Mexico (2002-2017): States of Puebla and Tlaxcala

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The states of Puebla (capital: Puebla) and Tlaxcala (capital: Tlaxcala) are located east of Mexico City. With a population of about 2.5 millions the city of Puebla is the 5th largest of Mexico. On the other hand, the state of Tlaxcala is the smallest of the Mexican federation and its capital′s population is only 90,000. In pre-Columbian times, the region was inhabited by multiple indigenous ethnicities. When Hernan Cortes entered the area in 1519, it was dominated by the Aztecs and many non-Aztec indigenous leaders sided with him to free themselves from this domination. The city of Puebla was founded in 1531 to secure the route between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City. On May 5 of 1862, it was the site of a battle where the Mexican army defeated French invaders sent by Napoleon III. Today the area is still home to a large indigenous population with deep traditions. It is also home to a number of high volcanos, including Pico de Orizaba (5636m), Popocatepetl (5426m), and Iztaccihuatl (5230m), the three highest summits in Mexico. Popocatepetl is currently active and unpredictable.

 

(November 2017) Puebla (State of Puebla):

 

Cathedral of Puebla. Built between the mid-16th and the mid-17th centuries, it is the second largest in Mexico. Its two 69m-high bell towers (one of which has no bells) are the tallest in Mexico. During the day the cathedral looks massive and is not particularly stylish. But at night it is quite majestic, thanks to a well-designed illumination system.

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In the Zocalo, the central plaza adjacent to the cathedral, on a Saturday evening.

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Street vendor on the Zocalo demonstrating soap bubble devices.

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Ubiquitous balloon vendors in central Puebla.

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Harmonipan player on Calle Cinco de Mayo.

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Palacio Municipal.

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Facade of La Casa de los Munecos (House of the Dolls), which currently hosts the Art Museum of the Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla.

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Biblioteca Palafoxiana (17th century), considered the oldest library in the Americas.

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Beautiful polychrome wood statues of the 18th century exposed in the Casa de la Cultura.

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Sculptures and statuettes from different pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico, aesthetically displayed in the excellent Museo Amparo.

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Templo de Santo Domingo: retable and pulpit.

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Built in the second half of the 17th century, the Capilla del Rosario is the best part of Templo de Santo Domingo. From the outside, it does not look special, but its interior is stunning, whether one loves or hates its excessive gilded plasterwork and ornamentation.

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Templo de la Compania.

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Iglesia de San Cristobal (17th century).

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Iglesia de San Francisco.

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Mercado el Parian.

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Folkloric dancers.

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Portions of El Mural de los Poblanos, in the restaurant of the same name.

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Street murals.

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The so-called Calle de los Dulces (actual name: 6 Oriente) holds numerous shops selling sweets and candies made from milk, marzipan, fruits, and sweet potatoes. The recipes were developed in the 18th century by Carmelite nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara located in this same street.

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(November 2017) Atlixco (State of Puebla):

The town of Atlixco (population: 125,000) is located 30km south-west of Puebla′s center and 15km south-east of Popocatepetl′s summit. It lies at the foot of Cerro de San Miguel, a conical hill standing in the middle of a large plain.

 

Left: ex-Convento de San Francisco on the slope of Cerro de San Miguel, with the Popocatepetl volcano in the background. Right: portal of Capilla de la Tercera Orden at the foot of the hill.

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Other views of ex-Convento de San Francisco.

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View over Atlixco from Cerro de San Miguel.

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Volcanos Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl seen from Cerro San Miguel.

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(November 2017) Cholula (State of Puebla):

The city of Cholula, located 15km west of Puebla, is now virtually one of its suburbs. It was one of the rare places to resist the takeover of the Puebla area by Cortes, an act that led to the Massacre of Cholula on October 12, 1519. It holds the largest pyramid in Mexico (and perhaps in the world), Piramide Tepanapa, which now looks more like a hill than an actual pyramid.

 

Parroquia de San Pedro (17th-18th centuries) on the northern side of the Zocalo. It was badly damaged by the earthquake of September 19, 2017.

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Main church of the ex-Convento de San Gabriel. The Santuario de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios erected on top of Piramide Tepanapa is visible at the bottom-right of the first photo below. (It was not accessible due to damages caused by the earthquake of September 2017.)

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Some of the 49 domes of the Moorish-style Capilla Real (16th century), which is also part of the ex-Convento de San Gabriel.

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View of Parroquia de San Pedro and Iztaccihuatl from the parvis of Capilla Real.

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Murals in Cholula.

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Erupting Popocatepetl, seen from Cholula.

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(November 2017) Acatepec (State of Puebla):

The village of Acatepec, located a short distance from Cholula, hosts a small spectacular church, Templo San Francisco (18th century).

 

Facade and bell tower of Templo San Francisco, covered with colorful glazed ceramic tiles.

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Interior of Templo San Francisco, heavy on gilded plasterwork and ornamentation.

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Six preachers embossed around the church′s pulpit.

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(November 2017) Tonantzintla (State of Puebla):

Tonantzintla is another village near Cholula with a spectacular church, Templo de Santa Maria. This place was originally dedicated to Tonantzin, the goddess of Fertility (linked to corn). After the Spanish conquest, this veneration was transferred to Saint Mary. The interior of the church is a profusion of plaster sculptures and ornaments of indigenous inspiration (including corn, guava, cacao...), with no space left empty. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photos of this gorgeous interior.

 

Facade of Templo de Santa Maria. It gives a pale idea of what lies inside.

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(November 2017) Cacaxtla and Xochtecatl (State of Tlaxcala):

Cacaxtla and Xochtecatl are two archeological sites located in the southern part of the State of Tlaxcala. Cacaxtla reached its peak between 650AD and 950AD. It was ″rediscovered″ in the mid-1970s and excavated since the 1980s. It is most famous for its colorful murals that combine local symbology with Maya stylistic influence. Xochtecatl is much older (1000-400BC), but it was reoccupied in the 7th century as an extension of Cacaxtla.

 

Seven of the eleven Senores de Cacaxtla exposed in the museum of Cacaxtla. These amazingly well preserved clay sculptures represent priests or deities with complex headdresses and costumes. Each sculpture is distinct, but their characteristics indicate that they are associated with the agriculture cycle.

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The main part of the archeological site of Cacaxtla is on top of a 25m-high natural platform, now protected by a huge metallic roof. The original mural paintings can be viewed in situ.

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Mural of the ″Templo Rojo″ (original painting in situ on the left and reproduced painting in the museum on the right).

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The ″Feline Man″ (original painting in situ on the left and reproduced painting in the museum on the right).

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The ″Bird Man″ (original painting in situ on the left and reproduced painting in the museum on the right).

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Two sections of the 20m-long ″Battle Mural″ (dating from prior to 700AD), a life-size depiction of an epic battle between two groups of warriors. Some details go as far to show entrails falling from bellies of figures. On the lower right of the first picture below and the lower left of the second, one can even see a warrior who tries to push back his guts into his body.

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The Spiral Pyramid of Xochitecatl, built around 700BC. The pyramid had no stairway giving access to the top. So, it is believed that it was climbed by following the spiral steps. The cross on top of the pyramid was erected in 1632. Popocatepetl is visible in the background on the left of the pyramid.

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The Pyramid of Flowers of Xochitecatl seen from the Spiral Pyramid. Its base measures 140mx100m. Part of La Malinche volcano (~4440m) is visible in the background.

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The Pyramid of Flowers seen from the Serpent Building. The monolithic stone basin in the forefront sits on the Serpent Building. It is 60cm-high with a diameter of 1.3m. A snake head is carved in the damaged stela deposited inside the basin, giving its name to the building.

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View from the top of the Pyramid of Flowers, with Iztaccihuatl in the background and the Spiral Pyramid in the lower right of the photo.

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View over the fertile plain on the north-east side of the Pyramid of Flowers.

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Typical local church in the pueblo under Cacaxtla, with markings embedded in the pathway to its entrance door remembering people who died long ago.

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