Every corner of Mexico has its Revolutionary martyrs, those who fought for righteousness at the expense of a limb, freedom or ultimately their lives. Picturesque Matamoros, nestled on the U.S/ Mexico border within the state of Tamaulipas is one of those corners. Officially referred to as Heroica Matamoros, the city commemorates the fighting spirit and heroic rebellion of Mariano Matamoros y Guridi, a native Catholic Priest and military Captain during the Mexican War of Independence whom was executed in 1813. His legacy survives throughout Matamoros; the Casa Mata Fort houses the Museo de Historia Regional (Regional Museum of History) containing his uniform, personal effects and examples of correspondence to José María Morelos, during the Siege of Cuautla.
Far from being a mausoleum dedicated to its most famous son, the city of Matamoros has flourished through the development of agriculture and world class cotton production. Nestled upon the South shore of the Rio Grande, with the Gulf of Mexico to the East, the city proved a vital link for trade efforts between the U.S and Mexico. During the 20th Century, it became known as “City of Bridges” owing to the plethora of linking structures to the city of Brownsville, Texas. The earliest (Puento Viejo) was built in 1904, designed to carry rail and cart transport, along with pedestrians. It remains one of the earliest “swing” or “swivel” bridges in the Americas, despite the twist mechanism never having been opened to allow ships on the Rio Grande to pass safely. Perhaps a rather more vibrant reminder of the city's cotton heritage lies within Mercado Juarez (Juarez Market.) Local vendors and artisans continue to thrive on their production of stunning woven linens, tapestries and sarapes (shawls) – truly a feast of color for the eye, among the many handmade sculptures and locally produced leather boots.
Basking in its glory as a chief player for export among Mexico's border towns, the paved colonial streets of Matamoros have also become emblematic of the city's fight against Spanish domination. Intriguingly, Catedral de Nuestra Senora del Refugio, the town's opulent central cathedral has become a much-loved and famous landmark of the town. Built in 1728, the cathedral itself exudes a French Renaissance character, through the gentle pink of the limestone to the ornate cupolas adorning the towers. It is one of the main buildings of Matamoros to have sustained severe damage on seven different occasions from hurricanes, subsequently rebuilt each time in the very same style.
Matamoros' other claim to fame lies upon the exquisitely breathtaking Baghdad Beach to the East of the city. Beckoning visitors with its caramel sands and shady palapas, Baghdad Beach has become a tourist hot spot – particularly among Americans who cross the Rio Grande just for a weekend at Matamoros. Its a scene dominated by a distinctive Caribbean attitude – anything goes, including zipping about on four wheel mini ATV buggies! The real gem of Playa Baghdad lies to the North, where the dunes are characteristically steeper and the beach dominated by more wildlife than people. Smugglers Cave is set back from the turf, carved out of a rocky edifice and barely visible until you round the cliff. Here, it is said the martyrs Juan de la Cruz Borrego and Marino Ortiz hid the Nacional Archive de Juarez from the Spanish, by whom they were later tortured and executed for refusing to reveal its location. Borrego and Ortiz have since become heroes of Matamoros, their remains buried beneath the Benito Juarez monument at the main Plaza. And that's the magic of Matamoros – heroes whose legacies refuse to be forgotten, largely responsible for the freedom of the multicultural border city you see today.
Attractions & Things To Do in Matamoros
Casa Mata Museum of Regional History – the last surviving fort built during the 1800's to protect Matamoros from the Spanish, Casa Mata demonstrates the awesome engineering employed to defend the town. Home to the Museum of Regional History, visitors will find a wealth of walk-throughs and exhibits, highlighting the lives of its fatal heroes: Mariano Matamoros y Guridi ,Juan de la Cruz Borrego and Marino Ortiz. Open: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm.