Archive for April, 2012

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What’s On in Puebla for the 150th Cinco de Mayo

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Some 8,000 military troops are expected to march in this year’s Cinco de Mayo parade.“2012 is a big year for Puebla,” The New York Times recently noted. And, as if the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo — arguably the most celebrated Mexican holiday outside of Mexico — weren’t enough to draw global attention, the Popocatépetl volcano decided to send up a few massive smoke signals last week to make sure the whole world knew where to find Puebla on a map. Now that everyone’s looking, they’ll see that the city of Puebla, which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the nation’s gastronomic capital, has a lot to offer. This vibrant metropolis should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Visitors to Puebla between now and mid-May can participate in the myriad festivities commemorating the sesquicentennial of Mexico’s historic Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. The city and state of Puebla have invested more than $62 million (800 million pesos) in Cinco de Mayo-related public projects and special events, the latter of which include a massive civic parade, a nighttime spectacular with fireworks, scores of world-class concerts and theatrical performances, and an international mole festival featuring celebrity chefs and food experts.

Here are a few Cinco de Mayo highlights, with links to additional information and goings-on:

Cinco de Mayo Parade

Some 8,000 military troops and 6,200 students and teachers from 56 public schools statewide are expected to participate in the 2012 Cinco de Mayo parade, which will be marshaled by President Felipe Calderon and feature 34 decorative floats. Visitors who’ve attended in previous years should note that the route has been changed to inaugurate a new urban byway named for battle hero Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza. Rain or shine. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat with you.
Date and time: May 5, 11 a.m.
Admission: Free; 3,800 seats (chairs and bleachers) available to early birds.
Location: Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza, from Plaza Tolin (at the corner of Calle Ruiz Cortines) to the Loreto and Guadalupe forts.

Cinco de Mayo Spectacular

Following the parade, a nighttime show with pyrotechnics — orchestrated by Five Currents, the production company for the 2012 London Olympics — will represent Puebla and all things poblano. The three-part spectacular, hosted by former Miss Universe Ximena Navarette, will feature star-studded tributes and culminate in a massive display of fireworks, organizers say.
Date and time: May 5, 8 to 10 p.m.
Admission: 3,000 tickets were given away; the show will be broadcast nationwide by Televisa.
Location: Guadalupe Fort, Calzada Ejército de Oriente, Unidad Cívica 5 de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo Concert

Pop crooner Marc Anthony, whose soon-to-be-ex-wife Jennifer Lopez hails from Puebla —er, New— York, is scheduled to end the official Cinco de Mayo celebrations on a high note with a free concert for up to 42,600 people at the soccer stadium. Word has it that the Cinco de Mayo Spectacular (above) will be shown on big screens at the stadium.
Date and time: May 5, 10 p.m.
Admission: No charge, available at the Feria de Puebla (see next item)
Location: Estadio Cuauhtémoc, Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza #666, Col. Maravillas

Feria de Puebla

The 2012 Puebla State Fair comprises more than 500 commercial stands, carnival rides, a food court, a public theater, a children’s area, ice-skating shows, an exhibition of Mexican masks, and a military expo (La Gran Fuerza de México). Concerts in the Foro Artístico include Aleks Syntek (April 25), Juan Solo and Mariachi Estrella (April 27), and Kinky (May 4) and are free with fair admission. Palenque performances feature artists such as Juan Gabriel (May 3-4) and Edith Marquez (May 5) require an additional ticket purchase. Tickets to the bullfights in the Plaza de Toros (April 28, May 6) also sold separately.
Dates and times: April 13 to May 13, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Mon.-Thu.) and 11:30 p.m. (Fri.-Sun.); except May 5, when it’s closed for the Cinco de Mayo festivities at the forts.
Admission: 20 pesos (adults), 10 pesos (kids); palenque tickets cost 300-2,000 pesos, available online and at Farmacias del Ahorro outlets; bullfight tickets cost 150-800 pesos, available at Superboletos outlets.
Location: Centro Expositor, Calzada Ejércitos de Oriente, Unidad Cívica 5 de Mayo; free transportation is being provided from the zócalo, Paseo Bravo/El Gallito, Jardín de Analco, and Estadio Cuauhtémoc (with pickups every 20 to 25 minutes).

Festival Internacional de Puebla

The International Festival of Puebla is an annual cultural event that features artists, creators, and entertainers from around the world. The 2012 lineup boasts performers from two dozen countries — including Mexico, of course — who will perform on 11 public stages and in various parks and venues around the Puebla capital. Standouts include Ozomatli (April 28), Cecilia Toussaint (May 3), and Rubén Blades (May 6).
Dates and times: April 7 to May 6, mostly afternoons and evenings
Admission: Free
Location: Varies; click here for a full schedule of events

Festival Internacional del Mole

The International Mole Festival is a two-day culinary event designed to savor Puebla’s most iconic dish mole poblano and to demonstrate the region’s influence on Mexican food and gastronomy worldwide. Celebrity chefs and food experts, such as Rick Bayless, Mark Bittman, Patricia Quintana, and Marcela Valladolid, will discuss traditions, innovations, and their personal experiences related to poblano cuisine. Live simultaneous translation (in English or Spanish, depending on the speaker) will be provided via headsets. Tastings of mole prepared by traditional moleras from around the state are included in the ticket price.
Dates and times: May 2 and 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: 1,400 pesos for both days, available at Ticketmaster outlets in Mexico
Location: Centro de Convenciones William O. Jenkins, Blvd. Héroes del 5 de Mayo #402, Paseo de San Francisco, in the historic center of Puebla

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Post updated May 5, 2012.

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Murals Revitalize One of Puebla’s Oldest Barrios

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralColectivo Tomate — a group of young creatives who seek to “generate social projects that benefit the city of Puebla using art as their flag” — last year began working to revitalize Xanenetla by painting murals that vividly depicted the neighborhood’s identity. In the first two stages of the project, dubbed Puebla Ciudad Mural, some 30 artists produced more than two dozen paintings celebrating the barrio’s history, its lost traditions (and a few that remain), its storied former residents, and the hopes and fears of its current inhabitants. In the third and final stage of the project, which is currently under way, Colectivo Tomate and its volunteers plan to paint even more murals, bringing the total count to 55.

“This project was created by citizens and for citizens,” organizers say. “Puebla Ciudad Mural is an example of people working together for their city, bringing together hearts, minds, hands, and efforts for their neighbors.”

The murals are divided into three themes: Who We Were, Who We Are, and Who We Want to Be.

The history of Xanenetla dates back to end of the 17th century, when it was founded by Tlaxcaltecas who relocated to Puebla to work in construction. The site, which was the last indigenous settlement along the San Francisco River, was chosen for its location: a hillside from which people could extract the mud needed to make bricks. The Tlaxcaltecas called this mud xalnene, from which Xanenetla gets its name. The settlement gradually stretched across the river and later became part of the city of Puebla. In the 1970s, the San Francisco River was diverted into an underground tube (to make way for Boulevard 5 de Mayo) and later the Calzada Zaragoza thoroughfare was built, leaving the emblematic neighborhood relatively isolated from the rest of Puebla’s urban core.

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralAccording to local lore, the barrio played a role in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. When Napoleon III’s troops tried to flee the fighting through Xanenetla, they got lost in its alleys — and were captured. Mexico’s initial victory in Puebla, which was ultimately occupied by the French for five years (1862–67), is considered to be one of the more significant moments in North American war history, in part because Mexico’s unexpected triumph in Puebla likely prevented the French from reinforcing the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo.

In 1987, UNESCO declared 600 blocks of Puebla’s historic city center — including Xanenetla — as a World Heritage Centre. The Xanenetla barrio today is visually unique, mixing 16th- and 17th-century architecture with the contemporary urban art of Puebla Ciudad Mural.

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralEach muralist — some local, some from other parts of the world — is carefully chosen an assigned a facade. The artist gets to know the neighborhood and the family who lives or works in that particular building and then creates a design that speaks about both, a process that engages everyone in the project. The larger goals are to unite the community and to instill a renewed sense of pride in the neighborhood, a desire to beautify the area, and a new appreciation for its history. Over the long term, Puebla Ciudad Mural aims to reactivate the economy and rebuild the neighborhood through its public spaces.

If you’d like to help paint the latest murals, Colectivo Tomate and its volunteers will be working alongside local residents April 7 to 14 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All you need to do is show up. The inauguration of the new artwork is set for April 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Update: For more photographs of the murals and images from the event, click here.)

You may also visit Xanenetla to see the murals anytime. Start your walking tour at the corner of 4 Norte and Boulevard 5 de Mayo. From there, let the murals guide you along four blocks filled with history and color. Or download this map.

—Vica Amuchastegui and Rebecca Smith Hurd

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