Area 34,306 km2
|Capital Puebla de Zaragoza|
Governor Rafael Moreno Valle
Population 5.78 million (2010)
|Colleges and Universities Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla|
Points of interest Amparo Museum, Africam Safari, Puebla Cathedral, Cuexcomate, Estadio Cuauhtémoc
Destinations Puebla, Tehuacán, Atlixco, San Martín Texmelucan, Teziutlán
Puebla ( ), officially Free and Sovereign State of Puebla (Spanish: ), is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 217 municipalities and its capital city is Puebla.
- Map of Puebla
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- Geography and ecology
- Festivals and holiday
- Puebla cuisine
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Map of Puebla
It is located in East-Central Mexico. It is bordered by the states of Veracruz to the north and east, Hidalgo, México, Tlaxcala and Morelos to the west, Guerrero and Oaxaca to the south.
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The origins of the state lie in the city of Puebla, which was founded by the Spanish in this valley in 1531 to secure the trade route between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz.
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By the end of the 18th century, the area had become a colonial province with its own governor, which would become the State of Puebla, after the Mexican War of Independence in the early 19th century. Since that time, the area, especially around the capital city, has continued to grow economically, mostly through industry, despite being the scene of a number of battles, the most notable of which being the Battle of Puebla. Today, the state is one of the most industrialized in the country, but since most of its development is concentrated in Puebla and other cities, many of its rural areas are very poor, forcing many to migrate away to places such as Mexico City and the United States.
Culturally, the state is home to the China Poblana, mole poblano, active literary and arts scenes and festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Ritual of Quetzalcoatl, Day of the Dead celebrations (especially in Huaquechula) and Carnival (especially in Huejotzingo). It is home to five major indigenous groups: Nahuas, the Totonacas, the Mixtecas, the Popolocas and the Otomi, which can mostly be found in the far north and the far south of the state.
Geography and ecology
The state is located on the central highlands of Mexico between the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Madre Oriental. It has a roughly triangular shape with its narrow part to the north. It borders the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Morelos, State of Mexico, Tlaxcala and Hidalgo. The state has a territory of 33,919km2 and ranks 20th out of 31 states in size, and 4,930 named communities.
The territory of the state was one of the first in modern Mexico to be inhabited by humans. Most of the earliest settlements have been found in the valley of Tehuacán, with the oldest near the Agujereado Mountain, which dates back to 10,000 BCE. At this site the oldest sample of corn ever found in the world has been found, which dates back to 1500 BCE. Along with Agujereado Mountain, there are more than 450 prehistoric sites in the Tehuacan Valley alone. Stone tools date to between 6500 and 4900 BCE, and evidence of agriculture to 3500 and 2000 BCE in areas such as Aljojuca, Totimiuacan, Cholula and Izucar. By 900 BCE, there is ample evidence of the cultivation of corn, beans, squash, chili peppers and cotton. The rise of city states was established by 700 BCE.
By the Mesoamerican period, the area was inhabited by a number of ethnicities. The regions of Acatlán and part of Chiautla were dominated by the Mixtecs. Tepexi was dominated by the Popolocas. The central part of the state was dominated by the Olmec-Xicalancas and Nahuas, with strong cultural links to the Toltec-based culture at Cholula. The north was populated by the Totonacas, the Mazatecos and the Otomi, whose cultural center was in El Tajín. In the 14th century, Nonoalca ruler Xelhua, came to dominate almost all of the territory of Puebla. In the 15th century, Aztec domination took over the same area and more. Initially, the center and south areas were under the control of Tenochtitlan with Texcoco dominant in the north. Aztec domination continued until the Spanish Conquest.
Hernán Cortés entered the area which is now Puebla state in 1519, along with his indigenous allies from Veracruz, on his way to Tlaxcala . The Spanish takeover of the Puebla area was relatively easy. Many of the peoples here were under Aztec domination and saw the foreigners as a way to escape. One notable exception was the city of Cholula. While negotiating with the city’s leaders, Cortés was told of a plot to attack him and his men. Cortés ordered his army to commit the Massacre of Cholula on 12 October 1519. This act terrified those who opposed the Spanish and they submitted. In 1520, after his initial defeat in Tenochtitlan (La Noche Triste) Hernán Cortés founded a Spanish settlement at Tepeaca, and took areas such as Huaquechula and Itzocan. Many natives leaders then provided men and supplies for the conquest of Tenochtitlan in 1521, and later to go with Pedro de Alvarado to Guatemala . Local indigenous governments survived in the very early colonial period, subject to the Spanish. These included Tuchpa, Tzicoac, Metztitlán, Tlapacoyan, Atotonilco, Tlatlaquitepec, Huaxtepec, Tepeaca, Tlacozautitlán, Quiauhteopan, Yoaltepec, Teotitlán del Camino, Cuautochco and Coixtlahuacan.
The origins of the modern state lie in the founding of the city of Puebla in the Cuetlaxcoapan Valley in 1531 by Toribio de Benavente and Juan de Salmerón. The city was laid out by Hernando de Elgueta, marking out residential areas, commercial areas etc. The city received its royal seal in 1532 but flooding forced the settlement to move across the San Francisco River and start over that same year. The city’s (and now state’s) seal was granted in 1538. The city of Puebla was created to secure the route between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz, and was initially populated by soldiers and those who made a living by providing shelter and supplies to travelers between the two cities. However, it soon became the economic and cultural center of the valley areas between the Valley of Mexico and the Gulf Coast, as it provided a starting point for Spanish settlement. The area’s economy expanded rapidly as many Europeans and indigenous decided to settle permanently, with the settlement of Puebla reaching city status in 1532 with the name of Ciudad de los Angeles.
The Franciscans were in charge of the evangelization process in the state, starting from 1524, when they founded the monastery of Huejotzingo. Between 1540 and 1560, they founded others such as those in Tecamachalco, Quecholac, Tecali, Calpan, Cuautinchán, Zacatlán, Cholula, Huaquechula, Tepeaca, Tehuacán, Xalpa and Coatepec. The Augustinians arrived next, constructing monasteries in Chiautla, Chietla, Huatlatlauca, Tlapa, Xicotepec and Papaloticpac. The last of the evangelists were the Dominicans, who built monasteries at Izúcar de Matamoros, Tepapayeca, Huehuatlán and Tepexi. The bishopric was established in 1526. Initially, the seat was in the Yucatán, but it was eventually moved to Tlaxcala, then to Pueba by 1550. Eventually, its extension included the current states of Tlaxcala and Puebla during much of the colonial period.
In 1783, the royal government in Spain divided New Spain into “intendencias” or provinces, one of which was centered on the city of Puebla. The first governor of Puebla was Manuel de Flon, Count of La Cadena. Initially, this intendencia included Tlaxcala, but it was separated out in 1793. Other parts were eventually separated out into other provinces/states such as Mexico, Guerrero and Veracruz.
During the Mexican War of Independence, the city of Puebla remained loyal to the viceroy in Mexico City, sending troops to defend it at the Battle of Monte de las Cruces against Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Ecclesiastical authorities in the Cathedral excommunicated insurgent priests and battles took place in Izúcar and Chiautla. Most of the south of the state, especially Izucar and the Sierra Mixteca were firmly in insurgent hands. Control then bypassed the capital and reached the more northern settlements of Tehuacan and Atlixco. After Independence, the first governor of the state was Carlos García Arriaga in 1821. The first state congress was seated in 1824, with the first state constitution adopted the same year. The new state was divided initially into 21 parts. The Spanish were expelled from the state in 1827. In 1849, the state was reorganized into eight departments and 162 municipalities and again in 1895 with 21 districts and 180 municipalities.
During the rest of the 19th century, the state developed economically through industry. The first mechanized textile mill was established in 1831, soon followed by 17 others in the city of Puebla. Progress was interrupted by Santa Anna’s siege of the city in 1845 and two years later when the Americans under General Winfield Scott took the city on their way to Mexico City. The Americans left three years later at the end of the war.
Much of the rest of the century was occupied with civil strife such as the insurrection of Francisco Ortega against the federal government, the Reform War and the French Intervention. The last provoked the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862, when 6,000 French troops attacked the forts named Loreto and Guadalupe outside of the city of Puebla, but they were repelled by forces under Ignacio Zaragoza. Zaragoza died some months after this battle, and he would be later honored by having his name added to that of the city. However, less than a year later, the city would be taken and shortly after, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico would be installed. However, his rule would be brief and the French, along with their conservative Mexican allies, were expelled from the state in 1867.
From this time to the Mexican Revolution, a number of important infrastructure projects were undertaken. One was the Puebla-Veracruz rail line in 1873 and the Escuela Normal para Profesores (Teachers’ College) in 1879. In 1907, a hydroelectric plant was built in Necaxa. However, the economic policies of this area caused widespread unrest, beginning with workers’ strikes. Directly against the regime of Porfirio Díaz was the Club Antireeleccionista (Anti-reelection Club) headed by Aquiles Serdán in 1909. In November 1910, after long government surveillance, troops attacked the Serdán house in Puebla killing Aquiles and his brother Máximo. For this reason, the state claims one of the first battles of the Mexican Revolution .
In 1912, the Liberation Army of the South or Zapatistas took over a number of communities in the state. In 1914, they were challenged by forces loyal to Venustiano Carranza, which occupied the capital briefly. However, the Zapatistas would hold power for the rest of the war. Under the 1917 Constitution, the state was reestablished with 222 municipalities. One of the last skirmishes of the war occurred in Aljibes, Puebla in May 1920 when forces of Álvaro Obregón attacked those of Carranza as he was headed to Veracruz. Carranza was assassinated in Tlaxcalantongo in the Sierra Norte de Puebla soon thereafter.
The 1920s immediately after the war was marked by instability. The governorship changed hands frequently with resistance to whoever was in power from other parts of the state. Despite this, the Universidad de Puebla was established by Maximino Ávila Camacho during this decade. True political stability would not come until the governorship of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz in 1942.
Since the Mexican Revolution, the city of Puebla and its suburbs are one of the most industrialized areas in Mexico, with the metropolitan area ranked fourth in size. Its position near both Mexico City and the Gulf coast continues to be an advantage. However, modern development of the city area has been restricted to outside the city center, in order to preserve its traditional look. This historic center was named a World Heritage Site in 1987, with the Biblioteca Palafoxiana named as part of the Memory of the World Programme in 2005. Today, Puebla’s economic development is centered on its capital. This capital is part of the megalopolis centered on Mexico City.
In 1977, the center of the city of Puebla was named a “Zone of Historic Monuments.” The same area was later named a World Heritage Site in 1987. In 1979, Puebla was the scene of one of Pope John Paul IIs early papal visits outside Italy to Mexico for that years CELAM conference over three months after his election and papal inauguration.
In 1998, the state was declared in a state of emergency due to 122 forest fires with affected 2,998 hectares of land over two weeks. Many of the fires were started by fires on agricultural lands and the extremely dry conditions made the fires out of control.
The 1999 Tehuacán earthquake did major damage to much of state, especially many of its colonial era churches, and the colonial buildings of the historic center of the city of Puebla. The state of Puebla was declared a disaster area.
In the 2000s, Organizations such as Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) have accused state governmental officials of restricting and suppressing the press. Some of the threats against reporters have included false arrests and death threats.
The state is divided into seven socioeconomic regions for planning purposes: Region I-Huauchinango, Region II – Teziutlán, Region III Ciudad Serdán, Region IV San Pedro Cholula, Region V – Puebla, Region VI Izúcar de Matamoros and Region VII Tehuacán.
The state of Puebla is located on the east side of the volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, opposite of the Valley of Mexico and Mexico City. The two volcanoes have as much significance here as they do on the west side, with many communities nearby maintaining ritual specific to honoring the two. These arose as fertility rituals but today are called “birthdays” with 12 March reserved for Popocatepetl and 30 August for Iztaccíhuatl. On these events, special foods and gifts are prepared as offerings and left in certain places. These traditions have survived despite the evangelization efforts of the colonial period.
Festivals and holiday
The state is home to a number of festivals and traditions, from those with a purely pre-Hispanic background, to the far more numerous saints’ days to modern fairs located to regional economies. The largest important events include the Day of the Dead in Huaquechula, the Carnival of Huijotzingo, Spring Equinox in Cantona, Fiesta de Santo Entierro y Feria de las Flores, the Fería del Café y el Huipil, the Huey Atlixcáyotl Festival, the Quetzalcoatl Ritual and Cinco de Mayo, celebrated in the entire state.
Cinco de Mayo is an important celebration in a number of places the United States, but it is a minor holiday or even unknown in much of Mexico proper. The only place where the holiday, which commemorates the Battle of Puebla during the French Intervention in Mexico, is important is in the state of Puebla. The French army invaded the country in 1862 and marched from Veracruz towards the city of Puebla. Just outside the city, inexperienced Mexican troops attacked the French who were camped. This resulted in victory, but the French were ultimately able to move on and take Mexico City, dominating the country until 1867. The annual celebration of the battle began in the state in areas of the country not occupied by the French as a symbol of Mexican pride. Today it is the most important state political commemoration. The most important observances take place at the Loreto and Guadalupe forts in the city of Puebla, where the battle occurred in 1862. The highlight is a reenactment of the event at the site.
Like the rest of Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated in the state. Two aspects which feature prominently on altars in this state are mole with turkey and large wax candles. Other items can include black candelabras, incense burners, candy skulls, decorative paper cutouts, oranges and other fruits in season. Leading to these altars often are a line of small candles to guide the returning spirits. One municipality which is particularly known for its events is Huaquechula. Here, altars constructed in homes can be of multiple levels and are usually covered in white paper. On the first level, food and drink are usually placed, with religious objects and objects related to the deceased on the second level.
In a number of communities in the state, Carnival is celebrated. The best known of these carnivals takes place in Huejotzingo, as it began as a synthesis of a celebration honoring Tlaloc and the Catholic tradition related to the days before Ash Wednesday. Today, this carnival includes many traditional activities such as music, masks and parades, but this one also includes a reenactment of the Battle of Puebla and local legends such as the kidnapping of a governor’s daughter and the legend of Agustìn Lorenzo (called the Robin Hood of the 18th century) . Locals attend in colorful costumes and masks representing the Conquistadors, demons or animals, adorned with palm fronds or feathers. The capital of Puebla also celebrates Carnival with its signature tradition of the Las Marias, where men disguise themselves as women and mischievous devils.
Another major time for religious observance is Holy Week or Semana Santa. In Puebla, there is the Procession del Silencio or Procession of Silence which occurs on Maundy Thursday, when the city observes a period of silence to mark the death of Jesus.
The spring equinox is the setting for rituals at some of Puebla’s archeological sites such as Cantona and Cholula. Cantona is an archeological site located near the city of Puebla and was one of the largest cities in early Mesoamerica. Today, the site is popular gathering place on the spring equinox (much like Teotihuacan), where people sing, dance and greet the sunrise on this date. Another site where similar observances are held is the Great Pyramid of Cholula. Here indigenous dances and rituals are performed. The event culminates with the Ritual of Quetzalcoatl, which was an important part of the ancient Cholula culture. This event draws attendees from various parts of Mexico.
The Huey Atlixcáyotl Festival is celebrated in the town of Atlixco to celebrate the area’s local culture and identity. The name means “Atlixco tradition” in Nahuatl and is centered on the San Miguel Hill (called Popocatica in ancient times) located in the center of the town. It was locally sacred in the pre-Hispanic era, and in colonial times, a hermitage was built there. The event was named a Cultural Heritage of the State of Puebla in 1996. The purpose of the event is to celebrate the survival of indigenous culture after the Conquest .
In July, the Pueblo Mágico of Cuetzalan has the cultural festival of Festival Tradicional, which features traditional dancers who come from various parts of the state. Tetela de Ocampo celebrates its Peach Festival in August. On the last day of August, the Procession de los Faroles (Procession of the Lanterns) takes place in Cholula .
Puebla has a number of annual fairs meant to highlights the various regions’ products. In Huauchinango, an economic fair and a religious observance are conducted at the same time. The Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) and the Santo Entierro (Holy Burial) occur in the second half of March. It consists of religious events such as processions and masses. Many cut flower and ornamental plant growers come to display their products and there is the coronation of the Queen of Flowers. Other events include agricultural displays, parades with floats, dances, crafts, cockfights, sporting events and more.
The Feria del Café y el Huipil (Coffee and Huipil Festival) takes place in Cuetzalan. The event promotes the area’s locally grown coffee as well as traditionally made huipil dresses. There are also displays of pre-Hispanic dance, popular music, fireworks and more. The event began in 1949 as the National Festival of Coffee, which is economically important here. The event centered on the choosing of a Coffee Queen, much like other similar kinds of festivals. In 1962, the National Festival of the Huipil was established. Eventually, the two merged to the current event.
Other events to promote Puebla’s products include the Feria de Café in Xicotpec in March and the Feria Nacional de Puebla. The latter is held in the state capital and brings together many of the state’s agricultural, livestock, craft and industrial producers in an event very analogous to a state fair. The regional fair called the Piloto de Cholula occurs in September.
The best-known mole is named after the city of Puebla, mole poblano. The origin of this sauce is disputed and there are two versions of the legend that are most often cited. The first states that 16th century nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa were worried because they had just found out that the archbishop was going to visit them and they had nothing to prepare for him except for an old turkey in the yard. Supposedly due to divine inspiration, they began to mix together many of the spices and flavorings they had on hand in the kitchen, including different types of chili peppers, other spices, day-old bread, chocolate and approximately twenty other ingredients. They let the sauce simmer for hours and poured it over the turkey meat. Fortunately, the archbishop was very pleased with the meal and the nuns were able to save face.
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The other story states that the sauce is of pre-Hispanic times and this was served to Hernán Cortés and the other conquistadors by Moctezuma II. The Aztecs did have a preparation called “chilmulli,” which in Nahuatl means “chili pepper sauce.” However, there is no evidence that chocolate was ever used to flavor prepared foods or used in chilmulli. What has happened is that the sauce gained ingredients as it was reinterpreted over the colonial period. Many food writers and gourmets nowadays consider one particular dish, the famous turkey in mole poblano, which contains chocolate, to represent the pinnacle of the Mexican cooking tradition.
Another famous dish, chiles en nogada, was also supposedly invented here. The story begins with three sisters from Puebla who met officers from Agustin de Iturbide’s Army of the Three Guarantees in Mexico City and fell in love with them. Attempts were made to engage the couples but one problem was that none of the sisters knew how to cook. Upon returning to Puebla, their mother sent them to the Convent of Santa Monica to learn. The women decided they wanted to make an original dish to impress Iturbide and his officers when they were due to visit Puebla. The dish, chiles en nogada, represents the colors of the Mexican flag, green (parsley), white (the walnut sauce) and red (pomegranate seeds). The dish was served for the first time at a banquet for Iturbide with great success.
Another signature dish in Puebla is the “cemita,” which is a type of well-stuffed sandwich on a bun. The cemita is considered to be the sister of the Mexican torta, the first cousin of the pambazo, the distant cousin of the paste and the sandwich and the precursor to the giant tortas that are now sold in most parts of Mexico today. This large, meaty sandwich is named after the bread on which is it is served, a cemita. This bread is based on a bread introduced by the French during the period of the French Intervention in Mexico (1863–1867), but since then has evolved to suit Mexican tastes, especially in Puebla state. In the early 20th century, the bread began to be served sliced with a filling of leftovers, generally potatoes, beans, nopal, beef, chicken or pork. The Victoria Market in Puebla became famous for a version with beef hoof, onions and chili peppers with a vinaigrette sauce. Other markets and food stands soon created their own versions of the cemita with just about any kind of filling combination possible. During the same time period, it became traditional to sprinkle sesame seeds onto the cemita bread, often with designs of flowers, stars, animals and other things. While the dish started out as a lower-class meal, it is now enjoyed by people of all social classes in the city as a form of fast-food.