Puebla, Mexico Travel Tips – Travel tips

Puebla was one of the first cities established by the Spaniards which was not built upon the ruins of conquered indigenous settlements making it the most European of all the colonial cities. This led to the rapid development of the Spanish culture and traditions in Mexico. The Spaniards elected an ideal location for their new city, between one of Mexico’s major port cities, Veracruz, and the capital, Mexico City, which made Puebla one of the most important cities in the colonial period.The population of Puebla was 1,290,094 in 2000. Locals are called Poblanos. The indigenous language of the region, Náhuatl, is still spoken in some areas of the Puebla Valley. The busy city of Puebla, Mexico lies approximately 129 km southeast of the country’s capital, Mexico City and sits at approximately 2,149 meters above sea level. Only 8 years after the city’s founding, Puebla was well on its way to becoming an important industrial, cultural, and educational center. Puebla is well-known for its characteristic colonial architecture, flavorful cuisine, exquisitely decorated Talavera pottery, onyx figures, and unique textiles.PUEBLA’S NICKNAMESPuebla has a diverse history as shown in its many nicknames, Angelopolis (City of Angels), City of Tiles, and Heroic City of Zaragoza.According to fable, a band of angels appeared before one of the founders of Puebla, Bishop Julian Garcés, instructing him on where to locate the new city. Consequently, Puebla has been known as Angelopolis or the City of Angels.At the Battle of Puebla, only four decades after Mexico’s independence, General Ignacio Zaragoza’s army defeated the French expeditionary forces on May 5, 1862. The much celebrated holiday, Cinco de Mayo and Puebla’s new nickname, Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, are results of the Battle of Puebla. The citizens of Puebla sided with the French refusing to help the Mexican soldiers. This infuriated Ignacio Zaragoza to write a letter back to Mexico City petitioning to burn down the city. The officials in Mexico City weren’t quite as angry with the Poblanos for not helping the Mexican troops; and instead of having the city torched, they decided to give the city a mockery nickname, Heroic City of Zaragoza, as punishment.Talavera has been produced in the city since its foundation, and any visitor to Puebla will quickly notice the exquisite pottery that lines many of the churches and streets of the city giving the city yet another nickname, the City of Tiles. This pottery is known as Talavera Poblana, named after the Spanish city, Talavera de la Reina.TOURISMPuebla is situated in a moderate climate with sunny day and cool nights. Daytime temperatures generally range from 21.1 – 26.6 degrees Celsius cooling down to 4.4 – 10 degrees Celsius at night. From November to March rainfall is almost obsolete. However, from April through October afternoon rain showers are quite common.The city streets of Puebla are laid out systematically. Streets running East or West are even-numbered north of El Zocalo, the center square and odd-numbered to the south. Streets running North or South are even-numbered to the east of El Zócalo and odd-numbered to the west.There are numerous things to do in the city for travelers and tourists. Tours through historic downtown Puebla are given on double-decker busses letting tourists enjoy the city’s architecture, museums, and monuments without the trouble of finding those places on their own. Some of the most popular sites to visit are the African Safari Zoo, the Amparo Museum, and the pyramid of Cholula. The pyramid of Cholula is the largest by base-size and total volume in the New World. The National Museum of Mexican Railroads and the Chihuahua Pacific Railway are also two stops that many visitors make while in Puebla. At the National Museum of Mexican Railroads you can find old steam engines, passenger coaches, diesel engines, and cabooses. The Automobile Museum is a must stop for anyone with love for rare and classic vintage cars. The Automobile Museum houses the Popemobile which was used by John Paul II on one of his visits to Mexico. El Barrio del Artista, located in downtown Puebla, is exceptional for viewing and purchasing great works of art created by local artists.Built in a mixed neoclassical style, the Puebla Cathedral is one of the most astonishing colonial structures in Puebla. Another impressive structure is the Capilla del Rosario in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The Capilla del Rosario, inlaid with gold, is a wonderful example of Mexican baroque. The Biblioteca Palafoxiana, located in the Casa de la Cultura, is a baroque-style library. The library houses 42,000 volumes donated on September 5, 1646 by Spanish bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. The volumes are beautifully displayed in a carved wood setting.There are many fascinating archeological sites around the Puebla Valley. The Texcal Cave, near Lake Valsequillo, became a home to humans around 7,000 B.C. Another captivating site is the Tenapa Pyramid in Cholula, which is one of the largest pre-columbian structures in the Americas with a height of 1,315 feet. Another archeological site worth visiting are the polychrome murals at the fortress of Cacaxtla. The polychrome murals date from 600 – 1100 A.D. and are located in the adjacent state of Tlaxcala.Situated in the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt, the Puebla Valley is the home of many intriguing geologic features. Four volcanoes, Popocatépetl standing at 17,883 feet above sea level, Iztaccíhuatl standing at 17,338 feet above sea level, La Malinche standing at 14,632 feet, and Citlaltépetl, also known as the Pico de Orizaba, standing at 18,855 feet above sea level, surround the city of Puebla creating an impressive view. Popocatépetl is an active volcano, occasionally spouting water and ash from its core. Snow-capped Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl are located approximately 40 kilometers east of Puebla. La Malinche is situated north of the city and Citlaltepetl is situated to the east. The Valley of Puebla is home to three rivers, the Atoyac, the Alseseca, and the San Francisco River. The Atoyac River runs through the northern, eastern, and southern portions of the Puebla Valley. The Atoyac River flows into the Lake of Valsequillo.El Centro Histórico, is comprised of approximately 100 blocks in the middle of the city, however, the majority of historic sites lie within a four-block radius of El Zócalo, the central square. In the historic center of Puebla you can find many Spanish colonial-style buildings. Several buildings were severely damaged in the earthquake of 1999. However, most of the historical buildings have been restored while only a few were left in unrepairable condition.LOCAL CUISINETwo of Puebla’s most popular dishes are mole sauce and camote. Mole, which is known as Mexico’s national dish, is a spicy cinnamon chocolate sauce served with turkey or chicken, and Camote is baked sweet potatoes topped with crème. Other popular Poblano dishes include chiles en nogada, which is meat-stuffed chilies covered in a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds, and tacos arabes, which is seasoned pork served in puffy wheat tortillas. A traditional Poblano beverage is rompope, an egg and rum based drink similar to eggnog drank in the United States. The chalupa, a corn tortilla topped with salsa, onions, and meat is also very popular in Puebla.EDUCATIONToday, there are many options for students in Puebla, with more than 20 universities located within the city. Puebla and its surrounding metropolitan area is home to many top universities, including the state university, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla (UDLA), the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA), Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), Universidad Anáhuac, Universidad Madero(UMAD), Universidad del Valle de México (UVM), and the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP).HEALTH & SAFETYIf you plan to visit Puebla, you should be aware of some health and safety precautions so that you may enjoy your trip to the fullest. You should not consume tap water in Mexico. With that in mind, you should also be very cautious of home-made beverages, such as horchata and jamaica, and water-based desserts, such as ice-cream, snow-cones, gelatins, and popsicles sold by street vendors. Also, you may want to request your beverages without ice. If you are unsure of the beverage, it is best to get a bottled water or soda. You may consume fruits with skins or hulls such as melons, oranges, peaches, and bananas. Strawberries should be avoided since they are grown on the ground and cannot be peeled.You should carry Pepto-Bismol tablets, antacid tablets, a small bar of soap, and plenty of towelettes or tissue with you at all times. Many public restrooms do not provide tissue or soap; so you will want to keep these two items handy. Toilet paper should be tossed in the waste basket and not in the toilet due to the out-dated sewage system.CURRENCYThe majority of stores only accept Mexican pesos as payment. Therefore, you should always carry plenty of cash for shopping, taxis, buses, etc. Many stores will not accept bills larger than $200 pesos which is approximately $20 USD. You will want to carry around $100 Mexican pesos in small change for buses, taxis, and tips. You may exchange your traveler’s checks at any large bank, but traveler’s checks are not recommended due to extremely long waiting periods. The banks in Mexico always have extremely long lines due to the use of cash, instead of checks and cards and the lack of people using internet banking and automatic check deposit. However, if you must go to the bank, you should draw your number, sit down, read, and wait your turn. It is not unusual to wait an hour and even sometimes two hours before the clerks can attend you. The line for the ATM is much shorter. It is advisable to withdraw only small amounts of money at a time. You may use your credit or debit card to make withdrawals from an ATM. However, you should call your bank or credit card agency to inform them that you will be traveling out of the country so that they can activate your card for other countries if needed.Puebla is an ideal place to vacation, to learn Spanish, or even to relocate with its moderate climate, great location, delicious cuisine, and friendly residents!