Archive for December, 2012|
Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
2012 was a big year for Puebla. The state commemorated the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. The city celebrated its 25th year as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the pair grabbed the attention of the Mexico Tourism Board, which shifted its focus slightly away from beach destinations and toward interior ones.
Before the new federal administration took office on Dec. 1, Sectur named six more towns around the state as pueblos mágicos (up from one in the history of the program) and chose the Colonial and gastronomic capital as the next site of its annual travel-industry schmoozefest, Tianguis Turístico. Puebla also received its fair share of international press coverage, with The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, Forbes, PBS, Fox News, NBC, and Discovery Travel & Living highlighting some of what the city and state have to offer.*
All About Puebla’s contributors covered as much ground as we could, posting 26 new articles and frequently updating our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest accounts. We started offering culinary walking tours in Puebla on behalf of Eat Mexico. We also hosted five events for foreign residents and their families and added another 50 people to our “expat” mailing list. We look forward to doing even more in 2013 — please come back and read these pages often!
To recap, here are a few of our favorite posts from the past year:
—The Rosary Chapel, a shining example of Mexican Baroque architecture, was once regarded as the “8th wonder of the world.”
(Read full post.)
—5 common myths and misconceptions about Puebla, debunked. (Read full post.)
—Murals revitalize Xanenetla, one of Puebla’s oldest barrios. (Read full post.)
—Get to know the local lingo, or how to talk like a Poblano. (Read full post.)
—A week’s worth of good eats in Puebla, with celebrity chef encounters. (Read full post.)
—Expats create a sense of “home” in Puebla. (Read full post.)
—Finding “Old Mexico” in Pahuatlán de Valle, one of Puebla’s new pueblos mágicos. (Read full post.)
—¿No hablas español? Study Spanish in Puebla! (Read full post.)
—The “end of the world” as we knew it: Sunrise atop the Cholula pyramid on Dec. 21. (Read full post.)
We hope you enjoyed our work. We’d love to know what you’d like to read more of in 2013 — feel free to leave us a note in the Reply field below. We wish you all the best in the coming year!
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
* Full disclosure: I worked with the state’s international affairs office from November 1, 2011, to May 15, 2012, to help promote Puebla, Cinco de Mayo, and the International Mole Festival. Beyond that, I voluntarily acted, either directly (via interviews) or indirectly (via this website), as a local source of information for English-language media coverage related to Puebla in 2012.
Friday, December 21st, 2012
Today held so much promise in the minds of so many people. December 21, 2012 — the date the Mayan calendar was set to roll over — spelled everything from doomsday to the dawn of a new era, the first day of winter to the last Friday before Christmas, depending on whose opinion you asked. All the hubbub compelled us to do something we’d been meaning to do for quite some time: watch the sun rise from atop the Great Pyramid of Cholula. No matter what happened, we figured we would at least enjoy nature’s spectacular display, take a few photos, and pay our respects to the millions of people who (like us) have helped to continuously inhabit this place over the past 2,000+ years. And that’s exactly what we did. Here’s our favorite shot of dawn breaking over the city of Puebla. —Rebecca Smith Hurd
Thursday, December 20th, 2012
My first Christmas in Puebla, I had the pleasure of meeting my future husband’s entire extended family. My Spanish was far from perfect, and at times I felt a bit overwhelmed by the sheer enormousness of it all. No matter which group of kin we were visiting, the gathering always involved at least two dozen people, as well as food, drink, and hustle-bustle of epic proportions.
On Dec. 24, we gathered at his maternal grandmother’s house to share a late dinner — Basque-style salt cod, Poblano chiles stuffed with cheese, refried beans — and exchange “white elephant” gifts. With everyone crowded around the table, talking over one another and the festive background music, it was tough for me to follow (or contribute to) the conversations. So, I endeared myself to everyone by defying most gringo stereotypes and gleefully devouring several jalapeños too spicy for my other half. Charming, right?
As I sipped on a glass of cider during a reprieve, one of his cousins presented me with a beautifully wrapped box. For me? How thoughtful, thank you. We’d only just met. I proceeded to open it, with my beloved and his dad at my sides, as the chatter around me reached a new crescendo. Imagine my surprise to find a pair of red lace panties inside. I blushed, confused and embarrassed, and quickly put the lid back on the box. Only later did I come to find out that it’s customary to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve in Mexico, for good luck, particularly in love. It works, too: Four years later, Pablo and I are married.
La Villa Iluminada
The importance of family — not just mine, but everyone’s — in Mexican culture is evident around the holidays. People typically gather for traditional posadas in the days before Christmas and then continue the festivities through New Year’s Eve and Epiphany, which here is known as Día de Reyes. We kicked off our celebrations last year on Saturday with a dinner for 40 at La Aldea Hotel & Spa in nearby Atlixco, about 30 minutes by car from the Puebla capital. It was a spirited, all-night affair that included joke-telling, an indie rock concert by a trio of cousins, and an impromptu caravan into the city to see La Villa Iluminada (The City of Lights).
La Villa Iluminada is a 1.5-kilometer pedestrian route decorated with holiday lights that winds through the streets of downtown, from the main square to Insurgentes Boulevard, a major thoroughfare to the east. Millions colorful LEDs illuminate historic buildings, lampposts, and temporary fixtures. “For 45 days, the streets will form a circuit of light and color dressed up with figures, Christmas scenes, traditions, and the city’s identity,” officials said in 2011 on the city’s website.
The 2012 Villa Iluminada happens nightly, starting at 7 p.m., through Jan. 7, 2013.
We started our trek in the main square, where everything from city hall to the Italian Coffee shop is decked out in lights. After posing for photos with the three wise men and the giant Christmas tree, we strolled under a canopy of lights, listening to accordion music and savoring the smell of tejocotes, boiling away in freshly made ponche, that permeated the air. Street vendors offered all sorts of wares, from holiday handicrafts to flowers and pine trees. We passed through Atlixco’s oldest archway to reach the boulevard, where folk dancers performed on an elevated stage. The entire street, including the old train depot, glowed with multicolored flowers, stars, angels, and even avocados and pots of mole. It’s quite a sight — and well worth a visit.
The city of Atlixco reportedly invested more than 7 million pesos (US $550,000) in the expansive display, which is expected to attract 200,000 visitors during its run. Special attractions include carnival rides, various concerts through Dec. 23 and fiestas de reyes on Jan. 4, 5 and 6. For more information (in Spanish), click here. —Rebecca Smith Hurd
To get to Atlixco by car from the Puebla capital, take Vía Atlixcáyotl (head south/west from the Periférico) until it turns into a toll highway (438D). When the highway ends in a split, veer left onto the Puebla-Matamoros Highway. Turn right onto E. Zapata, which ultimately turns into Insurgentes, where you’ll run into the festival. For those traveling by bus, Linea Oro offers service to Atlixco from the CAPU station.
Post updated on December 14, 2012
Sunday, December 16th, 2012
Las posadas are a long-running Christmas tradition in Mexico, where they were introduced by Spanish Catholics some 400 years ago. In the strictest sense, the events re-enact Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in the days leading up to the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25. The religious celebrations often involve a procession and the construction of a manger.
“The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent nine days journey to Bethlehem,” notes Suzanne Barbezat of Discover Oaxaca Tours.
Posada literally means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish. However, in modern-day Puebla, the word is often used as a synonym for “holiday party” featuring carols, piñatas, sparklers, hot beverages like ponche or atole, and the distribution of aguinaldos (“bonuses,” in this case gift bags filled with cookies, candies, nuts, and fruit). We attended a “punk rock posada” last night that involved many of those things but catered to an alternative crowd and thus featured mezcal and indie music. And, although we filled the piñatas with traditional ingredients — sugar cane, mandarin oranges, whole peanuts, tejocotes, guavas, and baby jicamas — one of them was a traditional star and the other was a caricature of the Yo Soy 132 movement.
Interested in attending a posada? The Museo Amparo hosts one tonight at 6, for 80 pesos per person.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
“What do you tell people who have never been to Mexico?” the hosts of yesterday’s #MexChat, a monthly travel discussion on Twitter, asked participants. My reply: “I tell people … that they’re missing one of most culturally rich, delicious destinations on planet.” I was, as always, largely referring to the city of Puebla, which today celebrates its 25th anniversary as UNESCO World Heritage Site. On this day in 1987, the U.N. added the city’s historic downtown to its prestigious World Heritage List. The list today comprises 962 sites worldwide (about 30 in Mexico) that form part of the cultural and natural heritage UNESCO “considers as having outstanding universal value.”
The powers-that-be cited Puebla’s abundance—more than 2,600 Colonial-era buildings—of “new aesthetic concepts” that resulted from the blending of European, Arabic, and American architectural styles in the 16th and 17th centuries. UNESCO also praised the preservation of “great religious structures” and “fine buildings like the old archbishop’s palace, as well as a host of houses with walls covered in tiles.”
To commemorate this auspicious occasion, the city plans to release a new guide chronicling important religious sites in Puebla, such as the Puebla Cathedral (pictured), ex-Convento de Santa Mónica, La Capilla del Rosario, and Casa del Deán (of which this site donated a photograph). Look for the booklet in the tourism office in the near future. In the meantime, ¡Felicidades, Puebla!
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Tags: Capilla del Rosario, Casa del Deán, ex-Convent of Santa Monica, Puebla, Puebla Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage
Posted in Arts + Culture, Do, History | Comments Off on Puebla Marks 25 Years as a UNESCO Heritage Site
Saturday, December 8th, 2012
The Mesas Poblanas (which translates to “Pueblan Tables” in English) distinction is awarded by the office of economic development and tourism to dining establishments “characterized by quality customer service, attention to detail, and a strong local identity.”
The 2013 list comprises 15 restaurants, which are divided into two categories: gourmet and traditional. The former denotes innovation, the latter an adherence to classic recipes. Nearly half of the restaurants in the inaugural group—Casareyna, Casona de la China Poblana, El Sueño, Mesón Sacristía, Royalty, San Leonardo—are located inside downtown hotels. A free, pocket-size booklet describing the eateries and locating them on a handy map is available around town, and you can find links to the restaurants’ websites here. The city plans to update the guide annually.
Each restaurant volunteered to participate in Mesas Poblanas and was visited once by an anonymous reviewer for quality assurance, officials explained during Thursday’s press conference at Casa del Mendrugo in the city’s historic center. “It’s the first quality club in Puebla!” That may be true, but Mesas Poblanas is by no means a definitive guide, and the federal tourism secretary’s quality standards — Distintivo M and Distintivo H — appear to remain in effect.
The guide comes at an auspicious time, given the international press coverage Puebla has received this year, nearly all of which touts Poblano food, and the upcoming Tianguis Turístico trade show, which is set to take place here in March. This is the first time the annual conference, run by the Mexico Tourism Board, is being held in an urban (vs. beach) destination.
Wny is Poblano food such a big deal? “No other city reflects the richness of Mexican cuisine as well as Puebla, a cuisine blending chiles, seeds, spices, mole paste, tortillas, cheese, insects, mescals, and a long list of native products,” the Mesas Poblanas guide boasts. “It was included in the list of Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO [PDF] on November 16, 2010. Puebla’s gastronomy is one of the most representative of Mexican cooking, folled with tradition and fusion, and it has made enormous contributions to the legacy of mankind for the past four centuries.”
To coincide with the Mesas Poblanas announcement, the city also released a “gastronomic calendar” (available only in Spanish) that describes some of Puebla’s seasonal ingredients and dishes, from huauzontles (goosefoot) and escamoles (ant larvae) in the spring to huasmole (goat hip stew) and alfeñiques de azúcar (sugar skulls) in the fall. If you’re interested in trying some of these foods, join us for A Taste of Puebla walking tour, during which we’ll discuss regional produce at traditional market.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Sunday, December 2nd, 2012
Being an “expat”—or at least living outside your native culture and functioning in another language—isn’t always easy. Feeling frustrated, lonely, and homesick from time to time is inevitable, especially in a city like Puebla, where the locals have a reputation for being exceedingly kind to strangers yet glacially slow to add anyone new to their social circles. Thus, it can be helpful to connect with other foreign residents to form friendships, share resources, support one another, and build community.
It took me a while to figure out how to do that, because unlike Mexico City, Puebla doesn’t have a Newcomers Club or a U.S. Embassy or any other organization that coordinates events for Americans, Canadians, or folks from elsewhere in the world who speak English and aren’t affiliated with a specific employer, church, or school. (I say “English” because not everyone’s Spanish is perfect or even passable, especially when they first arrive in Mexico.) So, with the help of a few others, I started an “expat” group in September 2009, about six months before launching this website. Through word of mouth, our initial group of five has grown to some 160 people from a dozen different countries.
Although “home” is wherever my husband and cat happen to be, having a supportive social network is important, too.
It seems like it took forever, but as a result of the friends and connections I’ve made through the group, this week I finally felt like I was home in Puebla — an insider instead of an outsider. By “insider,” I simply mean my social calendar was filled with events, from a Thanksgiving potluck to a SoHo-worthy art open house and a gala anniversary party to a gourmet dinner at the most contemporary restaurant in town. All four private affairs were hosted by foreign residents and Poblanos (including the dinner, which was organized by All About Puebla). Could it be that we’ve achieved some sort of critical mass, in terms of people, energy, and diversity? A girl can dream, can’t she? In any case, what a privilege it was to be in the presence of such stimulating company, having conversations in English and Spanish!
Thank you, everyone, for your efforts, your invitations, and your contributions to the group. If anyone out there would like to join us in the future, drop me a line and I’ll add you to our emailing list. Happy holidays!
—Rebecca Smith Hurd