After a rather dull, dusty day on the road with stopovers at Tlaxcala and Huejotzingo, we finally arrived in Cholula, with barely enough time to visit the remains of the Great Pyramid.
Cholula was one of the most important religious centres in Mesoamerica, and its size impressed Cortés and his men when they saw it for the first time in October 1519. Indeed, Cortés observed as many as 430 towers (that is, pyramids), from the top of the Grand Pyramid, and claimed that it was the most beautiful city outside of Spain. Bernal, the greatest chronicler of the trip, claimed that the town resembled Valladolid, in Spain. A true compliment at the time.
Unfortunately, Cholula is now more readily associated with the massacre of the local population at the hands of the Spaniards and their allies, the Tlaxcalans. Like the encounter and alliance with Tlaxcala, this is a story worth reading about in one of the sources I recommend at the bottom of this page.
Cholula was packed with tourists, mainly Mexicans. As we looked for parking, we notice that it had more than a fair share of trendy bars and restaurants in its quaint, renovated streets.
It took us a while to enter the Great Pyramid. After finally finding the entrance, it turns out that tickets had to be bought on the other side. We must have walked around the Pyramid two or three times, including the visit. We took many photos and enjoyed the sunset from the top of a smaller, fake pyramid.
By then, we felt cranky after so much time in a hurry and looking forward to checking in our hotel, then finding a nice place to have dinner – maybe one of the trendy bars.
Only, turns out, our hotel was not in Cholula itself, but several miles en route to Puebla, in a small hamlet called Santa María Tonantzintla. Basically, in the middle of nowhere.
The colleague who had booked the place was irked. Sorry about this, I thought this was downtown. Oh well. The place was nice enough, located on a charming road and offering quaint patio and pretty views from its second floor.
The hamlet seemed to be enjoying its fiestas – at least firecrackers could be heard every couple of minutes. Will this go on all night? we wondered.
That night we took an Uber ride to Puebla, where we enjoyed proper food and drinks in a restaurant on the wonderful Zócalo. This is where I’m sleeping tomorrow, I decided.
The firecrackers stopped at midnight, only to resume at 6 am. We were told, some local had just been ordained priest and the whole village was celebrating.
Well that sure merits an early rise on a Sunday morning!
Want to know more? I suggest reading Hugh Thomas’ The Conquest of Mexico