Archive for September, 2010

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¡Viva Puebla! Celebrating the 2010 Bicentennial

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Puebla’s city hall is decked out for the bicentennial.Mexico commemorates the 200th anniversary of its fight for independence from Spain tomorrow and Thursday, giving everyone cause to remember and reflect upon important moments in the nation’s history. The defining moment — or at least the most celebrated one today — seems to be when Father Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest, rang the church bells in Dolores, Guanajuato, just before midnight on September 15, 1810, and asked the people who gathered around whether they were ready and willing to revolt. Their answer, we now know, was affirmative.

These days, Hidalgo’s legendary cry for independence, called el grito, is re-enacted every year by the president and other top officials in town squares all over Mexico. For the bicentennial, President Felipe Calderón is scheduled to do so twice, first in the zócalo of Mexico City on Wednesday night and again in the town square of Dolores Hidalgo at 7am on Thursday, Milenio newspaper reported.

City-Sponsored Events

In Puebla, el grito is usually delivered by the governor, with the mayor present, from the balcony of the Palacio Municipal. According to TodoPuebla.com, this year’s bicentennial celebration begins in the zócalo at 3:30pm Wednesday and features all sorts of entertainment, including performances by the city’s symphonic band, mariachis, folkloric dancers, and the Puebla Legendaria theater troupe. El grito happens sometime after 10pm and is followed by a rendition of the national anthem and a spectacular fireworks display in the sky above the Cathedral. Admission is free. Expect a crowd armed with silly string and eggs. Bring rain gear.

In Cholula, the 2010 festivities get under way at 6pm in the zócalo of San Pedro. The program includes music and folkloric dancers, as well as the crowning of the city’s bicentennial princess and queen. At 10:45pm, the Declaration of Independence will be read. Mayor David Cuautli Jiménez will give el grito at 11:50pm. Admission is free. Parking could be tricky, given that the city’s annual festival is still going on downtown. Bring rain gear.

Noches Mexicanas

For revelers who’d prefer to mark the occasion indoors, many restaurants, hotels, and other establishments are hosting noches mexicanas. For a fixed price, they offer music, food, door prizes, and more. Most require reservations in advance. A few options:

La Galería Arte & Vino (Alta Vista Plaza, Calzada Zavaleta #130) features entertainment by the Folkloric Ballet of Puebla, a three-course meal, a beverage, and a raffle ticket for MX$250. 9pm.

Marriott Real de Puebla (Av. Hermanos Serdán #807) offers a welcome margarita, mariachi music, appetizers, and a buffet of typical Mexican fare for MX$575 ($230 for kids). They also promise to broadcast el grito live on large-screen TVs. 8pm.

Mi Viejo Pueblito (2 Sur #112, Los Portales) downtown will serve up a three-course meal (appetizer, soup, and entrée), accompanied by live music and a lottery. Babysitting services provided for adults who prefer to dine without little ones. MX$180-330.

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Burning Man Meets County Fair in Cholula

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Conquering a continent isn’t easy, especially when its indigenous people do not subscribe to your belief system. Back in the 16th century, the Spaniards decided that the best way to overcome religious dissent in the New World was to dismantle or diminish important indigenous structures. In Cholula, one of the oldest continually occupied sites in the Americas, Cortes and his cohorts built a Catholic church on top of the Great Pyramid and started honoring their own patron saint (in this case, the virgin of the remedies) on the same day that the locals paid homage to their most revered gods.

Fast-forward a few hundred years and ancient and modern beliefs have fused into a single, glorious celebration. The festivities begin a week prior, when Cholutecans from various neighborhoods lead a midnight procession through town, bearing lanterns and images of the virgin. Much to everyone’s relief, we imagine, the practice of sacrificing a local resident to Quetzalcoatl or another pre-Hispanic god on Sept. 8 — now the virgin’s feast day in Cholula — has evolved into an entirely symbolic gesture. After the final Mass celebrated at the church, worshipers today burn a chubby paper-mâché doll with fireworks instead of offing a real person. This human stand-in, called el panzón for its big belly, is stuffed with apples that fall out as the doll goes up in flames.

A vendor sells regional breads at the Cholula street fair.

“The annual fair of Cholula is a sample of the folklore and the way of life of the people from this area,” city officials say.

People from all parts of Puebla and adjacent states travel to Cholula to pay their respects to the virgin and the ancient religious site. The market that centuries ago naturally occurred at the base of the pyramid, as the result of so many merchants and farmers coming to town, in 1950 evolved into an annual regional fair. The 2010 Feria Milenaria runs through Sept. 16 in San Pedro Cholula. The line of street vendors literally stretches from the pyramid, up the main drag, to the zócalo. Visitors can sample all sorts of regional specialties, from pan de nata to pulque, purchase arts & crafts and household wares, and enjoy carnival-style thrill rides. The city’s tourism chief told local press that he expects 100,000 people to attend this year.

Photo credit (El Panzón): Isabel Muñiz Montero, 2007

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