The Veracruz Triangle
Land Treasure in Veracruz
(I Overspent my Monthly Budget...)

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Rosendo´s Garage
Disaster Strikes
Car Problems and Buried Treasure
It all started with car problems. After finishing under the car, Rosendo wiped his hands on a red rag, and gave me the bad news.

"It´s the transmission, John. You need a new one, or we can rebuild it."

Something had to be done, and even though it looked like it would break my budget for a month or two. It´s when you've overspent your monthly budget on unexpected car repairs that you begin to dream about finding a lost treasure.

Dreams of Treasure
As a child growing up in Texas, and I used watch films like "Treasure Island", and the adventures of "Horatio Hornblower", have been captivated by the sea, pirates, and buried treasure ever since.

Now, I am fortunate to live in one of the centers of what was a major destination in America of the Spanish Main for about 400 years.

Ulua Island
Among the Rocks
Ulua Island at Low Tide
Shipwrecks, Treasures and the Law
There are probably hundreds of shipwrecks between Antón Lizardo and Antigua, Veracruz, and many of them still have millions of dollars in treasure aboard. Nobody knows the exact number for sure.

In Veracruz, the first ship sank in the 1520´s close to shore. In 1568, Sir Francis Drake lost a couple of ships near San Juan de Ulúa. They are probably still resting there.

There is the story of the octopus fishermen who, found a large Aztec treasure in the rocks near Veracruz, and would take a little gold home each day. Eventually, he got caught and went to jail, along with the people he was selling it to.

The reason they went to jail is that Mexican Government law forbids even searching for Spanish gold or silver treasure in the oceans without a federal permit.

And the government has never given out permits, at least to my knowledge. Even the subsoil rights in Mexico, including buried treasure, also belong to the nation.
Ulua Island
Among the Rocks
Ulua Island at Low Tide
On Land
On land it´s a different story.

Finding buried treasure on land is less risky than finding a sunken ship. Mineral Rights laws begin below 1 meter from the surface of the land.

Hernán Cortes made his first explorations during the Conquest of Mexico in this area and for a time, it´s said that he had a house in nearby Medellín.

Eventually, the trails of Indian slaves carrying Moctezuma´s gold traveled the same routes to Veracruz, and the Spanish Colonial Highways began.
Camino Real
The Original Camino Real
When vast amounts of silver were discovered in the 1550´s in Taxco, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato, large mining operations began, and the shipments to Veracruz began to grow.

Later the train system was built following the same routes.

The Veracruz Triangle
From the legends of the people I´ve heard over the years, and the law of averages, there should be a lot of gold and silver not far from where I live.
Camino Real
The Veracruz Triangle
It´s when you look through old maps, you begin to dream about looking for buried treasure in the Veracruz Triangle.

The Veracruz Triangle is an area covering about 50 miles on either side of the old Camino Real system or King´s Highway, and the area in the middle is where the bandits had hideouts and buried their treasure.

The Probabilities
For 300 years, the route to Veracruz was known as the treasure road. By land and by sea.

Because of the threat of pirates and bandits, both Antigua and San Juan de Ulua were heavily fortified, and the road along the Camino Real was patrolled and caravans had royal army escorts.

When you look at the map and you can try to imagine what life outside the cities was like back then.

The Veracruz Triangle
The Veracruz Triangle
Most of the land now is populated by hard scrapple farmers, and is virtually unexplored by experienced treasure hunters.

However, the local people have say that some parts of the Veracruz Triangle are hard to get to, and sometimes it´s even dangerous.

If you are an outsider, it is not a good idea to go into these areas without a local contact who knows the ropes.

It has only been since about 1940 that it has been relatively safe in these isolated rural areas.
Old Map
Exploring Old Maps
Highway System Built
The original Camino Real from Mexico City generally followed the present highway through Xalapa, and the old "ventas" or royal concessions are still there as small villages along the way.

The other Camino Real from Veracruz to Mexico City went through Cordoba and Orizaba.

People don´t remember the history of their towns much beyond the Mexican Revolution, and information is very difficult to find, even in the local libraries.

Remote Hacienda
Remote Hacienda
Near Esperanza, Puebla
To Think like a Bandit
The areas outside these towns were sparsely settled and it was dangerous with frequent highway robberies if you weren´t careful.

But, looking back, trying to think in the same way as a highway bandit, the difficult part was after the robbery. The same members of your gang might try to steal from you. And, your only means of transportation was a horse.

The way I figured it, most bandits probably stayed within about 50 miles of a highway or railroad, or about a days ride on a horse.

At the same time, the life of a bandit was a life of fear that someone might steal your treasure.

Old Fortifications and Defenses
By 1843, Veracruz had a second defense wall and the city was filling in the empty spaces.

Small towns and cities in Mexico reflected the need for safety and every hacienda out in the countryside was well fortified.
Veracruz Wall
Veracruz: a City with 2 Walls
Some of them looked like forts. The owner of the hacienda was a virtual lord or king in the land that he controlled.

And, most people either lived on a hacienda or in a well populated area.

There are lots of abandoned haciendas in Mexico where treasure has been found.

Acultzingo Dawn
Los Cumbres de Acultzingo
This picture of the Cumbres de Acultzingo is typical of the west side of the triangle from Orizaba, Huatusco, Coscomatepec, past the east flanks of the Pico de Orizaba, and Xalapa.

Bandits or Heroes
Early highway robbers were common people who couldn´t find jobs anywhere else. And liked to steal.

Many of the early heroes of Mexican Independence functioned as highway bandits around Puente Nacional and the Summit of Acultzingo.
High in the Mountain Fog Above Orizaba
It´s said that these "bandits" even charged a 20% fee based on the value of the merchandise for safe conduct through their mountain pass.

Royal Troops Couldn't do Much
One of the famous bandits of the 1600´s was an escaped African slave named Yanga.

Perhaps his case was typical. Royal troops were sent out to catch bandits, but most of the time they didn´t have the strength in arms or numbers to catch them.

There were just too many places to hide. Rather than clean out the bandits, eventually the government adopted a posture of containment and the bandits stayed back in the remote mountains.

Over the centuries, buried treasure has accumulated in the remote hideouts of the Zongolica.
The Mountains Near Orizaba
An Indian Village and a Spanish Treasure
It is said that one of the remote Indian villages in the mountains near where this picture was taken, lives frugally from the proceeds of an old Spanish treasure, and carefully uses it as kind of an "emergency fund".

Infrequently, three Indians from the village would come to town and exchange two or three very old Spanish coins with a local jeweler and disappear quietly back into the mountains.

What Did Bandits Do with Their Booty?
What did the bandits do with their treasure? Buy a hacienda and become a dirt or milk cow farmer? I doubt it.

The Mountains Near El Pico de Orizaba
More than likely after the initial euphoria, they were filled with fear that they would somehow loose the treasure.

Even banks weren´t a safe place to keep your money. They probably hid it in a cave or buried it. And sometimes they got killed and never came back, not telling anyone where the stash was.

Paranoia Sets In
In a little town near Xalapa, it is said that there was a lot of buried treasure. Some of it is right there in town hidden in the rafters or patios of the homes.

One day a poor construction worker found a treasure while digging the foundation of a house in town.

"What did he do with it?", I asked

"He became afraid that someone would steal it from him, or that he would lose it. So, he hid it where no one would find it."

People said he didn´t dare spend any of it, and he became a miser, protecting his money until he died.

Perhaps it´s a never ending recycling of treasure. That´s the problem.

The Junk Yard
Old Legends from a Junk Yard
Sometimes you can hear the old legends in some amazing places.

It was a rough day with a "norte" blowing from 80-100 kph winds, and it´s a good time to go visit someone else who stays at home during bad weather.

Maybe going to visit someone would take my mind off being broke with my car in the shop.

When I go to Ramon´s house, I remember the saying that "one man´s trash, is another man´s treasure."
One Man´s Trash...
I was still thinking about how I´d overspent my budget for the month on fixing the car, and at the same time, I was thinking about bandit treasure.

Meeting Ramón
Several years ago, I met Ramón when I was doing some beachcombing and found a copper nail.

Later he invited me to his house, and I kept coming back for visits when I wanted to hear some of the old legends of Veracruz.

It´s a place where you always feel welcome.
Packing up the Truck
His stories were always interesting, and there were always others who dropped by.

And he always told me some new things that I didn´t know about.

I needed to get focused something a little different.

A Friendly Greeting
After gently tapping on the front gate, Ramón´s wife saw me and invited me in.

"Ramón´s working in the back," she said, and pointed toward the back of the yard.
A Raw Day
Packing it in Tight
Almost Ready
Loading Martín´s Truck
Off in one corner of the yard, I could see that Ramón was loading Martin´s truck with scrap.

Martín, the truck driver was helping to pack each piece, one by one, so the load would be tight.

He smiled and said they´d be finished in a minute, and to come back later for some coffee.

I figured it would be best to come back later that afternoon, when everybody was rested.
Martin and Ramón
Resting in a Hammock
When I came back later that afternoon, I found Ramón sitting in his comfortable hammock drinking coffee, and talking to Martín.

He leaned over and welcomed me with a friendly handshake, and motioned to an old school chair where I could sit.

It was next to the outdoor kitchen and wash area where, as before, I felt right at home.
Café con Leche
Café con Leche
Soon his wife brought me a homemade café con leche, too.

It was rich and delicious, and reminded me of the expensive mixture of mountain grown coffee you get downtown at the well known Café de la Parroquia.

When I first began drinking coffee at Ramón´s house, I had remarked:

"This is just like the coffee you get at the downtown cafeterías. What brand do you use?", I asked, thinking he might get a special deal from some of the neighbors who live out in the country around Cordoba or Xalapa.

"We use Nescafé."

She must have had a special way of preparing it, because it was really good.

Too Much Money is Not Good
When Ramón was finished, he turned to me and asked how I´d been doing.

I told him about the car repairs, and my money problems this month, and that maybe I was going to go treasure hunting.

"Having too much money is not good, John," he said. "It makes us lazy, and we don´t think as much about our families as before."

"At the same time, around there is plenty of lost treasure, but it brings a lot of problems afterwards. Let me explain."

Near Esperanza, Puebla

Remote Crosses near Acultzingo
Protecting Spirits and Curses
I respect Ramón´s opinions because he knows the legends and the people of the back country around Veracruz well.

He explained the local beliefs that when stolen booty has been abandoned for a certain length of time, evil spirits take over to protect the treasure.

You hear many of these same stories of protecting spirits and cursed treasures, even from people who are serious.

Psychics are frequently used to find treasures because they "see" these protector spirits and can talk to them. Later a spiritual healer can "clean" the area with prayers and holy water. This seems to be the most effective way to drive the evil spirits off.

The Curse
At the same time I don´t know of anyone who has found a treasure of any significance, that something bad hasn´t happened to them. I remembered hearing that Mel Fisher´s son drowned two weeks after he located the shipwreck of "Nuestra Seńora de Atocha", and millions of dollars in Spanish silver and gold.

Ghost Friars
The protective spirits may take the form of an Indian with a lance, ghost friars from the old church owned haciendas, a large coral snake that eats stray dogs at night, a black wolf, a man on horseback, or some other figure.

Their purpose is to frighten off anyone who might want to take the treasure under their protection. So, in that respect I kind of hope I don´t find a treasure.

Perhaps my friend Ramón is right: it´s relatively easy to find a treasure, the hard part comes afterwards.

A Remote Valley Near
Plan de las Hayas, Veracruz
Avoiding Unwanted Curses
Since the curse actually begins after the treasure is found, I once asked Ramón how you can avoid the effects of any curses once the treasure has been found.

"It is not an easy task," he told me. "But, the solution is very simple."

"A treasure is given to us by God. Its purpose is to help us live better lives, by helping others who are less fortunate", he explained.

"This is the secret to living a happy useful life. We cannot keep it all for ourselves."
Shrine Along the Road to
Plan de las Hayas, Veracruz
"The Lord gives us life, brings us to earth, then takes us when He so decides. In the meantime he will give us only what we need to live our lives well."

"Anything that is left over must be shared with others. The problem in most cases", Ramón explained, "is avaricia."

Avarice Destroys the Soul
"It destroys the human being from the inside first."

"A person with avaricia first withdraws from those around him, and the love inside him slowly withers away and dies."

"If the treasure is under the power of the devil, or "Satanás", one must give away part of the treasure in a way that will help others. "

"If it is under the power of ghost friars they may ask for a mass to be said in Rome in the name of a certain person and a chapel built in a certain place. The spirit will tell you."
Boca Andrea
The Beaches of Boca Andrea

On the Road
High in the Clouds
Near Plan de las Hayas, Veracruz

A Village in the Distance
Protection Against Curses
"This is the only protection a man has against "avaricia" and any evil "paybacks" will be nullified." He emphasized the word,"pagos."

"We must not find the treasure alone." He went on to say, "we must have partners to share with, and in equal parts."

"Those who dig must share in equal parts as the owner of the land, the owner of the metal detector, and the "curandero"."

A Gift of Thanksgiving
"Each member of the team should also make his own contribution in a way that will help others, and as a demonstration of thanksgiving for the new found wealth."

"It may take the form of building a little chapel in the area, a donation to the church, or the Red Cross.

"Each should give according to his own level of "avaricia".

"In this way one can avoid the personal curse of a treasure protected by evil spirits, and avoid many of the paybacks in life."

My Own "Avaricia"
By this time, I had forgotten about my own budget problems, and began to see the world around me in a different light.

Perhaps, I was overly worried about money and couldn´t see how fortunate I was. Perhaps, I was in the grips of my own private "avaricia".

My thoughts of looking for pirate treasure on the beaches around Veracruz or to go digging for the bandit treasure along the old Camino Real in the high country near Acultzingo began to slowly fade away, along with the feeling of near panic that I´d felt all day long about how I was going to make ends meet.

I was no longer worried, and felt thankful for what I have today. With friends like Ramón, you don´t need much more.

Camino Real
Exploring the Camino Real
Near Acazónica
Our Talents and a Special Journey
I guess Ramón sensed my feeling of relief, and went on to say:

"Each of us was created with special talents which need to be developed. Some of us are musicians, contruction workers, cooks, and engineers."

"When we are developing our special talents, we feel at peace on our own special journey." He used the word "camino" or highway for "journey".

Only for Money
"When we are working at a job only for the money, often we feel restless, irritable, and discontent. "

"It is almost like we have strayed off the well paved toll road, and are on a dirt road back in the mountains. These are the times when we feel lost and afraid."

"We need to always keep our eyes open to the ways we are being led in our lives, perhaps by "coincidence" because this is the way we are meant to go on our journey to develop our talents."
On the Road
On the Road
Near Plan de las Hayas, Veracruz
Our Journey is not about more Money
"It is not about money, but the satisfaction of what we should really be doing in our lives."

"We should not pay attention to fears, because they will make us stray from the road we are supposed to be on."

"When we are afraid or unhappy, it means that we are not developing our talents and need to open our eyes."

"The answers we are looking for are not to be found in searching for more money."
A Small Hacienda in the Mountains
Near Plan de las Hayas, Veracruz
Forced into Change
"Sometimes we are sent special signs, or perhaps pushed by "coincidences" to show us the way back to where we need to be."

"Sometimes, crises such as accidents or illnesses are sent to us to slow us down and think about what we should be doing, and help make us realize we need to change the direction in our lives."

Not to be Alone
"The road to developing our talents and being happy is not by living alone in the wilderness."

"It is because we need to surround ourselves with people who nourish our faith by their own experiences. They will be the ones who will lead us by the hand, and show us how to grow."

Caldo de Pollo
Caldo de Pollo
With a Twist of Lemon
Something Good to Eat
After a while, Ramón´s wife asked me if I would like to join them for supper.The affair was simple and good. "Caldo de pollo" is great when it´s served with a twist of lemon.

Besides, it would have been impolite to refuse.

Time to Go
By this time, it was dark, and maybe it was the calming effect of what Ramón had been telling me because I realized I was thinking about something else, and my budget problems had faded away.

So had my ideas of going out into the countryside to look for buried treasure.

Barbacoa and Spaghetti
A Surprise Party for Ramón
It was getting late and it was time to go. On the way to the front gate, Ramón´s wife told me she was organizing a surprise birthday party for Ramón the following Sunday and invited me to come.

"I´ll be there," I said. I wouldn´t miss it for anything.

On the way home, I was thinking about what I´d do tomorrow on my own journey to develop my own particular talents.

I would do something fun, that didn´t cost money, now that I had the time to enjoy life, as Ramón had told me.

A New Direction
The next day over coffee with some other friends, one of the guys brought in an old map of downtown Veracruz and left me a copy.

It was when I began to walk the streets looking for the old convents of Veracruz which kept me busy for a long time.

Hacienda El Mirador
A Walk Through a Coffee Plantation
Hacienda el Mirador

La Gallega
The Clear Waters of the Gallega Reef
It wasn´t until later that I realized that as I went along, my own personal journey had taken a new direction, and I was no longer worried about my overspent budget.

The budget would somehow recover as it always had after a crisis.

In the Hearts of the People You Meet
While personally, I haven´t found any buried treasure, over the years I have derived many hours of pleasure listening to the local people tell stories about sunken ships, phosphorescent lights, old Spanish coins found on the beach near here, and the evil spirits that protect lost gold.

Money Buys the Cheaper Things
I have been out a lot of times, living the childhood dreams of finding a hoard of lost spanish treasure and becoming wealthy, and instead I have found many friends in the process.

I have also found that money buys the cheaper things in life. and the real treasure is in the hearts of the people you meet along the way.

This is a different kind of wealth that is better.

However, if one day you look for this page and it is gone, and you see the Red Cross in Veracruz is building a new hospital, you will know that I have found the treasure I was looking for.

I guess I´m still a little superstitious and want to avoid the curse of the evil spirits.

Still Walking the Beaches
After a hard "norte", I still drive out to San Juan de Ulua to walk the beaches around La Gallega Reef thinking that maybe I´ll find a Spanish doubloon.

Sometimes, when I drive up into the mountains past Orizaba, I still think about bandits and their buried treasures, but now they don´t seem to be so important.

And after talking to Ramón, my overspent monthly budget doesn´t make me panic like it used to.

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