Puerto de Tampico
Review and History

On the north bank of the Río Pánuco in the State of Tamaulipas, the Puerto de Tampico is about ten kilometers away from the Gulf of Mexico about 350 kilometers northeast of México City. Located in the middle of several swamps with many lagoons, the Puerto de Tampico is one of the country’s major seaports. Located just 13 kilometers southwest of México’s Puerto de Altamira, the city is connected by air routes to Veracruz, México City, and Brownsville in Texas and by rail and road to the hinterlands and major transportation routes.

A popular tourist destination, the Puerto de Tampico is visited by golfers, sports fishers, and hunters as well as by travelers who love water and water sports. The Puerto de Tampico is also home to several important industries that include shipyards, canneries, sawmills, clothing manufacturers, and machine repair shops. The city is blessed with natural resources as well. The Puerto de Tampico exports petroleum, agave fiber, silver bullion, sugar, cattle, copper, coffee, and hides. In 2005, about 304 thousand people lived in the city, and over 800 thousand called the metropolitan area home.

Port History

Once the home of a big population of otters, the name “Tampico” comes from the Huastec word for “place of otters.” Several Huastec villages were located in the area before Spanish conquest. A major village occupied the site of today’s Las Flores between 1000 and 1250 AD.

An Aztec village stood on the site of the modern Puerto de Tampico before Europeans arrived there. In 1532, a Franciscan priest founded a monastery atop Aztec ruins. The Spanish then established the settlement of San Luis Potosiwas in 1554. By 1560, it had become an important deep-sea port. Pirates destroyed the settlement in 1683. The town’s residents moved south of the river to escape the pirates, and the Puerto de Tampico remained abandoned until the early 19th Century.

In 1823, by orders of General Antonio López de Santa Anna, the village was resettled. In 1824, President Santa Anna declared the new city a deep-sea port, bringing settlers to the Puerto de Tampico from across the world and boosting a growing economy. In 1829, the Puerto de Tampico was the site of an important Santa Anna victory over Spanish troops.

During the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, the US Army occupied the Puerto de Tampico. In 1862, the French took the Puerto de Tampico during the short-lived Méxican Empire.

The rail line from San Luis Potosi to the Puerto de Tampico opened in 1863, and the Central Railway Company started building facilities at the port as well. They dredged an 8.5-meter navigation canal, built cargo facilities including three warehouses and four docks. The work on port infrastructure was finished in 1889, and the cargo facilities were completed in 1903.

In 1914, sailors from the United States’ USS Dolphin were arrested in the Puerto de Tampico in a misunderstanding about oil supplies, leading to bombing and occupation of Veracruz some 400 kilometers to the southeast. This event was known as the Tampico Affair.

The first commercial air flight in México took off from the Puerto de Tampico in 1921, and the city’s airport was one of the country’s first to be equipped with an Instrument Landing System. In 1926, Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant in México in the Puerto de Tampico, and it still operates today. The Campestre, the Puerto de Tampico’s country club and golf course, is one of the oldest in the country. 

Downtown Puerto de Tampico reflects the period of major growth, during the rule of President Porfirio Díaz. With many New Orleans-style balconies of cast iron, many building supplies were shipped from the Port of New Orleans, including pre-built housing. Buildings like the Plaza de la Libertad, the Palacio Municipal, and the Customs House at the docks still have the original plaques showing the ironwork to be manufactured by the Derbyshire forge.

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