December 30, 2017

Photo Essay: The Visiting Tall Ship of the Mexican Navy (Armada de México)

It's only now in the last couple of days of the year that I finally realized that 2017 had been declared "The Year of Mexico in Los Angeles."

Maybe that's because our Mexican roots run so deep, it doesn't seem odd to see cultural programming related to our neighbors south of the border.

Maybe it's because our current mayor has pledged to build bridges instead of walls.

Maybe it's just that Mexican influence in LA doesn't feel like an intrusion.

This year, though, there was one Mexican visitor in particular that was especially welcome to our shores: the Mexican tall ship known as the Cuauhtémoc.

Built in Bilbao, Spain in 1982 but hailing out of its home port of Acapulco, it's a teaching ship (buque escuela) used by the Mexican Navy (Armada de México) to train officers, sailors, and cadets alike in basic navigational skills as well as sailing techniques.

It was the first ship of its kind in Mexico, and it's the last vessel of a series of four windjammers.

And lucky for Angelenos, it had gone on a world tour and was making one last stop to see us in San Pedro before heading home.

Bearing the name of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc loosely translates to mean "one who has descended like an eagle"—signifying both grace and power.

As a historical figure, Cuauhtémoc has come to embody nationalism of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

As a name, Cuauhtémoc stands out as one of the few popular ones for boys that don't have Spanish origins.

And, bearing that in mind, it's important to remember that Mexicans are actually descended from the Spanish, who bred with the indigenous people of the area we now know as Mexico.

Mexicans, by nature, are at least partly European (although some may prefer to de-emphasize that part of their heritage).

And as a ship, Cuauhtémoc is a Class A ship with three masts, 23 sails, and a barque (or "bark") sail plan.

It's nearly 300 feet long, and its rigs are nearly 170 feet tall.

It is imposing for sure—and not just because it weighs 1755 tons.

It's an ambassador ship, sailing the world's seas and visiting the world's ports, but it's also an intimidating warship—as its design was influenced by Blohm & Voss, the German shipbuilders responsible for the Bismarck, the WWII battleship.

And technically, it's in active service—though, for a teaching ship, that means it's still actively training, not fighting.

Though, after visiting this tall ship and meeting some of its officers...

...I'd want the Cuauhtémoc and its crew on my side during any kind of military conflict.

It's in pristine condition...

...and it's been maintained beautifully...

...and clearly with pride.

It's a peacetime ship...


Its coat of arms—the emblem for the ship—features an image of the Aztec God of the Wind, Ehecatl, who blows the ship towards the west.

Perched above the emblem is the eagle from the Mexican national flag, reminding shipmates and visitors alike where the ship and its crew have come from and where they're going back home to.

The Cuauhtémoc tall ship can sleep 186 ranking officers and crew...

...and an additional 90 midshipmen and/or cadets.

It can carry enough food to last the boys 45 days out at sea.

And it can carry enough fuel to last at least a few weeks out on the water.

Given my last experience on a tall ship, I was happy to have not set sail on this one.

But when you visit such a beautiful vessel like the Cuauhtémoc, it's hard not to wonder what it must be like to watch it go.

Though I'm sure the ship is only as strong as its weakest sailor. And by the looks of it, the Mexican Armada doesn't seem to have very many weak links.

Farewell! Bon voyage! ¡Hasta próxima!

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: USS Iowa, The Last of the Battleships
Crossing the Border (Cruzando la Frontera)

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