servant
As a public servant, many of the important public works project of his century in Veracruz were developed during his administrations. Even one of the main streets was named after him.

Yet, it is a strange mixture of greatness. Magnificent projects, but enduring poverty. He died so penniless that his burial had to be paid for with public funds.

But that was the life of Don Domingo Bureau who lived his life according to his high principles of public service.

The Search Started as a Rumor
I pause for a moment and remember how my search started after hearing a rumor at dinner with some friends in Puebla.

It was the story unknown mayor of Veracruz who was re elected 5 times. Recently I found it wasn´t exactly true. Officially he was mayor only once: from 1880 to 1884, but he served his city in various capacities as Síndico or city councilman responsible for public works, city parks and planning, and public schools from 1872 to 1897.

What I discovered was a man who during his lifetime must have contributed, more than anyone I have ever heard of, to the first steps in the development of the modernization of the city of Veracruz.

Strangely, today he is unknown, and the credit for his important accomplishments are given to President Porfirio Díaz. He spent his families fortune in developing his vision, and died so penniless in 1903, the city of Veracruz had to pay his funeral expenses. The street that used to bear his name, was given the name of an unknown mayor who came after him.

After the dinner in Puebla, when I got back to Veracruz, I began my search. It seems that he was erased from history on purpose. This is the story of what I found.

Don Domingo Bureau
A Forgotten Man
Almost Erased from History
His portrait looks like any other 19th Century aristocrat, but I discovered that he was more than that.

In a country not known for honesty, and honors its heroes because of political, or military skills, or financial talent, it is remarkable that one man could be the focal point on the development of Veracruz into Mexico´s largest port by hard work, determination, and honesty.

Although these were the times of the great Robber Barons in the US, and probably even more so in Mexico, he didn´t take advantage of his position, and died a year after the inauguration of his most important public work, the docks, warehouses, and public buildings in Veracruz.

In the early 1990´s, his grave was bulldozed to make way for progress.

Today he is all but forgotten, but his works remain.

My Own Search
How to find information about a man who has been erased from history?

It was a difficult yet fascinating task.

El Panteon Particular
At times waiting for information in long lines at a public offices, I felt almost obsessed as I searched through the limited public records just to find to find one bit of new information about his life and work. Later generations of politicians have succeeded in almost erasing his name from history.

Silent Monuments
The schools, parks, and dock works of Mexico´s largest port remain as silent monuments to the mayor who worked hard for the city he was proud of and loved.

It seems that he never expected any recognition. He felt it was simply his job. What I found was a man, the grandson of a French nobleman, who is now at least officially forgotten.

You can decide what the meaning of greatness is. Here is how it started:

Lower Loire River Valley
The French Revolution
During the French Revolution of 1789, many people were fleeing the Reign of Terror and summary executions of close relatives by guillotine .

Under the cover of a moonless night, a young nobleman, Monsieur Bureau, escaped the chaos of France of Les Miserables, secretly boarding an English ship in St. Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire River near Nantes.

The ship was bound for America, and safety.

In 1792, Year 2 of the Revolution, were times when no one was safe, especially if you were a relative of Louis XVI, King of France.
(Notice the small port of St. Nazaire, just down the river from Nantes.
Most of the Bureau family victims of the guillotine are from the
lower Loire River area around Cholet and Clisson, south and
east of Nantes. Some 51% of all the people in France sent to
the guillotine, were from the Province of Vendée as a result of a
rebellion in 1793 in support of the royalist cause. Don Domingo´s grandfather was probably from this area of old Brittany.)
To Save His Life
He was leaving to save his life, not knowing the future that awaited him.

A warrant issued by a citizen´s committee was out for his arrest, and he wanted to erase the memories of the tragedy that was unfolding in France.

With the help of family and friends, he had salvaged some money, and a few precious stones from his father´s estate in France to begin his new life in America free from the fury of the mob rule that had taken over his village.

He chose the security offered by the Spanish colonies because in 1792 the same revolution had taken over the English colonies causing conflicts in America.

The Walled City of Veracruz
The Safety of the Spanish Colonies
The Spanish colonies in those days were more developed than the American, and offered the stability he was looking for.

Two weeks later he landed in the safety of the Spanish colonial port of Havana where other friends from France who had settled into the anonymity of the Caribbean port a year or two before.

Cuba had also become the refuge of some 30,000 French nobility fleeing uprisings in neighboring Haiti. Here in Havana, he would be safe now under the protection of Spanish crown.

Veracruz in 1810
Silver and Safety in Mexico
Havana was the last stop on all the ships crossing the Atlantic from Mexico to Europe, and it was in relatively close contact with Veracruz.

Over the months Bureau´s Spanish improved and in the coffee shops of old Havana where he heard stories from the French émigrés about the wealth that Mexico offered.

Veracruz was known throughout the world for the vast amounts of silver that passed through the island fort of San Juan de Ulua on its way to European customers.
Callejón la Lagunilla
Later Called "Patio Bureau"

A New Business in Veracruz
He settled into a house on the "Callejón Lagunilla", around the corner from the Cathedral, and the Plaza de Armas.

In France, he had studied medicine at the university until his career was interrupted by the French Revolution, Yet, his first attempt at opening a pharmacy didn´t do well.

Perhaps it was difficult to obtain the medicines he was accustomed to prescribing, or folk medicine utilizing the plentiful medicinal plants found in the mountains around Orizaba.

Or perhaps,the traditional brand of spiritual folk medicine practiced in San Andrés Tuxtla and Catemaco was more accepted than European methods in those days.

The Papaloapan River Basin
Later he opened a French pastry shop and bakery, which were extremely successful. A short time later, he was able to purchase the entire block around el "Callejón de la Lagunilla".

South of Veracruz, the Paploapan River empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Alvarado, and the area up the wide river was the scene of development because of the fertile land. The price of sugar was high, growing sugar cane became a thriving business.

At various times, the port of Veracruz in history was under seige by foreign armies and was closed to commercial traffic. When this happened, commercial shipping simply would shift its business to Tlacotalpan. In those days many companies found it wise to have offices in Veracruz and Tlacotalpan to serve their customers at all times.

Settlements such as Tlacotalpan, Cosamoalapan, and Tuxtepec began to thrive with the introduction of paddle wheel steamboats brought to Mexico from the Mississippi River. The backroads provided a reliable alternative to transportation for people and freight on its way to Mexico City.

On a trip to neighboring Cosamoalapan to investigate a new business opportunity, Monsieur Bureau met beautiful María del Refugio Vázquez, cousin of Ciriaco Vázquez, a young cadet at the military academy. Later they were married in Veracruz, and a son José María was born.

"Grand Hotel des Diligences"
Photo taken in 1864(Notice the gas lamps)
El Hotel Diligencias
(The following is what I imagine, and is based on the photo in French and the stories of relatives of Don Domingo that their grandmother was at one time owner of the hotel around the turn of the century. While it makes a good story, I am still looking for proof that the following information is true.)

In those days most visitors to Veracruz stayed in boarding houses with local families. There were few decent hotels and accommodations were rustic at best.

Merchants and government officials from Mexico City didn´t look forward to spending a hot tropical night in the mosquito infested port waiting to board a ship or to receive merchandise from abroad.

"Le Grand Hotel des Diligences"
Monsieur Bureau had a good eye for business opportunities and invested in building a decent single story hotel which he called, the "Le Grand Hotel des Diligences."

Or the "great hotel of the carriages". The railroad wouldn´t come to Veracruz until 1873, and transportation in 1798 was slow and uncomfortable.

The new hotel would offer a comfort with touch of elegance for those looking for a change from the boarding houses of the day. The spacious lobby and clean restaurant were attended by waiters in white coats offering the best in seafood.

It is said that local fishermen went to the hotel first to sell the best of their catch especially of shrimp, róbalo, and huachinango. He made a special effort to obtain from passing ships a wide variety in French cognacs and sparkling waters from Germany. The coffee from Cordoba, Veracruz was superb. Monsieur Bureau served the best.

The hotel was conveniently located on the plaza in front of the Plaza de Armas almost in front of the Church of the Parroquia, not far from the docks and customs offices.

The Gran Hotel des Diligences soon became the center of social activity in town, especially for wealthy travellers and local businessmen. Later, he built a second story to take care of his growing business.

Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez
Mexican Independence
By 1808, the French had attacked and occupied parts of Spain, and the Spanish were forced to withdraw troops from Latin America to defend the mother country.

Uprisings and declarations of Independence in all of the Spanish Colonies shortly followed. Spain lost its richest colonies in America, except Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Mexico gave its official "Grito de Independencia" in 1810 and the wars of independence continued until the last Spanish outpost surrendered the Fort of San Juan de Ulua in 1825.

Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna started his military career in Veracruz.

1810 to 1825 The Wars of Independence
Most of the wars of independence were in the center and south of Mexico.

Since the Fort of San Juan de Ulua was well fortified by Spanish troops, and the city was walled, Veracruz was relatively safe and was spared much of the violence and instability which ravaged the rest of Mexico.

Antonio López de Santa Anna settled nearby in his nearby Hacienda Manga de Clavo and offered a certain amount of protection to the city.

At the Battle of Córdoba, Veracruz, Ciriaco Vázquez, a young army officer under the leadership of Santa Anna, became known for his bravery under fire in the Independence movement in the state of Veracruz.

Although a peace treaty was signed giving independence to the state of Veracruz, the fort of San Juan de Ulua remained in the hands of Spanish troops for another 15 years when a surrender was arranged in 1825 for the last Spanish outpost in Mexico, and a three day celebration with fireworks followed.

Independent Mexico
After Independence, life continued in the sleepy port of Veracruz. Young José María Bureau had grown up in his fathers business at the Hotel des Diligences, and later became manager.

Among the frequent visitors to the Hotel des Diligences and restaurant were the now famous Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez, local hero of Mexican Independence, and Francisca, his beautiful younger sister.

Young José María Bureau fell in love. In the evenings, they could be seen across the street in the Plaza de Armas park, or at a table in the hotel restaurant, or in church together at the Iglesia de la Parróquia. And they were soon married.

Domingo Yves Fructoso Francisco de Paula Bureau Vázquez
In 1834 their son Domingo was born. According to custom, when he was 4 days old, he was presented for baptism at the Iglesia de la Parroquia. His full name, according to the official church records, was Domingo Yves Fructoso Francisco de Paula. The parents were listed as José Yves María Bureau and Francisca Vázquez, and his godfather was his uncle Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez.

Young Domingo grew up in the 1840´s and ´50´s in Veracruz, probably attending local parroquial schools, and helping out in his father´s business at the hotel. His outgoing personality helped him get to know everyone in the small town of Veracruz, as well as feel comfortable around visitors from Mexico City and other parts of the world who came to trade in Veracruz. He was also bilingual in Spanish and French and studied law and engineering at the University of Veracruz in Xalapa.

The US Invades Mexico in 1847
In 1847 US forces invaded Mexico, and the 24 hour siege of Veracruz was bloody, and left some 1,000 casualties. Later, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna mistakenly set up a line of defense just outside Xalapa in Cerro Gordo along the Camino Real.

The Bombardment of Veracruz

The Battle of Cerro Gordo
Sad News
Then came the sad news that Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez had been killed by American cannons at the Battle of Telegraph Hill.

For a time, Yucatan declared its independence from the federal government. Guadalajara was even clamoring for independence. California, Arizona, and New Mexico were lost.

Earlier Texas had been lost.

For many people living in Mexico during those years must have been grim and fearful, especially when one thought about the future.

Don Domingo Bureau
The French Occupation of Mexico
In 1858, Benito Juarez established his first government in Veracruz during the War of the Reform, confiscated all the church property which included churches, convents, hospitals, and haciendas owned by the church.

The priests and nuns, not taken in by families, had no place to live and were forced to live in the streets.

Once again life had become unstable.

The wealthy people of Veracruz and Puebla were upset with these changes, and most of all the lack of security. The country was once again divided.

By 1864, after so many years of lawlessness, many were thinking possibly a foreign power could bring stability to the country. It was not surprising that many welcomed the peace the French might bring to Mexico.

When Hapsburg Prince Maxmillian, Archduke of Austria, and his French army invaded Mexico through the port of Veracruz they were welcomed by many in hopes the French could bring peace and unity.

Young Domingo Bureau was intelligent seemed like a born politician because of his outgoing personality. He was well known and liked in Veracruz.

The Mysterious Medals

Order of the Mexican Eagle
The Mysterious Medals
The medals in the photo have always caused me a certain amount of curiosity.

The other day, a friend told me that Don Domingo was given the Order of Guadalupe and the Order of the Mexican Eagle which were part of the formalities of the corte of Maximiliano.

He also added that his grandmother, Doña Refugio Vázquez de Bureau, received the medal of the Imperial Order of St. Charles.

I imagine that more than anything it is a reflection of the times, rather than a desire to return to nobility.

The other question is: what could have happened to thes medals after all these years?

A French Appointment
Since he spoke fluent French, he got along well with the French Army officers who stayed at the "Grand Hotel des Diligences", spending many evenings probably savoring French cognac and Cuban cigars, and talking about life in France and Mexico.

Many in Mexico were glad the French had finally come to Mexico. Perhaps the troops of a modern civilized nation like France would bring order and culture to fragmented Mexico.

During Maxmiliano´s administration, the country was divided into 50 states called departments. At age 24, Domingo Bureau began his life of public service, and held positions during the government of Maxmiliano as Prefect of the departments of Veracruz, Tuxpan, and Tehuantepec. He served for awhile as a Maxmiliano´s Imperial Commissioner to Yucatan.
La Orden Imperial de Guadalupe
La Orden Imperial de San Carlos

Fotos cortesía de http://www.casaimperial.org

The First Mardi Gras
In each of these positions he was known for his receptive personality, and was a peace maker. In a time in which local rebellions were frequent, he often met with the parties involved and through his power of persuasion was able to dissuade them from their plans to avoid bloodshed. It is said that he had a calming influence on people.

Don Domingo Bureau also enjoyed life, and authorized the first Mardi Gras or "Carnaval" in 1867, and endeared himself to the hearts of the people of Veracruz forever.

Exile in Cuba
After several years of occupation, once again the French faced problems at home and withdrew Maxmiliano´s troops from Mexico to defend the mother country. Without his soldiers Maxmiliano was defenseless, and shortly thereafter was captured and executed by a firing squad by the forces of Benito Juarez near Querétero. Domingo Bureau, along with the supporters of the French, were forced to flee for their lives, and Domingo settled in Havana at the home of old friends of his grandfather.

These were not easy years financially for Bureau because he had not taken advantage of his important positions to enrich his own personal fortunes.

The Death of Benito Juarez
When Juarez died in 1872, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada became President of Mexico, and a general amnesty was declared for those who had supported the French. However, it is said that Domingo lacked the funds for the voyage back to Veracruz, and in 1874 the people of Veracruz not only paid his way back home, but elected him mayor when he arrived.

This was the same year the British finished the Mexico City-Veracruz railroad. The mule drawn street car made the 4 block trip from the railroad terminal to the Hotel las Diligencias as it was now known.

The manager of the Hotel las Diligencias, Mr. Edmundo Monthier, boasted in a newspaper article that a piano was now available in the lobby to traveling guests for relaxation, as well as two modern billiard tables in the new billiards room. In addition to the excellent seafood, the hotel now offered fresh vegetables brought in daily from Puebla by train. With the new train service visitors to Veracruz could travel in speed and comfort.

The Wharf in Veracruz
Veracruz in the 1870´s
From early photographs of Veracruz in the 1870´s and 80´s it can be seen that poverty was widespread.

Something had to be done, and it would take a lot of money.
The Wharf in Veracruz
Calle Independencia

Street Scene
Veracruz, Ver.
The Victorian Age in Mexico
Veracruz in the mid 1870´s reflected the general poverty of the time in Mexico.

During his exile years in Cuba, Don Domingo Bureau spent his time reflecting on what Veracruz needed to grow.

In time he developed a vision of a new Veracruz, and what was needed to become a world class seaport, perhaps like the other great cities in the world.

Developing his Vision
The people of Veracruz shared Don Domingo´s vision of the future.
Garbage Collection with Muledrawn Streetcars
Veracruz, Ver.
Garbage Collection Service
His plan of public service began immediately with organizing the basics of municipal government services.

Veracruz was well known for its large population of buzzards. People traditionally would throw garbage in the street, and let the buzzards do the rest.

Garbage collection services were organized utilizing the rails of the mule drawn streetcar tracks.

Another large scale project was the a water system project bringing water from the Jamapa River some 15 miles south of Veracruz.

Fire Dept
Veracruz Fire Department
Veracruz, Ver.
A Fire Department
It is said that Don Domingo personally supervised each of his projects.

In 1873, Don Domingo founded the Veracruz Fire Department.

It was the first fire department in Latin America.

Later, in 1878, while still mayor, he became the Fire Chief and instituted an organized system at their headquarters located in the municipal building on the Plaza de la Constitution, which is now occupied by the Office of Tourism.
Fire Dept
Veracruz Fire Department
Veracruz, Ver.
Fire Dept
Statue to the Firefighters
Veracruz, Ver.

Train Depot
Train Depot
Veracruz, Ver.
The Railroad Arrives
The Mexico City-Veracruz railroad had arrived in 1874, and the streetcar tracks needed to be extended beyond the walls.

There was a lot of work still yet to be done to modernize the Port City of Veracruz.

This was only the beginning.

Veracruz in 1875
The Wall Comes Down
By now, Veracruz had outgrown the wall constructed in 1683 by the Spaniards as protection against pirate raids.

Drainage was poor during the rainy season, and in spite of the new garbage service there was a still a serious problem with rats and pestilence.

On July 14,1880, "Down with Oppression!" and "Up with Freedom" were the cries in Veracruz on Bastille Day, when don Domingo ordered the demolition of the wall that once insured safety, but was now suffocating growth.

Parque Ciriaco Vázquez
Ciriaco Vázquez Park
Don Domingo´s Vision of a Modern City
According to his vision, the wall demolition project would make land available in the areas where the small forts or sentry ports had been located.

These small forts were reserved for parks and schools.

Where the Baluarte San José was located at the corner of Independencia and Rayón, Bureau personally supervised the construction of Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez School.

The original school was demolished 25 years ago and replaced with the present school now simply called "Escuela Federal No. 01".
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The School Opened in 1887
Ciriaco Vázquez Park
Where the Baluarte San Juan was located, Ciriaco Vázquez Park named after his beloved godfather killed at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847.

The two story Victorian Francisco Clavijero School (locally called "la escuela cantonal", or the neighborhood school) was built in the center of the park.

Today it is still in use as an elementary school.
Carcel de Mujeres
The Jail for Women
Electricity was introduced and the street car system was expanded complete with a special funeral car.

In 1895 he had authorized the new Panteon Particular (The Victorian style Private Cemetery), and the municipal cemetery across the street. In Veracruz, the end of the streetcar line was always the cemetery.

On the dark side, the "modern" Penal de Allende jail, still in use today, was started under his administration.

He also built the jail for women.

Candidates for a Modern Gulf Port
A New Port for the Gulf of Mexico
When Porfirio Díaz began his presidency that lasted almost 30 years.

One of his projects was to invest federal funds in a modern deep water seaport on the Gulf of Mexico.

Mexico City needed a dependable lifeline for products coming from Europe.

The Porfirio Díaz committee spent a great deal of time studying several good possibilities: Veracruz, Antón Lizardo, and Alvarado, and Tlacotalpan on the Papaloapan River.

Each had its own advantages:
Safe Backroads to Mexico City
Veracruz headed the list as the best possibility because traditionally it had been the first port in the nation, and the two roads to Mexico City of those days were reliable.

The British had finished the Mexico City-Veracruz railroad in 1874. It also had the safety of the Fort of San Juan de Ulua.

The downside for Veracruz was there was no protection from the "nortes" or strong winds of 150 kph winds that come with the cold fronts and winter storms.

Building jetties for protection from the weather, and deepening the port would be expensive.

Antón Lizardo was a good possibility. They also had deep water in front of the little fishing village along with an old Spanish fort similar to San Juan de Ulua. When former US President Ulyses S. Grant looked at Antón Lizardo, he recommended this option to the committee.

Alvarado, at the mouth of the Papaloapan River, was a good posibility because it had protection from "nortes". Eventually, a rail line was built from Veracruz to Alvarado. Alvarado also had an old Spanish Fort on the bluff where the river met the Gulf that could be restored for military protection.

Tlacotalpan just inland was also a good candidate. For many years it had been a seaport when Veracruz was under seige. It also offered the safety of being inland, as well as a system of back roads to Mexico City that could be easily protected. Don Porfirio Díaz had also lived in Tlacotalpan and had many friends there.

The competition for these federal funds was tough, but in the end, the committee led by Don Domingo Bureau convinced Don Porfirio that Veracruz was the best option.

French Port
French Port Design
Veracruz, Ver.
The Port of Veracruz
(It has been pointed out to me that this was a federal government project started during the administration of President Porfirio Díaz, but given the facts of so many projects initiated by Don Domingo Bureau, I think this was part of his vision of what Veracruz needed to grow. Perhaps this is the way it came about.

I am still looking for proof that it is true.)

Perhaps the largest development project ever undertaken in the history of Veracruz was the modernization of the Port of Veracruz, realizing the final vision of Don Domingo Bureau for the city he loved.

Credit to Don Porfirio Díaz
Official credit for the project was given to President Porfirio Díaz, and the English Contractors Don Domingo recommended to the government, and personally supervised.

No mention is made of Don Domingo on the official plaques of the times.

In 1882, Don Domingo began negotiations with a French construction company, and heading a group of local dignitaries made the first of several presentations to President Porfirio Diaz to build new dock works, complete with customs, postal and telegraph offices.

Post Office
The Post Office
Veracruz, Ver.
The High Cost of the French Design
However, due to the high costs of the French design and lack of money available from the federal government the first attempt was abandoned.

In 1897, Don Domingo´s proposal was accepted by President Porfirio Díaz, and federal funds became available. The engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the brand new port was awarded to the British company, Pearson and Sons.

The same year Don Domingo Bureau resigned his the city council position in order to have the free time to personally supervise the project.

The magnificent project was inaugurated by President Porfirio Díaz in March of 1902.

The street adjacent to the Cathedral, now called Calle Mario Molina, bore his name for a number of years in recognition of his projects, especially the Port Development Project.

Growth of Veracruz as a Result of the Port Project ca. 1914

Dreams Realized: The New Port of Veracruz in 1903

Later Years
Later Years
The Final Years
Don Domingo continued to live a modest life with his wife Trinidad Navarrete in the small family home on the little side street "Callejuela de Santa María", refusing frequent offers for lucrative federal jobs.

He said he was simply doing his job as a public servant, and as he used to say, the satisfaction of a job well done was sufficient compensation.

With the inauguration of his final project, the Port of Veracruz was in operation. His life´s work was complete.

By 1903, Don Domingo was in failing health.

When he died of Bright´s disease on February 13, the family fortune was depleted, and there was no money for his burial. In an unusual move, the municipality of Veracruz authorized funds for his burial across the street from the elegant Panteon Particular.

Don Domingo on the Right
of Presidente Don Porfirio Diaz
At the Inauguration of the Port Works
A Massive Funeral Procession
After his death, it is said that the people of Veracruz in an expression of grief took part in a manumission, or a massive funeral parade where the people of the town accompanied his remains to the General Cemetery and affectionately placed them in the Hemicircle of the Illustrious.

Because of his hard work don Domingo had been elected mayor of Veracruz, and served as Síndico of Parks and Schools most of his life.

While many had become fabulously wealthy during his periods as mayor, he had always refused to take advantage of his position.

To serve his community was simply his job.

Later Years
Gen. Venustiano Carranza
The Mexican Revolution and New Directions
In 1910 the Mexican Revolution began, and President Porfirio Díaz boarded the steamship Ypiranga at the new port of Veracruz which he had inaugurated 8 years earlier, and finished the remaining years of life in comfortable exile in France.

After 7 years of civil war Venustiano Carranza emerged as President of Mexico, and a new constitution was written.

After the Mexican Revolution, there were new heroes to be honored.
La Calle Independencia in 1920
New Street Names in Veracruz
As Mexico moved into the 20th century, the names of the streets in all the cities in towns in Mexico were changed to reflect a new vision of the future, and erase the memory of past regimes from history.

The wide tree lined "Paseo de la Libertad" became "Avenida Salvador Díaz Mirón",

"Calle Dehesa" became "20 de Noviembre", "Hernán Cortés" became "Madero", and "Calle Porfirio Díaz" became "Pino Suarez".

In 1939, the street named "Calle Domingo Bureau", was renamed "Mario Molina" after a mayor elected in 1905.

The 20th Century
As generations grew up in Veracruz after the Revolution, people began to forget the difficult times of the 19th Century, and in the 1980´s the municipality decided to develop a theme park called Reino Magico (Magic Kingdom). They chose the land where the largely abandoned municipal cemetery was located. The newest Jardin Particular had been built in 1945, and the old cemetery became obsolete.

Even though advertisements were placed in local newspapers and letters were written to family members, the vast majority of the remains were tossed into a common grave or simply bulldozed to make way for progress. I wasn´t able to find any remains of the grave of Don Domingo Bureau.

To this day Reino Magico is sparsely attended with perhaps 10 or 15 cars on the large parking lot on any given weekend. And, at night, local people say the area around the former cemetery is haunted.

Strange Stories
I have heard some of the taxi drivers in Veracruz tell of a girl in white who flags down a taxi in front of Reino Magico. She gives them an address in Los Volcanes, a public housing project. When they arrive, she asks them to wait a minute while she goes inside the house to get the money to pay the fare. When she doesn´t come out the taxi driver knocks on the door and an old woman comes out. She tells him the passenger was her daughter who died several years ago, and was buried in the General Cemetery where Reino Mágico is now located. The other day I heard the story again. This time the girl had been killed by a taxi.

Other people say they have seen the swings in the playground swinging as if there were children at play. But there are no children around nor is the wind blowing.

There are other stories of seeing the figures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs swaying at night.

Troubled Times are Past
The troubled times of the 19th Century have been erased from the minds of the people of Veracruz. All that is left are the facades of the older buildings in downtown Veracruz, and the remains of some of the fine homes along the wide tree lined "Diaz Mirón Avenue".

And, the "Grand Hotel des Diligences" is now the "Hotel de las Diligencias" in front of the Plaza de la Constitution, and is a 6 story building undergoing remodelling. Don Domingo Bureau and his father are almost forgotten.

Today, for me, the mystery of the forgotten man is less. However, my original question remains: in Mexico where history, especially the prehispanic, is preserved why was the name of Don Domingo Bureau almost erased from history? It doesn´t look coincidental.

Domingo Bureau clipping
A Post Script
During the interview with Carlos Ortiz with the Veracruz Fire Department, he told me of the recently formed, "Asociación de Voluntarios Bomberos Don Domingo Bureau", named in honor of the founder. He suggested I meet Dr. Humberto Ojeda who is the president of the organization.

In early April I met with Dr. Ojeda who was overjoyed to meet me and coincidently had written a brief story in his column in Notiver, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Veracruz.

Here is a copy of the article which appeared in March 2004. It is the first acknowledgement in print I´ve seen of Don Domingo Bureau.

Over Coffee
After our first meeting, Dr. Ojeda and I agreed to continue our discussions the following Monday along with another friend, Ing. José Martinez Escamilla.

Francisca Bureau
In One Corner of a Chapel
In a Forgotten Corner
When he arrived, Dr. Ojeda said excitedly, "You won´t believe what I saw yesterday when I went to church with my wife!"

"There´s a plaque in honor of Domingo Bureau´s mother in a side chapel in the downtown Cathedral!"

I wondered how many times I had been to the Cathedral and had never noticed the side chapels. I went downtown and entered the old Cathedral.

In the third chapel dedicated to the Virgen del Rosario, is a chapel with a single plaque. Later in talking to the man in the picture, I found the saint is St. Charbel Maklouf, a Saint from Lebanon.

Don Domingo was 23 years old when his mother died. She was the sister of Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez who died in the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847. She must have really loved her husband and children.
Francisca Bureau
In the Corner
Francisca Bureau
A Tombstone

The Signature
I hadn´t been to see my friends at the Archivo y Biblioteca del Estado de Veracruz in awhile, and was looking for an out of print book, "Boquilla de Piedras, El Puerto de la Insurgencia."

The director of the Archives welcomed me back, and helped me find the book I was looking for. He knows of my interest in Don Domingo Bureau, and said, "I think I have something you´d like to see."

On his desk was one of the old original volumes of city council minutes for the city of Veracruz. He is doing research on President Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada.


This is Don Domingo´s signature from a city council meeting in 1874.

Dr. Bureau
A Surprise
Not long ago, I received a phone call from my friend Dr. Humberto Ojeda.

He said, " You have to come to my office tomorrow. I have a nice surprise for you"

"The great grandson of Don Domingo Bureau was a classmate of mine and we have been friends since childhood."

You can see in his eyes and his serious bearing that he still has something from the Bureau family. He is also a nice guy.
Dr. Bureau
Dr. Bureau

Don Domingo Bureau Remembered

Paseo don Domingo Bureau
"El Paseo Don Domingo Bureau"
Veracruz, Ver.
La Avenida de la Libertad
Just off to the right, sitting on the park bench, perhaps you may see an old man relaxing in the shade as old men sometimes do.

It is the spirit of don Domingo Bureau as he takes his morning stroll each day down the tree lined pathway in the middle of his favorite avenue which when he was alive, was called, "La Avenida de la Libertad". Its design and name were also part of his special projects.

For me, the little pathway down the middle of present day Avenida Díaz Mirón should be called "El Paseo Don Domingo Bureau", a name given by the veracruzanos who remember him as a man who loved his community, and simply did his job without expecting anything in exchange.

El Paseo Don Domingo Bureau

"Paseo Don Domingo Bureau"
Veracruz, Ver.

And now, he is at peace as he walks silently, perhaps smiling, through the streets of Veracruz admiring the schools, parks, the modern fire department and ambulance service, and the ships that cruise in and out of the busy port.

And most of all, the tourists who browse the little sidewalk "puestos" selling souvenirs, and the children who delight in flying their new gliders in the warm Gulf sea breeze on the Paseo del Malecon, the works he designed and supervised for the benefit of the people of Veracruz.

From an Old Book
New Findings
One day, I was at the Archivo del Estado and found a book called, "Obras del Puerto de Veracruz" and found a photo of Don Domingo.
From an Old Book
Other New information:
“Mil personajes en el Mexico del Siglo XIX”

Domingo Bureau
De ascendencia francesa emparentada con la familia real de Luis XVI por parte de su padre, nace en el puerto de Veracruz el 20 de enero de 1834, hijo de José Maria Bureau, dueño de una panadería, y de Francisca Vázquez, hermana del general Ciriaco Vázquez.

(……) Contrae matrimonio con su prima Refugio Vázquez, y viudo poco después, se casa en segundas nupcias con Trinidad Navarrete….

Note: Some of this is confusing, and I am still trying to verify it.

About the Bureau Family in France
The other day I received this additional information about the history of Bureau family in Europe from a member of the Bureau family:

"...Bureau is a rather common name in western France from south Britanny down to Bordeaux with a peak of concentration around Nantes (where it is like Smith in England). My ancestors were wine farmers 20 km north from Cognac and there is a small village "Chez Bureau" around Saint-Jean d'Angely half way betwen La Rochelle and Cognac (the germans went there to search for my grand-dad who was then a captain in the French resistance - but he was then 400 km away).

Since most people who emigrated to French North America were from western, coastal France, it is no wonder there are still a lot of Bureau in Canada (more than 4,000 in Québec) and in Louisiana ("Cajun" deported from what is now New Scotia and was then Acadia). I met a couple of Bureau while I was a student at the UoA in Tucson whose great-grand father had left from Montréal in the early 1920s.

The roots of the name themselves are unknown - The "bure" is a thick (usually green) fabric used by monks but also to cover tables in the Middle Ages --> the name bureau that was first given to the table used for writing that was covered by a thick green cloth then to the room where it was located and then to the office which occupied the room.

Hence the idea the name "Bureau" would come either from a defrocked monk or else from a cloth seller.

But it is not very clear for it could also come from the same ethymology than the english burrow or burrough (a hole for animals, a small den for rabbits).

You had 2 distinct noble families in the Middle Ages, the first one around 1350 who were the Bureau de La Riviere, with a chancellor to king Charles the Fifth - and a statue in the cathedral of Chartes (or is it Amiens ?). I dont know whether they still have any descent.

Then a second noble family about 80 years later with the Bureau brothers who were engineers - Jean Bureau was a general and the Great Master of Artillery of king Charles VII - who greetly improved the French artillery in the 1420s and ultimately won the last battle of the Hundred Years war at Chatillon-la-Bataille next to Bordeaux (shooting Talbot as you can read in Shakespeare's Henry VI - when the French took revenge from Agincourt, Poitiers and Crécy on the English shooting them at long range with their guns - actually a reversed Agincourt as the English knights launched a charge against artillery-held positions).

Jean Bureau became appointed mayor and governor of Bordeaux (without the consent of the Bordeaux people who would rather have been English). He married his daughter with Jacques Coeur'son and there are still some distant heirs from him - the princes Murat - at some stage they got mixed with the descendants of Joachim Murat, a marshal from Napoleon Ist. Very wealthy and still with high charges.

You find a lot of other Bureau all around although the most famous ones were the two families from the Middle Ages.

The speaker of the French ministry of defence is a general Bureau.

One of my grand-grand uncle Basile Bureau was a captain in the French army in 1860 (actually commanding officer of the palace guard - the One Hundred Guards in 1870) went to Mexico during its brief occupation by Napoléon III in 1860 and wrote he found other Bureau there.

I dont really know if they were related. But I really enjoyed your website..."

El Hotel Diligencias
Strolls with María Elena
Sometimes today when I walk the streets of old Veracruz, I pass the Hotel Las Diligencias, and I pause for a private moment to remember María Elena, and the quiet strolls we used to take on Sunday evenings.

Each time, we would pass between the rows of tables of the Hotel Las Diligencias, on our way to attend the last Sunday night service at the Cathedral across the street.

It wasn´t until much later that I found that her forefathers may have been the owners of this grand hotel, and that perhaps we were repeating a tradition performed by many people in the past.

My friends would tell me she looked radiantly happy, and I felt proud to be seen with her. They told me we looked like the perfect couple.

They were days when the streets of Veracruz were alive and colorful, and the words of the songs performed by the guitar of Chamin Correa took on a new and personal meaning.

It was through María Elena´s eyes that I began to see a deeper significance in the streets of old Veracruz.
El Cafe de la Parroquia
The Traditions Continue
Later over a café con leche at the crowded Cafe de la Parróquia, she would speak to me of the legends and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.

As she shared with me some of the details of the world of her own great grandfather, Don Domingo Bureau Vázquez, I began to realize that he was one of the architects of modern Veracruz.

Later, as I slowly uncovered more information about the times of Don Domingo, I could see that she had inherited many of those same delicate, somewhat aristocratic traditions and values of the times of Don Domingo and his family.
Phantasms of the Past on the Walls
The Sound of a Straus Waltz
In those days on my strolls with María Elena, it seemed at times I could almost hear a Straus Waltz in the distance.

She told me that Veracruz is a very old city, and sometimes you can see the images of the people of the past on the walls, and she showed them to me.

One Sunday, in a dank corner of the dungeon of San Juan de Ulua she said, "Let´s see if you can see the French couple strolling the Malecón in a slight north wind."

At first, all I could see were some splotches, then the image of the couple slowly began to appear. The times that I spent with María Elena helped me to see life in another way and sometimes I wondered if those times would end.
Callejón Holtzinger
Sometimes Destiny Doesn´t Work Out
But, sometimes destiny doesn't work out the way we expect it to, and one day María Elena told me that our plans to be married would not be possible.

Perhaps it was a family thing, or that we were from worlds that were too different. I also realize that sometimes it is difficult to separate an illusion from the reality of the truth of the qualities that we do not possess. I will never know.

In Veracruz, people have told me that love is respect, so I think it is best to keep those wonderfully radiant days to myself, and perhaps to occasionally share them with those who understand those things.

María Elena is not her real name and in this generation, she no longer has the last name of Bureau or Vázquez, and she shall remain anonymous. But, I will remember it was a time when I felt that my life was complete.

Even now, when I walk through the downtown streets of Veracruz, I remember my quiet strolls with María Elena.

Sometimes, when I hear the remote verse of a song, or the smell of rich Mexican coffee, I can still feel her presence.

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