Xalapa, officially Xalapa-Enríquez is the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz and the name of the surrounding municipality.
In the 2005 census the city reported a population of 387,879 and the municipality of which it serves as municipal seat reported a population of 413,136.
The municipality has an area of 118.45 km². Xalapa lies near the geographic center of the state and is the second-largest city in the state after the city of Veracruz to the southeast.
Origin of the Name
The name Xalapa comes from the Nahuatl roots xālli (“sand”) and āpan (“water place”), which approximately means “spring in the sand.”
It is classically pronounced “sha la pan” in Nahuatl, though the final “n” is often omitted; the “sh” sound was written “x” in the 16th century. This does not occur in modern Spanish, and its counterpart is the [x] or [h] sound, normally written j.
The spelling Xalapa (like the word México) reflects the archaic pronunciation. Xalapa is pronounced [xaˈlapa] or [haˈlapa], the latter pronunciation used mostly in dialects of southern Mexico, the Caribbean, much of Central America, some places in South America, and the Canary Islands and western Andalusia in Spain where [x] has become a voiceless glottal fricative ([h]).
The full name of the city is Xalapa-Enríquez, named in honor of 19th-century Governor Juan de la Luz Enríquez. The city’s nickname, La ciudad de las flores (“The City of Flowers”), was bestowed by Alexander von Humboldt, who visited the town on 10 February 1804.
The reference is also related to the city’s earlier colonial history. In folklore, the Spaniards believed that Xalapa was the birthplace and home of the Florecita, which literally means “little flower”.
Residents of Xalapa are called Xalapeños or Jalapeños, which is the name given to the popular long peppers cultivated in this area.
Geo & Climate
Xalapa is situated in eastern-central Mexico, approximately 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Veracruz city. and roughly 350 kilometres from Mexico City. The municipality of Xalapa has an area of 118.45 square kilometres.
The city of Xalapa is located beneath the volcanic peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental, at an elevation that oscillates from 1400 metres to 1700 metres above sea level, and is surrounded in lush tropical vegetation. This mountainous area of Mexico is volcanic, and in the area surrounding the city are places such as the Naolinco volcanic field. Located north of the city, it consists of a broad area of scattered quaternary pyroclastic cones and associated basaltic lava flows.
Situated east, about 50 km (31 mi) away along Mexican Federal Highway 140 is the Cofre de Perote National Park. The park covers an area of 117 km2 (29,000 acres), and consists of mainly forested mountains and hills. Its highest point of Cerro de Macuiltépetl rises 1522 metres above sea level. Other hills of prominence include the Cerro de Acalotépetl and the Cerro Colorado.
From Xalapa you can also see the Pico de Orizaba, the highest peak in Mexico (5,366m or 18,490 feet). It is also the third highest peak in North America.
Hydrographically, there are numerous streams and springs which are in the area around the city. These include the rivers: Sedeño River, Carneros River, Sordo River, Santiago River, Zapotillo River, Castillo River and the Coapexpan River, 3 artificial lakes and the springs Chiltoyac, Ánimas, Xallitic, Techacapan and Tlalnecapan.
Xalapa features a humid subtropical climate that borders on a subtropical highland climate. The climate in Xalapa is semi-humid, but the city is relatively cool being located in the mountains over 1400 metres above sea level.
The climate can be variable, having a maximum temperature of 37.3 °C and a minimum ranging from 0 °C to 10 °C, but on average the temperature does not fluctuate greatly all year round with an average annual temperature of 18 °C.
The warmer season in Xalapa tends to fall between March and reaching a peak in May when the average high reaches 28 °C and low of 17 °C. The cooler season is late December, January and February with an average low of 11 °C and an average high of 22 °C.
The average annual precipitation is 1509.1 mm. During the cooler winter months rainfall is at a minimum, with Xalapa receiving only 42 millimetes in January and 38 millimetres in February on average.
Snow, however, is common in winter outside the city at Perote, located around 35 minutes from Xalapa.
Very early in the morning, Xalapa often has a mist, giving it a characteristic mountain atmosphere.
The greatest rainfall occurs during the summer months, particularly in June, when on average rainfall reaches 328 millimetres, remaining relatively high until mid-September.
History & Timeline
The Totonacs were the first people to establish themselves around the Macuiltepetl, fifth mountain in Nahuatl language (Macuilli: five, fifth; Tepetl: hill, mountain). This mountain, an extinct volcano, received its name after the Aztecs used it as the fifth reference mountain to get to the gulf of Mexico’s shores. Today it is preserved within a park. During the 14th century, four cultures of indigenous peoples settled in the territory today known as Xalapa. Each of them built a small village: Xalitic (in the sand) was founded by the Totonacas; Techacapan (river of waste) was founded by the Chichimecas; in the northeast Tecuanapan (river of the beasts) was founded by the Toltecas, and Tlalnecapan was founded by the Teochichimecas.
Eventually around 1313, the four villages grew and joined, forming one big village which was given the name Xallapan. Moctezuma Ilhuicamina, the fifth Aztec emperor, invaded the territory during the second half of the 15th century. All the land was ruled as part of the Aztec Empire before the arrival and conquest of the Spanish conquistadores.
In 1519 Hernán Cortés passed through Xalapa en route to Tenochtitlan. In 1555 Spanish Franciscans completed construction of a convent, the second-most important event in that time in Nueva España.
When the Spanish arrived, Xalapa was barely populated. The population rose after the conquest and colonial settlement. When the Spanish improved the Mexico-Orizaba-Veracruz route, Xalapa declined in importance as a transport hub, with its population stagnating during the 17th century.
From 1720 Xalapa became increasingly important, due to trade with numerous retailers of the New Spain arriving to sell products and to buy products cultivated and made in the peninsula. At this time numerous resident Spanish families in the near towns settled in Xalapa, so that by 1760 the population had increased to over 1,000 inhabitants, including mestizo and Spanish. The growth of Xalapa in population, culture, commerce and importance, increased dramatically in the 18th century. Responding to residents’ requests, Carlos IV of Spain elevated the status of Xalapa to a town on 18 December 1791.
In 1772, the construction of Xalapa Cathedral began. On 18 May 1784, José María Alfaro lifted the first air balloon in the Americas, in Xalapa. Due to the abundance of flowers growing in the region, Alexander von Humboldt, who visited the town on 10 February 1804, christened the town as the “City of the Flowers”.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, Xalapa was the scene of some important historical events, and it supported the movement for independence from Spain. Ideas greatly flowed in the town, and Xalapa was represented by many who put forward these ideas to those in Mexico City in government meetings. On 20 May 1821, shortly before completing Mexican Independence on 27 September of the same year, Xalapa was attacked by the forces of Don Antonio López de Santa Anna. Together with Don Joaquin Log, he forced Spanish captain Juan Horbregoso to surrender the town. Independence was gained months later; the first emperor Agustín de Iturbide was not warmly received in Xalapa due to past differences.
On 9 May 1824, by decree of the President of the Republic Don Guadalupe Victoria, the First Legislature of the State of Veracruz was established in Xalapa. That same year, Xalapa was declared the state capital.
In the 1820s Xalapa and the surrounding area was subject to a revolt when Vicente Guerrero replaced General Anastasio Bustamante. Veracruz was attacked by Isidro Barradas, who was attempting to reconquer parts of Mexico, and over 3,000 were deployed to defend the cities of Veracruz, Córdoba and Orizaba for military purposes. Anastacio Bustamante, betraying the confidence given to him, revolted against the legitimate government with a new plan of Xalapa, signed on 4 December 1829. The revolt was subdued.
On 29 November 1830 by decree, Xalapa was elevated to the class of city. On 1843, Don Antonio María de Rivera founded the Normal School of Xalapa to train teachers. Today it operates as a preparatory school for students going to college.
During the United States invasion of the Mexican–American War, in 1847 General Don Antonio López de Santa Anna attempted to defeat the opposing forces at a site near Xalapa in the Battle of Cerro Gordo. He led an army of more than 12,000 soldiers. Mexican troops suffered many casualties, around 1,000 were killed and 3,000 wounded on 18 April 1847. The US invaders occupied the city the following day. Among them was Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, later commanding General of the Union armies in the American Civil War. Grant’s letters call Jalapa “decidedly the most beautiful place I ever saw in my life;” its climate “the best in the world.”
Xalapeños such as Ambrosio Alcalde and Antonio García fought bravely to defend the city of Veracruz, but were taken prisoner by the enemy. They were released and paroled, but after rejoining the fighting against the US, they were recaptured near Teocelo. They were taken to Xalapa and sentenced to death, executed on 24 November 1847. Today these two men are remembered as martyrs. An obelisk monument commemorates their sacrifice, standing between San Jose Church and Alcalde Market, which was named after Ambrosio Alcalde. The US forces after marching on to capture Mexico City departed after the Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo.
In November 1862 Xalapa was attacked during the French invasion; the foreigners temporarily took control of the state capital. On 27 November 1867 the corpse of the emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, who had been executed in Querétaro, arrived at Xalapa. It was held in the neighborhood of San Jose and attended to by the priest José María y Daza, before being transferred to Veracruz the following day. The emperor’s remains were shipped back to Austria to be buried.
In 1885 General Juan de la Luz Enríquez increased the power of Xalapa by moving some legislative authority from Orizaba to Xalapa, in accordance with the decree issued in June 1884 by the provisional Governor Jose Manuel Jauregui. General Enríquez together with the Swiss teacher Enrique C. Rébsamen, in 1886 founded the Normal School in Xalapa, the first school of this type in the country.
Enríquez died in 1892, but the construction of Normal School and founding of other schools led to Xalapa becoming known for its centers of learning as the “Athens of Veracruz”.
During the regime of Enríquez, the old convent of San Francisco was demolished, and the area developed as the Parque Juárez. In June 1890 railroad construction brought the first locomotive for the Xalapa-Coatepec-Teocelo railroad to the city. The interoceanic railroad was completed in Veracruz in 1901. The public lighting system was introduced in 1904. In 1906 a clock was installed in the centre of the city on a building on Enríquez Street, which now houses the National Lottery agency.
On 18 May 1911, Francisco I. Madero visited Xalapa. On 21 June of the same year a minor conflict occurred between federal forces and revolutionaries.
On 3 January 1920, a strong earthquake rattled the city, destroying several buildings. Years later in December 1923, Xalapa fell into the power of the huertístas, commanded by Guadalupe Sánchez.
In 1940 the water building and agricultural house were constructed, which today is occupied by the Agrarian League of Communities and Union Farmers of the State. On 11 September 1944 the Universidad de Veracruzana was established, and Dr. Manuel Suárez became the first director. On 4 September 1978 by means of decree number 325, the Local Legislature approved that the official name of the city Xalapa Enríquez should be written with a “X” rather than a “J”, to emphasize its derivation from Nahuatl.
Xalapa is a thriving center for commerce and many multinational companies have large retail stores and franchise restaurants in the city. These include Wal-Mart, Superama, Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Liverpool, Sears, Costco, Office Depot, Office Max, Oxxo, Sanborns, Comercial Mexicana, C&A, Fabricas de Francia, Coppel, Garcia, Milano, Burger King, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Little Caesars, Block Buster, Hugo Boss, Pull and Bear, and Carl’s Jr., Prada, Tous, etc.
Xalapa also has a number of cinemas, some of them of substantial size, such as the Cinepolis Museum (10 screens), Cinepolis the Americas (16 screens), and other cinemas, such as XTreme Cinemas in Crystal and Cinetix in Plaza Animas, which is a local movie theater.
There are also several retail malls in Xalapa: Plaza Crystal, Plaza Museo, Plaza Animas (L.A. Fashion), Plaza Américas, and Plaza los Arcos.
Many people in Xalapa are employed by the government, since it is the state capital. Xalapa is also the head one of the five regional sections of the Tribunal Electoral (a level below the Supreme Court). This area encompasses 7 states: Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán. The other regional seats are Mexico City, Toluca, Monterrey and Guadalajara.
Tourist Attractions & Sightseeing
The Xalapa Cathedral is a mix of Baroque and Neo-Gothic design built in 1773. It has a clock tower, the clock coming from England.
Callejón Diamante (lit. Diamond Alley) is one of the more crowded streets at night because of its Bohemian atmosphere with cafes and an artists’ colony. Callejón Jesús te Ampare is a cobblestone street next to the Church of San José .
Patio Muñoz is a neighborhood built in the 19th century, with most of the original buildings intact. Here are held workshops in Veracruz-style painting, dance and music.
In the Paseo de los Lagos, there used to be an ancient dam. Today it has footpaths surrounded by leafy trees, circling three lakes and a fresh-water spring.
Cultural Centers, Museums, Theaters & Cinema
Xalapa is known as the “Athens of Veracruz” because of the strong cultural influence of its major university, Universidad Veracruzana (the main public university in the State of Veracruz). General Enriquez is known for policies encouraging the educational system in Xalapa.
Culturally, Xalapa has a wide variety of events associated with its theatres, museums, and street art. Many musicians and dancers frequently perform in the center in the nights, especially on special occasions and events of celebration or commemoration; they often dance the fandango.
The Museo Interactivo de Xalapa (Interactive Museum of Xalapa) features a planetarium with an IMAX screen, showing educational documentaries.
The Museo de Antropología de Xalapa houses the largest collection of artifacts from Mexican Gulf Coast cultures such as the Olmec, the Huastec and the Totonac with more than 25,000 pieces. The most notable pieces in the museum are the giant Olmec heads and the smaller Totonac ones. Some of the pieces in the museum date back to the Early Pre-Classic Period from 1300 BC −900 BC.
Nearby is the Hacienda del Lencero Its first owner was Juan Lencero, a soldier of Hernán Cortés. In 1842 it was purchased by Antonio López de Santa Anna for 45,000 pesos. Today, it is a museum which displays furniture and personal belongings dating from the 19th century. It also has a chapel, spacious gardens and a lake surrounding the property which include a sculpture by Gabriela Mistral who spent time there while in exile.
Art has a keen following in Xalapa. The gallery, Pinacoteca Diego Rivera, located near the City Hall and Parque Juárez in downtown, has the most numerous collection of Diego Rivera’s paintings in all of Mexico.
Museo de Antropología de Xalapa
Museo Casa de Xalapa
Museo Interactivo de Xalapa
Museo del Transporte. Carr.
Hacienda del Lencero
Museo del Bombero.
Museo de la fauna.
Casa de las Artesanías
Galería “Ramón Alba de la Canal”
Agora de la Ciudad
Pinacoteca Diego Rivera
Galería de Arte Contemporáneo
Galería del Centro Recreativo Xalapeño
Galeria Marie Louise Ferrari
Jardín de Esculturas
Theatres and auditoriums
Teatro del Estado
Sala de Conciertos de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa (to open in 2010)
Teatro J. J. Herrera
Teatro La Caja
Auditorio de la Escuela
Parks, Zoos & Recreation
Parque Juárez is a park in central Xalapa with a terrace-like appearance. The southern side of the park looks over the valley below, offering scenic views of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in the distance. Parque Juárez was the location of the Monastery of San Francisco. It is located among the four oldest neighborhoods of the city. Its central garden features enormous monkey puzzle trees, art gallerys, an agora, workshops, an auditorium and a café.
The Jardín de Esculturas (Sculpture Garden) is a museum dedicated to sculpture, exhibiting works by nationally and internationally recognized artists.
The Parque de los Tecajetes is in a natural depression or ravine of the same name in the center of the city. Underneath is a fresh-water spring that feeds the aqueducts, artificial pools and canals of the park.
The Jardín Botánico Clavijero (Clavijero Botanical Garden) has an important collection of regional plants with sections dedicated to Mexican ornamental flowers, reconstructed mountain environments in Xalapa, ferns and the most extensive variety of pines in Mexico.
Parks and gardens
Jardín Botánico de Xalapa
Parque Los Berros
Parque Ecológico “Cerro del Macuiltépec”
Paseo de Los Lagos
Parque Ecológico “El Haya”
Jardines de la Universidad Veracruzana
Parque “Tejar Garnica”
Jardín de las Esculturas
Parque Ecológico de Los Tecajetes
Parque María Enriqueta
Gastronomy & Cuisine
Xalapa is the place of origin of the famous Jalapeño peppers.
Dishes made with maize: gorditas, tostadas, pasties, enfrijoladas, and chicken are common.
The desserts that are consumed in the region are typically sweet such as cake and cocodas and craft candies like candied fruit, dulce de leche and jamoncillo.
Traditions, Holidays & Festivals
Feast day of San José, Feast of Santiago Apostle, Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Jesus, Conception of Maria, and Expo-Fair International are all celebrated in the city.
An important religious holiday is on 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating Mary the Mother of God patroness of the city.
On 24 October San Rafael Guizar and Valencia are celebrated, with thousands of people from all over Mexico visiting their tomb that is in a chapel within the cathedral. The cathedral remains open all night and day during this event.
How to get there & Transportation
The city is connected by the 140-D Highway with the cities of Veracruz, Puebla and Mexico City. Also the 140 Road provides a link between those cities.
The city has a central bus station (CAXA) which is a nodal point for many bus companies operating in the area, including AU, ADO, ADO-GL, OCC, Auto-Tour and Buses Sierra-Texcoco.
Several bus companies are based in Xalapa including Servicio Urbano de Xalapa (SUX); Auto-Transportes Banderilla (ATB); the yellow and green sets of Interbus, Auto-Transportes Miradores Del Mar; and Transportes Rápidos de Veracruz (TRV) amongst many others.
There is also a bus service which exclusively takes passengers back and forth from Xalapa to Coatepec. These buses operate all over the city, with a cost per person ranging from 6.00 to 8.00 Mexican pesos; discount is offered to the elderly and to students who normally pay 5.00 Mexican pesos within the urban area. There are over 100 bus routes in the city.
The taxis that operate in Xalapa are easily recognisable by their white and red paintwork. The most abundant taxis are of the Nissan Tsuru model. Typically, taxi drivers do not charge based on taximeter.
The city of Xalapa is served by a small airport, El Lencero Airport, located 15 minutes by road from the city. The only commercial airline that serves the city is Aeromar with non-stop flights to and from Mexico City.
Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers
You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.
Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.
You can also request information to the email firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:
General Information: 040 (not free)
National Emergency Service: 911
Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089
Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074
Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700