2013 Fall Festivals: Our Favorite Week of the Year

October 27th, 2013

Given how often food gets featured on this site, you may find it hard to imagine us setting aside that heaping bowl of mole de caderas — available from only mid-October to mid-November — to write this post. But we were inspired by the recent Mexico chat on Twitter to share two of our (other) favorite fall festivals in Puebla before it’s too late to enjoy them. Both are happening this week, or Oct. 26 to Nov. 3.

We’ve written about Day of the Dead and the National Christmas Tree and Ornament Fair before, but this post contains updated information for 2013. Enjoy!

Day of the Dead

A chalk Catrina decorates Puebla's main square for Day of the Dead.Few traditions in Mexico rival Día de los muertos in their mixing of ancient and modern beliefs. The national holiday, which is celebrated around the state of Puebla from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, honors lost loved ones by paying tribute to — and praying for — their spirits. Its origins can be traced to pre-Hispanic times, when the Aztecs held a monthlong ritual for the goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl. Nowadays, families set up altars in their homes or businesses to remember people who’ve passed away (often during the past year). The notion is that, by doing so, they welcome, nourish, guide, and otherwise assist the souls in their journey after death.

Looking for ofrendas, calaveritas, and the like? The IMACP plans to show off the semifinalists in its annual altar-building contest at the Galería del Palacio Municipal (Portal Hidalgo #12, Col. Centro) on Oct. 31 from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 1, 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Its elaborate entries, which last year ranged from miniature to life-size, are made of paper and cardboard; admission is free.

Visitors to the city of Puebla who want to take part in the 2013 festivities should head for the historic center.

Next door, in the lobby of the Teatro de la Ciudad, artisans will display and sell their handcrafted wares Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 from noon to 6 p.m.; the theater is also set to host two “catwalk shows” of Catrina costumes on Nov. 2 at 6 and 8 p.m. Elsewhere on the block, the municipal government puts together a monumental altar every year that fills its entire lobby of the Palacio Municipal — which visitors may view from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6 — and offers a free marionette show for kids of all ages, Llegó a Puebla la Catrina, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Each year, the city of Puebla erects a monumental altar inside the Palacio Municipal.Just across the zócalo, on the opposite side of the Puebla Cathedral, the Casa de Cultura (5 Oriente #5) hosts its own colorful altar-building competition, as well artists selling Day of the Dead jewelry, figurines, and snacks (hello, sugar skulls). It’s open for free to the public Nov. 1 to 3 from roughly 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; prepare to stand in line.

Other Day of the Dead events in the Puebla capital include a nighttime parade on Nov. 1, which gets under way at 6 p.m. on Avenida Juárez (at 19 Sur) and winds through the city streets to the main square, and a Gran Fandango de Calaveritas at Museo Amparo (2 Sur #708) on Nov. 1 and 2, featuring Poblano folk group Reyes Son, at 8 p.m.

If you have wheels and want to head farther afield this week, the towns of Atlixco and Huaquechula are also colorful places to celebrate Day of the Dead. Atlixco is mounting its sixth giant floral carpet in the main square and a Catrina exposition on the patio of the Palacio Municipal, and Huaquechula invites visitors into 21 local homes to view traditional altars. (See links for additional details.)

National Xmas Tree and Ornament Fair

The town of Chignahuapan aims to sell tens of millions of Christmas ornaments this year during its annual Feria Nacional del Árbol y la Esfera.

Blown-glass ornaments in Chignahuapan, Puebla.The event, which showcases the work of some 3,000 artisans, takes place from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3. The hand-painted, blown-glass ornaments range from quirky to exquisite, and shoppers will find items in varying sizes and prices. (One year, we bought a bunch of holiday earrings to take to the U.S. as gifts.) The ornaments are produced in six major factories and some 200 family workshops, according to local news reports, and primarily sold by vendors on the main drag.

The fair comprises all sorts of events, from a midnight rodeo and Mexican wrestling to a candlelight procession and a massive launch of globos de cantoya. The festivities take place in the Teatro del Pueblo and other locations in and around town; admission prices vary. Click here for the complete schedule [PDF], which is a bit hard to read (but the only one we could find, thanks to Chignahuapan Entertainment’s Facebook page).

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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Take the Kids to Zoo Parque Loro in Puebla

October 20th, 2013

Zoo Parque LoroMany of Puebla’s popular tourist attractions — resplendent churches, art and history museums, archaeological sites, culinary festivals, and antiques fairs — aren’t necessarily ideal places to take young children, especially those with short attention spans, on vacation. Fortunately, the city offers plenty of other activities for kids 12 and under, particularly those who love animals.

We recently had the pleasure of visiting Zoo Parque Loro, a relatively small, engaging zoological park in Tlaxcalancingo, on the outskirts of town. The site started in the 1990s as a ranch for miniature horses and has since evolved into a full-fledged zoo. It currently cares for some 400 animals of 96 different species, including at least 50 that are in danger of extinction. What’s more, the grounds are impeccably kept, can be easily navigated with a stroller, and do not require tons of walking to hit the highlights.

Visitors can see Zoo Parque Loro’s impressive array of birds (loro is a Spanish word for “parrot”), monkeys, and big cats in about two hours. Or stay longer for special activities, such as recycled-art projects and personal visits with the animals, which sometimes cost extra. For 1 peso, children of all ages can buy a handful of pellets or sunflower seeds to feed the resident rabbits, squirrels, guinea pigs, and more. On the weekends, visitors may also handle and have their pictures taken with the zoo’s friendlier creatures, too. Tip: If you plan to go in the next few weeks, be sure to ask about the white lion cubs that were born on-site this summer. (We cuddled with one of them, thanks to strategic-development manager Adolfo Lazzari, who gave us free passes and asked on-site veterinarian Hector, who’s pictured on the homepage, to show us around.)

Zoo Parque Loro recently renewed its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums of Mexico and is in the process of updating its habitats with colorful wildlife- and Mexico-themed murals by Poblano artist Batik Díaz Conti.

Zoo Parque LoroZoo Parque LoroWhite lion cubs at Parque Loro.Want more? Check out Africam’s expansive drive-thru safari, Museo Viviente’s vast collection of reptiles, amphibians, and insects, and Acuario de Puebla’s marine life.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Zoo Parque Loro is located just off the old highway to Atlixco (kilometer 8.5) in Tlaxcalancingo, between San Andrés Cholula and Chipilo. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., seven days a week. Admission: 99 MXP for adults and 89 MXP for children. Photographs with the animals cost 110 MXP.

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Cuetlas: Sampling One of Mexico’s Edible Insects

September 22nd, 2013

Boiled and unfurled, these cuetlas are ready to fry.It probably wasn’t the smartest plan to arrive at the Grandiosa Tardeada de Cuetlas feeling absolutely famished. But we’re adventurous eaters who sometimes enjoy bugs in Mexican cuisine, particularly regional specialties like escamoles (ant eggs), chapulines (grasshoppers), and gusanos de maguey (pulque worms). So, we showed up at the 13th annual cuetlada in Puebla on Saturday afternoon ready to sink our teeth into some serious butterfly larvae.

Chiancuetlas, or cuetlas for short, are edible catepillars that grow in Jonote and other types of trees throughout south-central Mexico. The larvae are typically consumed in the Mixteca region of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, where they provide an imporant source of dietary protein. You can also buy them locally from tianguis in Atlixco—25 pesos for a sardine tinful—and at the Feria de Cholula. During the rainy season (August and September), the live caterpillars are collected from Cualagua, Cuaulote, and Pochote trees in the gullies near Huaquechula and gutted to remove their green entrails. Many cooks then boil the larvae in salt water, unfurl them by hand, and fry them in oil until they puff up and turn golden brown, and serve them as the main ingredient in tacos.

Guillermo Duque de Estrada (pictured), who invited us to the Grandiosa Tardeada de Cuetlas, has co-organized a semi-private culinary celebration with Antonio Álvarez Moran and a lively group of entomophagous friends since 2000. At previous events, the cuetleros have tried using the caterpillars as a protein in various gourmet recipes, from paella to cuetlas en nogada. They’ve even stuffed the finger- to cigar-sized larvae with tiny grasshoppers and sautéed them with garlic in olive oil.

Guillermo Duque de Estrada fries cuetlas for the taquiza.This year, Duque de Estrada—also known as “Don Cuetlo”—and crew hosted a traditional taquiza featuring fried caterpillars for tacos with eight different homemade salsas, avocado slices, black beans, and grasshopper-infused rice. Those of us who had never tried one before received our “first communion” of a single fried cuetla, so we could savor the larvae in all its salty and crunchy yet chewy glory. The experience was sort of like eating a rehydrated dried mushroom that’d been plunged into a deep-fryer. I jokingly called it cecina de árbol.

Want to try them yourself? El Mural de los Poblanos restaurant (Calle 16 de Septiembre #506 at 7 Oriente) is serving cuetlas for another week and offering them as part of a beer pairing menu this Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. (Side note: Álvarez Moran is the painter responsible for the historical murals on the restaurant’s walls.)

In the end, we can’t say that we’d routinely choose cuetlas over carne asada as a taco filling or that the larvae satiated our hunger. But the caterpillars were certainly edible. And, seeing as more than 1,000 types of insects are eaten by choice worldwide—including 67 species of butterflies and moths in Mexico—we’ve arrived terribly late to the dinner party. We’re convinced there’s a Lepidoptera out there we’ll enjoy as much as escamoles.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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Free App Leads Visitors to Puebla’s Museums

August 21st, 2013

Puebla Ciudad de Museos app (screen shots)A new mobile app released by the city of Puebla’s tourism office aims to help visitors navigate the major museums and art galleries in the greater metropolitan area.

Puebla Ciudad de Museos provides a multilingual directory of the capital’s most noteworthy sites and related information, such as the dates of upcoming “museum nights,” when select locations open their doors for extended hours and offer free admission to all comers.

The app also:

- Maps the specific locations of museums and galleries in Puebla and Cholula
- Provides each site’s regular operating hours and contact information
- Contains a (somewhat limited) calendar of events
- Offers a lovely photo gallery of participating sites
- Connects users to the city tourism office’s via phone, email, and social media

The free app, which was developed by Javier Zuniga Utrilla, is available for iOS and Android smartphones. —Rebecca Smith Hurd

Photo credit: Screen grabs from the iOS app

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Finding the Right School for Expat Kids in Puebla

August 9th, 2013

This is a guest post by Patricia Patton, who lived in Puebla with her family from June 2012 to July 2013. She wrote it to share their positive experience at the Instituto Mexicano Madero with other parents who may be considering a similar move.

Instituto Mexicano Madero, photo by Patricia PattonOur family headed south from Pennsylvania to Puebla in the summer of 2012 with a few goals for the school year. Developing our children’s fluency in Spanish was high on the list. So, instead of sending them to the Colegio Americano (aka the American School), which caters to English-speaking expats, we wanted to enroll them in a local school where they would be fully immersed in the language and culture.

Our boys—who were 7, 11, and 14 years old at the time—were understandably nervous about spending the entire school day in Spanish, a language that they struggled to understand and speak. Enrolling them at the Instituto Mexicano Madero was our compromise. As a private bilingual school, IMM would offer them some instruction in their native tongue. However, the fact that almost all of the other children were Poblano ensured that, in addition to taking their classes in Spanish, our kids would almost certainly have to speak Spanish with their new friends outside of school.

The structure of the school day was somewhat similar to school in the United States. Our two younger sons, who attended primaria (elementary school), had two teachers—one who spoke English and one who spoke Spanish. They spent half their day with each teacher, with a lunch/recess time between. Students usually pack a lonchera, or light lunch, but there is also a “cafeteria” that offers snacks for sale. As in almost all Mexican schools, students wear uniforms to class each day.

My oldest son was in the third year of secondary school (equivalent to ninth grade in the States). He was assigned to a group and a room, with teachers who rotated in and out with each new period and subject. Students in secundaria were given two breaks a day of about 20 minutes each to eat and relax with friends. The IMM has basketball, soccer, and volleyball courts available to the students along with plenty of open space. (With as much energy as young teens have, I think that twice-a-day recess for junior high students would be a great idea to adopt in the U.S. as well!)

Instituto Mexicano Madero, photo by Patricia PattonOverall, our experience with the IMM was amazing. The academic standards were impressive and challenging. The English portion of the day was more than an extended language course: It was content-based with grade-level classes in specific subjects, such as health and computers. The lessons were interesting and varied, and the teachers were kind and caring. Perhaps most importantly, everyone at the school, from the front office staff to the parent organization, was ready and willing to help us and our kids figure out how to succeed in a Mexican school. Administrators answered our endless questions — mainly in Spanish, but they brought in the English coordinator to help my husband (whose Spanish is spotty at best) understand when I couldn’t be there. They even accompanied us to the Secretary of Education (SEP) offices to register our children.

Of course, we also experienced our share of challenges along the way. Often this involved situations in which we understood all the words in Spanish but couldn’t figure out their intended meaning. The school supply list asked me to send in a bolsa de alegrías—a bag of happiness—and I had no idea what that could possibly mean. (Turns out, it’s a popular candy made of puffed amaranth seeds.) The teachers reminded me to add dots to my youngest son’s notebooks. Dots? What kind of dots? Where? WHY? We made not one, not two, but three separate attempts before my son’s science fair poster was completed correctly. At times, the cross-cultural challenges were slightly overwhelming!

In the end, we had an incredible experience that was well worth our extra efforts. My kids are now fluent in Spanish, and we experienced Mexican culture in a way that never would have been possible if the boys had been homeschooled or had attended a U.S.-style school for expat children. I would highly recommend IMM to any parent considering bringing their children to Puebla.

—Patricia Patton

The Instituto Mexicano Madero is located at 19 Poniente #503 at 7 Sur in Puebla’s historic center. It also maintains a satellite campus, known as Zavaleta, on the Camino Real a Cholula. Both offer classes for children from preschool through high school. As with most Mexican private schools, the IMM requires children to complete a series of admissions and placement exams before enrolling. These comprise questions in both English and Spanish, with parts that focus on knowledge as well as aptitude and learning style.

Want to read more about the Patricia’s experiences in Puebla? Check out the Patton family’s blog at ourmexicanyear.tumblr.com. There you’ll find a post about IMM’s graduation ceremonies, its spelling bee, and a science fair. (The photos depict the elementary school’s science fair (top left) and the sixth-grade color guard (bottom right) performing the national flag ceremony at an assembly.)

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Walk (or Ride) in the Treetops at Parque Lineal

August 4th, 2013

Parque LinealWhen state officials closed Parque del Arte in April to develop a new tourist attraction, we feared that the project would effectively ruin one of our favorite places to jog in Puebla. We’re thrilled to report that we were wrong.

Recently reopened and rechristened as Jardín del Arte, the park features upgrades such as softer turf (dirt vs. pebbles) on the running paths, additional restrooms, the removal of a fence around the track, shaded picnic tables, and two children’s play areas — all of which help to make the park an enjoyable place to visit and get some exercise.

Perhaps the most notable change, however, is the addition of a ramp that leads up to the brand-new Parque Lineal (pictured). This 4.5-kilometer “park” connects Jardín del Arte to the Iberoamericana University, the Estrella de Puebla observation wheel, shopping centers, and the government offices known as CIS.

A portion of the route consists of an elevated trail for pedestrians and cyclists that’s nestled in the treetops and enables foot and two-wheeled traffic to avoid the busy Niño Poblano Boulevard below.

Although officials are touting the entire project as a coup for tourism (there’s talk of creating a tour bus route from Puebla’s main square to Parque Lineal), we suspect local residents will get the most out of these two parks, which together provide an excellent place to get some fresh air in this increasingly congested urban area. Perhaps we’ll see you there! —Rebecca Smith Hurd

Jardín del Arte and Parque Lineal are located off Blvd. del Niño Poblano in Zona Angelopolis in Puebla-San Andrés Cholula. The main entrance to the garden is on the opposite side on Calle Sirio; secure parking costs $15 MXP. You may also access the elevated trail via the staircases in front of the university or between La Isla and Angelopolis shopping centers. There’s also a ramp that leads up as you head toward the park from the Estrella de Puebla.

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Puebla Is Neither Pueblo Nor a ‘pueblo’

July 28th, 2013

Puebla vs. PuebloIf we had a dollar for every time someone mistakenly referred to Puebla as “pueblo,” we’d be rich. Yes, that sounds terribly cliché. But this Spanish-to-English translation hurdle is arguably the biggest one the city and state must clear in their efforts to attract more international tourism.

It’s easy to see how even non-native speakers of Spanish could confuse pueblo and Puebla, given that many words in Spanish have both masculine and feminine forms. Puebla’s sister city of Pueblo, Colorado, only compounds the issue for Americans. But there’s a huge difference between the two words in Spanish: Puebla is a proper noun, the name of a state in Mexico and its capital city, and pueblo is a common noun in Spanish that means “village” or “town” or “the people” in general. We were delighted to find both cities (if not the generic term) clearly spelled out, side by side, in a 1957 edition of Encyclopedia Americana (pictured) on a bookshelf at the Burbula La Paz on Friday night.

What other misconceptions about Puebla exist? Check out this previous post, which tackles four more.

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Molletes Dulces, Puebla’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret

July 24th, 2013

Molletes dulcesFew places on Earth can satisfy a sweet tooth like the Calle de los Dulces in Puebla. You can almost get a sugar fix just walking by the shops that line Avenida 6 Oriente, their windows and display cases stuffed with traditional candies and cookies.

Once inside, you can choose among dozens of confections to please your palate, from camotes (fruit-flavored sweet potato “cigars”), borrachitos (tequila-infused gum drops), and candied fruits to muéganos (of various kinds), tortitas de Santa Clara (shortbread-like rounds iced with a pepita glaze), and polvorones (sometimes known as Mexican wedding cookies). And, at this time of year, there’s one particular treat that’s sought-after by a few savvy locals: molletes dulces (pictured above).

Molletes? We know, we know. Molletes in Mexico are usually a savory item, often served for breakfast. The basic version is a bolillo or another sandwich roll that’s cut in half, slathered with butter (or not), topped with refried beans, melted cheese, and pico de gallo. Tasty, but these aren’t those. Never heard of molletes dulces? You aren’t alone: Even some Poblanos are unfamiliar with the sugary kind.

“In Puebla, we have many things—memelas, chalupas, molotes, mole, esquites, chileatole, chiles en nogada, our typical sweets, among others … and the molletes that I know aren’t a dessert!” Lucet Gonzalez recently posted on our Facebook page, making us hungry.

“I’m not familiar with those,” added Christine Romero.

“They’re delicious, and they’re only made for the fiesta de Santa Clara … very few people know about them,” chimed in Carlos Rojas Xicotencatl.

“Where to they make them and when?” asked Tammy Fernando.

Good question! Permit us to explain, at least as much as we’ve been able to dig up about this little-known delight.

Inside a mollete dulceMolletes dulces — sometimes called molletes poblanos or molletes de coco — are sweet buns filled with custard, sherry or rum, and sometimes coconut and topped with an icing made of finely ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The recipe for the bread, notes chef Ricardo Muñoz-Zurita in an article for Mexico Desconocido, is “jealously guarded.” But he compares it to a concha in size, shape, and ingredients, which he lists as “wheat flour, yeast, salt, sugar, egg, and butter.”

Muñoz-Zurita and other observers say that molletes dulces can be had from Father’s Day in June to Independence Day in September, even early October — but we’ve never found them before late July. (Their availability tends to coincide with chiles en nogada season.)

The origins of the dessert are unknown, yet the earliest recipe dates back at least four generations. According to El Universal, the dessert was originally made to celebrate the feast day of Santa Clara (St. Clare of Assisi). It’s possible that we owe its creation to the nuns of the ex-Convent of Santa Clara themselves, who are credited with concocting their namesake tortitas and myriad other typical sweets. The former convent, located at the corner of Avenida 6 Oriente at Calle 2 Norte, is nestled among the various shops on the Calle de los Dulces that sell it today.

Get ’em while you can, for about 55 pesos a pop.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Want to learn more about the city’s gastronomy? Take a typical foods tour, which includes a stop on the Calle de los Dulces, with us!

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Our Spin on Puebla’s Latest Tourist Attraction

July 1st, 2013

Puebla's Rueda de ObservacionIt was heralded as the world’s largest ferris wheel, a giant rotating lookout that would rejuvenate Paseo Bravo and give locals and visitors a new perspective on the city’s historic center.

But the INAH nixed the downtown location, due largely to the plaza’s UNESCO status, and — two proposed sites later — Puebla’s latest tourist attraction now sits smack-dab in the middle of suburbia. Nonetheless, officials hope that the Estrella de Puebla will draw the ticket-buying masses to Angelopolis.

The enormous wheel, which is slated for inauguration on July 22, is indeed a sight to behold, particularly when it’s lit up after dark. Built by a German company, the 750-ton structure reportedly stretches 80 meters (about 260 feet, or 24 stories) skyward, towering over the three shopping centers that surround it in San Andrés Cholula. Its 54 gondolas will accommodate up to eight passengers each for a maximum of 432 riders at once. Tickets will reportedly cost $30 MXP per person (or $50 in a VIP gondola). Despite its location outside the heavily trafficked tourist areas of Puebla and Cholula, visitors who make the trek — a projected 1 million per year — at sunset are likely to be treated to some truly spectacular views of the Popocatépetl volcano.

The Estrella de Puebla loosely resembles the popular Eye in London. And, although the poblano version may be the largest transportable wheel on the planet, it’s significantly smaller than its British counterpart. The Eye is 135 meters (about 443 feet) tall and weighs 2,100 tons. An even bigger, heavier observation wheel will be inaugurated on a manmade island in Dubai in 2015.

Puebla’s $400 million peso project includes the construction of a plaza with a fountain, a 256-space on-site parking lot, and a 1.5-kilometer elevated path for pedestrians and cyclists. This urban byway will provide access to both Parque del Arte and 1,200 overflow parking spaces at the state government’s new offices on Vía Atlixcáyotl.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

The Estrella de Puebla is located on the access road to Angelopolis between Niño Poblano and Vía Atlixcáyotl boulevards. (To get to the site by bus, take any route that drops passengers at Angelopolis, La Isla, or Plaza Milenium shopping malls.) Daily operating hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), starting July 29.

Post updated July 24, 2013.

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Enjoy a Cultural Feast at ‘The House of Crumbs’

June 5th, 2013

Inside the Casa del MendrugoIf the walls at La Casa del Mendrugo could talk, they’d probably tell more tales than most. The house, like many grand structures built in Puebla from the 16th to 19th centuries, is a study in local history. For example, Augustin de Iturbide reportedly stayed here on August 2, 1821. What sets this home apart from the rest is its careful rescue, its public accessibility, and its location above a pre-Hispanic burial site — the first ever discovered in the city’s core.

La Casa del Mendrugo literally translates to “the house of crumbs” or “bread crusts” in English. Mendrugo is also what the Jesuits called the leftover charity from nearby St. Jerome’s College that they used to rebuild the house in the 17th century. The home’s original owner may have been Juan de Salmerón, one of Puebla’s founders, back in 1534. When the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain in 1767, the building fell into the hands of a public commission. A century later, it returned to private ownership and, according to historians, “suffered several interventions which altered its main structures and uses.” One of the last attempts at renovation tried to divide the building into apartments in the 1950s and failed, and the site was abandoned until 2008, when the current owners purchased it. Their entire restoration project was supervised by the INAH, Mexico’s national institute of history and anthropology.

Olmec Remains, Other Artifacts Unearthed

“While excavating in a not previously altered area of the patio, [we found] two layers of Spanish-style brick flooring of different centuries. In the same area, there was also what used to be a water well,” explains the brochure that’s available in English at La Casa del Mendrugo. “The deep hole was filled with dirt and fragments of many utensils, ceramics, and animal bones from the Spanish Colonial times. But outside the well and underneath the flooring, pieces of very old Indian ceramics started to emerge.”

Further digging revealed more artifacts, a pre-Hispanic wall and stone flooring, and a ritual funeral offering that consisted of Olmec-style figures, shell and stone pendants, rock-carving utensils, and other objects. Two sets of human remains, one male and one female (known as “Chuchita”), believed to be from the same Pre-Classic Period (2500 B.C. to 200 A.D.) were also found. The INAH hopes to extract DNA from one of the molars recovered to find out for sure. The bulk of these items, including the skeletons, are now on display in a small private museum on the building’s second floor. They’re accompanied by more modern pieces, including antique talavera pottery and children’s toys from the early days of plastic.

Chuchita: Olmec remainsTapas at La Casa del MendrugoAAP-mendrugo1

Flaunting Puebla’s Cuisine and Culture

Beyond the museum, the three-story building—which we’re told has been restored as much as possible to its original state—also houses an art gallery, a stage for live entertainment, and three main dining areas: a coffeehouse, a fine-dining restaurant, and a tapas bar. The menus, says executive chef Daniel López Aguilar, are designed to celebrate Puebla’s Spanish heritage, with Mexican and international flair. They do. We liked the savory croquetas and the stuffed Poblano pepper so much, we’ve ordered them twice. The cheese plate, featuring products from IPODERAC, is a thing of beauty.

We’ve visited four times already, to check out all aspects of La Casa del Mendrugo. We give just about everything a thumbs-up, particularly the house-made beer, the live jazz on Friday nights, and the art gallery. La Galería Lazcarro is currently exhibiting “Matter Matters,” a mixed-media show by Jorge Juan Moyano, a Poblano painter and a friend of ours. Latin jazz will be featured in the restaurant on Fridays at 9 p.m. through the month of June.

“It is the only venue I know of [downtown] where it’s fun for grown-ups!” says another friend, who’s had a standing reservation since the restaurant opened two months ago. We can think of a couple more but agree it’s one of the few!

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

La Casa del Mendrugo is located at 4 Sur #304, one block from the main square, in Puebla’s historic center. The art gallery and museum are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and the café and restaurant generally serve breakfast, lunch, or tapas from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 6 p.m., and 7 to 11 p.m., respectively. Admission to the museum is 20 pesos. The cover charge on Friday nights is 80 pesos. For more information or reservations (essential on Friday nights), call (222) 232-5148.

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