At the foot of the legendary Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes is the majestic, peaceful city of Puebla.
They say that Puebla, a lovely colonial city, was entrusted to the angels when it was founded, and this is the source of its name: Puebla of the Angels.
Those of us who live in Mexico City are privileged to be near to Puebla, just an hour and a half away by a modern highway.
On May fifth, 1862, Puebla was the scene of one of the historical events that fill Mexicans with pride: the victory of our army over the French army, which was the biggest in the world at the time.
This success would not have been achieved without the heroic participation of the Zacapoazxtlas, the courageous natives of the region, who joined with the young General Ignacio Zaragoza, appointed by President Benito Juárez to defend the land from the French invasion.
Without knowing military strategy, they armed themselves with sticks and machetes, and overcame the French, ennobling the name of Mexico. From that year on, their feat has been commemorated on the 5th of May every year.
Taking advantage of the fact that another anniversary of this very important event was approaching, we had the opportunity to spend a marvelous weekend in Puebla.
When we arrived, we went directly to where the famous battle took place: the Loreto and Guadalupe forts. They are half-destroyed constructions now, but the idea of being at the exact place where an event of such importance for our country was most exciting.
After staying there a while, we decided to wander about Puebla, appreciating the avenues and the colonial buildings, which are the best representation of colonial Mexico.
We went downtown. There we saw the typical town square or “zócalo“, with its bandstand, fountains and doves that fluttered all around. To one side, the great cathedral, the loveliest that the Spaniards built in Mexico.
The people of Puebla say that it was once again the angels who, one night, hung the enormous, heavy Cathedral bell. It is normal to have attributed to these celestial beings, the truly superhuman effort the indigenous people of the region had to have made in order to place this enormous instrument in its position.
The bell is not the only interesting feature of Puebla’s Cathedral, however, because it holds the work of great Mexican artists likeManuel Tolsá, who also designed the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City.
While in the city’s center, we were able to enjoy the provincial side of Mexico: the man that sells balloons, the lady selling the typical candies, children selling crafts, a musical trio playing Mexican songs from the 50’s, and by the fountain, some lovers enjoying making Puebla even more romantic.
Afterward, we walked along the famous “Callejón del Sapo“. Things were in full swing when we got there, and we were barely able to make our way through the customers and the marvelous crafts and antiques for sale there, that give this picturesque street its reputation.
Obviously, we couldn’t do without eating “mole poblano” and the patriotic “chiles en nogada“. Who wouldn’t lick their fingers over these dishes fit for a king? Almost all the restaurants in Puebla serve the delicious enchiladas, made of chicken with an exquisite mole, topped with cream, cheese and onion rings … and in September, the dishes are dressed in high style with the delicious chiles whose recipe is a true national treasure.
For those with a sweet tooth, there is nothing like the mouth-watering “borrachitos”, “cocadas”, “besos de novia”, “trompadas”, and of course, the famous “rompope“….
The State of Puebla, of which the city of Puebla is capital, stands out from the rest of the Mexican States because of its religious fervor, being one of the most conservative places in the country. This is seen in the innumerable churches in the capital, but in particular, in the wonderful Cholula, the site of more than three hundred churches that both visitors and inhabitants have “turned” into a thousand.
But this lovely state is also characterized by a close relationship with the past. Puebla is one of the few states that proudly preserves not only traditions, but cities, where time seems to have stopped.
An excellent example of this is the mystic town of Cuetzalan. We also took a little trip through there, and witnessed the enigmatic, traditional nature of this city. Because of its winding alleys that climb the foothills of the Sierra, women walk about attired like their forebears, showing off their “huipil” and their lovely headdress covered with colored ribbons.
The balconies are always overflowing with flowers, and at sundown the old folk sit in a chair in the doorway of their home, chatting or simply remembering, while night falls and the sky fills with stars.
One doesn’t know which of the towns and cities that form the State of Puebla to go to: they are all mysterious, religious, mystical and beautiful. They all embrace the Catholic faith without forgetting their native heritage, something that makes Puebla a State that represents perfectly, the union of races that make up the Mexican people.