I am a bit behind with the blog – we’ve been on-the-go and having just too much fun to spend time inside the hotel composing posts. But this morning I am awake early.
Thanks to the handy-dandy kettle I brought along on this trip, I’ve got a cup of coffee to bring me fully awake. And since Jorge is still sleeping, I’ve lifted a chair into the bathroom and set the computer down on edge of the sink. Voila – I have a work place!
Driving between Veracruz and Puebla on Thursday, we had rain for the only time on our trip so far. Disappointingly, we couldn’t see the Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest peak. Yet by the time we arrived in Xalapa, the capital city of the state of Veracruz, the sun was trying to muscle its way through the clouds. As we stepped out of the bus, our feet landed on fallen maple leaves – not the Canadian maples I am used to – but maples nonetheless. That was a bit of nostalgia for me.
We spent a two hours at Xalapa’s Museum of Anthropology. It houses Mexico’s second most important repository of pre-Columbian pieces. It is a beautifully designed place, incorporating gardens, sculpture and other artifacts.
The history of the native peoples of the state of Veracruz is the primary focus. There are four main indigenous cultures in this part of the country. The Huastecs, Otomis, Totonacs and Olmecs .
The first major pre-Columbian civilization was the Olmec. The Olmecs lived in the Coatzacoalcos River region. The ceremonial center in Veracruz was San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán. Other important Olmec settlements in the state include Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, and La Venta, located in present-day Tabasco. The culture reached its height about 2600 years ago, and many anthropologists consider the Olmec civilization to be the mother culture of the many Mesoamerican cultures that followed it. By 300 BC, it was eclipsed by other emerging civilizations.
Another important group was the Totonaco, who have survived to the present day. Their region, called Totonacapan, is centered between the Cazones River and the Papaloapan River in the north of the state. The Totonac group is well-known for the clay sculptures with smiling faces. When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, the territory was still home to a population of about 250,000 people
The Huastecs lived in the far northern part of Veracruz and their territory extend into parts of Tamaulipas, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, Queretaro and Puebla. The language and agricultural techniques of these people and those of the Maya are similar. However, only a few buildings and ceramics remain from the early Huastec culture. This culture also reached its peak between 1200 and 1519, when it was conquered by the Spanish conquest.
During the 15th and very early 16th century, the Aztecs dominated much of the state. The Aztecs were interested in the area’s vegetation and crops such as cedar, fruit, cotton, cacao, corn, beans and vanilla.
I took many pictures at this museum, here are a few:
Our luck with the weather changed while we were inside the museum and it steadily improved as we drove towards Puebla. The full name of this beautiful city is Puebla de los Angeles – the city of angels.
Puebla is also famous for its elegant cuisine. Dishes such as Mole, Chiles en Nogada and Chalupas are popular entrees, and Santa Clara cakes, pecan and pine nut fudge are just the beginning of a long list of deserts that are a point of pride.
Founded in 1532, Puebla is one of the oldest Mexican cities. A pleasant climate and a strategic location soon made it the second most important city in Colonial Mexico.
The merchandise unloaded from ships arriving to the Americas from the Philippines was taken through Puebla enroute to Mexico City. The Puebla potters adopted the techniques they saw in ceramic vases, pottery and tiles from the Far East, creating the beautiful talavera that decorates facades in churches, big houses, fountains, patios and kitchens.
Three blocks from the main square of the city of Puebla is The Parian, the best place for buying traditional crafts from the State of Puebla.
The oldest public library in the Americas, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana (Palafox Library) has a collection of over 40,000 books, the majority of them dating from before Mexico’s independence. It is extraordinary that the collection is conserved in its original location along with the original bookshelves.
One of the highlights of a visit to the former convent of Santa Rosa is the kitchen, where it is said that mole poblano was invented. The creative nuns combined a wide variety of ingredients to create the signature dish of Puebla: a rich sauce that is both spicy and sweet. It’s easy to imagine the nuns grinding the ingredients on a metate (grinding stone), and stirring up their aromatic concoction in large unglazed earthenware pots on the tiled stove.
The severe exterior of the Church of Santo Domingo gives no clue to the opulence within. Upon entering you’ll find that the church is a masterpiece of baroque architecture and decoration. The Capilla del Rosario (Rosary Chapel), on the south side of the church’s main altar, is the most magnificent aspect of this church’s interior.
Another of the finest museums in Mexico, the Amparo Museum in Puebla, hosts temporary exhibitions and houses a large collection of Pre-Hispanic, colonial, modern, and contemporary Mexican art. The Amparo Museum is funded by the Amparo Foundation, a charitable organization which founded by Manuel Espinosa Yglesias in memory of his late wife Amparo. It opened its doors in February 1991.
The Amparo Museum is housed in two colonial buildings, one a mansion, the other a former hospital. These buildings have been brilliantly adapted to display the impressive collection that offers insight into the different cultures and periods of Mexico. The exhibits also show what was happening concurrently in the rest of the world. The museum is a pioneer in interactive multimedia.
Each piece in the museum collection is a major work of art.
Puebla also boasts many fine restaurants. Our group ate together at the Fonda de Santa Rosa. Many more excellent restaurants circle the Main Plaza, and a short distance away, is the El Sueño Boutique Hotel that serves a unique blend of Poblano and international cuisine.
More shots of Puebla:
Baroque detail is seen all over Puebla. The complex flavors, intricate designs, legends and stories – the winding streets, splashing fountains, lush gardens – the craft markets, artistic alleys, and the panorama of church domes convince visitors that Puebla is indeed a place that the angels could call home.