Posted by: lianadevine | 18 December 2007

You can’t Swing a Cat in Cholula

I don’t know where I heard it, but apparently you can’t swing a dead cat in Cholula without hitting a church. Not a pretty picture, I know, but local legend has it there are 365 churches, one for every day of the year. A tour guide set us straight. There are only 128 churches in this city of 50,000 located just outside of Puebla. The others are the shrines and religious figures that many homes and buildings have as their private place to worship.

We had been to Cholula before, having stumbled upon it when the campground at the back of a Puebla hotel turned out to be expensive parking. The main attraction in Cholula is the Aztec pyramid, bigger than the more famous one at Teotihuacan but mostly still underground. On top of this hill is the Santuario de la Remedia, and when we visited it 7 years ago, it was closed for restorations. We saw no scaffolding this time, so climbed up for a view. View of Cholula atop the pyramidThis is where you would swing the dead cat from, as the panorama is punctuated by church spires at every turn. Unfortunately it was hazy, so we did not get a good view of the nearby volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl, Popocatepetl and Malinche. (Ooh, I can spell them AND say them!)

The descent from the summit leads to the excavated ruins of the pyramid and associated structures. Several school classes were taking tours, so we were careful to time our walk in between sessions. Inside the PyramidIt seemed like a rabbit warren to me – various connecting passageways tunneling through the pyramid – but it was well lit and easily self-guided. We noticed improvements in the signage, and there were workers excavating and reconstructing in several places. School classes visit the ruins in CholulaFor the price of admission, entrance to the nearby museum was well worth the walk up the street. And for good measure, we stopped for a Coke and fries at our funky La Lunita restaurant, whose orange and purple walls with copies of the pyramid’s artwork had stuck in our heads.

We also enjoyed walking around Cholula’s zocalo, where many booths were set up all selling the same Christmas decorations. These were the days leading up to December 12th, the Virgen de Guadalupe Day celebrated across Mexico, so life-sized statues and portraits of the Virgen were available as well as the usual Nativity figures. We asked one vendor where we could buy the fireworks that we saw and heard at all times of the day and night and he assured us they were prohibido (no translation needed!)

An interesting side trip we took was to nearby Atlixco, which we had seen from the toll road on the way into Cholula. Atlixco appeared to also have a church atop the hill in the centre of town, which is why I was curious to go there. So it did, but we did not venture up to see it. We wandered around the zocalo – one of the nicest we’ve seen, meticulously-tended gardens surrounding the huge central kiosk that had been turned into a coffee shop, with many beautifully-tiled park benches along the paths. Dancing in the Zocalo in AtlixcoWe stopped into the tourist information office and picked up a map of the city, then got distracted when we heard the sounds of Christmas Carols in English. It was an English class practicing in the courtyard of a nearby building. Funny to hear them singing about “dashing through the snow”!

As we were leaving Cholula on Monday December 10, we saw many groups of bicyclists or runners Running for the Queen of Mexicobehind trucks decorated with flowers and images of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Each cluster seemed to represent their home parish and were making their pilgrimage to honour “The Queen of Mexico”. This would go on for two more days, as we made our way to Xalapa to spend Virgen de Guadalupe Day with our friends there.

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  1. Frustration!

    I just completed and submitted a long comment on your fascinating Cholula entry. . . but it vanished into the cybersphere.

    Technology! It’s wonderful . . . when it works!

    Dennis in Phoenix

  2. Nope, the third time was not a charm: I posted my comment, but it disappeared once again.

    This time, I’m cutting bait instead of fishing.


    Dennis in Phoenix

    Sorry that happened to you Dennis – twice! Your comments are *almost* as interesting as my postings and always a good read. PS I’ve just seen ALL you sent was captured by the WordPress Spam filter. I guess it’s more discriminating than I am.

  3. I guess WordPress is still flagging me as a spammer.

    I tried making another comment here, but it didn’t go through, either.

    This time I am definitely cutting bait.

    Take care—

    Dennis in Phoenix

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