An Unexpected Peek at the Patio de los Azulejos
Some 482 years into its making, Puebla oozes history. The city’s downtown core is home to more than 2,600 Colonial-era buildings and everything that goes along with them. You can stumble upon intriguing facts, colorful legends, and even unsolved mysteries with minimal effort and a very basic grasp of Spanish. At least, we frequently do. Nearly every trip to the Centro Histórico reveals something new—or old, really, but new to us. It’s one of the reasons I love it here.
Take, for example, a couple of Wednesdays ago, when we were approached by a stranger on Calle 11 Poniente. “Hello!” he shouted at us enthusiastically, running toward us from across the street. “Do you want to see the Patio de los Azulejos?” I shrugged. I had no idea what he was talking about. Neither did my husband, a Poblano. But our friend Antonio, who’d just finished showing us his latest project (some of the city’s first long-term rental suites) nearby, explained that the building was once part of the Nuestra Señora de la Concordia temple. Its patio is a famous example of Puebla Baroque architecture—and it’s gorgeous. OK, I was sold.
We followed our impromptu tour guide through giant wooden doors and down a long, narrow, dimly lit corridor to emerge inside a oddly decorated 17th-century church. It turns out that the once-Catholic nave has been taken over by Freemasons, who’ve pretty much destroyed the interior by painting grotesque pagan imagery on the walls. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at the sight of their handiwork. (See photos below.) Fortunately, the exquisite central patio of the building remains mostly intact, for now.
“The building that houses the most beautiful facade in the historic center today is in ruin due to neglect of state authorities,” complains the local magazine Revista 360. “[The annex] was once part of the retreat house for the Concordia priests of St. Philip Neri. This complex is famous for being the site where the Iguala Plan was printed. It also housed the city’s first newspaper.”
The building’s exterior — at least the part facing the central patio — features a truly spectacular array of inlaid Talavera tiles. It was designed, circa 1676, by architect Carlos García Durango, who was responsible for various religious structures in Puebla. (He finished the north tower of the Cathedral, among other projects.) The Patio de los Azulejos alone is definitely worth a visit; however, it’s unclear whether the site is open to the public or whether we just happened to pass by on a day when the Masons were profiling foreign “tourists” to ask for donations. … We chipped in 70 pesos.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
The Patio de los Azulejos is located at 11 Poniente #111 (between 3 Sur and 16 de Septiembre) in the historic center of Puebla.
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