January 13 – 23, 2023.
We awake to the sing-songy, carnival-like music of the gas truck slowly rolling down the street. As the music passes homes and apartments, it is alerting customers to come out and exchange their empty propane tanks for a full ones.
The city is starting to stir.
In the early morning, piles of bulging trash bags line the sidewalk. People walk around them as they head to their jobs. Buses careen around corners, breaking off just a little bit more of the sidewalk as they rush to drop off and pick up passengers.
Across from where we are staying, a large canopy tent has been erected in the Parque de Dolores. Plastic tables lined with pretty table clothes and chairs sit below the awning as an aproned woman fires up her comal. Soon she will soon be cooking breakfast for the hungry morning crowd.
For those with less time smaller businesses have carts, stands, or tables set up occupying small bits of real estate on the sidewalks selling colorful food to go, jello in cups, pastries, and containers of nuts and gummies.
In the later morning, tourists hit the streets, wandering into plazas and parks, and filling the restaurants that surround the zócalo. All the trash is gone. Museums open up. Sweepers with handmade brooms of sticks and twigs spend the day keeping the main plazas tidy.
This is the city of Puebla in the Mexican state also named Puebla (officially the city is called Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza and the state, Estado Libre y Soberano de Puebla). The city was founded in 1531. Many of its historic buildings and religious structures have been preserved earning it a place in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We spent 8 days there, camped in Ballina Blanca next to the police station. Other RV travelers came and went, most only staying one, two, or maybe three days. Not nearly enough time to get to know the city. But, in fact, we probably would have also moved on a lot quicker if we hadn’t wanted to spend some time with our friends who were also in Puebla staying in an Airbnb. I love cities, so spending some time getting a little taste and a feel for the rhythm and vibe of Puebla was not a burden.
Before I can barely open my eyes and grunt “Good morning,” Greg is off for a walk with one of our friends. They venture out into parts of the city I would never see. Places, likely other tourists don’t normally see either. They stroll through past big houses, intriguing murals, parks, and cemeteries. I doze in the van listening to what sounds like a motivational pep rally for the tourist police.
In the afternoon we and our friends crisscross El Centro visiting museums and finding new places to eat lunch. Rich with history there are plenty of museums in Puebla and none of them disappoint.
And there are Mercados to visit too – crafts, food, pop-up weekend markets.
Mercado 5 de Mayo & Tianguis de Pescados y Mariscos
Casa de la Cultura Prof. Pedro Ángel Palou
One of the first places we visited was the Casa de la Cultura Prof. Pedro Ángel Palou. This building houses a few free exhibit rooms and one pay exhibit/library, Biblioteca Palafoxiana. This historic library was founded in 1646 and was the first public library in America. You can’t check out books here anymore. In fact, you can only look at them through their cages. If you try to take a picture of a book outside of a cage you will get scolded (as my friend did when some workers were moving books). In 2005 the library was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Program.
Museo Amparo is an amazing multi-story private museum that we visited twice. Its displays run the gamut from pre-Hispanic art to contemporary Mexican art. There was so much to see we just zipped through some of the galleries. But we spent a bit of time with the pre-Hispanic art and Viceroyalty and 19th Century Art rooms. We also saw an amazing temporary photography exhibit.
Museo Regional De La Revolución Mexicana Casa De Los Hermanos Serdán
It seems like everywhere we go in Mexico some city or state makes the claim to being the place where the Mexican Revolution started. I imagine lots of stuff happened at once. But what happened here was truly horrible. On November 18, 1910, the house where the Serdán family lived was attacked by the police. The family were members of the anti-reelection (of the then president, Porfirio Díaz) movement. During the attack, a dozen people were killed including the two Serdán brothers, Aquiles and Máximo. The women of the family were arrested.
Museo de Arte Religioso Ex Convento Santa Monica
This ex-convent is an INAH (National Institute of Anthropology History) site. It was the only museum we visited where we needed a guide. Luckily they had an English-speaking guide who had a bigger English vocabulary than I do and seemed to have a passion for the convent, especially the artwork.
The monostatic lives of the nuns that lived here lasted for almost 250 years until the convent was closed in 1934. For many of those years, the convent’s occupants lived in secret as Mexico Reform laws starting in 1957 seeking to reduce power from the Catholic Church made convents like this illegal.
Museo Internacional del Barroco
I didn’t go to this museum but Greg did. Apparently, this museum of Baroque Art also had an immersion experience. Greg says the museum was amazing but unfortunately, the only pics he took are below. I’m sorry I missed it.
Resting in the zócalo, we are approached by a few tourist police. They welcome us to Puebla hand us brochures about the city and ask if we have any questions.
When strolling past the Templo Expiatorio del Espíritu Santo, one of our friends sees that there is going to be a Blessing of Pets on a Tuesday evening. We make plans to go.
On Thursday, a mariachi band plays in the zócalo. This is a weekly event. Tourists gather around – most of them, being Mexican, know the words to the songs and sing along. No one wants them to stop. There is a call for an encore. On other nights there is more entertainment – Ballet Forkloico, more Mariachis.
As night falls young lovers stroll into the zócalo to snuggle on benches beneath the glowing lights illuminating the fountains and the cathedral.
On another side of town, some stores are just opening up. It is time for the Poblanos to shop for clothes, toys, electronics, and more.
On Monday and we head to the arena. It is packed for Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling.
People flood out into the streets after Lucha Libre. There are souvenirs and snacks for sale. But as we move away from the stadium, the streets are starting to get deserted. Bags of trash line the sidewalks once again. Everything is starting to close down. Back at Parque de Dolores the big canopy tent is gone, replaced by food carts selling snacks and sandwiches to people on their way home. As we settle down in the van we hear revelers in the street outside. Perhaps it is some of the police getting off duty or stragglers from a bar. But the voices don’t last long.
Soon it is quiet again and we sleep until the morning when we hear the lilting music of the gas truck breaking the morning silence.