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Puebla : capital
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Cholula in the foreground and the volcanoes in the backgroundGoing east, after passing the international airport of Mexico City, « Benito Juárez », take the road leading to PUEBLA. This city is inscribed on The Cultural World Heritage list of UNESCO. It is situated 136 km (84 miles) from the Federal District : .

Left picture : Cholula in the foreground and the volcanoes in the background

It was founded on April, 16th, 1531 and baptized Ciudad de los Ángeles (City of Angels), and it is known as Puebla de los Ángeles. It was the first city in Central Mexico built by the Spanish conquistadors that was not built upon the ruins of a conquered Amerindian settlement.

The objective was to establish an industrial and rural system using the Spanish work force, opposite to the system of the encomiendas of the conquistadors which worked with indigenous workforce.
The city got a great development because of its strategic location half way between Mexico City and Veracruz. It became the second most important city of New Spain. On May, 5th 1862, i.e. 52 years after the declaration of independence of Mexico in 1810, the army of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French troops in Puebla.
Since this date, the heroic Puebla took the official name of Puebla de Zaragoza. And the "Cinco de Mayo" is a holiday memorializing this event.
The city had 2,110,000 inhabitants (metropolitan area) at the last census. It is the capital of the State and is surrounded by three volcanoes : the Popocatépetl, the lxtaccihuatl and the Malinche. Located at 2,160 m (7086 feet) of altitude, Puebla is like the contender of Mexico City. It is very Spanish, famous for its colonial architecture; it is the archetypal middle-class city, conservative but with a dissenting university.
Puebla possesses about 5,000 colonial buildings with a baroque tendency dating from the sixteenth century. Among them, the cathedral is a perfect example of the architectural beauty of the city. The convents, the churches and the small plazas seem to have been designed by angels. It is why its nickname is "City of angels". It is the fifth big city in Mexico.
The Spanish colonists farmed the land. They were also skilled artisans who didn’t wait for developing local industries like the one of the tin-glazed tiles, used to cover the churches in the whole area. In the city of Puebla, the walls of many buildings are covered with this blue ceramic of talavera (azulejos).

factory of talaveras in Puebla You can visit a factory. Several of them are still active : Uriarte, 4 Poniente 911 ( 222 232 15 98), visits every morning until 2PM (mxn$50, ½ hour); the store stays open all day long. The products are quite expensive; there are no price labels and a salesman follows you step by step to inform you. It is not very pleasant. You can also visit the Armando factory, close to the Bario de los artistas, 6 norte #408, ( 232 6468).
They make earthenware dishes, enameled ceramic and spin glass. The name of talavera comes from the ceramics of the Spanish city Talavera even if some historians give different versions without being able to confirm them.

Left picture : factory of talaveras in Puebla

Onyx, the other production of Puebla, is sold as counter tops, ashtrays, paper-weights and other bibelots. You can find all these objects in the Barrio de los Artistas (on the eastern side close to the regional museum), small permanent market quite pleasant, where many artisans or painters have very small stores, as well as in Callejón de los Sapos (on calle 4 Sur, close to Avenue 7 Oriente).

On the premises, you can savor the camotes made from sweet potatoes mixed with diverse fruits. The specialty of Puebla is the mole poblano, sauce made from chocolate and more than 20 different spices to accompany turkey or chicken. You can also taste the rompope, drink made from a yolk whipped with sugar and alcohol. These typical dishes can be found everywhere in Puebla.

factory of "talaveras"The "chiles en nogada" is another creation of Puebla, since the visit of Agustin de Iturbide, after signing the treaty of Cordoba in 1821. For the occasion, a new dish was prepared to remember Independence : the chiles en nogada, with the three colors of the flag : green with parsley, white with walnut sauce and red with pomegranate.

     Right picture : factory of "talaveras"

The kitchen in which the first mole was invented is located in the Convento de Santa Rosa (close to the ex-Convento de Santa Monica). This convent, seized during the Reform, now hosts the Museo de Arte Popular Poblano (open 10AM-4PM, Tue-Sun, mxn$37, free on Tuesday). Some State craft is on display.
You can walk to visit this city, even if it is now a big agglomeration with more than one million inhabitants, because all the interesting monuments are concentrated in the center.
If you don’t want to walk, you can take the Turibus with a fair of MXN$100 per person and per day like in Mexico City and Mérida, with an audio guide in 6 languages. There are also guided visits of museums and the cathedral : you can get information on the premises (museum or cathedral). Consult their site www.turibus.com.mx. For mxn$40, you can take the Tranvía which offers an historic tour of the city from the Zócalo, from 10AM to 6PM, every 30 minutes.

The city got its charm from the colonial architecture. It is an authentic city-museum with more than 60 churches.

cathedral of PueblaOn the Zócalo (plaza de la Constitución) stands an imposing Cathedral, the oldest and biggest in Mexico (open from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 4:00 PM to 19:30 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with guided visits in English from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, open from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with guided visits from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM).
It is part of the religious building named by UNESCO.
The two wrought iron towers, 74m (242 ft) high, are the tallest in Mexico. The architecture is of Renaissance style : The northern gate, facing the place, is adorned with statues of four kings of Spain : Charles Quint, Philippe II, Philippe III and Philippe IV. Started in 1588, it was completed only in 1664. The pope John-Paul II celebrated a big Mass there during his first trip to Mexico. The indoors is sublime, with five spans crossed by the transept and the crossing surmounted with a cupola. The wooden stalls, dating from the seventeenth century, are carved mother-of-pearl, onyx and ivory. The beautiful neo-classical altar drawn by Manuel Tolsa is made of onyx and marble excavated from the quarries of Puebla. The monumental doors and the slender stalls in the choir screen were sculpted by Pedro Munoz. He became famous because of this work. One of the two organs is more than 400 year old. On the premises, you can admire the beautiful stone fountain dating from the eighteenth century.

     Right picture : cathedral of Puebla

Behind the Cathedral, the House of Culture (la Casa de la Cultura) was set up in the old Episcopal palace dating from the seventeenth century. It is a classical style building made of bricks and located in a garden adorned with sculptures.


North of the Zócalo, you can visit the Palacio Municipal with a French neo-classical style. Its grey quarry stone façade of renaissance style is different from all the other buildings. You can pursue the tour of the city going West and North.

     Picture below : municipal palace of Puebla

municipal palace of Puebla On Avenida 3 Poniente # 302, the Museo Bello y González (open 10AM-5PM, Tue-Sun) owns a beautiful collection of European Art and Craft, given by a rich industrialist of the nineteenth century.

North-West of the Zócalo, the chapel of the Rosary, in the church Santo Domingo (open 9:00 AM-12:00 noon & 4:30-8:00 PM except on Sunday, closed at 6:00 PM), is one of the jewels of Mexican baroque. It dates from late seventeenth century (1690). The whole chapel is in gold leaf and plaster, with onyx works and glided high-relief stucco forms. (Notice the white Spanish (and not Indian) virgin. You will dive in an enchanting world with all the stuccos, gold and azuleros in this chapel. Look also at the church Santo Domingo. The classical gate is very pure, made of grey stone. Admire the wonderful golden altars in a baroque and rococo style.

Then, a little bit further North (18 Poniente #103), the Convent of Santa Mónica doesn’t present architectural interest but it is a very beautiful religious museum called the Museo de Arte Religioso (open 9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Tue-Sun, $31). When, in 1857, the laws of reform decided to close the convents, this one kept going on secretly and its existence was not discovered until 1934. This museum offers to the visitor interesting manifestations of colonial religious art, oil paintings and objects of the cult, as well as a variety of furniture from the convents of Puebla. You get in through the cloister of the Novices.

Going towards South-East, the Museo de la Revolucíon Mexicana (open 10:00 AM-4:30 PM, Tue-Sun) was the scene of the first fight of the uprising of 1910, which put Puebla in the news again. For many people, it is here that started the Mexican Revolution. The whole family of Arquiles Serdán, fiercely opposed to the dictator Porfirio Diaz, perished while defending their property at the corner of the 2nd street North and the 6th street East. This sacrifice aroused the whole nation.

The Iglesia San Cristóbal, with its windows made of onyx and its sculpted vaulting, is worth a detour.

A little bit further east, you can also visit the Teatro Principal. Completed in 1759, it was rebuilt in early twentieth century after a fire which terribly damaged it. It is one of the oldest theaters in the American continent.

Close to the Zócalo, in Avila Camacho Street, you need to go and see the House of the Puppets (casa de los Muñecos). The ridge of the roof and the frame of the windows are garnished with personages in diverse positions, which gave the name to the building. She has been bought by the autonome University of Puebla to install the university museum.

the casa del Alfeñique dating from the eighteenth centuryEast of the House of the Puppets, the Casa del Alfeñique (the house of rock candy) is a typical example of the art of Puebla : the facade is covered with blue, white and red enameled faïence. It is the regional Museum. If you like the talaveras of Puebla step inside : At the second floor, there is a room about the French expedition and the battle of Puebla (May, 5th 1862), and on the third floor, there is a collection of furniture dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is open from 10AM to 5PM, Tue-Sun, mxn$39.

    Right picture : the casa del Alfeñique dating from the eighteenth      century

A little bit further south, the Church of the Company (templo de la Compañía) built in the eighteenth century, offers a beautiful churrigueresque façade and a dome covered by enameled blue and white tiles. It is said that the Mongol Princess, "the China Poblana", is buried here. This beautiful woman from the Far East was bought from pirates by the Captain of the Nao de China (boat which did business between Mexico and China). Many aspects of the local life are in the market of Parián with the vendors of candies and traditional costumes, among them, the sombrero. The former college became the Autonomous University of Puebla.

South of the cathedral, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana (open 10AM-5PM, Tue-Fri & 10AM-4PM, Sat-Sun, mxn$15) is the only library which is nowadays a real witness of the European heritage in America. Its objective is to make accessible, to the widest possible public, the information contained in more than 43 000 books and manuscripts dating from 1473 to 1821 (19 172 records). The library Palafoxiana is a place of preservation of an important ancient bibliographical Mexican heritage as well as a place of research and diffusion of the culture. The web page of the Library Palafoxiana offers a space for researchers and any person passionate about ancient Mexico.

On the patio, you can assist to folk dances and concerts during the evening (get information on the premises).

At the corner of 2 Sur # 708 and 9 Oriente, the Museo Amparo (open Wed-Mon, 10AM-6PM, mxn$35, free on Monday) is a very famous museum of archeology. It was inaugurated in 1991 in two buildings dating from the eighteenth century. There are beautiful rock paintings from the whole world, pre-Hispanic objects as well as an attractive collection of the colonial period. Thanks to one of the most important collections of pre-Hispanic art of Mexico, you will be able to discover a general panorama of the different cultures that formed the Pre-Hispanic Mexico, from the Pre-Classic period (2500 BC-300 AD) to the post-classic period (from 900 to 1521 AD). It is possible to rent audio tours in English. There are a library and a cafeteria in the annex.

Except for the episode of the Chinese princess, there was no historic event in Puebla until May, 5th, 1862. On the order of Napoléon III, the French had invaded Mexico and marched to the capital. In Puebla, they were stopped by a heteroclite troop led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. The battle happened at the actual place of the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Since, this Day is a national Holiday in the whole country to celebrate the only defeat inflicted to a foreign army. The city had to surrender but the French left Mexico at the end of the American Civil War when Washington threatened to intercede.
  Beautiful video about Puebla

If you have time, you can also visit the temple and ex-convent of Saint Francisco, located at the corner of 14 Oriente and boulevard Héroes del 5 de Mayo, noticeable by its 4 level high tower surmounted by Ionic and Doric molding and pilasters made of cut stones. You can admire inside the choir stalls as well as the neoclassic altars and the mummified body of Blessed Sebastian Aparicio.

Don’t leave Puebla before going to the Market El Parián (9AM-8PM), with local products like candies or traditional costumes (sombrero). On Sundays, there is an important market with crafts (Mercado Analco), corner 12 Sur and 5 Oriente. Flea market, on Sundays, in the callejón de los Sapos.

Another museum is worth the visit even if off-centered : the Museo Regional de Antropologia (Unidad civica 5 de Mayo, Calzada de los Fuentes). You will see objects from the Pre-Hispanic and colonial periods : Olmec sculptures and offerings made of jade, masks made of alabaster from Teotihuacán and baptismal fonts from the Church of Acatlán (open Tue-Sun, 10AM-5PM, mxn$30).

Information about the capital :

City map :

Map of the state :

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