When the first rays of spring sunshine began to light up the Isla de Sacrificios, my dear friend and diving companion Manuel “Dorado” Victoria and I were enjoying a tasty Veracruz-style breakfast in a well-known restaurant on the sea front. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs and beans, and of course a famous milky coffee with sweet bread and golden breadsticks. The chat was high-spirited and contagious because the Veracruzanos are famous for it.
Veracruz is my native state and it is there where I started my career as a professional diver. I clearly remember the first time I visited the happy port of Veracruz. I used to like watching the people bringing chairs in the trunks of their cars to sit and watch the sea from all places next to the sea front, which was centuries has been their and their ancestors’ companion, even though at times, it is rough and unpredictable, we cannot forget that it is the sea that determines climatic changes. It is also taken ships from one place to the other and to various civilizations, as in the case of conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Setting out to sea is, without doubt, a pleasurable experience. However, diving below the surface lets us into a kingdom of wonders, feeling the weightlessness and moving in three dimensions is like feeling as free as a bird. That was the feeling I got the first times I submerged into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico; from the moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
Little by little, the window of the sea opened before my eyes and over time, I discovered its marine inhabitants. I’ll never forget the first thing that caught my attention; a large amount of hard coral with its different formations such as moose coral, dear coral, grain corals and Castle corals invited me to go further in, between gullies and labyrinths that challenged my imagination.
An endless amount of fish of exuberant colors and sizes find refuge among the coral. The most outstanding are the wreckfish, silver sardines, the attractive queen angel fish, the very sought after grouper fish, the brave comber fish and the fast mackerels. The sea snails move very slowly along the sandy beds next to some very valuable lobsters. It is incredible that marine life is so extensive in just one place, that’s why divers always say that Veracruz has the coral reef full of life, magic and color. And if that weren’t enough, the marine beds of Veracruz not only has reefs and fish, but also shipwrecks from times gone by, so, dear reader, don’t be surprised if in one of your dives you see amphoras or a piece of chain.
Without a doubt, the authorities saw that so many divers have been able to see and feel the coral depth of the port of Veracruz, that they named it a National Park for its protection.
The National Park, the Veracruz Coral Reef System, was so decreed to prevent the extensive plundering of coral and the irrational use of fishing resources, as well as to establish programs to regulate tourist development and the discharge of residual waters from the surrounding conurbations. The system consists of numerous low areas and several islands such as the Islands of Enmedio, Sacrificios, Santiaguillo, Anegada de Adentro, Anegada de Afuera, Isla Pájaros, La Gallega, as well as more than 20 coral reef colonies located on the inshore part of the continental shelf.
As a result of this government program, I can assure you that Veracruz has one of the most interesting, beautiful and lively marine beds that I have seen throughout my career as a professional diver. Visitors will be so amazed and they will not want to leave this wonderful blue marine world.
After having dived in several parts of the Mexican Republic, I can tell you that the Veracruz Coral Reef System is one of the most surprising and richest diving areas in our country. It seems to me that all who know it are duty bound to conserve it by using all means possible for the enjoyment of coming generations.
Text: Alberto Friscione Carrascosa ± Photo: Alberto Friscione Carrascosa.