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Passionate about an entire country because of the people I have known, and the experiences I have had, the answer to a recent inquiry (The Mexico Report) and request to write about a favorite destination in Mexico was difficult. I had to spend some time coming up with the answer and why. I am not sure that the relationship is even still in need of the article, but I figured if I wrote it anyway, it would be of interest to someone somewhere possibly.
My choice while not necessarily number one, is still a heartfelt and well loved destination. Puebla. And of course is the capital of the State of Puebla. Who knew?! Located more than 7000 feet about sea level, it’s a modern city still steeped in rich traditions and has a reputation for the architecture of colonial Mexico influence and the superb food and arts.
A must see of Puebla includes the Amparo Museo. Mole Poblano a traditional and incredibly yummy dish that infuses chocolate into the sauce, is said to have its origin in Puebla. As a matter of fact, folklore tells that this was in fact a culinary inspiration of the Convent of Santa Rosa. (Convento de Santa Rosa). The convent today is a museum and hosts modern art primarily.
With a reportedly huge theology collection of works in all of Latin America, the Palafox Library is a must see. Also included in interesting stops, and equally as interesting is The Rosary Chapel of Santo Domingo Church. The catch here, besides being an esthetically beautiful church and premier piece of Churrigueresque architecture, is the fact that the chapel is covered in gold leaf, tiles, and woodwork. An impressive sight to behold!!
I happen to love something called Talavera. I first discovered it moving a client from Mexico back to the states about 20 years ago. Her box of dishes went missing in the move and she was hysterical, telling me that the dishes could not be replaced and had a value then, for service for 12 of over $5000.00 USD. Now I was stunned. I had no clue what this woman was referring to, and could not imagine, short of the white house china, what dishes could possibly come out of Mexico of all places, with a value like this, so I began to research it. What I discovered was the most magnificent thing I had ever in my life seen, and has been a dream of mine to own my own set of, ever since!
Talavera is said to come originally from Puebla. In truth, it can be traced back to Spain, as Puebla was was established as an outpost for Spain in 1531, the “artisans from Talavera de la Reina” settled into Puebla City. Talavera tiles are seen in churches all over Mexico, and knock off’s are made throughout Mexico. What makes Talavera unique is the craftsmanship. Each piece is hand done, and no two pieces, even in a set of dishes, are alike. Its impossible tohave two alike because they are handcrafred and each carries its own characteristics in some way. I dragged my poor husband all over Mexico, in and out of shops and stores in search of sets and to see the many beautiful renderings, and after ten years of searching and less than a quarter of saved for the investment, I have yet to find the service I want to bring home!! The colors are brilliant and the patterns are amazing and the love of the craft is evidenced by the work of the artisan. I own 6 coffee mugs and a sugar dish, none match and I enjoy them every single morning! They bring me absolute joy! Perhaps it is the diversity of each piece, or it’s the brilliant never ending colors of happiness used. I am not sure why. But I can say, without doubt, I smile over my coffee every single morning.
Real Talavera is certified and Puebla has roughly a dozen craft centers. In Mexico City, you will find a building known as “Casa de Azulejos”. Translated; “House of Floors” because the entire building is done in Talavera tiles!
It is in Puebla that Spain blended her cuisine with that of the natives of Mexico to produce some of the most extraordinary fusion of flavors in Mexico today. In this bloggers opinion, any food savory or sweet that infuses chocolate as a base for sauces, is the ultimate! It is here that Pecan sauces were born to accent chile’s stuffed with meats, known as “Chiles en Nogada”, and it should be duly noted that this particular dish is served in the colors of the Mexican flag, green, white and red! This is a seasonal dish however, so planning for end of summer and start of fall is the time to experience it, or not at all!
If you are a confection junkie, then sampling the cookies that come with the cream on top, known as “tortita” is going to be right up your alley. The convent known as Santa Clara had a reputation for sweets production, and here was born the sweet potato candy “Camote” and a concoction of pumpkin seeds toasted with almonds and sugar known as “jamoncillo”. Oh my! My!! This is not the place to go if you are watching your waist line!
Of greatest interest to this blogger however, besides the gloriously beautiful and beloved Talavera, is the history of Puebla. Puebla was founded, as formerly referenced, by Spaniards in 1531. It was named City of Angels, “Puebla de los Angeles”, because as legend would have it, angels were said to have laid lanyards or twine across the empty land to indicate the geographical layout of the city. To be more specific, they claimed angels told them where to build and what to build.
With all of this, Mexico is especially beloved to her Puebla, because in 1862 the Mexican Army, short of manpower and ammunition, under the regime of General Ignacio Zaragoza, managed to defeat the French on May 5. The event is celebrated throughout the United States….May 5…. CINCO DE MAYO!!!
In 1862, after the victory, Puebla’s name was slightly altered to “Puebla de Zaragoza”.
Puebla is rich in history, steeped in culinary delights that involve chocolate and is colored in Talavera, all of which are near to this bloggers heart and good reason for calling out as a top destination and favored place in my beautiful Mexico