Puebla’s Historic Centre

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Besides a high density of churches and colonial era buildings, Puebla is also famous for poblano mole and smoked grasshoppers.

After descending from the church on top of Cholula’s pyramid, we took a collectivo minibus to Puebla’s city centre. The day was sultry but the public transport, as always, was fun. The bus dropped us off near the Puebla’s historic centre, called centro historico in Spanish.

↑ Direction indicators outside the Puebla’s main cathedral

Walking from the bus stop to the Zocalo (central plaza) gave me an impression that the city was densely colonial. Old buildings, wrought iron grills, immaculately decorated balconies and empty windows brought a feeling of sadness, as if the structures were lamenting the demise of their vibrant colonial past. There are more than 70 churches in the historic center alone, said my guidebook, but I decided to check out less than half a dozen of them, mindful of the fact that I would get church fatigue if I visited too many similar places of worship in a short time.

Main Cathedral

Puebla cathedral: La Básilica Catedral de Puebla de los Ángeles with HDR photo of the vivid interiors.

Flanking the entire southern side of the Zocalo is Puebla’s main Catedral (which appears on the $500 peso bank note). At 69m, the twin belfries, the tallest ones in Mexico, appeared way more imposing than I imagined and it was difficult to frame the towers in my wide-angle lens. Interiors of the church are silent and dark, and evoke a peculiar sense of intimidation and forbidding power that places of worship typically tend to do. I sat in different corners of the church soaking its feel and taking numerous HDR pictures as I made my way from one end of the building to the altar and to the exit on the other side.


↑ Church gate with beautiful wrought iron design

Streets are one-way and laid out in a neat grid like pattern which is very intuitive to follow once you get a hang of it. I walked on a spiral path, starting from the Zocalo and moving one block east every time I hit the north-south Calle No. 2. The Zocalo is very green and has a little park, a fountain, and some paved plaza. The benches were occupied by young lovers who seemed oblivious to their surroundings, taking the term public display of affection to a new level.


↑ State Tourist Office, Biblioteca Palafoxiana (Library) and the Casa de la Cultura (Cultural centre)

History

Puebla was founded by the Spanish to rival the neighbouring Cholula with a view to surpass the pre-Hispanic centre. Soon, Puebla became a Catholic religious center and today it is the largest satellite town around Mexico city and the third biggest city in the country. Puebla’s Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Have you heard of the May 5th date? Cinco de Mayo is a huge national celebration in Mexico (and United States). It celebrates the Mexican military victory over French troops invading the city in the battle of Puebla. It’s a very popular street name and I understand virtually every city in Mexico has atleast one street with the name 5 de Mayo. Reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi roads in India or Queen streets in Canada – each city should have one.


↑ Artist market, full of souvenirs. Lot of it looked like tourist junk and there were no local shoppers


↑ Interiors of Templo Iglesia de La Compañia, a Jesuit Church. A busker was playing music in front of its gates while students preparing for a protest were making banners around it.

Getting there

Puebla is only 2 hours from Mexico city’s TAPO bus terminal. That said, getting to Puebla’s bus terminal (CAPU) from the Zocalo proved a bit interesting since the combi driver forgot to tell us that we had arrived. This happened to me atleast four times in Mexico – drivers forgetting to tell me when it was time to get off. 😉

↑ Puebla has a old colonial district and a number of buildings there are old and dilapidated. People will give you a funny look if you just stand there waiting to take a picture of a beautiful old window with worn out wooden frames and wrought iron grills.

Confession

The most important reason I came to Puebla was to try the city’s delicacies… but I simply couldn’t garner enough courage to eat roasted grasshoppers…

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery