In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
We got up about 6 a.m. to
get ready to leave Merida
and head on in to Campeche, a Maya, pirate, buccaneer and slave trade center in
centuries past. And what an intriguing past this fine city has had!
Campeche, a strategic and wealthy
Conquered in 1540 by the Spanish, Campeche
quickly became a flourishing port. The Spanish discovered a dye in logwood, which grew in the
forests near Campeche. This dye was considered a rare commodity and was highly
prized in Europe and brought high prices on the European market.
When news spread that this dye was available in Campeche,
it attracted the attention of others seeking to capitalize on this rich export.
In time a ruthless group of Caribbean pirates and thieves sought to profit from
this valuable commodity by controlling the market for the dye. As a result, the
city was attacked and looted on many occasions from 1597 to 1685.
Salon Rincon Colonial
First came the Spanish who
conquered the Maya, then ships arrived from all parts of the world
Bars sprung up along the pier to
accommodate the sailors. These make-shift bars could only afford
copper spoons to stir their drinks, but these copper spoons left an
unpleasant taste. Eventually, a creative bartender took a palm
branch from a tree and began using this to stir his libations and
left it in for decoration. Without the odd taste and with such a
flamboyant display, his pleased English sailors asked the name of of the drink.
The Spanish bartender thought the drink with its ostentatious "tail"
looked like a rooster and replied "cola de gallo."
Translated into English it meant "rooster tail" or "cock's tail."
And so the cocktail was invented...
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Above is an older colonial style
bar still alive in these modern times where scenes from the movie Original Sin
staring Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie were filmed in 2001.
We had a beer, soaked in the
ambiance and later went out and rented the movie!
Pirates pillaged, plundered and
set fire to Campeche for decades
Because of its isolation and
wealth, the port city of Campeche became a prime target for pirates and they
came from various countries like France,
Holland and England. Over the years, Campeche
was set on fire many times and its inhabitants were massacred.
Finally, the crown of Spain had
to do something to protect its interest in the New World, so in
January, 1663, the cornerstone of a new walled city was laid. The
complex system of walls, barricades and secret passages was finally
finished decades later.
A section of the ramparts extended into the sea so
that ships had to sail into a guarded fortress to dock.
Cannons from inside the walled
city are now used as historical adornment to the walking path
Cannons could now be easily moved to any side of the
city as well as men and ammunitions.
Campeche became one of the best fortified
ports in the whole Spanish colony.
Notice the apparatus the cannons
sit upon to wheel them about.
A better view of the malecon or
Campeche was the Caribbean town
most affected by seafaring robbers, and it was attacked by pirates
15 times. In 1865 the town was taken over by pirates for several
months and there was merciless destruction and pillaging.
The only pirate to enter the city
once the fortifications were completed was Barbillas. He kidnapped
the new governor of the province at high seas and forced him to pay
a ransom which was negotiated with the City Hall. The pirate was
able to enter and leave Campeche on the governor's word of honor to
collect the ransom money and bring it back to his ship.
It must have been a very tense
Akaisha fraternizing with the
enemy. Shiver me timbers!
Pirates from many countries made
their presence known in Campeche.
The famous gentleman pirate, Jean
Lafitte, hung around these parts, but he hated being called a
pirate. The way he saw it, he was a "privateer," a man of business.
He was an
and astute diplomat, and gathered bloodied seafarers, rovers and
fishermen turning them into an organization of buccaneers,
smugglers and wholesalers.
he had a crew of a thousand men and kept a constant cargo of
black-marketed and very necessary provisions (including slaves) buying and selling from
Louisiana all through the Gulf of Mexico. He was seductive and
deceptive but always elegantly gracious and he spoke four languages
- French, Italian, Spanish and English. He considered himself a
Patriot to the developing nation of the United States.
Billy ringing the bell at
one of the watch towers
These days you can take a
walking tour of the parts of the fortified wall that still stand. Most certainly
you get the feel of the times of the pirates and the city's needed protection.
Slavery was not invented by
the Spanish nor the English, but the trade flourished for centuries. In the
early 1800s it was an accepted custom and men who worked the trade saw
themselves as providers of a necessary way of life. Some of Jean Lafitte's
customers were clergy who bought slaves to work the monastery grounds in
Louisiana and the vegetable gardens next to the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans.
The slave trade was very
active in areas such as Cuba, the southern parts of what is now the United
States and parts of Mexico like the Yucatan.
A fresh water well inside the
You can visit the soldiers'
sleeping quarters, and see some of the weaponry they used. Building this wall around the city of Campeche
was a massive project that took decades and the city was not safe until it was
the fort are located secret passages which once linked various parts of
the city, and provided a means of escape when the fort was being attacked. Some
of these secret passageways are said to date back to Mayan times who were at war
with each other for generations.
On top of the wall
Soldiers stood guard at the
top of the wall which protected the city. The fort confronted approaching
enemies on the vulnerable sides of the city with their cannons.
You can get some great
views of the city from this height. Below is a museum with pictures, letters,
guns and ammunition of the period.
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Much of the original wall
Of the eight bastions seven are in
their original state and one has been restored. Large segments of Campeche's
famous wall have survived as well.
Towers were placed at the
corners of the wall and sometimes latrines were placed in them. They would drain
into the moat below. The walls had vertical openings that afforded greater
security to the guards who were defending the city.
All around the city, the
wall is an integral part of the landscape
The wall was over 10 feet
thick and ran in a hexagon shape around the city. Here you can see the ancient
You can look straight to
the sea through this door.
The Puerta del Mar used to allow ships access straight
from the sea into the fortified city. The original gate was demolished in 1893
but was rebuilt in 1957.
Today, roads and city
traffic go around the bastions
View of the Main Plaza from
atop the soldier's walk
While remodeling the
central plaza in Campeche, a construction crew stumbled on the ruins of an old
church and its burial grounds. Researchers who were called in discovered the
skeletal remains of at least 180 people. Four of these remains were considered
to be people born in Africa and transported here in the mid 1500's. Their teeth were
filed and chipped to sharp edges in a decorative practice like that used in
Because other evidence
indicated that the cemetery was in use starting around 1550, the archaeologists
believe they have found the earliest remains of African slaves brought to the
Historians said that
colonial Campeche was an important Spanish gateway to the Americas and would
have had substantial traffic in slaves. Within a few years of the first voyage
of Columbus in 1492, Africans were shipped to the Caribbean and then the
African slaves were first
introduced in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
One of the lookout towers
on the wall
Soldiers were on the look
out for pirates and other threats out to sea and would sound the alarm bell if
something proved threatening.
Old rusty cannons and
cannon balls of differing sizes
Cannons were wheeled in
where needed and shot towards the invading enemies. These cannon balls would rip
through a ship causing it to sink.
Walking down into darkness
We visited one of the
original dungeons used during this period of history and let me describe it to
you. Not only was it tiny, there was only a small 18 inch hole in the
ceiling to allow light into the cell. In fact it was so dark that going down the
steps was downright creepy and we couldn't see where we were going. We used our
cell phones (useless) for light and then used the flash on our camera so we
could see that we wouldn't fall through a hole or about to trip on an uneven
Our camera flash let us see
where we were going
These wooden steps were
rebuilt over the stone steps which were worn and broken in places. Without the
camera flash we couldn't see them at all!
In the high security prison there was no
running water, no room to maneuver (I've seen dog runs that were bigger),
it was stifling in the tropical heat, the inside walls of the room were
damp and the place had little to no light. It must have been a desolate, lonely,
depressing place filled with hopelessness and death. When the prisoners relieved
themselves, where did it go? How did they eat, and where? How did they sleep?
With the stench that had to have been there, how did they breathe?
The desperation and
suffering in this place reminded me of the
Another look at a
within the hexagonal walls of Campeche's fort were the families of the wealthy
Spaniards and Creoles as well as religious and political authorities. The
neighborhoods located around the walls, such as Santa Ana, were inhabited by Indians,
black slaves, mestizos and mulattos.
Walking tour map
If you'd like to walk
around Campeche to see the historical sites and the colonial architecture the
above map shows you a simple tour which will take you around the wall, through
the market and up to the sea. While you can pick it up anywhere, it begins at
the Main Plaza. If you would like a guide, day and night tours are offered and
can be arranged at the Ramada Inn.
All of this land has been
filled in since the days of the pirates
The Campeche coast was of
very low draft and depth which meant that during low tide, a large extension of
the coast was left exposed. During the 1950's a costal avenue was built and the
city began to fill in and subdivide the lands.
In the olden days, the seas
used to reach the base of the fort.
Due to the shallowness of
the waters off the coast, ships that arrived in Campeche had to cast anchor at a
considerable distance and the merchandise on board had to be moved to the dock
on small, flat craft known as cayucos. The dock began at the Sea Gate,
the city's main entrance from the coast, and beside it was the customs house
where products for businesses run by the people of Campeche were inspected.
Another gate into the City
The streets of Campeche are
straight as an arrow. When the wind blows, there is nothing to stop it. Hold
onto your hat!
Notice how thick the wall
As hostilities with the pirates waned and the industrial revolution came
into being, the walls fortifying Campeche were dismantled and used as cobblestones to pave the roads.
Cathedral de la Inmaculada
It took two centuries to
complete the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It is one of the oldest
churches on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Across the street from the
church (and to the left of this photo) is a fully-furnished replica of a typical
colonial style house, complete with a cozy kitchen. Campeche grew to become a
city of great mansions with high ceilings, iron balconies and huge interior
arches. Some offer tours to the public. Campeche a became UNESCO World
Heritage site in 1999.
Simple, but elegant
Here's a peek inside.
Looking from the Main Plaza
to an arched historical building
Plazas are great places to
hang out during the day, and in the evenings, the government provides free
concerts. Street vendors line up to sell their delicious meals for very
Delicious street food
Campeche offers an
abundance of food styles from the influences of Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Since fishing is world class in this area, you can find seafood readily
Grazing for our dinner this
night at the local street food stalls was great fun. These tamales were wrapped
in banana leaves and cost 9 Pesos each, about 75cents. There were many other
choices like layered corn tortillas with ham and chicken covered in tomato sauce
and it looked like lasagna in a pan.
There are hundreds of types
of avocados and the tropics give you your choice. These are firm flesh and
Sharing a fresh juice
Fruit is everywhere in this
area of the world, and fresh juices are easy to find for a pittance. They cost
less than a soda and are far healthier.
Suckling pig is a real
treat and these "Trancas" are indescribably delicious. For a little over a
dollar you can experience this local delicacy.
Fresh! Tasty pastry
Take a look at this
fresh pineapple upside down cake! No canned pineapple needed here!
At night the town lights
Old Campeche was founded around the third century. It used to be
the principal town of the Mayan districts and it was named after a Maya ruler, Ah
Kin Pech. At the time of the arrival of the Spanish, Maya were fighting Maya
which only made it easier for the Spanish to conquer their war-weary tribes.
the way of the Spanish, they set about "converting" the Maya to Christianity and
all traces of Mayan religious
beliefs were systematically wiped out and practicing the Mayan faith was
punishable by death.
The Cathedral at night
Walking around the central
historical section of Campeche will give you the feel of the Spanish days with
the wrought iron fencing and colonial architecture. You can easily imagine the
horse drawn carriages and the ladies in their long dresses crossing the street.
The climate in Campeche is
hot and humid. Any chance to be out of doors and catch a breeze is taken and
many of the old buildings have interior gardens.
Brightly colored, Caribbean
The town is immaculate and
walking around is a pleasure.
High sidewalks run through
Sidewalks this high were
built for a reason. When it rains it pours and mini rivers are created as the
runoff goes to the sea. Years ago before the land was filled in by the Sea Gate,
the sea would reach into the town during storms and high tides.
Old restored Colonial
More than 1600 facades of
historical buildings have been repainted to the original look which brings class
and beauty to the town. The neighborhoods have color and there are flowers and
gardens in lots of locations. We noticed no graffiti which made the town look
charming and Old World.
Billy takes in the Old
The historic center of Campeche
is full of beautiful colors and pleasing architecture. Everyone used this
area for fairs, markets, parties and ceremonies whether it was the local people of the community
or the town's Spanish royalty and political authorities.
Standing next to a Maya
Not everything is under
glass or behind ropes, unavailable to the public. The Maya were here before the
Spanish and their culture is still seen in the stone work and masks that have
abound and serve seafood and traditional foods in avant-garde ways.
A more traditional style of
Eating out is a pastime in
Campeche. So many restaurants to choose from, and many styles of cuisine. Plan
to spend a few days here in this charming, amiable city. Visit the museums, eat
out in the many restaurants, and take a walk around the town.
The town outside the
Wide, clean streets, city
fountains and modern day transport is available.
A roving sandwich shop
Trucks such as these roam
around the city looking for business or park in a specific customer-proven spot.
You can get local style sandwiches, stuffed burritos and fresh fruit juices for
Beautiful seaside malecon
This 3 mile long malecon
follows the Mexico Gulf Coast and is ideal for walking, running, biking or sight
seeing. The city did a great job in constructing this walkway and it showcases
the city from various angles. The boardwalk is lined with palm trees, gardens
and monuments and people come out to watch the sunset over the sea and enjoy the
tranquility of the Gulf.
Today, Campeche holds the
main shrimp and fishing port of the state and has the second most productive oil
field in the world in the Bay of Campeche. Today you will find hotel chains,
shopping malls and fast food restaurants. If you would like to visit, there is
an international airport here with daily flights to and from Houston, Texas.
The Maya, the Spanish,
pirates and buccanneers, the slave trade, world famous international port with a
painful and colorful history. Campeche is worth a visit to soak it all in.
For more stories about
places of interest in Mexico,
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.