Above: the Santuario de los Remedios
Church sits on top of the largest pyramid in the world.
|After spending two fully productive days
in Mexico City, it was certainly time to get away for some cleaner air and
lesser crowds. The great thing about Mexico is that the whole country is linked
with a superlative bus system that can transport you anywhere you want fast and
cheap. Mexico City is surrounded by some fantastic excursion destinations.
There are volcanoes that can be climbed, pretty colonial villages, as well as
ancient Aztec and Toltec ruins, etc. One nearby getaway that offers all of
these features is Puebla.
130km east of Mexico City, Puebla was founded in
1531 by the Spanish as an important catholic religious center. It was the 2nd
largest city in Mexico for about 300 years until Guadelajara overtook it.
Despite heavy industrialization, thanks to the opening of a Mexican Volkswagon
Plant, and a population that now exceeds one million - the city has not lost
it's charm and is still considered one of Mexico's prettiest cities. Not only
does Puebla exhibit plenty of splendid colonial churrigueresque architecture
but it also contains several critical sights in Mexican history as it is the
place where the Mexicans so famously defeated the French on 5 May, 1862,
spurring the holiday that is now known as Cinco de Mayo.
|Puebla has always been known for it's
history (the Cinco de Mayo event), tiles (on the colonial buildings), pottery
and mole (a distinctive chocolate sauce). Archeologists have recently
discovered a new attraction to this region however. The tiny suburb of Cholula,
a 20 minute bus ride from the Puebla city center, was always known for none
other than being a famous battleground spot where Cortes slaughtered some 3,000
Aztecs and it's pretty little church, Santuario de los Remedios: perched nicely
on top of a hill. Conspicuously hiding beneath the hill however, lies the
world's largest pyramid. Although only being 65 m high, with a volume exceeding
450 sq m, Piramide Tepanapa contains a mass that exceeds both Egypt's Cheops
and Teotihuacan's Piramide Del
Right: The Fuerte de Loreto was
the spot where the Mexicans defeated the French in 1862.
After a nice dinner that night at
Vittorio's in which I got to try the official mole poblano, Charlie and I began
to wander down the streets of Puebla. I was looking for nothing more than
colonial churrigueresque buildings, whereas Charlie, I believe, was hunting for
some more monuments to climb. Nevertheless, she got her mischief when we
crashed a little Monday night salsa rumble. After hearing some mariachi music
blasting from the second floor of a seemingly ordinary warehouse, we realized
that it had been turned into a rambunctious dance hall. Nevertheless, it was
culture that we were both after and we decided to join in the festivities.
Quite obviously being the only two non-"Pueblanos" in the building, we stuck
out like a pair of soar thumbs - especially when we attempted to dance. Still,
the locals, despite our vain attempt to replicate their cultured dancing style,
received us with open arms and we drunk and danced the night away.
||Charlie and I arrived to Puebla late in
the afternoon and the first thing we did was hire a cab to take us to Cholula.
Although there is no visible evidence of a pyramid from the exterior of the
hill, an entrance has been dug into the side of the hill which leads into
tunnels built through the pyramids interior. This little maze of stone steps
and tunnels offer a little adventurous stroll through to an exit on the other
side of the hill. The church itself is well worth a visit. It is probably one
the brightest jaundiced-yellow churches I have ever seen. Poached on top top
the hill the church offers a sweeping view of Cholula and it's other main
attraction - the Capillo Real - a unique building built in 1540 that contains
49 domes on it's rooftop.
the Piramide Tepanapa
Right: The Santuario de los Remedios Church, on top of the
|The next day we spent wandering around the
streets of Puebla, absorbing the beautiful colonial buildings. Puebla was a
much more condensed, peaceful version of Mexico
City. There was a Zocalo with a Grand Cathedral, Catedral Herreriano. In
fact, Herreriano is presumed to be one of the most beautiful buildings in
Mexico and it certainly was worth the visit.
We walked all the way to the top of the hilltop park of Cerro de
Guadelupe. This is the exact spot where the rogue Mexican platoon of 2,000
defeated some 6,000 French soldiers on May 5, 1862 under the guidance of
General Ignacio de Zaragoza. Ironically, the French did regroup and occupy
Puebla until 1867 immediately afterwards, but the date Cinco de Mayo is
celebrated throughout Mexico and the United States.
Above: Nightlife in
Like the Castillo Chapultepec:
the fort that played a key role in the Cinco de Mayo battle, Fuerte de Loreto,
has now been turned into a museum. The museum, Museo de la No Intervencion, is
fully equipped with murals relating to the battle as well as the French
occupation and offers some pretty views of Puebla and it's suburbs due to its
hilltop location. Both the Santuario de los Remedios and the Catedral
Herreriano are visible from the fort.
Unfortunately, this was all we had time for in Puebla but we had
still managed to capture the essence of the impact colonialism had had on
Mexico's cities and seen churrigueresque architecture at its very best. We
wandered down the hill for another nice stroll through Puebla and caught the
bus back to Mexico City.
Left: The Spanish conquistadors were searching for the three
G's... what were the again? ... God, Glenn and ... Gazpacho? Well nevertheless,
here's the first two...