Retirement; like your parents, but way cooler
In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
The San Juan de Ulúa Fort
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
We had heard about this
renowned historical fort which can be seen from the
Veracruz port malecon.
Declared a National
Historic Monument in 1962, this fort played major roles in both the beginning
and closing stages of Spanish rule in Mexico.
Only a 100Peso taxi ride
hotel, we looked forward to seeing this ancient fortification built by
Hernan Cortez to deter pirate attacks in the 1500s.
Part of the sea coral wall of this
For nearly 350 years, this
fortress served as the primary military stronghold of the Spanish Empire in the
This place was once
considered the most secure and technologically advanced in the New World,
serving as both a port of entry for Christian missionaries and a critical piece
of the Spanish West Indies defense system.
The Spanish utilized the
sea coral and slave labor to make the walls of this fortress which was also at
one point a palace and a prison.
Inside the fortress looking out
Veracruz city has celebrated over 500 years
of existence and this fort is in remarkable condition.
In this photo, you are in the central part of
the fort, looking across the main plaza out onto the modern
international shipping port of the city.
Cobblestone hallways and arches
This fortress has been
bombarded many times by the French, by pirates, and once the Americans laid
siege here during the Mexican-American War.
For much of the nineteenth
century, the fort served as a prison, especially for political prisoners. Many
prominent Mexican politicians such as Benito Juarez and Venustiano Carranza
spent time here also in the Presidential Palace.
Plaza de Armas
Notice in the far left
center of the photo is part of the Presidential Palace. We were not able to go
inside on this visit since it is still being renovated after falling into great
During the 19th and 20th
centuries, this building served as Mexico’s Presidential Headquarters.
Centuries ago, a privateer
fleet from England under the command of John Hawkins and his cousin, Francis
Drake, took refuge in the fortress's harbor for repairs and trade. But they were
set up by the Spanish who violated the temporary treaty and destroyed most of
the fleet, with only two ships escaping.
Because the two ships that
were left had few supplies and could not physically hold all the remaining
sailors, these sailors were put out to shore to fend for themselves. Some
eventually settled among the locals and integrated into the Mexican populace at
large. Others were recalled by the Spanish during the time of the Inquisition,
called heretics and were tortured, killed or sent to the dungeons for a decade -
if they lasted that long.
We saw the prisons here and
they were dark, with little moving air, damp due to the high humidity, and rock
hard. Of course, there were no sanitary facilities and with people crowded
inside… it must have been hell.
With the lack of light and
fresh air many prisoners simply became sick and withered away.
We have seen
this all over the world and they are all in the same vein of cruelty.
A look at the
international trading port of Veracruz
Due to the expansion of the
navigational canal, its settling and the wake turbulence from passing tankers,
this action caused severe cracks in the foundation of the fortress and weakened
The bulwarks and ramparts
facing the channel were threatened with collapse, and the loss of the protective
lime covering accelerated the deterioration of the exposed coral stone walls.
In 2005, a 300-meter-long
protective steel wall along the undermined foundation of the bay side walls was
Various hallways and arches
Inside the fortress it was cool due to the
In some ways they were set up like a
labyrinth going here and there, and around again. Some led to large open spaces
and others to tiny rooms.
Hallway to the outside moat
As you see here, this skinny hallway leads
out to the moat around the fort.
Map of the fortress
Here is a map of the fortress.
If you look in the center right, there is a
long arrow pointing to a vertical structure.
This is the Governor's Palace section of the
fort, right next to the Plaza del Armas, or Main Plaza.
Looking toward the Main Plaza
This is a shot from the area of the
Governor's Palace looking toward the Plaza de Armas.
Billy and Akaisha
Yours truly in front of one of the ancient
Looking towards the modern seaport
You can see how secure and bulwarked this
fortress is. It is considered to be the Mexican version of our Alcatraz prison.
Four Mexican Presidents were in this jail,
which, if you were to see the cells, it would give you the shivers.
The citadel was also
used as a prison, especially during the early 20th-century regime of President
A panoramic view of Veracruz Port
This photo gives you a good idea of what
things look like today from the standing of the fortress.
Stalactite drippings from the ceiling
I'm not sure how many more renovations will
be done to this fortress. But even in this condition, the San Juan de Ulua is
During the time we were in Veracruz, tourist
hours to visit the fortress had been cut back, and on our first trip there, it
was closed and we were sent away.
Curiously, we checked their website and even
phoned them before we had left our hotel. Both the website and the person on the
phone said the attraction was open ... except it wasn't.
And as of this writing, the website is down,
so I would simply suggest trying when you arrive in Veracruz, and go with the
You can take a taxi from
anywhere in town to arrive at San Juan de Ulua and I understand that there are
boats from the malecon by the harbor which will also take you there.
With our INAPAM cards, we
received free entrance.
Would we recommend going to
For more stories and photos
about Veracruz, Mexico,
For more stories and photos about 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.
Retire Early Lifestyle Blog
About Billy & Akaisha