History

Puente del Rey
(Now Puente Nacional)
Local People Call It Santa Anna´s
Lost Hacienda Manga de Clavo,
But It´s Not

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Note: It was a Sunday morning, and there was nothing to do for the rest of the day. For the last week I had been immersed in a series of history books called, "Mexico a traves de los siglos", written in the 1880's.

What the heck, after what I had just read about Independence War activity, and how the Spaniards were trying to hang on to Mexico, I decided to explore one of the tough spots for myself.

I picked up my camera, hit the ATM machine and went to the Pemex station 3 blocks from the house, put $200 pesos worth of gas in the car and took off for Puente Nacional.

Puente Nacional
The little village of Puente Nacional is about an hour from Veracruz on the old highway towards Xalapa, about 5 minutes past Paso de Ovejas.

Back in the 60´s, I stopped at a little restaurant at Puente Nacional, and thought that was all there was. In later years I passed it many times, not really seeing it. It´s a little hole in the wall place with two normal bridges to cross now.

Little did I suspect the historical events that had happened at Puente del Rey.
From the Highway
From the Highway
"Puente del Rey" becomes "Puente Nacional"
After the smoke cleared from the Wars of Independence from Spain and the first consitution was written, almost all the references to the king or the crown was changed to national, or at least the Spanish equivalent. "Puente del Rey" became "Puente Nacional".

I had suspected for a long time that the bridge was old, and probably dated from the first days of the "El Camino Real".

It was also a strategic location because of the curve in the road on the north and south sides of the river, as well as the imposing cliffs on the east.

Now the main highway from Veracruz to Xalapa goes through Cardel and Chichicaxtle and bypasses the area.
up the steps
Up the Steps
Most of the people have moved up the hill to Chichicaxtle and sell local products and services to the traffic that passes by.

Puente Nacional today is pretty much a wide spot in the road out of the main stream of the 21st Century.

Up the Steps
Puente Nacional actually has two bridges.

The first one has a kind of a weekend resort and the second bridge simply looks like a bridge.

Just before the bridge is a wide spot where you can pull over.

After stopping and looking around I tryied to imagine what it might have been like back in 1815.

There were no signs anywhere.

up the steps

A Welcome Bench
A Monument Up the Hill
Off to the left was a steep hill with what looked like a Mexican flag waving on the top.

Hmmm... Must be some kind of monument. I looked again and there was a small dirt road heading towards the hill. Maybe you could drive to the top? I decided to take a closer look.

There was nobody around, and there was no road up to the top where it looked like there was a monument of some kind.

Up ahead it looked like there were some steps and a sign.

After parking the car, I headed towards the steps, not looking forward to the climb.

It was quite a climb and the bench about half way up looked good. After resting about 5 minutes, I looked up the hill and saw a another sign.
Man Flag
Almost at the Top
The fort is called "La Atalaya de la Concepción". "Atalaya" means Watchtower.

Yesterdays Heroes
And now I discovered that what I suspected was true.

In the early days of Mexican Independence after 1810, today´s heros like Guadalupe Victoria, and Nicolas Bravo, robbed the Spanish convoys like common highway bandits.

In spite of the wars of Independence which lasted some 15 years, there was still considerable commercial mule train traffic from the port of Veracruz to Mexico City.

Later Puente Nacional became an important defense point for Santa Anna during the American Invasion of 1847.
Cannon
Cannon
A cannon pokes its nose out of the wall.
Campesino
Campesino with Machete in the Shadows

Rifleman
Rifleman
Cannon
Cannon
Viewman
A Commanding View of the Bridge
Viewcar
Another View of the Bridge
(That´s my car down there.)
View Right
View of the Road from the Right
From around the curve
Hacienda
View from the Left
I noticed the abandoned hacienda in the red square. Local people say it´s Santa Anna´s Hacienda "Manga de Clavo". The mountains of Xalapa can be seen in the background.
Picnic Area
Picnic Area
Behind the parapets is a small picnic area.
Viewcar
Can these be Bromeliads?
They are all over the place.
Brom
A Closer Look
Many of them were on the ground. The red looked like new growth.
Stairs
Back down the stairs

An Unexpected Encounter
Time to go. The replicas of the soldiers seemed to be looking over my shoulder. It was getting a little creepy since I was the only one there.

Then I heard the noise of some kids laughing and talking, and soon a happy local family appeared coming up the stairs toward me.

They shouted a happy greeting.

It was a man, his wife, two kids, and his mother in law with an umbrella for the sun. They invited me for a Peñafiel refresco which was a good idea.

He told me his name was Fortín and seemed interested in talking so we climbed back to the picnic area to talk while his family explored the fort.

Peñafiel
Peñafiel Refresco
Peñafiel Refresco
Over the refresco He explained that he was from nearby Chichicaxtle, and had spent several years as a sailor in the Mexican Navy.

He´d had a chance to travel to many countries which caused him to reflect on important historic sites right in his own backyard here in Veracruz.

This was Sunday, and he said he wanted to get out of the house with his family and do some exploring.

I guess we talked for about an hour about his experiences in the Navy when he was stationed near Tuxpan.

Then his kids began to get restless and it was time to go. We exchanged email addresses and hope to meet again soon.
Fortin
Fortín
The Next Project
Now, when I read about the battles for Puente del Rey, I can visualize how difficult it was to conquer.

My next project will be to ask around Veracruz about the abandoned hacienda at the bottom of the hill and maybe find out when it was built and by whom.

I could do the research work during the week and come back next Sunday.

The search for the Hacienda of Santa Anna called "Manga de Clavo" continues...