Ask the average traveler to name the
largest cities in Mexico, and they likely will skip right over
Puebla. But this city, Mexico's fourth-largest with 5.1 million
residents, has plenty to offer, such as historical sites, beautiful
architecture, excellent dining and stylish boutique hotels.
The city and state
of Puebla is famous for the Cinco de Mayo festival, the
chocolate-based sauce called mole poblano and Talavera pottery and
The city is also
known for the production of the Volkswagen Beetle. Although
production of the vehicle in Puebla ceased in 2003, the car remains
a common sight on Mexico's streets.
Situated in a
region originally populated by indigenous groups such as the
Toltecs, Chichimecs and eventually the Aztecs, the city of Puebla
was founded in 1531 by the Spaniards. Its city center is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site, with a large zocalo, or town square, and more
than 70 ornate churches, including a cathedral that appears on
Mexico's 500-peso bill and has the tallest spires in the
include Fuerte de Loreto, used as a fort during an attack in 1862
by French forces that ended with a victory by the army of newly
independent Mexico, an event that gave birth to the Cinco de Mayo
celebration. The chapel inside the fort is now a museum.
Also popular is
antique shopping in the Los Sapos district, where visitors can pick
up decorative Talavera pottery and tiles as well as antiques and
for an easy way to get around can use Turibus, a bus system that
stops at major tourism sites and is priced at about $13 per
Just a few miles
from the city of Puebla is Cholula, a town that is best known for
its gigantic Tenapa pyramid, which dates to 400 B.C.
At first glance, it
may not appear to be anything more than a large hill; most of the
pyramid has yet to be uncovered, and a Catholic church was built
atop it in 1666.
But upon closer
inspection, it's apparent that this is an intricate series of
structures so massive that it is four times larger than the Pyramid
of Cheops in Egypt.
A nearby museum
houses a scale-model replica of what the structure originally
looked like. It also houses artifacts and artistic reproductions
Birthplace of Cinco de Mayo
In the U.S., many
people think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day, but
it's actually a holiday commemorating the young nation's victory
over invading forces from France.
On May 5, 1862,
Mexico's president, Benito Juarez, commanded Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza
to block the advance of French soldiers who were seeking to take
over Mexico. With only 2,000 men, most of them local Zacapoaxtla
Indians, the Mexicans defeated a French army of 6,000.
That victory was
short-lived: France soon conquered Puebla and the rest of Mexico,
and ruled until 1887.
But it was a
momentous enough occasion that Puebla's Cinco de Mayo celebration
remains a spectacular affair to this day.
Every May 5, a huge
parade with about 500,000 military and student participants takes
place, and nearly 2 million spectators line the streets to witness
the festivities as well as a battle re-enactment.
information about Puebla, visit the secretary of tourism's official
site at www.sectur.pue.gob.mx, or contact the Mexico Tourism
Board at (800) 44-MEXICO (800-446-3942) or www.visitmexico.com.
contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].
For more on the hotel scene in Puebla, see "Small hotels have big impact on Puebla tourist