Puebla, Mexico was a city that we had high expectations for. Every person we talked to back in the States mentioned how amazing and beautiful the city was. With all the descriptions, we had to be there. And you know what? I think we held it in too high regard when we first came into town. Sure, the zocalo was beautiful and so were the churches, but so many other Mexican cities we have been to fall under that category.
Are we losing our ability to be awed?
And then it hit me.
I would like to compare Puebla to a coconut. Sure, it can be rough on the outside but there is a juicy meaty inside that, unless you are told about it, you tend to completely overlook this morsel.
Honestly, I don’t think I would have liked Puebla at all had it not been for Rey, our Couchsurfing host. Every chance he got he educated us on the culture of the area. There is culture so intertwined in the blood and the past of Mexico that it takes me by surprise every time. This is no Europe.
It is deeper.
To give a little background into the current events of the city –
Did you know that Puebla is the Catholic bastion of Mexico?
The people who live here are supposed to be much more conservative than the rest of the country due to the Catholic stronghold. There are literally churches and cathedrals on almost every corner of the city. Actually, something in the neighborhood of 365. You can attend a different one every single day of the year. Apparently there is a change in the wind. The percentage of Catholics in Mexico is going waaaaay down as other churches make their way in. I wonder, how will that reflect in the cultural celebrations?
And then the folklore of the land/histories:
There is this volcano outside of Cholula/Puebla known as La Malinche (or really, Matlalcuéyetl, Matlalcueitl or Malintzin). La Malinche was the first Aztec woman to learn Spanish and did most of the translations between the Aztecs and Spanish. For this reason the name is also another way you call someone a “traitor”. It is quite funny that the Spanish were the ones who changed the name to the volcano in her honor.
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl
These volcanoes are found on the Western side of the Pueblan state and were named after an old folklore tale very much like Romeo and Juliet. Popoca and Itza were very much in love when Popoca went to war. A warrior in the village hated Popoca and wanted to be with Itza but she would not have him. In a rage he told her Popoca died in combat and Itza died of sadness shortly thereafter. When Popoca came back victorious from the fight, he found that Itza had died and also died of sadness at her burial. The Popoca volcano (bigger of the two) still throws out smoke to show he is still looking over Itza – which happens to be in the shape of a woman.
It is stories like this that make a location so much more interesting to me. Sure, I have a proverbial hard on for cathedral pictures but I really love to learn about the tales and culture of a location. Not only have I become enamoured with Couchsurfing (thanks Rey!), but with getting to know cities on a more personal level.