Archive for the ‘Sports + Recreation’ Category|
Monday, January 7th, 2013
¡Vamos, Puebla! That wasn’t the most popular refrain shouted in support of the home team at its season opener Jan. 6, but it is among the few I’ll repeat out of context and in mixed company. I did belt out a few other choice words yesterday as I watched La Franja play well but ultimately lose to the Xolos of Tijuana, the reigning Liga MX champs, at Cuauhtémoc Stadium.
Nonetheless, I had an absolute blast yesterday, thanks to friends who are longtime fans and who gave me an extra ticket. Like so many spectator sports, sitting in the stands during a soccer match is a completely different experience from watching the action on TV. Vendors roam the aisles hawking everything from cold beer and souvenirs to the obligatory and quintessentially poblana cemita sandwiches. Fans shout, sing, dance, beat drums, blow horns, and occasionally throw food at supporters of the visiting team when it scores. Best way to avoid the latter: Wear blue, Puebla FC’s primary color.
Some 23,000 Camoteros turned out for yesterday’s inaugural match, the first of 17 regular games in Clausura 2013. Want to go to one? Home games are scheduled to be played roughly every two weeks; tickets are available at the stadium’s box office and Superboletos outlets.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Sunday, November 11th, 2012
Driving along the Arco Norte reminds me of California. The highway, which cuts across Tlaxcala, Estado de Mexico, and Hidalgo so that traffic headed northwest from Puebla can bypass Mexico City, could easily be mistaken for Interstate 5. Miles and miles of open road are flanked by golden fields of dry grass, perhaps wheat or hay, that stretch toward greener mountains at their distant edges. Wildflowers add splashes of color in the foreground. Soil-tilling farmers and grazing livestock occasionally add to the scenery, but they quickly disappear as we whip by at 75 mph.
If it weren’t for the abundance of prickly pear and an absence of In-N-Out Burgers, I might—just might—forget where I am for a moment. But I don’t want to. It’s absolutely gorgeous here. However, as we veer off the Arco Norte and head east, past Tulancingo, onto Route 106 in Puebla’s northern sierra, I try to stop thinking about the road, which gets quite narrow and windy. My focus shifts to our destination, Pahuatlán de Valle.
Pahuatlán was founded in 1532 by Augustinian monks who built a monastery on a steep mountainside near both Nahua and Otomí communities. Until earlier this year, when the Mexico Tourism Board added Pahuatlán to its “pueblo mágico” program, the only reason most outsiders visited the region was to buy artisanal paper made from amate bark. In fact, the primary purpose of our weekend trip is to take our friend Sandra, an artist who works with textiles, to buy papel amate in nearby San Pablito. The Pahuatlán area is also known for thick-skinned avocados (“place of the fruit trees” in Nahuatl), small coffee plantations, and a 100-foot-long suspension bridge, which enables foot traffic between the towns of Pahuatlán and Xolotla.
About 3 1/2 hours after leaving the state capital, we pull up in front of Hotel San Carlos, our home away from home for the next 36 hours. It’s a multilevel, Colonial-style building with a restaurant, a swimming pool, lots of stairs and a lookout tower that guests can climb to enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding area. What the hotel lacks in luxury, it makes up for in folkloric flair: Lamps, headboards, and artwork in our rooms are made of amate paper. That said, we didn’t come all this way to hole up in our hotel. We head out to find lunch and explore the town square (a couple of blocks away from the hotel).
“I feel like I’m back in 1950s Mexico,” says Sandra, an avid traveler who now lives in Puebla.
Pahuatlán greets us with the sights, sounds, and smells of a bustling small town. Vendors line the sidewalks of the main drag—a dusty cobblestone street—selling snacks and amate paper, beaded jewelry, embroidered blouses, pottery, and more. The zócalo is a hub of activity and a work in progress, we suspect thanks to new federal tourism funds. A group of young men plays basketball in the recently revitalized square’s concrete surface. A newly inaugurated gazebo is surrounded by shade trees and shrubbery that spells out “Pahuatlán: Pueblo Mágico.” A historic home’s facade is propped up by wood beams where the street is torn up for laying infrastructure. A series of Day of the Dead altars lines the front of the municipal building, where the public clock chimes to a different tune, such as “Que Chula Es Puebla,” every three hours. Many local señores carry machetes at their hips, lending an air of authenticity and scene of danger to the scene.
After fortifying ourselves with a hearty comida at Fonda Güina (Hidalgo #5), which makes lovely cecina (salt-cured beef) and itacates (corn cakes stuffed with garbanzo beans), we set about exploring the rest of the area. Here are a few highlights:
Amate Paper Workshop
At the top of our must-do list was a trip to the Otomí community of San Pablito to learn about amate paper. My friends Scott and Maru, who along with my hubby completed our party of five, had arranged for a guide from the tourism office to give us a tour. Armando, a local college student, hopped into our van and led us on a 25-minute drive to a workshop run by the Santos Rojas family. Three generations of artisans explained the materials and walked us through the process—and then, to our surprise, taught us how to make our own (for 10 pesos each). We also had an opportunity to admire and purchase their beautiful wares, from bookmarks to wall hangings.
(To read more about our experience, check out this post about San Pablito.)
Nature Hike (with Coffee and Pan Dulce)
The tourism office also offers walking tours in Pahuatlán, so on Sunday morning we met Armando in the zócalo for guided visits to a local bakery, a coffee producer, and the suspension bridge. First stop: Panadería M&J (Calle Vicente Guerrero), which turns out some 1,000 pieces of sweet rolls a day. Its specialties, baked in a wood-fired brick oven, include cigar-shaped puros, cookie-ringed bisnagas, and buttery, sugar-coated buches. We purchased one of each and two conchas to pair with the coffee at Casa Hernández (Camino Barrio Unido) a short, hilly stroll away. Casa Hernández cultivates, picks, hulls, separates, sun-dries, and roasts its own beans in small batches to make two products: 100% natural and coffee with 30% sugar. Much of the work is done entirely by manual labor.
Next up: Armando takes us on adventurous hike to the Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla suspension bridge and Pahuatiltla River. We head down a steep residential road and onto a dirt trail that runs through the forest. We’re soon surrounded by trees, grass, wildflowers, butterflies. We start to understand why someone might want to carry a machete in these parts, for practical purposes. Along the way, Armando points out the hanging birds’ nests and poisonous plants, which he asks us kindly not to touch. We stop to take pictures of the suspension bridge below in the distance. The pedestrian river crossing was built in the 1950s, and it looks as if it hasn’t been repaired since: The steel cables appear a bit rusty and a half dozen wooden planks are missing, several—but not all—of which have been replaced by young tree trunks. During Easter Week, people bungee-jump off the bridge, Armando notes. It’s a 200-foot drop to the river below.
I am not afraid of heights, yet my heart is racing. I decide that if I die, at least I will plunge to my death doing something interesting. So, I grab my husband’s hand, take a deep breath, and go for it. We survive. When we get down to the river, we are surrounded by more butterflies and the sounds of rushing water. We take a break before heading back the way we came, a strenuous 45 minutes uphill. But we all make it back to town, safe and sound. We pay Armando 60 pesos each for his trouble.
Happy Hour at Café Pahuatlán
It is surprisingly difficult to find a drinking establishment open at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday. We wander around a bit before stumbling upon Café Pahuatlán on Calle 5 de Mayo. Run by a couple from Querétaro who recently inherited the property, the bar-café occupies the partially renovated stables of an old mansion. It pairs old-world kitsch with new-world chic. We order beers and tequila shots and Scott inquires about snacks. “Te voy a traer algo que te va a encantar” (“I’ll bring you something you’ve going to love.”), the owner informs us, and a while later reappears carrying a platter of chicken tenders sautéed with chile peppers.
We order another round of drinks, and the owner returns to pitch us his special Red Bull-esque coffee drink, which involves some sort of beans with a “bellybutton.” (Thanks, but maybe not with tequila…) Next, he presents us with a strange green gourd that looks like a certain lady part, or a Klingon. He breaks another one open and offers us his Nahuatl dictionary. Turns out, this tlalayotli is a wild squash whose tiny seeds can be toasted and eaten. Interesting. But we’re hungry. It’s now 8:30 p.m., the bar is packed, and its staff a bit overwhelmed by the rush. So, we ask for the check and walk back to our hotel for quesadillas and a nightcap.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Pahuatlán is located about 125 miles north of the Puebla capital. It’s easiest to reach via toll road by car. If you go by bus, plan to spend the whole day traveling. Atah offers service from CAPU to Tulancingo; Estrella Blanca will take you the rest of the way. Guided tours (in Spanish) are available through the tourism office for 30 pesos per person.
Tags: amate paper, Pahuatlán de Valle, Puebla, pueblo mágico, San Pablito, Sierra Norte, suspension bridge, weekend trip
Posted in Arts + Culture, Explore, Featured, Sports + Recreation | 2 Comments »
Saturday, February 26th, 2011
Chipilo is a small farming town located about seven miles south of the Puebla capital. It was established in 1882 by emigrants of the Veneto region in northern Italy, who relocated to central Mexico to escape poverty back home. The majority of these chipileños, as they’re known in these parts, hailed from Segusino in the Treviso province, which in 1982 became an official sister city.
Perhaps because of this close relationship — and the fact that Chipilo was relatively isolated from Puebla’s urban sprawl until the late 20th century — many locals speak a Venetian dialect. The biggest draws to outsiders are its meat and dairy products, particularly artisan cheeses, which are sought after for miles around. Nearly all of the attractions in town are located along a short stretch of road that veers off and then back onto the federal highway to Atlixco. (Turn right before the sister city sign.) Here visitors will find restaurants, shops and services, a church, a hotel, baseball and soccer fields, and the town’s lienzo charro, or rodeo ring.
Charreadas — or rodeos — have been a part of the Mexican culture since the 16th century, although being a charro used to be more of a job than a sport.
Our visit to Chipilo last Sunday took us directly to this ring, where the family of Alfonso “Poncho” García, was holding a gran charreada, or great rodeo, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death. The free event attracted hundreds of spectators and riders from Atlixco, Mexico City, and beyond, including an award-winning group of escaramuzas (women equestrians who ride side-saddle in precise, choreographed patterns) from Puebla. Our friend Elmar, who’s close to the Garcías, invited us to see the show — my first-ever rodeo — and we were honored to meet several longtime charreada fans and participants.
Charreadas have been a part of the Mexican culture since the 16th century, but being a charro was a more of a job than a sport up until the early 20th century. In 1921, the National Association of Charros formed to keep tradition alive, and in 1933 turned over country-wide organizational duties to the new National Federation of Charros. (Puebla’s affiliated state association of charros is among the oldest, dating to 1923.) A typical charreada comprises nine events for men and one for women, which are scored based on an individual’s technique. There is no time limit. Rodeo is considered an amateur sport, in that competitors usually vie for trophies, titles, and bragging rights instead of money.
The charreada in Chipilo was scheduled to start at noon, but in true Mexican fashion, it didn’t get under way until sometime thereafter. We didn’t mind. Our seats on the rickety metal bleachers were in the shade, and we bought a giant beer and snacks from various vendors. In some form or another, there was constant entertainment: Early on, one bull escaped the ring and disrupted the soccer game going on next door, as players and charros tried to get him off the field. Later, two others wouldn’t buck during the jinteo de toro, or bull riding, event; right out of the gate, they simply sat down. The announcer told jokes — some less politically correct than others — and tried to hurry the proceedings along by reminding everyone that he needed to, ahem, get to church by 6 p.m. And, at one point, the water truck managing the dust in the ring drove a little too close to the crowd.
The roping, reining, and riding skills on display, however, were well worth the occasional wait. The escaramuzas appeared to be in top form, executing intricate patterns in close proximity with speed and grace. Perhaps most impressive to me was the young charro who, on foot, repeatedly lassoed a mare that was being chased around the ring by three other competitors on horseback in the forefooting event. For his efforts, he received a standing ovation and many hats thrown into the ring.
Monday, January 17th, 2011
It’s 10 o’clock on a Monday night, and we’re sitting on concrete bleachers inside the Puebla Arena. Through a chain-link barrier that prevents spectators from hurling objects into the ring, we watch in awe as a muscly, shirtless wrestler leaps over the ropes and rushes up an aisle to our left, cursing at someone in the stands. The obscenities, complete with hand gestures, are flying. ¡Chinga tu madre! ¡La tuya en vinagre! ¡Puto! Several rounds of insults later, I stand up to see who’s causing all the commotion. Turns out, the foul-mouthed fan is a petite indigenous woman who looks old enough to be my grandmother.
This scene is typical of what transpires at the weekly matches held in Puebla by the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). Based in Mexico City, the organization — perhaps the oldest professional wrestling outfit in existence — holds events in Puebla every Monday featuring virtually the same cadre of athlete-performers. Teams of two to three wrestlers square off in a series of bouts that start around 9 p.m. with lesser-known acts and culminate with superstars like Místico, Máscara Dorada, and Mephisto. The fights typically pit rudos (rule-breaking rude boys) against técnicos (the technically proficient good guys). Many wear masks, a practice that dates to the 1930s and pays homage to Mexican history as old as the Aztecs: Each colorful design evokes an animal, god, or ancient hero that the wrestler assumes during his performance. For more details about the sport in English, including rules and weight classes, click here.
The matches sometimes feature women athletes, too, but that’s about the only politically correct aspect of las luchas. (One difference between Puebla and Mexico City is the absence of bikini-clad female escorts here, although you may see dwarfs dressed as furry animals…) Expect moments of utter pandemonium and, if you sit in the front rows, be prepared to become part of the show. Also of note is the somewhat bewildering array of treats and potential projectiles available from vendors — beer and soda, cotton candy, boiled shrimp, slinky toys, Blow-Pops, cemitas, devil horns that light up — which helps explain the chain-link barrier. Outside the arena, vendors sell even more wares, including full-size souvenir masks that run about 300 pesos each ($25).
The Puebla Arena is located in the city’s historic center at 13 Oriente #402. Tickets generally cost 50 to 120 pesos each and are available at Mega supermarkets, Gandhi bookstores, Ticketmaster outlets, and the arena box office. The lineup is often posted on the CMLL Puebla page the Thursday prior to the match, but lately the webmaster seems to be a bit behind. Ticketmaster says that in tonight’s headline fight Máscara Dorada, La Máscara, and La Sombra face off against Mephisto, Volador Jr., and Averno.
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
¡Ponganse la verde! That’s the rallying cry for everyone to wear green in support of the national soccer team, also known as “El Tri,” for the three colors in the Mexican flag. To say that fútbol is huge in Puebla would be an understatement. When Mexico takes on South Africa in the opening game of the World Cup tomorrow at 9 a.m. CDT, there’s unlikely to be a TV in town that isn’t tuned into the match.
“It’s impossible to separate ourselves from the phenomenon of soccer,” Darío Carmona García, the secretary of public education, said this week, apparently hoping to keep students and teachers on campus. “In schools where conditions permit, everyone may follow the games, but it’s not permitted to suspend classes.”
That’s a tall order. Schools outside its jurisdiction, such as Humboldt College and the UDLA, reportedly plan to show the inaugural game on giant displays on campus. Meanwhile, expect business to grind to a halt for 90 minutes on Friday morning: Volkswagen, which employs nearly 15,000 people in Puebla, will allow its union workers four hours off to watch the World Cup games involving Mexico. Another large manufacturing plant in town will shut down temporarily and invite its 450 employees to watch Mexico vs. South Africa in the company’s conference rooms.
It’s doubtful they’ll be the only ones not working. Every time El Tri plays, the city, in cooperation with TV Azteca Puebla, will set up screens and chairs in the zócalo. Anyone who’s downtown can watch the action for free.
The June 11 broadcast from Puebla’s main square begins at 8 a.m., and the station promises “a party atmosphere.”
Other spots around town that could make for good public World Cup-watching:
Bull McCabe. An Irish-style pub that serves a mean bagel, which should be perceived as a bonus for anyone who drags themselves out of bed and across town to watch early morning games. Avenida Juárez 2902, Colonia La Paz
Scudetto. This large sports bar overlooking Boulevard Atlixco always seems to be bursting with people — and its name is Italian for “soccer champion.” And since Mexico beat Italy in the friendly leading up to the World Cup, well, you have nothing to fear. Blvd. Atlixco 37, Plaza JV San Jose
La Martina. The most casual choice, this Cholula restaurant will serve you a proper Mexican breakfast in front of its newly installed flat-screen TVs. Bonus: Freshly baked goods and European-style treats are available from Flavr next-door. Container City, 12 Oriente and 2 Norte, San Andrés Cholula
Photograph courtesy of The Vandhaal/Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Finding safe places to run in unfamiliar city can be challenging, particularly if you dislike treadmills and don’t want to wear neon or stop every few blocks to consult a map. Visitors to Puebla may find themselves further frustrated by the uneven, often nonexistent sidewalks and by unsympathetic drivers who generally disregard pedestrian traffic. Forget to look both ways before crossing a street and you might get run over. Fortunately, the area offers several secure, well-maintained public places to jog, or power walk, or do that half-marathon training that you swore you’d somehow manage to fit in while on vacation.
Parque Ecologico Revolución Mexicana. 19 Oriente at 24 Sur. Located just east of downtown, Parque Ecologico is probably the most convenient running destination if you’re staying downtown. The 143-acre ecological park features a 3-kilometer path of soft soil, plus a soccer field and volleyball and basketball courts. Post-workout, visitors may also want to check out the aviary (home to 50 species of birds), take the kids to the jungle gym, or go for a boat ride on the lake. Parking costs MX$10.
Parque del Arte. Boulevard del Niño Poblano at Sirio. This recently restored 32-acre park near the Siglo XXI cultural complex is frequented by active folks who live and work on the west side of town. Parque del Arte has two soft soil running tracks, the longer of which (1 metric mile) circles the perimeter of the park. Soccer fields attract local teams, and a manmade lagoon lures ducks and other fowl, including a pair of peacocks. Parking is free.
Cholula pyramid. 3 Norte at 4 Poniente, San Andrés Cholula. For shorter training sessions, such as speed intervals and hill work, head for the 400-meter track next to the archaeological site in Cholula and the path leading up to the pyramid. “For any athlete, it’s a challenging climb to the top,” notes Camilo Aguilera in Intolerancia magazine, which recommends it as one of the best places in the area to run.
Visitors who are tempted to simply head out the door of their hotel for a jog should do so with caution.
Drivers in Puebla are highly unpredictable (traffic signals are often regarded as mere suggestions), which makes pounding the pavement a risky proposition, especially if you’re trying out a new route or listening to music. “This is not a very running- or cycling-friendly city; car culture is very strong here,” says Oriol Sierra, a long-distance runner who lives downtown. On the bright side, “given its altitude [7,000 ft.], it’s an excellent place to train. There is also a good running community in Puebla, and there are many running events on weekends.”
Sierra, who ran the Puebla half marathon in 2008 and the Mexico City marathon in 2009, graciously provided the links above to a few of his training runs, which include maps, elevation, and other data. To find out about upcoming local races, he recommends checking with AS Deporte and Emocion Deportiva (available only in Spanish).
Editor’s note: Just after this story was published, Puebla’s governor announced plans to spend $12 million pesos to add a soccer field with artificial turf and a professional athletic track to the existing facilities at the Parque del Arte.