At the foot of the legendary Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes is the majestic, peaceful city of Puebla. One of the things that drew us to Puebla was to see the active volcano of Popocatépetl – but that’s another story for another day.
Just a hour and half from Mexico City along modern highway lies Puebla, although no far on the bus to just come for the day would not be fair. I am overwhelmed with the beauty, cleanliness and graciousness of Mexican cities. Puebla is no exception. They say that Puebla, was entrusted to the angels when it was founded, and this is the source of its name Puebla of the Angels, yes it definately feels angelic.
The historic center/zocalo (just about every mexican city has one of these) is filled with churches, monasteries, mansions and the like, mostly done in gray cantera stone, red brick and decorated with multicolored tiles.
Puebla’s streets trace out from the centre in the form of a checkerboard making it supposedly impossible to get lost. The navigator in me was on strike I think, my head spun every time I walked out of the apartment – I always tried to go the wrong way home!
Puebla is also considered to be the “cradle of Mexican Baroque” both in architecture and in the decorative arts as well as home of the famous Talavera Pottery. This pottery is the pretty highly decorated tiling that we see on the buildings everywhere.
On a typical visit to the zocalo we would see the man that sells balloons, the lady selling the typical candies, children selling crafts, a musical trio playing Mexican songs, and as always plenty of lovers making out.
I detect a definite european influence which I later discover originates from France. The french influence evidenced by the elaborate wrought iron balconies and the fine crystal chandeliers adorning historic buildings. On 5 May 1862 Puebla was the scene of one of the historical events that fill Mexicans with pride: the victory over the French army. Now every year (Cinco de Mayo) there are large celebrations re – enacting the battle, several concerts and other cultural activities which in true mexican style go on for several days.
What would a post be without mention of Sacred Places.
Puebla has 325 churches!
Here’s 2 of the most exceptional.
The church of Santo Domingo is definitely worth your time, its interior is lined with impressive Baroque altars and a fine onyx pulpit. But the main attraction here is the Chapel of the Rosario one of the most elaborately decorated Baroque chapels in Mexico.
The walls and dome are completely coated with ornate sculpture in gold leaf and plaster, including saints, cherubs, and dancing angels. On the walls, golden vines form the frames of six paintings depicting the mysteries of the rosary.
An impressive sight with overwhelming baroque decoration and lavish use of gold leaf.
It’s worth a visit just to stare at the opulence.
The cathedral took 300 years to complete and is in the shape of a Latin Cross with five naves! yes five. The complex has 14 chapels in varying styles of artistic works. Its bell towers stand at just under 70 meters high, the tallest in Mexico.
In the crypt under the Cathedral, numerous statues of saints and angels made of onyx can be seen. It holds the work of the great Mexican artist Manuel Tolsá, who also designed the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City.
Legend has it that it was the angels who hung the enormous 18,000 pound Cathedral bell.This legend is the reason this beautiful city is known as Puebla de los Angeles.
Food what about Food?
We always talk about ‘colonial buildings and churches but what about food? We’re pretty basic foodies as you may have noticed, so even though we are supposed to LOOOVE the mexican food, we just don’t seem to get right into it despite trying!
Cocina Poblana culinary tradition, known as Cocina Poblana, is popular throughout Mexico. A distinctive feature of the region’s cooking is mole, a rich, spicy sauce containing chocolate, cinnamon and nuts as well as different types of hot peppers. Served with chicken, mole is the most renowned of Puebla’s dishes, sorry I just can’t do mole, it’s way too rich for me! Des is not that fussed either.
Another famous dish of the region is Chiles en nogada. The dish, chiles en nogada, represents the colors of the Mexican flag green (parsley), white (the walnut sauce) and red (pomegranate seeds). We never tried this and quite honestly it doesn’t look that appetizing to me.
Another signature dish of the region we did try was the cemita – which is a well stuffed large sesame bun filled with served sliced with a filling of leftovers, generally potatoes, beans, nopal, beef, chicken or pork. This made a pretty good lunch.
It was hard to chose which towns and cities in Mexico to go to, they are all mysterious, religious, mystical and beautiful.
They all embrace the Catholic faith without forgetting their native heritage, something that represents perfectly, the union of people that make Mexico.