In Veracruz State, just inland from the Costa Esmeralda, lies a big surprise. Delicate terracotta roof tiles, muted colors, planned gardens, real bread. Why? Because the town of Jicaltepec has a uniquely French history.
Welcome to the French Mex town of Jicaltapec
Mexico’s French Connection started in the early 1800s when French men and women began fleeing the Dijon and Champlitte areas in search of work when the wine making industry there started to fail. A French man arrived in Jicaltepec and told everyone back home how wonderful the area was, attracting hundreds of other Frenchmen who flocked to what was then remote Mexico.
The problem was, that first guy was lying. The truth was that work was scarce but mosquitoes were plentiful. Unfortunately, once the Frenchmen arrived they didn’t have the money to return to France. The ones that didn’t die of disease or homesickness stuck it out and slowly created lives for themselves, melding French traditions with Mexican culture.
There are two museums in the area and they both commemorate the French heritage of the place. By far, the best one is run by Lourdes Capitaine Drouaillet in Jicaltepec.
Lourdes is descended from French immigrants and she has a passion for preserving and telling the story of the French in this part of Mexico. Over the years she has amassed a lovely collection that runs the gamut from personal junk to true French finds and even some impressive pieces of indigenous pottery that pre-date the arrival of the French.
But it’s really Lourdes herself who brings the French legacy to life, coming perilously close to tears as she explains who her ancestors were, why they came here, how they lived and how French culture has impacted this spot in Mexico. And she does it in a mix of Spanish and French (what do you call that? Frenish? Spench?).
Adding to the happy brew of French and Mexican culture in the area is Maison Couturier, a boutique hotel that opened in neighboring San Rafael. Run by a Frenchwoman but owned by Grupo Habita, one of the most progressive Mexican hotel groups, the place is a French country farmhouse in Mexico. Check out our complete profile of Maison Couturier for iTraveliShop.
The hotel can arrange a trip out to spend some time with Lourdes, but we promise you’ll find it very hard to leave the hotel. It’s addictive, as you can see in our photos of the hotel below.