Posts Tagged ‘Puebla’

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Our Spin on Puebla’s Latest Tourist Attraction

Monday, 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’

Wednesday, 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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History Runs Deep in and Around Cuauhtinchán

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Cuauhtinchán may be the most important indigenous and religious site in Mexico you’ve never heard of.

Granted, the small agrarian town, located about 20 miles southeast of the Puebla capital, isn’t much to look at, particularly at the end of the dry season. Even its most remarkable building, the monolithic Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista, is strikingly staid: The two Tuscan columns that flank the main entrance provide its only notable detail, save for the left bell tower, which upon being hit by lightning some years ago partially collapsed into the courtyard. The resulting pile of rubble still sits where it fell.

Yet the former monastery — built between 1569 and 1593, with guidance from renown Spanish architect Francisco Becerra — offers an enduring and classic example of the sober Renaissance aesthetic brought to Mexico by Franciscan missionaries in the 16th century.

The Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista from a distance.The Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista.The Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista.








The complex’s interior is a sharp contrast to the stark exterior. Its almost-whimsical flourishes provide a glimpse of how the Franciscans worked to convert their predecessors to Christianity. For example, the archways of the central patio feature numerous “notable sayings” in Spanish that convey conventional or moral wisdom as the monks saw it. (The patio now houses the site’s small museum, which not only describes the arrival of Hernán Cortés, but also chronicles Cuauhtinchán’s pre-Hispanic and prehistoric past. A display case contains mastodon bones found in the area.)

The painted walls of the church, which were obscured by a coat of quicklime in the early 1800s and later uncovered, are surprisingly colorful, too. For us, the nave stands out as the real must-see here . . . unless you happen to get lucky, as we did, and get to climb the winding, multistory staircase of the right bell tower with the site’s devoted caretaker. Don Pedro typically rings the bells for Mass and for afternoon visitors, as he did for us at 3 p.m. on a recent Thursday, thanks to our friend Scott, who organized this trip. From the top, the views of the surrounding countryside are breathtaking; the chimes of the enormous bells, one of which bears the scars of Revolutionary bullets, are ear-splitting yet intoxicating.

Bell tower at ex-Convento de San Juan BautistaAAP-Cuauhtinchan6AAP-Cuauhtinchan4








Back down at ground level, the church’s layout and orientation connect “mystical aspects of indigenous and European cultures” and have “cosmic significance,” according to official signage. On the equinox, a ray of sunlight enters the lower choir and illuminates an image of the Immaculate Conception at the center of the massive altarpiece. This masterpiece, made of polychromed and gilded wood, is the oldest in Mexico and one of the best preserved in Latin America. Its imagery depicts many other Biblical scenes — the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Blessed Virgin, the Adoration of the Magi — and provides an “open book to the teaching of the Christian faith.”

AAP-Cuauhtinchan2Detail of restored paint jobAAP-cuautinchan








Christianity mixed with indigenous symbolism, that is, much like elsewhere in Mexico. Cuauhtinchán precedes the Spanish by more than two millennia. The earliest pre-Hispanic settlement here may date as far back as 1200 B.C., when small groups of warriors and farmers formed villages in the area. But an archaeological site on the edge of town, which is said to contain a 52-foot pyramid, other ceremonial structures, and living quarters, remains unexcavated (and largely unrecognizable to the uninitiated) puts the first settlement closer to 8 A.D. The recovery of various indigenous codices and maps of the area have allowed archaeologists and historians to piece together some of its history, which is predominantly Chichimeca.

The Chichimecas spoke Nahuatl. The name Cuauhtinchán — also spelled Cuautinchán and pronounced “kuhwow-teen-CHAN” — means “eagles’ nest.” It’s unclear when the majestic birds must have lived here, but artistic representations of eagles and nests can be found both at the ex-convento and elsewhere around town, such as the fountain in the main square. The same goes for jaguars, which are equally important in local iconography. That works for us. If we have to face down creatures with functional fangs and talons, we’d rather do it at nearby Africam than in the wild.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

The Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista is located on Calle Hidalgo (between Gonzalo Bautista and 2 Poniente) in Cuautinchán, Puebla. The best way get there is by car or taxi via the cities of Puebla or Tepeaca. Visitors are welcome most days between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; try to avoid holidays and Mass, unless you wish to attend. Town officials recommend that you call ahead to schedule a tour: +52 (224) 271-7170.

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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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Cinco de Mayo 2013: The Celebrations in Puebla

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Cinco de Mayo has come to represent a lot of things in the United States, from public demonstrations of Mexican-American pride to massive fiestas sponsored by beer and tequila companies. Colorful parades, street fairs, art exhibitions, and margarita-themed bar nights can be found in scores of cities nationwide.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a lower-key affair, unless you happen to be in Puebla. Here, visitors and locals alike can enjoy a month’s worth of diverse events, starting in mid-April. This includes the huge calendar of activities and performances scheduled as part of the annual Feria de Puebla and the Festival Internacional 5 de Mayo.

For the uninitiated, May 5 is a state holiday that commemorates the triumph of a scrappy band of Mexican soldiers and locals over the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although their victory was short-lived, their initial win was arguably one of the more significant events in modern North American history. After all, if Napoleon III’s troops had made it to Texas to support the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War … well, let’s just be glad they didn’t and thank Mexico for stalling them.

If you’re in the state capital for the 151st anniversary of Cinco de Mayo in 2013, here are a few ways that you can join the celebration.

Festival Internacional 5 de Mayo

Julieta Venegas performing at the Int'l Festival of Puebla in 2008.Expected to draw 1 million visitors to the city of Puebla this year, this 20-day cultural arts festival comprises myriad free events. The concert, dance, and theatrical performances by regional, national, and international talent take place at nine different venues between noon and 10 p.m. through May 5.

A few highlights:
• World-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, April 22, 6 p.m., Puebla Cathedral
Puebla State Symphony Orchestra, April 25, 7 p.m., San Pedro Museo del Arte
• Mexican rockers El Gran Silencio, April 26, 8 p.m., Antigua Fábrica de los Angeles
• Folk singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas, April 26, 8:30 p.m. Foro Artístico, Centro Expositor
• Alternative singer-songwriter Ely Guerra, April 27, 8 p.m., Estadio Cuauhtémoc

Feria de Puebla

Pablo tries to win me a plush toy shooting hoops.The Puebla State Fair, which runs April 13 to May 12, offers the kind of family-oriented fun you’d find at a state or county fair anywhere: arcade games, carnival rides, junk food, beer stands, arts & crafts, flea market goods, and live entertainment. Everything takes place in and around the Centro Expositor that’s situated smack-dab in the middle of the hilltop Cinco de Mayo forts, Loreto and Guadalupe. General admission is 20 pesos (10 pesos for kids); tickets to the evening concerts and bullfights cost extra.

Free shows in the Foro Artístico:
Hermanos Castro and José Feliciano, April 21, 8:30 p.m.
• Grammy-winning rockers Reik, April 27, 8:30 p.m.
• Pop singer-songwriter Paty Cantú, May 1, 8:30 p.m.A float in Puebla’s 2010 Cinco de Mayo parade touts the state’s culinary prowess.

Some notable Palenque performances:
• Norteño superstars Los Tigres del Norte, April 26, 11 p.m., 400 to 1,200 pesos
• Singer-songwriter Espinoza Paz, April 27, 11 p.m., 600 to 1,600 pesos
• Ranchera and pop crooner Alejandro Fernández, May 3 and 4, 11 p.m., 900 to 2,900 pesos
• Grammy-winning mariachi Pepe Aguilar, May 10, 11 p.m., 600 to 1,500 pesos

Cinco de Mayo Parade

Every year, thousands of students, charros, military, and public-safety personnel march — alongside scores of colorful floats — in the state’s annual Cinco de Mayo parade, which this year is slated for 11 a.m. on May 5.

Official details for this year’s event apparently have yet to be announced (and our social media queries to organizers have gone unanswered). The state government appears to be reconsidering its controversial 2012 decision to change the parade route, which worked well for TV cameras but not for the viewing public. We’re hopeful that its original path, which followed 5 de Mayo Blvd., from Plaza Dorada to the hilltop forts, will be restored.

We’ll update this post as parade information becomes available.

April 25 update: This year’s Cinco de Mayo parade is set to follow the traditional path, only in reverse. The 3.5-kilometer route (click here for map) will start at the monument to Gen. Zaragoza on Calzada Zaragoza/2 Norte and follow Blvd. Heroes del 5 de Mayo to Parque Juárez. Final details will be announced Friday, according to a local media report.

April 29 update: The new state tourism secretary tweets that some 29,000 bleacher and other seats will be made available free of charge to parade spectators.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Post updated May 4, 2013.

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All About Puebla Wins as Favorite Mexico Blog

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

2013 Readers Choice Winner badgeAllAboutPuebla.com today was named Favorite Mexico Blog in the sixth annual 2013 About.com Readers’ Choice Awards, which honor the best products, features, and services in dozens of categories. This is the second year in a row that AllAboutPuebla.com 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 About.com 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.”

About.com 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 About.com 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. About.com 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, About.com. “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 About.com.”

“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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See Puebla’s Sights in 3-D in This New Short Film

Friday, March 15th, 2013

PUEBLA 3D Invitation to Premiere
A new short film produced by the city’s tourism office and the European company D4D aims to attract more visitors to Puebla, particularly foreigners who don’t speak Spanish.

“With this video we want everyone outside of Mexico who’s never heard of Puebla or confuses its name … to hear the word [and think] ‘I want to go there,’” municipal tourism director Alejandro Cañedo told the audience at yesterday’s premiere of Puebla 3D. To that end, the 8-minute film offers a slick, purely “visual documentary” of Mexico’s fourth-largest city in three dimensions, no translation or subtitles required.

The story is told, somewhat Cinderella-style, through the eyes of a modern-day China Poblana. She visits at least 25 different sites around town, from the most famous (former convent kitchens where mole poblano and chiles en nogada were invented) to the lesser-known (Colectivo Tomate’s mural project in Barrio Xanenetla). The 3-D adds engaging flourishes, such as angels descending from the dome of the Capilla del Rosario and an elephant’s trunk reaching out of its Africam habitat.

D4D, based in Spain, has produced similar videos for the cities of Barcelona, Paris, and Rome.

Want to see the film? Puebla 3D will be screened publicly on March 20, from 3 to 6 p.m. in a dome next to the Planetarium, Calzada Ejercito de Oriente y Cazadores de Morelia, Zona de los Fuertes, Unidad Civica 5 de Mayo, and again on March 30 and 31, from noon to 10 p.m., in the city’s zócalo, Calle 16 de Septiembre at 3 Oriente, Centro Histórico. Admission is free.

Additional screenings of the film, in Puebla and elsewhere, are in the works, tourism officials say. In the meantime, you can watch the 2-D version of it online.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

Photo credit: Puebla Tourism Office

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5 (Mostly) Vegetarian Street Foods in Puebla

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Pork and lard play such prominent roles in Poblano cuisine that it’s tough to make a case for replacing them in typical “street” foods like chalupas, tacos árabes, tlacoyos, or even tortitas de Santa Clara. Yes, soy proteins and vegetable broth, oil, or shortening can be substituted in traditional recipes, but the resulting flavor is rarely the same. Perhaps this is why so many local cooks continue to use pig parts and products: They’re both delicious and customary.

EloteThat said, being the gastronomic capital that it is, the city of Puebla also offers some intrinsically meatless fare that’s truly fantastic, such as elotes, molotes de papa, and huauzontles capeados (see descriptions below). These popular antojitos are relatively easy to find at neighborhood puestos and market stalls — and, with a little careful ordering to avoid the unnecessary addition of animal fat, almost everyone may enjoy them.

I say almost everyone, because most of these snacks rely on either eggs or dairy products as key ingredients, and some are cooked on the same surfaces as meat. If you’re a strict vegetarian or a die-hard vegan, you may have a difficult time finding casual foods you can enjoy in their intended forms. Striking out curbside? At least a dozen vegetarian restaurants in Puebla cater to your dietary needs. When navigating menus at other eateries, be aware that classic sauces like mole poblano and pipiánes, vegetable soups, and rice dishes often contain chicken broth. Other tips: Always ask whether the beans contain bits of meat or lard (¿Los frijoles llevan algo de carne o manteca?). Order green salads and fruits in higher-end establishments, where it’s likely the produce has been properly handled and disinfected.

So, who’s hungry? Here are five delicious and (mostly) vegetarian street foods to enjoy in Puebla.

Elote or esquites

The state of Puebla is sometimes called “the cradle of corn,” in part because the oldest kernels in the world were found near the city of Tehuacán. Elotes and esquites celebrate fresh maíz. An elote is typically a tender ear of white or blue corn that’s boiled, put on a stick, slathered with mayonnaise, and sprinkled with coarse Parmesan-like cheese and chile powder (from mild to spicy) to taste. Esquites are the kernels cooked off the cob, often mixed with onion, chile peppers, and butter. They’re served in a Styrofoam cup and topped with the same condiments plus a squeeze or two of lime juice; you stir and enjoy them with a plastic spoon. I’m partial to Elotes Zavaleta (Calzada Zavaleta #3908, Col. Santa Cruz Buena Vista Sur, across the street from Office Depot), where the choice of toppings includes homemade peanut and habanero salsas. Chileatole is available, too. 16 pesos. Open 5 to 11:30 p.m. daily.

Huauzontles capeados

Huazontle en caldilloClosely related to quinoa, these wild greens are a personal favorite. You typically find them capeados, or coated in flour and egg batter and fried, with or without their inedible stalks removed. For a truly tactile experience, buy huauzontles at a city market such as Mercado de la Acocota (16 Norte at 6 Oriente, Barrio del Alto) and devour them at room temperature, pulling the stalks through your teeth to remove the broccoli-esque flowers. For a more refined experience, try them at La Casita Poblana (16 de Septiembre #3912, Col. Huexotitla) restaurant, which serves them several ways with the stalks removed. I can’t resist the huauzontles en caldillo, or two bunches paired with cheese, battered and fried, and then bathed in a garlicky tomato broth. 15 to 115 pesos. Market and restaurant open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.Quesadilla de flor de calabasa y champiñon

Quesadilla de flor de calabaza y champiñones

Squash blossoms, mushrooms, epazote, and melted cheese inside a corn tortilla that’s handmade to order. What’s not to like? Order yours sin grasa at Quesadillas y Gorditas La Paz (Aljojuca #25, Col. La Paz) to avoid the liberal addition of pork fat, which is otherwise used to add flavor and grease the comal your quesadilla is fried on. Still hungry? Order a memela (a.k.a. gordita), or corn dough that’s filled with black beans, shaped into a thick, oblong tortilla and cooked on the griddle. The staff says the beans are lard-free. Order a gordita en bandera con todo, sin grasa and it’ll arrive sporting red and green salsas, crumbled cotija cheese, and chopped onions. A selection of fresh juices and smoothies is also available. 10-21 pesos. Open 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily (until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).

Molote de papa

Molote de papa at La Poblanita in Puebla.As a mid-morning snack or a late-night treat, these deep-fried pockets of corn dough stuffed with mashed potato hit the spot. La Poblanita (5 Poniente #114, Col. Centro) tops each of its made-to-order molotes with your choice of red or green salsas and sweet crema. I prefer the green, because the acid of the tomatillo cuts the grease of the soy oil used for frying. Other vegetarian fillings, which the proprietors make at home and bring to their tiny stand in Tupperware-type containers, include huitlacoche (corn smut) and tinga con quesillo (a meatless tomato-chipotle sauce with string cheese). 17 pesos. Open 8 a.m.-midnight daily.

Torta de ejotes con rajas

When it comes to sandwiches, green beans with chile peppers and onions may seem like an odd combination, but it’s a winning one at Tortas El Girofle (2 Oriente #15, Col. Centro). Other meatless choices include potatoes or eggs with the same spicy rajas, served in modest portions atop a torta de agua with the center crumbs scooped out. Add avocado, if you’d like. Whichever entree you choose, make sure to order your sandwich sin frijoles, because the beans here are flavored with sausage. Carnivores, in the meantime, must try the chorizo ranchero, whose closely guarded recipe is practically a local legend. 16 pesos. Open 10 a.m.-midnight daily.

¿Se te antoja algo más? You’ll find other vegetarian street foods in Puebla, such as savory and sweet camotes (sweet potatoes), falafel (garbanzo bean patties, often with beet salad, offered by many purveyors of tacos árabes), and fruits or jicama served with chile and lime. If you have a favorite, please feel free to share it by leaving a reply with the delicious details below.

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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Vote for Puebla in About.com’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 About.com 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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An Unexpected Peek at the Patio de los Azulejos

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Patio de los AzulejosSome 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.

Freemasons’ handiworkFreemasons’ handiwork

“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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