Beautiful Puebla

Boy oh boy has this city ever changed in the 17 years since I took a day trip from my immersion school in Cuernavaca. It seems very prosperous, much larger, with a lot more going on everywhere we turn.

We are staying in Meson Sacristia de la Soledad, a lovely small inn with maybe 4 guest rooms (counting the tables set in the dining room that seems right). The owners live here as well, and are delightful, helpful, warm, welcoming. When helping us with the lost iPad I kept apologizing for the trouble, they kept telling me it was their job to help and make sure we were comfortable and happy.

I cannot recommend Meson Sacristia de la Soledad highly enough.  The location is great, the room is comfortable…the owners have several other properties, one of which has a full restaurant which we dined at one evening (delicious) but we are happy we are here instead—smaller, quieter, just lovely in every way.  I cannot wait to post reviews every place I can find.

The historical district was a Dia de Los Muertos celebration—happy friendly crowds everywhere—which continued into Sunday unabated.

Below are scenes from around the zocalo. Nice town.

Templo de Santo Domingo/Capilla del Rosario

When we were at the International Museum of the Baroque (see below) a couple urged us to visit this church, so we did. The main church is stunning, with an enormous wall of saints (?) and other people important to Christianity (we couldn’t identify a one), but when you reach the front and look to the left, the Chapel of the Rosary shines out at you and then draws you in. I have never seen such compelling faces in the decorations around the walls of this small, extremely tall, chapel. It’s a wow.

Museums Galore

We are museum lovers and Puebla has given us a slew to visit. I don’t think I can rank them so will just give you a snapshot in the order we saw them, more or less.

Museo Amparo

This is listed as a private museum, which is surprising because they had free days and also free nights at the museum. In any case the tickets are inexpensive. The audio guide is solely for the pre-Hispanic exhibits, and wow, they are great. Why great? They are arranged by aspect of life—music and musical instruments, artistic expression (first place I have encountered a discussion of the contrast between European art, which strove for realism, and pre-Hispanic art which is dominated by a more abstract representation of people and things), spiritual understanding of how the world works (rivers, for example, are the way the life forces communicate with each other)…so rather than a chronological march, everything is tied together to help you understand how they saw the world.

The special exhibits were no less impressive. An exhibit open right now features an American Jewish-African Ecuadorian woman, Karina Skvirsky, which blew us away. She works with photo collages, which were disturbing and interesting, but her short film that represents/recreates her great grandmother’s journey at age 14 from the Ecuadorian countryside to the city where she worked as a domestic was spellbinding.

The first view of the terrace through the glass walls seemed unreal.

Finally, the third floor, which we might have skipped because it’s the cafe and we weren’t hungry, opens onto a terrace that is exactly at the height of the many surrounding church domes and towers—which are so close, given the narrow streets, and of many colors, under a cloudy sky the day we were there that looked unreal. We gasped.

Museo Internacional de Barocco

This extremely modern, almost distractingly high tech museum about 20 minutes’ drive from the Centro Historico was a surprise in all ways. Puebla, founded in the 1500’s, is a baroque city with many obvious examples of the style in its churches and other buildings. The museum, though, explores everything about the baroque period—architecture, science, music, painting, etc.—around the world, using poblano examples wherever appropriate but is truly a complete picture of how the baroque period changed everything in western culture.

Bilbao-like on a huge site complete with rock lined pools.

The architecture of the museum is very modern designed by a Japanese architect, and stunning. On the inside the exhibits are arranged by subject (painting, architecture, scientific exploration, music…) and each room is filled with examples, explanations, multimedia presentations, narrations. It was wonderful and a bit exhausting. Well, well worth the Uber ride and typically low ticket fee.

In this room a narration and shifting pictures on two huge screens (you can see one here) discussed baroque buildings in Puebla, which is laid out in a scale model, lighting the building discussed in turn. Very elaborate!

Biblioteca Palafoxiana

Not strictly a museum, this is the first public library in the Americas. Bishop Juan de Palafox left his personal collection of 5,000 books to the Seminary of San Juan in 1646, with the stipulation that access not be limited to church personages but open to the public. It is small and gorgeous and the exhibit laid out in cases in the center is currently on the recording of indigenous languages by the clergy during the first several hundred years of the church’s presence in Mexico.

This beautiful poem brought tears to my eyes. The panel to the right had the Nahuatl translation. The title is When a Language Dies. Use your google translate if you do not read Spanish. Vale la pena.

Museo Casa Alfenique

This was a surprise—we expected a restored residence (it is named for a confection made of egg whites and sugar and is embellished within an inch of its life) but it is a lovely history of Puebla and its role in Mexican history (you all know that 5 de Mayo celebrates the victory over the French invaders in Puebla, right?) as well as a lovely explanation of China Poblana, the creole/criollo indigenous/Spanish culture of Puebla revered in Mexico. Well worth the visit.

Casa De Los Hermanos Serdan

This place was a little gruesome—the bullet holes from one of the revolutionary struggles in 1911 remain on the exterior and inside, including a large decorative mirror with obvious bullet damage. The exhibit is about the Mexican Revolution in general, about which we realize we are insufficiently educated, and the slaughter in and outside what was the private home of the Serdan family. I cannot begin to explain what all this was about—read some history if you are interested. But do visit the museum when you come to Puebla. These events still resonate.

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