7 junio, 2024

Meaning of Veracruz

The word veracruz literally means the “true cross” or “holy cross”. It comes from the Christian tradition, and was the name given to the territory founded by the conquistador Hernán Cortés on April 22, 1519. That day was Good Friday, also called «Vera Cruz Day,» so Cortés named this territory Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz.

Originally, Veracruz was built on a beach of hot, low and sterile sand, located about 15 meters above sea level, along the Gulf of Mexico.

Due to its low height it was constantly threatened by possible floods. In addition, it lacked fresh water and presented other unsanitary conditions. For this reason, it was relocated twice. Its current location dates from 1599, being designated as a city in 1615.

Christian origin of the word Veracruz

The Vera Cruz, or “true cross”, is considered the holiest of Christian relics. The story goes that it was discovered by Empress Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, who was the wife of Emperor Constantius I and mother of Constantine the Great. The discovery of what is supposed to be the cross where Jesus was crucified, was made in the fourth century AD.

The Empress, now Saint Helena, is venerated by Catholics and Christians. She converted to Christianity around AD 312, and discovered the True Cross when she left for the Holy Land.

She was sent there by her son Constantine, who had heard from a Jerusalem bishop that the material remains of the crucifixion were buried somewhere in the city.

By then, Jerusalem had been razed and rebuilt twice. However, the search began near Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. On September 14, in an excavation that was being supervised by Elena, three crosses and three nails were found.

These were hidden in an old cistern and are supposed to correspond to Christ and the two thieves who accompanied him. This event is known as invention from the cross. This phrase refers to the discovery (from the Latin invented) of these remains.

Hernán Cortés and the word Veracruz

Cortés and his expeditionaries had arrived in San Juan de Ullúa on April 21, 1519. He had come from a long journey from Cuba, through Yucatán and Tabasco.

This expedition was supposed to be the third and last. Shortly after, they received the visit of numerous indigenous people in their boats, who brought with them very valuable presents from Moctezuma. These riches tempted the crew and Cortés himself.

The landing on the sandbanks of Veracruz took place on Good Friday, April 22, 1519.

The peninsular realized that he had a great chance of conquering the place when he saw the division between the indigenous peoples and the obvious enmity between the oppressors and the oppressed.

In the same way, he realized that he could lose command of the expedition. Therefore, he decided to found Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. Over time, he coined the word Veracruz.


The conquest of Mexico. On the trail of Hernán Cortés (2014). Retrieved from economist.com.
Flores Rangel, JJ (2010). History of Mexico I. Cengage Learning Publishers.

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