Ciriaco Vázquez Park
... An Unexpected Letter

Photos and Text by John Todd, Jr.

An Unexpected Letter Arrives
It started when I received this letter from Rafael Vázquez who lives in Guadalajara:

My name is Rafael Vázquez and my family is related to General Ciriaco Vázquez.

For many years my family has been searching for the rest of the family that we do not know. I was very impressed with your article and all the information you have from the family.

Please help me contact my unknown family from Puebla.

Rafael Vázquez M.

>Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
"El Parque Ciriaco Vázquez"
A Park with Many Names
A couple of blocks north of Calle Independencia in the middle of downtown Veracruz is Ciriaco Vázquez Park with the Francisco Clavijero Elementary School in the middle.

On the north side it is called "El Parque Hidalgo", and there are other busts and statues dedicated to people who lived after the Mexican Revolution.

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The School Opened in 1887
A Closer Look
The wall surrounding Veracruz was ordered demolished by Domingo Bureau on July 14, 1880.

The land where the 7 baluartes, or small sentry points and block houses had been located, he ordered this land to be used for public works such as schools.

The construction of this school was personally supervised by Bureau and was finished in 1887.
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Nicolas Bravo Monument
Ciriaco Vazquez Park
This is Gen. Ciriaco Vázquez park, named after the governor of Veracruz 1832-1834 when Santa Anna was President of Mexico.

They were old comrades in arms from their days when they both were Spanish soldiers.

Domingo Bureau´s mother Francisca, was Don Ciriaco´s sister.

In the church records at the Iglesia de la Asunción in downtown Veracruz, Don Ciriaco is listed as godfather of Domingo Bureau at his baptism in 1834.

General Ciriaco Vázquez fought bravely at the Battle of Cerro Gordo against the US Army in the Mexican American War where he was killed in action.

For some reason, the main statue in front of the school is dedicated to Gen. Nicolas Bravo with the message "La Colonia Española".
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Nicolas Bravo Monument
The Sound of a Danzón in the Distance
As I walked around the plaza, I could hear a "Danzón" playing from a distant radio, and kind of walked in tune with the slow tropical waltz music from the 1890´s, still popular in Veracruz.

The Empty Plaza
The empty plaza began to take on a new life as I began to imagine what it must have looked like back in those days.

A man with a handlebar mustache, on a tall bicycle, gently touching the brim of a black derby hat to a group of ladies with parasols and wide skirts in the shade of a wide leafed almond tree in the park.

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Monument to Don Ciriaco Vázquez
A Forgotten Monument
Off to one side of the park is a bust of Ciriaco Vázquez contracted by the famous Parisian bronze sculptor J. Graux.

Today J. Graux´s bronze objects of art are priceless antiques. I am still looking for works by Dumilatre.

Although it´s not very artistic, it is painted with rustoleum for protection from the corrosive salt atmosphere of Veracruz.
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Unknown Legend on Base
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
"J. Graux Bronzes"

Later Correspondence with Rafael Vázquez
In later correspondence Rafael confirmed that Don Ciriaco had another brother José Dimas and one sister Francisca. Rafael comes from the family of José Dimas.

José Dimas, Brother of Don Ciriaco Vázquez
According to stories from his family, in those days José Dimas worked for customs or with a shipping agency in Veracruz.

One of his sons, Luis Pedro later became a Colonel in the Mexican Army. Rafael wrote me in another letter:

Luis Pedro Vazquez
Gen. Luis Pedro Vázquez
A Story of Three Generations
In 1867, Coronel Luis Pedro Vazquez, participated very young in the war against France when Maximiliano invaded Mexico. He also fought in the "Guerras de Castas" in Yucatan, when the Mayan Indians were fighting for their independence from Mexico.

He also fought in the in the Revolution of 1910.

Luis Pedro Vazquez married my grand mother (Julia Romellón Barranco) in Ciudad del Carmen, and they established their home in the city of Veracruz, just in front of the Parque Ciriaco Vazquez.

My father, Pedro Rafael Vazquez Romellón, studied at the school across the street (locally known as, the "Escuela Cantonal").

They had a good life because his father was in the army of Don Porfirio Diaz, who became President. My grandfather was at the moment "Teniente Coronel".
Luis Pedro Vazquez
Gen. Luis Pedro Vázquez
Finally at the end of the Revolution, my grand father was called to Mexico City, and was offered the position of Director of the Military Academy in Mexico City, when it was at Chapultepec Castle.

He refused the job saying that he would never teach his military knowledge to the “roba vacas” (as the Porfirianos called the Revolutionaries). As a result of that considered insult the President (Venustiano Carranza, I think) gave an order from Mexico City and all the properties from the family where taken.

His Final Years in Poverty
After more of 50 years of service Luis Pedro lost his job in the army. He got no pension and died very poor in Veracruz.

Luis Pedro Vazquez
El Capi
Rafael´s Father
My father was the only one of his brothers who could study at the university level, and attended the Escuela Nautica de Veracruz "Fernando Siliceo". He worked as a photographer´s assistant at the Dictamen Newspaper to help pay for his career.

My father was able to study because of the help he got from some of the great men of the time in Veracruz, (Sres Malpica, Don Fernando Siliceo, Maestro Benito Fentanes, among others), that helped him. They knew the family, and the reasons why they were suddenly in such poverty.

When he finished his Nautical School, my father worked for the Aguila Oil Company (today British Petroleum) as a Merchant Marine Officer. The company 1938 became PEMEX and he navigated Mexican Tankers during the Second World War as a 1st Officer in the Tanker "Tampico".

Eight Mexican Tankers sank because of the German torpedoes in the Gulf of Mexico in their effort to carry the Mexican Petroleum to the American East Coast, petroleum that was needed for the planned D Day, and later Recovery of Europe. After the war my father was sent to navigate the Mexican Pacific.

When I was born in 1963 he retired from PEMEX after 32 years of service in Mazatlan. He continued to work for another 35 years at the Escuela Nautica in Mazatlan, first as a professor, and later as the Career Director. He retired at 90 years old, and he finally died al 94 in 2003.

When I wrote to ask if Rafael had ever been to Veracruz, he replied:

Yes, I have been to Veracruz. The last time was in December of 1992, when we had a family reunion, and a lot of the family got together. I had a chance to walk the city with my father explaining how it was in his time (the times of the Revolution).

When we went to Ciriaco Vazquez Park, he explained everything. He showed us the house where they lived and also where he was born. Later, we went to the Panteon Particular to visit the tomb of the old members of the family.

Fortunately I have filmed in video all the trip and as you can imagine for us it is a treasure.

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
In Front of the School
Carried Away
Sometimes I get a little carried away and invade people´s privacy, but my curiosity was up.

I wondered if the house where Colonel Luis Pedro Vazquez grew up was still there.

Late on a Saturday afternoon, when there aren´t many people in the downtown area I went back to the park and took some pictures around the park, and sent them to Rafael to see if he had remembered anything.

This is the letter I received:
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Under the Watchful Eye
of Gen. Nicolas Bravo
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
In Front of the School

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
In Front of the School

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
In Front of the School
Muchas gracias por las fotos. No sabes qué gratos recuerdos vinieron a mi mente cuando ví la casa de mi abuelos.

La casa es la que está al lado izquierdo de la casa de color verde, es la que parece abandonada de dos pisos y que tiene unos letreros de que esta en venta.

Esa casa representa mucho para mi pues es la casa es donde nació mi padre y donde vivió su infancia. Aunque el gusto les duró muy poco pues como te conté a la muerte de su padre tuvieron que emigrar a Ciudad del Carmen y años despues regresaron a Veracruz, pero en condiciones de mucha pobreza.

En Mexico Los Niños Heroes son de los más famosos heroes del país y nadie sabe que Ciriaco murió tratando de que ese mismo ejercito no llegara a la ciudad de Mexico en 1847.

Muchas gracias y saludos,

Rafael Vázquez

Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
Callejon Holtzinger
A Closer Look
Old abandoned houses are fascinating, especially in very old cities like Veracruz. Nobody seems to pay much attention to them. So, I went in for a closer look to see if it was really abandoned.

My attention turned to the south side of the park, in front of the school. The front door was probably located on the south to be sheltered from "nortes", as well as to face the downtown area and la Calle Independencia and the plaza some 3 blocks away.

Next to the house is a little "Callejón" that is partially restored to what is must have originally looked like in the 19th Century. It is a peaceful little street.

This house was still inside the old wall that protected Veracruz, in front of Fort San Juan. The wall was ordered demolished by Don Domingo Bureau in 1880.
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The Colonel Luis Pedro Vazquez House
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The Colonel Luis Pedro Vazquez House
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The Colonel Luis Pedro Vazquez House
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
The Colonel Luis Pedro Vazquez House
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
A TV Antenna
Signs of Life
I looked around for signs of life.

Unlike most of the abandoned houses in the area, I noticed the door was half open. I had to take a look inside, but there was nothing but a dark hallway. It would be awkward to walk into someone´s living room so I backed away.

It looked like someone was living there. Above my head on a balcony was a TV antenna, and next to the "For Sale" sign was a light meter. Someone was still living in the house.

Perhaps this will be the last renter until this house is also finally demolished. The City of Veracruz has been trying to restore at least the facades of some of these old buildings, but the task appears to be too much for their resources.

It also looks like the real estate company that was trying to sell the house doesn´t exist any more either. I tried the internet address and got no response.

Perhaps one day I will go back and look for the person who lives there and ask for a tour.
Parque Ciriaco Vasquez
La Prueba Cigar Factory
"In the hand of a connoisseur smoker"
Unfinished Projects
I want to go to Cerro Gordo to see if there is a monument or a cemetery to the soldiers who died there. It´s only about an hour from here on the way to Xalapa.

Somehow, this feels like an unfinished project because I have uncovered some additional information about a large abandoned building on the west side of the Park.

It once housed "La Prueba Hermanos" cigar factory. They exported fine quality cigars from Veracruz all over the world.

"In the hand of a connoisseur smoker", was their motto.

It once had 300 employees in an elegant factory and had 500 hectares of land in Valle Nacional, Oaxaca, and another plant in Puebla.

During the year when the weather became too hot in Veracruz they moved the operation to Puebla.

More about this later along with some of their operation and elegant advertising of the day...

Una carta inesperada de la Escuela Francisco Javier Clavijero

Apreciable Sr. John Todd, Jr.

Le agradecemos sus comentarios con respecto la monografia de la escuela "Francisco Javier Clavijero" tambien conocida como "Cantonal", le comento que el nombre de la escuela oficialmente cambio, antes "Fco. Javier Clavijero" y ahora "Francisco Javier Clavijero" sin abreviaciones, si en algun momento encuentra informacion nueva o que pueda corregir en la actual monografia le agradeceremos su valiosa aportacion a esta para tener una de las pocas monografias e informacion de dicho recinto o institucion, es grato saber de gente que se interese por estos temas, seria grato para nosotros que pudiera uds. incluir en caracter educativo en su pagina en internet en la seccion que corresponde al "Parque Ciriaco Vazquez" cuando hace uds. la mencion a esta escuela poder agregar la direccion de internet de esta misma como difusion y conocimiento del valor historico que esta representa, de antemano reciba uds. un cordial y afectuoso saludo.

An Unexpected Letter from the Francisco Javier Clavijero School

Dear Mr. John Todd, Jr.

We appreciate your comments with respect to the the Monograph of "Francisco Javier Clavijero" School also known as the "Cantonal", I comment that the official name changed from "Fco. Javier Clavijero" and is now called "Francisco Javier Clavijero", if at any time you find any new information or can add any corrections to the present monograph we will appreciate your valuable contribution about our area or institution, it is good to know that others are interested in these subjects and we would appreciate if you could include anything of educational nature on your internet page that corresponds to the "Ciriaco Vazquez Park". When you mention the scho you can add our internet address as a way to let people know more about the historic value that this represents, beforehand please recieve a cordial and affectionate greeting.

Hidden Stories from the Streets of Downtown Veracruz
Even today when I walk the streets of the old downtown area of Veracruz, I still look for people who might remember some of the many stories of the past about the abandoned buildings which may soon be demolished.

Often these stories come from many other countries in the world, and the people of Veracruz are the custodians of this vast open air museum and are doing the best they can with the limited resources at their disposal.

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