Latin America and the Caribbean
April 16, 1531
| Amparo Museum, Africam Safari, Puebla Cathedral, Cuexcomate, Estadio Cuauhtemoc|
Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla (Puebla), Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla (Puebla), Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla (Puebla), TecMilenio University - Puebla (Puebla)
The city of Puebla , formally Puebla de los Angeles, is the seat of the Municipality of Puebla, the capital and largest city of the state of Puebla, and one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. A colonial era-planned city, it is located southeast of Mexico City and west of Mexicos main Atlantic port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two in Central Mexico.
The city was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan, which means "where serpents change their skin", in between of two of the main indigenous settlements at the time, Tlaxcala and Cholula. This valley was not populated in the 16th century as in the pre-Hispanic period; this area was primarily used to the "flower wars" between a number of populations. Due to its history and architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque, the city was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city is also famous for mole poblano, chiles en nogada and Talavera pottery. However, most of its economy is based on industry.
Being both the fourth largest city in Mexico and the fourth largest Metropolitan area in Mexico, the city serves as one of the main hubs for eastern Central Mexico. Many students come from all over the country. The city is also important because of its industry, with the worlds largest Volkswagen factory outside of Germany located in the Municipality of Cuautlancingo. As a result, many suppliers have opened factories in the city of Puebla.
Some historians consider that the area where the city is located nowadays was not inhabited in the Pre-Columbian era, except in the 15th century, when this valley was set aside for use for the so-called Flower Wars among the populations of Itzocan, Tepeaca, Huejotzingo, Texmelucan and Tlaxcala, with those soldiers captured being used as sacrifice victims.
The foundation of Puebla begins with a letter from the bishop of Tlaxcala in 1530, Julian Garces, to the Spanish queen outlining the need for a Spanish settlement between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz. According to legend, the bishop had a dream about where to build the city. In this dream, he saw a valley with woods and meadows crossed by a clear river and dotted with fresh-water springs on fertile land. While he was contemplating this scenery, he supposedly saw a group of angels descend from heaven and trace out the city. Convinced he had seen a divine vision, he celebrated Mass, and took some of the brothers out in search of the place. Five leagues from the monastery he declared they had found the place shown in the dream. This legend is the source of Puebla’s original name, Puebla de los Angeles, and its current nickname Angelopolis (literally, City of Angels).
Puebla is located at the Valley of Puebla also known as the Valley of Cuetlaxcoapan, a large valley surrounded on four sides by the mountains and volcanoes of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes, giving the residents a magnificent view of their snow-topped peaks. Due to the proximity to the Popocatepetl, Puebla is some times exposed to the ash and dust that emanate from the volcano during its active periods, the most recent occurring on May 8, 2013.
La Malinche dormant volcano is located to the north of the city, and the Pico de Orizaba to the east. Hydrologically, the city is part of the Atoyac river basin; the river runs through northern, eastern and southern portions of the municipality, and connects to the Lake of Valsequillo, where the Manuel Avila Camacho dam has been built. Other rivers that cross the area are the Alseseca and San Francisco.
The historical and cultural value of Pueblas architecture is a major reason the city was chosen as a World Heritage Site. Various styles and techniques such as Baroque, Renaissance and Classic are represented here in over 5,000 buildings included in the catalogue. The historic center is filled with churches, monasteries, mansions and the like, mostly done in gray cantera stone, red brick and decorated with multicolored tiles. Puebla is also considered to be the “cradle of Mexican Baroque” both in architecture and in the decorative arts, and one of the five most important colonial cities in Mexico.
In spite of the many shopping malls that exist in Puebla today, the Zocalo remains the cultural, political and religious center of the city. It was the first block to be laid out, with the rest of the historic center traced out from it in the form of a checkerboard. This main plaza originally was rectangular, but later made square because the earlier version was considered to be ugly. Until the end of the 18th century, this was the main market for the town. For much of the colonial period, it was the main source of potable water via a fountain that had been installed in the center in the mid-16th century. Many political and cultural events have been and continue to be held here. Bullfights were held in the main square from 1566 to 1722. Today, the Zocalo is a tree-filled plaza and contains a large number of sculptures, but the most noted is the one of the Archangel Michael that is in a fountain placed in the center in 1777. Many notable buildings surround the Zocalo including City Hall, the Casa de los Munecos and the Cathedral. Most of the streets in Puebla are named on a numbering system, which centers on the northwest corner of the Zocalo. El Parian is an arts and crafts market, within walking distance of the plaza. It consists mostly of permanent stalls but there is an area provided for vendors who visit and sell their wares on blankets spread on the ground.
The Cathedral, located on 16 de Septiembre and 5 Oriente, took 300 years to complete, in part due to interruptions in its construction. The Cathedral was begun in 1575 under orders of Philip II of Spain by architects Francisco Becerra and Juan de Cigorondo. The building was consecrated in 1649 even though only half of the walls and much of the roof were missing and the towers not yet built. The north tower was added in 1678 and the south tower in 1768.The shape of the cathedral is a Latin cross and contains five naves. The main altar is octagonal, with four others oriented to the cardinal directions The complex consists of fourteen chapels in various styles with numerous artistic works such as the main cupola and the main altar, both decorated by Cristobal de Villalpando. The facade is classified as late Baroque in transition to Neoclassical, with Doric and Corinthian columns. Its bell towers stand at just under 70 meters high, the tallest in Mexico. The seating in the choir is made of parquetry of fine woods, onyx and ivory of Moorish design. The two organs were donated by Charles V. In the crypt under the Cathedral, numerous statues of saints and angels made of onyx can be seen.
The Museo Amparo (Amparo Museum) is housed in two colonial-era buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries that were popularly known as El Hospitalito. One was the Hospital of San Juan de Letran, which was converted into a college for women. The other is a mansion from the 18th century. It was joined to the hospital and then became the “Deposito de Mujeres Casadas” (Refuge of Married Women) This was established in 1606 for women whose husbands were gone for long periods of time. However, the idea was not popular with women and in 1609, it became the asylum for “lost women,” those obligated to be secluded for some reason. This facility was moved to another building and the building became part of the women’s college founded next door, then a convent. The museum has fourteen exhibition halls with pottery, steles and sculptures from the Zapotec, Huasteca, Maya, Olmec and Aztec cultures as well as fine furniture and religious objects from the colonial period and examples of contemporary art. These represent the three epochs of Mexican history, pre-Columbian, colonial-era and post-Independence. Seven of the halls are dedicated to pre-Columbian pieces.
The Biblioteca Palafoxiana (Palafoxiana Library) was established in 1646 by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza for the Seminary of Puebla. He donated his own collection of 5,000 books to the College of San Juan to start the collection. It was the first library in the Americas and is the only one to survive to the present day. The main room is in Baroque style and was constructed in 1773 by Bishop Francisco Fabian y Fuero who also named the institution after Palafox. Today the library contains over 42,000 books, 5,000 manuscripts and other items, which date from 1473 to 1910. The Library was named a Historic Monument of Mexico (Monumento Historico de Mexico) and UNESCO has made it part of Memory of the World.
The Casa del Dean is the oldest noble house in the city of Puebla, constructed by Tomas de la Plaza Goes, who was the deacon of the Cathedral of Puebla. It was finished in 1580. The building remained practically intact until 1953, when it was going to be demolished to construct a movie theater. Protests to save the building, due to its murals and facade, succeeded. The murals are frescos, which are the only surviving non-religious examples from the 16th century in their original place in Mexico. The gray stone facade is completely smooth to let the main portal, of Renaissance style, stand out. The portal contains and upper and lower portion with a crest.
The Centro Cultural Santa Rosa is housed in a building that dates from the 17th century which originally was housing for Dominican nuns. Later, it became a convent named in honour of Saint Rose of Lima. This is where the story of the invention of mole poblano takes place. In 1869, it ceased being a convent and became a psychiatric hospital. In the 20th century the Ceramic Museum was founded in the building’s kitchen, with the rest of the building occupied as tenements for about 1500 people. In 1973, the Museo de Arte Cultural Poblano was founded and in 2000 the name was changed to the current one. The facility offers exhibitions, shows and art classes.
The Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution) was the home of Aquiles Serdan in the very early 20th century. He was politically active in the anti-reelection (of President Porfirio Diaz) movement of the time and was accused of distributing propaganda against Diaz. Police assaulted the building and Serdan and his family fought back, until Aquiles was killed. President Francisco I. Madero stayed at the home in honor of Serdan. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Mexico City and the building became tenements and stores. Decades later, the federal government acquired the building from the family to convert it into the museum that is here today.
Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe are located in the Centro Civico 5 de Mayo part of the city. Both were instrumental to the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862. The chapel of the Loreto fort contains a former chapel, which is now the Museo de la No Intervencion (Museum of Non-Intervention). This is to commemorate a non-aggression pact signed by Mexico and Central American and two South American countries in the 1960s. The Museo de Guerra del Fuerte (Fort War Museum) de Loreto y Guadalupe is located in this fort as well. This museum contains cannons, shotguns, swords, documents and other objects related to this battle.
The Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo y Diseno (Gallery of Contemporary Art and Design) is dedicated to visual arts such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, metal etching, photography, video, and others and belongs to the Secretary of Culture of the state of Puebla. It is housed in the old La Violeta textile factory, which dates back to 1908, and was one only many factories in this area at that time. This building was renovated between 1995 and 1998 for this museum.
The Museo de Jose Mariano Bello y Acedo (Jose Mariano Bello y Acedo Museum) was initially founded with the private collection of the Bello family, along with works donated by friends. It originally began as a private museum or pinacotheca. Upon Jose Mariano’s death, the house and collection was bequeathed to the city.
The Casa de Alfenique is named for the intricate mortar work that covers its facade. Alfenique is a kind of sugar and almond candy. It was constructed by Antonio Santamaria de Inchaurregui for Juan Ignacio Morales, who was a master ironsmith. The facades also contain ironwork balconies, cornices and a crown. The house was left to the state by Alejandro Ruiz Olavarrieta in 1896. It was first used to house the first public museum in the city of Puebla. The collection contains more than 1,500 pieces of a historical nature.
The Museo de Arte (Museum of Art) originally was constructed to be the Temple of San Pedro, founded in 1541 to be a church and a hospital. Eventually it was established as the Hospital of San Pedro y San Pablo under the direction of the Cathedral of Tlaxcala. It was functioning as a hospital by 1544, but it incurred major expenditures, forcing it to limit service to men only. The arches of the main courtyard were completed in 1640, as well as it fountain and nursing units. In the first half of the 18th century, the hospital ceased to be under the direct control of the Cathedral, passing to the monks of the order of San Juan de Dios. In the latter half of the century, it began to house soldiers in order to improve its finances. The hospital underwent major reforms in the early 19th century to improve medical care, and began to receive medical students from the Medical-Surgical Academy of Puebla. In 1867, the facility became the Hospital General del Estado. In 1917, the hospital moved to new facilities in the city. Through most of the 20th century, the building was used for a wide-variety of purposes. In 1998, a project to restore the building for its use as Puebla Museum of Viceregal Art. In 2002, this museum was converted into the San Pedro Museum of Art, which exhibits works from various epochs.
The Museum Workshop of Erasto Cortes Juarez was the home of one of the major figures in fine and graphic arts in Puebla in the 20th century. The museum was founded in 2000 and contains more than 400 pieces of both his work and personal effects. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits, workshops and seminars.
The Teatro Principal de Puebla (Main Theater of Puebla) was inaugurated in 1761 by Miguel de Santamaria. In 1902, the theater burned down, and was rebuilt in 1940, and again in 1998. The theater hosts cultural events and art shows featuring regional, national and international artists.
The Municipal Palace is located on Maximino Avila Camacho. The facade is made of gray cantera stone in Renaissance style, using Ionic columns and pediments, differing from the other buildings that border the main plaza. The portal has two levels topped by a central garret, in which there is a clock and towers on each side.
The Fountain of the China Poblana is located on Blvd Heroes de 5 de May. It is a monumental work done in cantera stone and Talavera tile, with a base of about thirty meters in diameter. In the center is a column that supports two large bowls and a sculpture of the China Pobalana which is over three meters high.
The Church and ex Monastery of San Francisco is on Blvd Heroes del 5 de Mayo. Its elevated four-level tower stands out with its mouldings and Ionic and Doric pilasters. The main facade is done in gray cantera stone in which are sculpted large jars and flowers. The main portal is of Churrigueresque style, flanked by large panels of tilework surrounded by Plateresque decoration. Inside is a Plateresque choir, Neoclassic altarpieces and the mummified body of the beatified Sebastian de Aparicio.
The Church of Santo Domingo is located on 5 de Mayo Street. The main portal is of pure classic style finished in gray cantera stone. It consists of three levels with paired Doric-like columns. The facade of the old monastery is highly decorated in Baroque style, in front of which is a large atrium. Inside the ceiling consists of two large vaults and contains gilded altarpieces in Baroque, Salmonic and Churrigueresque styles. The Chapel of the Rosario is located in the Church of Santo Domingo. The Chapel was built between 1650 and 1690 and was the first to be dedicated to the Our Lady of the Rosary. The chapel is filled with symbolism, as it is filled with images and elements which are representative of the Baroque of New Spain. This symbolism is principally meant to aid with the evangelization process. The chapel contains three themes important to the Church, the mysteries of the rosary, the virtues associated with it and the Virgin of the Rosary herself. The cupola is in the shape of the crown of the Virgin Mary. The chapel is decorated with sculpted plaster that has been gilded done by local artists. There are also six paintings done by Jose Rodriguez Carnero as well as paintings by the altar depicting the life of the Virgin.
Cuexcomate is the smallest volcano in the world at just thirteen meters tall and a diameter of 23 meters. The volcano is inactive and located in the La Libertad neighborhood of the city of Puebla. There is a spiral staircase going down into the crater itself.
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.
The other story states that the sauce is of pre-Hispanic times and this was served to Hernan Cortes 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.