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Puebla Is Neither Pueblo Nor a ‘pueblo’

Sunday, 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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Coping With the Volcano: Popocatépetl Safety Tips

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

AAP-Popocatepetl2-wmrkPopocatépetl has been blowing a lot of smoke lately. The active volcano sent so much ash, steam, and glowing bits of lava into the air — sometimes more than a mile above its crater — this past week that it looked like it had snowed in the Puebla capital. Wayward ashes were reported as far away as Guatemala, and flights were suspended at the city’s airport Wednesday until the cleanup crew could sweep up the mess on the runway.

The increased activity led the National Center for Disaster Prevention in Mexico to raise its alert level for the volcano. An official report [PDF] released Sunday morning explained:

“The increase in the general activity of Popocatepetl volcano during the last weeks and especially the acceleration of the seismic activity registered yesterday, today at 1:40 a.m., the Interior Ministry raised the Volcanic Alert Level to Yellow Phase 3. During the period in which the volcanic traffic light remains in this level, two bulletins will be issued daily: the first at 10 a.m., with a summary of the activity of the last 24 hours and the second at 7 p.m., featuring updating the data reported in the first. If necessary, the updates will be reported more frequently. … The volcanic alert level is in YELLOW Phase 3.”

This is the third-highest warning on the center’s seven-step scale [PDF], and it essentially means that the experts who keep an eye on Don Goyo think his activity level may continue to increase.

“In past years, the type of activity reported was associated to the ascent of magmatic material and the growth of the lava dome. This activity leads to the following likely scenarios: intermediate to high-scale explosive activity, dome growth, and possible lava emission; explosions of growing intensity; occurrence of pyroclastic flows [a fast-moving current of hot gas and rock]; and ash fall on the closer villages and in lesser amounts in the more remote places, depending on the wind direction.

“The Popocatepetl volcano is monitored continuously 24 hours a day. Any significant change in the activity of the volcano will be [reported] promptly.” For the latest update in English, click here.

Volcano Health & Safety Tips

There’s currently no reason to panic or to cancel your trip to Puebla. But if you live here or are traveling in the area, it’s in your best interest to stay abreast of the situation. Pay attention to local news reports for updates. (We’ll do our best to share any new information, as it becomes available, through our Twitter and Facebook accounts, too.)

In general, this is not a good time to visit El Paso de Cortés, the mountain pass between Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The road is permanently closed to through traffic (to Mexico City), but it provides access to the national park, where there’s an observation point and hiking and climbing are permitted on Iztaccíhuatl.

The reason to stay away: Communities near the volcano will be among the first evacuated in the event that the alert level gets raised again. As a preventative measure, Puebla state officials on May 12 put El Plan Operativo Popocatépetl in place. The plan provides for the evacuation and shelter of residents in high-risk areas; the city of Puebla, situated 28 miles east of the crater, is outside this radius.

“This is a prevention phase,” the state governor told local media. “There is no immediate danger and people are calm, but we must be on constant alert.”

Foreign residents and travelers should contact their embassies for instructions in the event of a major emergency. The local equivalent of 911 is 066.

Ashes from the volcano — essentially a very fine gray dust — can cause or aggravate respiratory issues and allergies, including itchy eyes. The city’s civil protection agency recommends that you refrain from outdoor activities, keep doors and windows closed, and cover your eyes and mouth with protective wear (particularly if you use contact lenses). If your eyes or throat become irritated, rinse them with purified water. Avoid al fresco dining, from restaurants to street food. Keep your pets inside. Protect household water sources, including tanks and cisterns.

In addition, authorities note, ashes make surfaces slippery. To clean them up, it’s best to use a broom or a dry cloth to remove them from surfaces. Getting ashes wet first will turn them into cement-like mud. Collect and use this new soil (which is rich in minerals) to fertilize your yard or garden.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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All About Puebla Wins as Favorite Mexico Blog

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

2013 Readers Choice Winner today was named Favorite Mexico Blog in the sixth annual 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards, which honor the best products, features, and services in dozens of categories. This is the second year in a row that was nominated and won the category by popular vote.

“Although it’s Mexico’s fourth-largest city and its historical center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, Puebla is often overlooked by travelers. Rebecca Smith Hurd, the driving force behind All About Puebla, is on a mission to change that,” writes Suzanne Barbezat, the Guide who produces its Mexico travel site. “Her blog brings Puebla and its many attractions — food, culture, fine arts, pyramids, nightlife, sports and the outdoors — into the spotlight.” readers nominated their favorite can’t-live-without-it product or service, such as the best budget hotel, gardening book, or wireless provider. Five finalists from each category were selected by Guides from and advanced to the final round of voting. In the Favorite Mexico Blog category, the finalists included: Gringation Cancun, La Cocina de Leslie, Life’s a Beach, and San Pancho Vida. readers voted for their favorites from February 19 to March 19. The winner in each category was announced on March 27.

“The Readers’ Choice Awards give our readers a chance to share their knowledge of and passion for the best products and services they’ve come across over the course of a year,” explains Margot Weiss, managing editor, “Each year we are impressed by readers’ enthusiasm and involvement with the awards program, which directly speaks to their engagement with their favorite topics on”

“We are absolutely thrilled to receive this award again! We thank everyone who voted for us and congratulate all of the other winners and finalists,” says Rebecca Smith Hurd, who founded this website on May 5, 2010. “All About Puebla is truly a labor of love, and we hope it provides a useful service to English-speaking visitors and the Poblano community at large.”

The city of Puebla was also a winner for the second consecutive year, edging out Alamos, Campeche, Oaxaca, and Querétaro as readers’ Favorite Mexican Colonial City.

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Vote for Puebla in’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Finalist BadgeWe’ve been away for a while, supporting our family back in the States, but we figured what better way to return to this space than with some good news: The city of Puebla and All About Puebla are both finalists in the 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards in the Mexico Travel category!

The capital is a contender for Favorite Colonial City in Mexico, and this website is vying for Favorite Mexico Blog. Last we checked, Puebla and Alamos were tied for first place, and All About Puebla was in third place. As you may recall, you helped us win last year. We’d love your support again this year.

You may vote once every 24 hours between now and March 19. To vote for the city of Puebla, click here. To vote for All About Puebla, click here. You just need to provide an email address, type in the “captcha key” provided (to prove you aren’t a spambot), and hit Submit. Winners will be announced March 27. We appreciate your support!

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Local Artisans Specialize in Hand-Rolled Cigars

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Hand-rolling cigars in downtown PueblaSo, you’ve had a few shots of homemade liquor at La Pasita in Los Sapos, and now you’re craving a smoke, one that’s on par with the artisanal drinks. Legendaria Fábrica de Puros (Cigar Factory) may have just what you’re looking for. The tiny shop, just a stumble up 5 Oriente toward the zócalo from the bar, specializes in hand-rolled cigars made with whole leaf Mexican tobacco. Although much of the product comes from San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, the cigars are crafted exclusively on-site, by hand. Like most premium puros, Legendaria’s cigars often feature different varieties of tobacco (Mexican and Cuban) for the filler and the wrapper; one even bears a wrapper soaked in rum. They also come in various shapes and sizes, including Churchill, Corona, Lancero, and Robusto. Prices start around 40 pesos each. Legendaria Fábrica de Puros is located at 5 Oriente #207 in the city’s historic center. —Rebecca Smith Hurd

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All About Puebla 2012: The Year in Review

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.)

The dome of the Capilla del Rosario

—5 common myths and misconceptions about Puebla, debunked. (Read full post.)

—Murals revitalize Xanenetla, one of Puebla’s oldest barrios. (Read full post.)

The murals in Barrio Xanenetla depict the neighborhood’s cultural identity.

—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.)

Mark Bittman, Carlos Zorrilla, Patricia Quintana, Rick Bayless, Marcela Valladolid, and Eduardo Osuna onstage at the International Mole Festival

—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.)

Sunrise on December 21, 2012, as seen from atop the Cholula pyramid.

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.

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The “End of the World” as We Knew It

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Sunrise on December 21, 2012, as seen from atop the Cholula pyramid.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

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Read Our Bimonthly Tourism Column

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Certificate of recognition for All About Puebla's volunteer contributions to Negicios&Turismo magazine.All About Puebla founder Rebecca Smith Hurd on Sept. 27 received recognition for her contributions to Negocios y Turismo magazine, a joint project of the Grupo Milenio news organization and the city of Puebla. Hurd writes a regular column in English related to the magazine’s overall theme, which changes with each issue. Recent topics have included regional gastronomy (must-try foods), where to study Spanish, and holiday celebrations (Day of the Dead). The first five bimonthly issues of the magazine, which launched in fall 2011, are available for free download here. Print copies are distributed in select locations in Puebla and Mexico City. Hurd and other volunteers were honored at the magazine’s first anniversary celebration at Restaurante La Noria.

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5 Myths + Misconceptions About Puebla, Debunked

Monday, August 20th, 2012

When I arrived in Puebla in 2007 to study Spanish, I’d never been here before; I’d only taken beach vacations south of the border. In fact, until I began researching my trip, I’d never even heard of Puebla before — or so I thought. I quickly realized that two of Mexico’s best-known cultural exports to the U.S., mole poblano and Cinco de Mayo, were products of Puebla. Right. How could I not have known that?

Mexicophiles of the world, I hear your collective sigh. (Believe me, these days I’m right there with you.) But, in my experience, many foreign travelers have yet to connect those same dots, and those who do too often bungle the information. So, to celebrate my five-year anniversary here this week, I thought I’d try to clear a few things up. Here are five common myths and misconceptions about Puebla, debunked.

Myth 1: “Puebla” is synonymous with “pueblo.”

Given that many nouns in Spanish have both masculine and feminine forms, it’s easy to see how non-native speakers could confuse the two in this case. Puebla’s sister city of Pueblo, Colorado, doesn’t help the matter, either. For the uninitiated, pueblo is a common noun in Spanish that means “village” or “town” or “the people” in general. Puebla is a proper noun, the name of a state in Mexico and its capital city. Although it’s often mistakenly referred to as a “small Colonial city,” Puebla is the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis, with a population of more than 1.5 million people (comparable to Philadelphia). However, Puebla’s quaint and historic downtown — a UNESCO World Heritage Center — often makes this big city feel like a small town.

Myth 2: “Poblano” is a type of mole and chile pepper.

This statement is correct but seems to suggest that the Spanish adjective only applies to food, which is incorrect. Poblano describes any person or thing that comes from Puebla, including mole and chile peppers. My husband is poblano (m.), and Talavera pottery is poblana (f.), respectively. Mole poblano — never pablano — is a popular sweet and savory sauce from Puebla, the recipe for which typically calls for dried Poblano peppers (a.k.a. ancho chiles). It is not the only type of mole made in Mexico. When you visit Puebla, try manchamanteles and pipíanes rojo and verde, too.

Myth 3: Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Cinco de Mayo’s popularity in the United States and worldwide as a fiesta honoring Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latino pride has caused considerable confusion about the origins of the holiday. By all historical accounts, Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s brief but heroic victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Unfortunately, the governor of Puebla — who spent some $62 million in public money to fête Cinco de Mayo’s 150th anniversary this year — now plans to move the state’s official Independence Day celebration to the Cinco de Mayo battle forts this fall. Don’t be fooled: Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is not Independence Day (Sept. 16).

Myth 4: Puebla is a “day trip” from Mexico City.

Some well-known travel guides assert that you can easily see Puebla in a day if you’re staying in Mexico City, just 75 miles away. Do not trust anyone who says this. Yes, it’s true that it only takes about two hours to get here from the DF on the bus — and even less time by car — if there isn’t much traffic in either city. However, as a visiting producer for México Travel Channel told me last week, “We’ve been here for several days now and barely scratched the surface. There’s so much to see.” You need at least a long weekend to explore Puebla and neighboring Cholula, and even more time if you want to visit worthwhile outlying destinations, such as Atlixco and Cacaxtla. Otherwise, you’ll wish you stayed longer.

Myth 5: Puebla and Poblanos are very reserved.

Locals joke that there’s a church in Puebla for every Poblano, which suggests that the city is fairly religious. Pardon the cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover (even if it is the Bible). On any given day, for each Catholic temple you pass you’re likely to spot a shameless and very public display of affection. The oldest cantina in town is mostly open on weekday afternoons. Women who dress rather conservatively during the day wear scandalously little to go out at night. In other words, the upper crust of society may try to “keep up appearances,” but it’s all smoke and mirrors. The reality is that Poblanos are typical urban dwellers who appreciate tradition yet embrace the latest trends. What the city of Puebla lacks, like much of Mexico, is diversity. This seems to be changing, due in part to an influx of residents from other countries and states of the republic and an increasingly vocal LGBT community. It’s also worth noting that in July’s federal elections, the progressive candidate won the majority of votes in Puebla, not the traditional PAN or PRI. Although Puebla isn’t as liberal as San Francisco, my previous home, it isn’t Provo, Utah, either.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

To read more about Puebla, visit The Blog.

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10 Reasons Travelers Should Visit Puebla

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

The fountain in Puebla’s main square, or zócalo.Puebla is perhaps the most overlooked, underrated urban travel destination in Mexico. It’s profile is so low that many English speakers confuse the name Puebla with the Spanish word pueblo, mistaking the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis (and a state capital) for any small village in Latin America. With more than 1.5 million inhabitants and a long history of shaping the country’s cultural identity, Puebla is everything but.

Whether you’re into shopping for hand-crafted artisanal wares or hurling insults at a wrestling match, sampling world-class cuisine in a restaurant or savoring sinfully greasy appetizers on the street, climbing the world’s largest pyramid or descending into its smallest volcano, sipping local liqueurs at a century-old cantina or dancing until dawn at a trendy new nightclub, you’ll find it all here. What’s more, Puebla is a safe destination in Mexico that leads visitors, slightly and gently, off the usual, well-trod tourist path.

Here are 10 reasons every traveler should visit the city of Puebla, inspired by a similar list posted in Spanish at the tourism office downtown:

1. It’s a “perfect” Colonial city. Founded on April 16, 1531, Puebla was the first city in Mexico built entirely from scratch by Spanish settlers. No indigenous structures were dismantled or repurposed. Situated along the banks of the Atoyac and San Francisco rivers, Puebla followed developers’ ideal street plan — a basic grid pattern determined by compass points (north, south, east, west) with the main square, or zócalo, at its center. This system made Puebla’s downtown core easy to navigate, then and now.

The Capilla del Rosario in Santo Domingo church2. It’s chockfull of historic monuments. Puebla, declared a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO in 1987, preserves more than 2,600 monuments in nearly 400 city blocks. They include the city’s Cathedral, which is said to have some of the tallest towers of any church on the continent. “In an untouched urban network, the historic center of Puebla comprises major religious buildings, such as the Santo Domingo church, as well as superb palaces [like] the host of old houses whose walls are covered in gaily colored tiles,” UNESCO notes. “Although 19th-century transformations resulting from the Reform Laws (1857) modified the urban landscape through the closing of many convents, they made it possible for Puebla to be endowed with high-quality public and private architecture.”

3. It’s the reason anyone celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Frequently mistaken for Independence Day, May 5 is the anniversary of a somewhat miraculous military maneuver in Puebla. In May 1862, some 6,000 French troops descended upon the city, looking to collect on Mexico’s foreign debt with a land grab. They were met with unexpected resistance from a scrappy band of 4,000 Mexican soldiers, many of whom were farmhands armed with mere machetes. They fended off the French for several days, stopping four attempts to take the city. In 2012, Puebla celebrated the 150th anniversary of the battle with a military parade, a nighttime spectacular, and other fanfare.

4. It’s where the Mexican Revolution began. The capital city is not only the place where Mexico’s famous victory over the French took place, but also the birthplace of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It was here, in a Colonial mansion downtown, that Aquiles Serdán and his family stockpiled weapons for the fight against President Porfirio Díaz. On November 18, two days before the revolt was officially scheduled to begin, authorities learned of the stash and surrounded the building. A bloody stand-off ensued. The house, still riddled with bullet holes, today houses the Museo Regional de la Revolución Mexicana. Its relatively small but important collection (including a room dedicated to women’s contributions) helps tell the story of a few lesser-known national heroes.

The Casa de los Muñecos5. It preserves and cultivates public art. Talavera pottery is among the few Mexican products with protected status (DO4), which means its production must meet established quality standards. The sought-after ceramics have been made in Puebla for more than 400 years and used to adorn buildings all over town. One of the more notable examples is the Casa de los Muñecos (2 Norte #2), which gets its name from the grotesque human figures that decorate its facade. Legend has it that the tiles ridicule city council members who in 1792 tried to stop the building’s owner from erecting a mansion taller than City Hall. Visitors who’d rather see more contemporary public art should check out the amazing murals in the Xanenetla neighborhood.

6. It’s next to the world’s largest pyramid. Puebla’s only major suburb, Cholula, is the longest continuously occupied ceremonial center in the Americas—and one of the most enigmatic. In fact, it’s quite possible to miss the massive Great Pyramid of Cholula even if you’re staring right at it. The structure, overgrown with natural vegetation for centuries, looks like a grassy knoll from a distance. Archaeologists can’t unearth the pyramid, which the Guinness Book of World Records calls the largest ever constructed, because Spanish conquerors built a church on top of it in 1594. Today, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is both a protected Colonial monument and a destination for Catholic pilgrims. To study the structure, whose Nahuatl name is Tlachihualtepetl or “artificial mountain,” archaeologists dug nearly 5 miles of tunnels, some of which are open to the public (as of September 2012).

7. It’s where you’ll find the world’s small volcano. Located in the Libertad neighborhood in northwest Puebla, the Cuexcomate volcano was once the only landmark in the area. It’s believed to be a secondary crater or extinguished geyser created by bursts of magma and sulfuric water from nearby Popocátepetl during its last violent eruption in 1064. The little limestone cone measures a mere 43 feet high and 76 feet in diameter. Legend has it that Cuexcomate once served as a site for human sacrifices to indigenous gods and later a depository for citizens who committed suicide, because “they didn’t merit being honorably mourned or buried in sacred ground.” Visitors today who aren’t creeped out by that can descend a spiral staircase to the bottom of the cone.

Mole poblano8. It’s where mole poblano, chalupas, and chiles en nogada were invented. The gastronomy of Puebla is among the most varied and exquisite in Mexico. “A good meal should be prepared carefully and, in Puebla, they’re true experts in this area,” write the authors of Mexican Cooking for Newlyweds. “For example, take mole poblano, which simply through the act of preparing it, becomes a cause for celebration.” Beyond mole, Puebla’s restaurateurs serve up a impressive array of delicious dishes, from classics like tinga (a chipotle-laced beef or chicken stew) to exotic seasonal specialties like escamoles (ant eggs). Looking for recommendations about where to eat? Check out our picks for the top five places to dine like a Poblano.

9. It’s where the first public library in the New World was founded—and still exists. The Biblioteca Palafoxiana was started in 1646 inside what was once the seminary of St. John’s College (now home to Puebla’s cultural center). The library today preserves 45,058 volumes dating from just before until just after the Colonial era. Many of its works are of global importance, from an original copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), which charts human history according to the Bible in words and more than 2,000 illustrations, to books printed in Mexico before 1600, like Vocabulary in Castilian and Mexican, which was essentially the earliest New World dictionary. Visitors can’t manhandle the books, but they can admire the room’s gorgeous altar and finely carved wood shelves.

A white tiger at Africam10. It’s home to one of the most reputable animal preserves in the Hemisphere. Africam Safari was the first zoo in Latin America to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, due largely to its conservation efforts and high standards of animal care. With partners in Mexico and around the globe, Africam works to recover wild populations (such as the golden eagle) and to preserve ecosystems and soil. The park itself protects scores of endangered species and indigenous flora and fauna and strives to teach the public about them. In a single trip, it’s possible to watch a hippo bathe, a tiger wake up from its nap, an antelope toss around a fallen tree branch, and a joey emerge from mama kangaroo’s pouch.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Post updated on Sept. 14, 2012.

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