Suitcase and World: Puebla.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Puebla was founded in 1531 by the Spaniards as a bastion located mid-way between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz.

Back then the city was known as Ciudad de los Angeles, City of AngelsLater the name was changed to Puebla de los Angeles.

On May 5th, 1862, the city made its mark on Mexican history for that day marked the end of the Battle of Puebla in which Mexican patriots fought and eventually defeated French invaders at the Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. The victory is celebrated annually throughout Mexico as the holiday known to Americans as Cinco de Mayo.  Surprisingly, Cinco de Mayo is not widely observed in Mexico.  General Ignacio Zaragoza was in command during that battle and died soon after. The city was re-baptized Puebla de Zaragoza in his honor.

Volcán Popocatépetl with Puebla in the foreground.
Puebla is situated in the Valley of Cuetlaxcoapan, a large valley surrounded on four sides by the mountains and volcanoes of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. Puebla is located 40 kilometers east of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes both of which can be seen from town.

It's possible to hike up the volcanoes but I don't think we'll have time to do that.....not to mention that Popocatépetl looks intimidatingly tall and I don't think I would be able to scale it even if we did have time.  Plus, at least two of us have already climbed a volcano.  :-(

Today, Puebla is Mexico's 4th largest city and there's plenty to see and do here.  Of course, there are the historic landmarks like its cathedral. 
 Puebla Cathedral.  Construction of the cathedral began in November 1575, but was interrupted in 1626. In 1634 Juan Gómez de Trasmonte modified the design and construction was restarted in 1640 when Bishop Juan de Palafox was ordered by the King Philip III to finish it. It was mostly completed eight years after. On April 18, 1649, the Cathedral was consecrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. It was not entirely completed until 1690.

The front façade was built out of a black canther, and it has two towers, the tallest in Mexico.  From the images that I've seen of the cathedral's interior, it is jaw dropping beautiful.

 Zócalo.  While there will be plenty of historic buildings to wander through to keep us occupied, when we're "churched out", we can head to the zócalo (town square) and rest our feet.  Puebla's Zocalo has existed since the founding of the city in 1531 but was mainly used as a marketplace until the 1700s. Throughout history it has been a meeting place and social center of the city. Plenty of shops and restaurants surround the square.

Cemitas are sandwiches that are the ubiquitous street food of Puebla. We can munch on one or two or however many our bellies can hold.  Oh, I really love good street and soul satisfying.

The most popular meat in a cemita is beef milanesa, a thinly pounded and deep-fried piece of beef. Cueritos (pickled pig skin), queso de puerco (pork head cheese), and carnitas (stewed pork) are also popular.  Condiments for the cemita include avocado, queso oaxaca in shreds, papalo (a Mexican herb),  and chipotles. I have to try a cemita!  Yum!

Pretty textiles.  If sightseeing and munching on street food is not enough, there's shopping to be done.  I'm hoping that Puebla will be a good place to pick up a Mexican souvenir or two.  Of course, I have my eye on talavera pottery but Puebla is also well known for its textiles. So maybe a small textile of some sort :-)

Cholula.  Located just 12 kilometers from Puebla, Cholula  is famous for two things:  the Great Pyramid of Cholula and its claim to have 365 churches - one for each day of the year.

The Great Pyramid, which was built in the 2nd century is comprised of seven trapezoids stacked on top of each other and stands 55 metres (180 ft) above the surrounding plain and in its final form, it measured 400 by 400 metres (1,300 by 1,300 ft).

The Great Pyramid of Cholula is known for its massive exterior staircase and labyrinth of tunnels that hold endless antechambers and barren tombs.  Hmm....if it's a nice day, I vote for the staircase.  If it's a yucky day, it's tunnels all the way.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies) is a 16th-century church built by the Spaniards to commemorate the conversion of the Aztecs to Christianity. Climb to the top of the Great Pyramid and you'll find the church there!  Leave it to the Christians to build their church atop a former Aztec temple!


The more I read about Puebla, the more I'm convinced we'll need to spend at least 2 or 3 days there to take it all in.  I have a feeling I'm really going to love being in Puebla and I will be sad to have to leave.  Of course, I can always come back!