While I’m abroad, I try to dedicate as much time as possible to traveling. However, some weekends I just don’t have the time, energy, or money to go very far. I find that this is usually a blessing in disguise—it’s always fun to spend time exploring Puebla! The city has a lot to offer, from the smallest volcano in the world to the biggest pyramid in the world (technically in the next town over, but just a 15 minute drive)!
Over spring break, I finally took the time to visit Cuexcomate, the smallest volcano in the entire world! My friend and I didn’t even have to call an uber—it turned out to be a 30 minute walk from where we live. Cuexcomate is just 13 meters tall on the outside, and looks like a pile of rocks. I thought it was funny that there was a small park build around it—there were children playing on a jungle gym just feet away from an actual volcano. We paid 12 pesos each to climb into the crater, which I expected to be pretty shallow. I was surprised when we got to the rim and found a staircase descending even deeper into the earth than the volcano was tall. The inside of Cuexcomate was cool and damp, with several pools of water around the edges. We spent a while just relaxing underground before coming back up into the dry Puebla heat!
My favorite place in Puebla is the Zócalo, or town center. The Zócalo is an open square set in front of the city’s cathedral, and is surrounded by museums, restaurants, and stores. It’s always bustling with people, and there’s always something to do. When my friend visited from OU, we spent several days just exploring the area around the Zócalo. We walked around inside the cathedral several times, just admiring the vaulted ceilings and ornate decorations. We also found a really interesting temporary exhibit on the life of Frida Kahlo at a museum on the square, and spent a few hours looking at all of the photographs and paintings on display. My favorite museum so far has been the Amparo Museum, which is just a few blocks away from the Zócalo. It’s a very interesting mix of history and modern art. On the first floor there are a few rooms full of huge photographs of churches and cathedrals throughout the country. Upstairs are several recreations of typical homes from pre-Hispanic and post-colonialization Mexico—visitors can walk through rooms full of furniture and paintings that are hundreds of years old. On a very different note, the Amparo has an exhibit of the art of Yoshua Okón, who creates mixed-media displays to provoke thought on controversial political and social issues. His work is intentionally disturbing, and often pretty hard to look at. But it does make you think!
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is both the largest pyramid and largest monument in the world! However, it is almost completely unexcavated, so it looks like a grassy hill from most angles. The pyramid was built thousands of years before Europeans came to the Americas, and no one knows who actually constructed it (it is theorized that several different civilizations added onto it over hundreds of years). In fact, by the time the Spanish arrived, the pyramid was already overgrown with vegetation. They assumed that it was simply a massive hill, and constructed a Catholic church at the summit. Present-day visitors to Cholula can climb the pyramid via a recently-built staircase/ramp. At the top, you can see all of Puebla and Cholula! I’ve climbed the Great Pyramid a few times, and hope to do it at least once more before I leave. Even more impressive than the incredible view is the feeling of being so close to such an ancient and mysterious monument.
I’m sure I have much more exploring to do in Puebla—this is the fourth-largest city in Mexico, and I feel like I’ve only just glimpsed a tiny bit of it. Puebla is a mix of natural wonders and culture, so there’s really something for everyone. I know I’ll miss it once the semester is over, but I have a feeling I’ll be back!