This article is from the May 1999 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Xalapa de mis sueños, Jalapa of my dreams

by  Roy B. Dudley

Roy B. Dudley, originally from Boulder, CO,  lives in Xalapa, Veracruz, and is a photographer/videographer at Studio ROY.

After living in this beautiful city for the last 26 years, Xalapa (hah-lah-pah, like the famous jalapeño chiles) is truly the place of my dreams. Nestled in lush coffee-growing hills, with a micro climate averaging 68° F year-round, capital of the Gulf of Mexico state of Veracruz, Xalapa is also known as the “Athens of Veracruz” because of its strong cultural influences of three major universities, a multitude of preparatory and technical schools and institutes, art galleries, folklore groups, outstanding anthropology and science museums, and the world renowned Xalapa Symphony Orchestra.

The area surrounding Xalapa also has many interesting villages to visit, like Coatepec and Xico (lots of coffee and this is where the movie “Romancing the Stone” was shot), Naolinco with its famous “standing river”(a waterfall!), west to Las Vigas in the pine covered mountains with delicious jamón serrano (smoked ham) and beautiful vistas, or east toward Carrizal with its thermal baths and rafting, as well as dozens of other small towns with unique attractions that would take a thick book to tell about.

Fortunately, I live right in downtown Xalapa. Even though the traffic is often annoying in this active colonial city of over 600,000 inhabitants, I rarely use a car since the taxis cost only around a dollar! There is little reason to hassle finding a parking place when a taxi will drop you off right where you want to go, and later, for a little more money, you can call a radio taxi to meet you at the door. And for you “walkaholics” like me who love to explore new sights and sounds on foot, Xalapa is the place to come with its narrow and often very steep streets. My jalapeña wife, Lourdes, who has put up with me for 25 years, will send me out to get a loaf of bread from the corner store with the admonishment, “Now don’t be too long because I’m really hungry.” I’ll show up about an hour or so later – but of course by now she’ll be furious, and I give her the lame excuse that I met “Fulano, Mengano y Perengano”(a bunch of people) whom I just had to chat with. Let me tell you, Xalapa is the place to make lasting friends where you can meet for a delicious cup of cappuccino or americano at the myriad of cafés and restaurants this city has to offer. My favorites are Café Chiquito (on Bravo street) and Café Latino (next to the main post office).

You can tell by my ample girth that I love Mexican food. My favorite restaurants in Xalapa are Mi Nueva Banderilla (by Los Lagos), El Diamante (at El Callejon del Diamante) attended by owner Don Sergio with his delicious horchata de coco drink, La Casa de Mago (Morelos 46 around the corner from the hotel La Posada del Cafeto) and the  fairly new La Cocina de la Abuela attended by Doña Blanca who makes fantastic mole. And as the future president of the Xalapa Rotary Club, my days are really occupied. By the way, all you Rotarians are cordially invited to session with us every Wednesday evening at 9:30 P.M. at the Hotel Hostal del Tejar.

For the last 24 years I’ve had my photography and video studio (Studio ROY...very original!) which has allowed me to become very closely involved with the community. It’s becoming more and more frequent that I  take the first communion pictures of children of parents who also had  their first communion pictures taken by me. My weekends are always hectic, with bautizos (baptisms),  primera comuniones (first communions), quince años (debutante balls) and bodas (weddings), many times for “gringos,” Canadians, Germans, Italians, Polish, etc., who have married Mexicans. Sometimes I find myself speaking three languages in one conversation. Right now we’re videotaping the ExpoXalapa for Coca Cola, as well as many high school and university graduations this time of year.

For those of you who are sports minded, Xalapa lends itself to mountain biking and hiking, with its veredas (paths) through the coffee plantations. A 25 km trip I love to take with my collie, Kaiser, is to the towns of Pacho Viejo and Pacho Nuevo where my friend, Marisa, has her former hacienda –  which is like stepping back 100 years in time. (I will try to do an article about her place in the near future.) Another trip I enjoy is to Rancho Viejo where George Vinaver, a Frenchman and former photographer, has lived for over 30 years and grows delicious macadamia nuts. There are also several rainbow trout farms nearby where I can have a mouth watering trout cooked in aluminum foil on charcoal with a leaf of acuyo herb. It makes me hungry just thinking about it! For the really adventurous types, you can go whitewater rafting down the Rio Pescados from Jalcomulco or the Rio Filabobos (near Misantla) with its recentlyly discovered totonac ruins. There are a dozen or more tour companies anxious for your business and ready to help you have a wonderful time. There are several tennis clubs (e.g., Club Britania) in Xalapa, an excellent horse riding academy, as well as the excellent sports facilities of the Universidad Veracruzana.

For those looking for creative pastimes, the Patio Muñoz, almost in front of my studio, offers  painting, sculpture, jarana (Mexican small guitar) and jarocho (Veracruz) dance classes. Xalapa has a very active community of artists, with painters like Fernando Vilchis and his very famous wife, Leticia Tarrago (her brother is a world famous violinist). With the excellent Xalapa Symphony Orchestra, probably one of the best in the Americas, and the Universidad Veracruzana School of Music, the opportunities for studying a musical instrument are abundant. There are also many private classes for pottery and other crafts.

I hope you can come visit us soon so you can understand first hand why I love my adopted land so much. Please feel free to e-mail me about your doubts (mention where you found out about me) and I’ll be glad to help out as much as I can. ¡Hasta pronto!

Roy B. Dudley (“El jalapeño gringo”), Pino Suárez #31, Xalapa, Veracruz 91000 MÉXICO

TelFax: (28) 17-80-10. Email: