130 km south east of Mexico City, Puebla is the capital of the Puebla region and is fourth largest city in Mexico. The Atoyac River flows to the west of the city. The surrounding region is mountainous and bordered by the country’s three largest peaks: Orizaba, Popocatépetl and Ixtaccihuatl.
The area that is now the state of Puebla was originally inhabited by Nahuatl-speaking Indians and is rich in archaeological sites. The city itself was founded in 1531 by Cuetlacoapa de Toribio as Puebla de los Angeles. It was heavily influenced by colonialism and had a high instance of Spanish architecture, still evident today. Puebla became famous for its tradition of glazed ceramics, which originated in the sixteenth century. With the decline of the ceramics trade, at the end of the seventeenth century Puebla thrived as a producer of cloth. On the trade route between the eastern seaport of Veracruz and Mexico City, Puebla was the second city of Mexico and one of the largest in the Spanish Empire.
In 1847, during the Mexican war, Puebla was occupied by the US. In May 1862, when Mexico was at war with France, the invaders were forced back at the Battle of Puebla by an army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. In his memory the city’s name was changed to Puebla de Zaragoza. The 5 May remains a national holiday in Mexico and an annual festival in Puebla. A second French attempt a year later was more successful and Puebla stayed under French rule until it was eventually reclaimed by Porfiro Díaz in 1867. The city of Puebla played an integral part in the Mexican Revolution. The anti-government activist, Aquiles Serdán Alatriste, was assassinated in his Puebla home in Nov. 1810, sparking off the revolution.
Religion played an important part in the city’s history and Puebla has been called the ‘City of Churches’. By 1630 the city had some 30 churches, all decorated by local artists. The city had the first public library in the Americas, opened in 1646.
Music flourished under colonial rule, although the upheavals of the nineteenth-century lead to a decline. The city suffered considerable structural damage in an earthquake of 1973.
Local industries are textiles, ceramics (especially glazed tiles) and glass. The surrounding region is mainly agricultural, producing wheat, maize, tobacco and sugar. Its minerals are gold, silver and copper. There has been an increased industrialization from 1970 onwards, including the opening of a Volkswagen factory in 1970.
Puebla is connected to Mexico’s major destinations by road, and to Guadalajara, Tijuana and Monterrey by a local airport 22 km away in Huejotzingo.
Places of Interest
Puebla is famous for its colonial architecture and the extensive decoration of these buildings. The eighteenth century poblano-style of architecture and sculpture originated in Puebla. (Puebla’s inhabitants are called Poblanos.) One of the most important buildings of Puebla is its cathedral containing work in onyx, gold and marble. The construction of the cathedral began in 1575 and was completed in the eighteenth century. Other religious buildings include the Iglesia de Santo Domingo with its lavishly decorated Capilla del Rosario.
The house of the revolutionary Auiles Serdán Alatriste is now the Regional Museum of the Mexican Revolution while the Museo Amparo specializes in Mesoamerican art.
Built in 1790 the Teatro Principal is one of the oldest theatres on the continent.