Puebla – Mole Poblano – Talavera & My Unlimited Memories!

When I think of Mexico, I think of Puebla and then unlimited things come rushing to my mind. Puebla was an experience where I saw, tasted and felt things for the first time in my life. You may be confused about what exactly I mean. Well it means I experienced this city in a very different way. All the things I did here in this beautiful colonial mountain city were the first time in my life! If you have visited this place perhaps you may agree with me.

Postcard from Puebla

Postcard from Puebla

While driving down from Mexico City with my dear friend Trinette whom I visited long time ago, we passed by the volcano of Popocateptl. I’d heard a lot of stories about it and couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes. I’d never seen one in my life and she couldn’t stop telling me stories….I just wanted to see it and… really desperately! So..finally after a while, I see this imposing Popo as the locals call it! The sight of it was overwhelming. A stream of ash rose above the snow clad peak making it look magnificent and powerful. We waited by the highway and I watched it until my heart felt content. The best part was since it was seen from every part of Puebla since it stands tall at  17,802 feet. I’d decided to write a post on it because it also had a very heart-rending legend behind its stoicism. You can read up more about it on the “The Legend of Popo“.

Volcano Popocatepetl

Volcano Popocatepetl

So…this Popo, stole my heart and it was one of the best memories I carry until today about Puebla even before entering this lovely city!

Streets of Puebla

Streets of Puebla

Then came the warmth and welcome from Trinettes family. Along with it came good food of course! Then suddenly my mind jumps to best lunch I had with my friend Trinette and her Dad of Mole Poblano. On the streets of this city, in a dainty restaurant, a special dish of Mole Poblano was ordered for me. Can you guess what it was? It was a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce and certainly not sweet! I had the pollo en mole poblano which had a deep mixture of chocolate and chilli with chicken, two of the most characteristically Mexican ingredients. It also had a small side dish which I was unaware of. It was  sour-spicy-salty and asked my friend what was it. She said they are chapulines – grasshoppers! For a moment I couldn’t believe I was relishing them….but then..what the heck…I loved them! Food satisfies…Puebla certainly contributed! chapulines mole Until today, I have sweeping memories of this art which I love and still have it adorning my walls at home – the Talavera! This ceramic of Talavera, that garnishes practically every building, every patio, every square and even kitchens in this city! Here when I went to see potters make these beautiful pieces of art, I was told that a potter’s gild was formed and ordinances were laid down, that all of the potters that wished to produce Talavera had to follow. This was done so that the quality of the ceramics called Talavera was uniform and that this earthenware had a distinctive style and excellence. Until today, pottery from Puebla still holds a seal! I will really not do much justice writing about it, check out some of the pictures below…

The Original Sealed Talavera from Puebla

The Original Sealed Talavera from Puebla

more-talavera-frogs-23jan11 So…along the memory road, Puebla plays a very important part in my life. There was so much to experience here that until today I clearly remember every bit of it. Some day, I would love to travel back there and take in every moment slowly and embrace it once again!

Driving along the Streets of Puebla - Trinette & I

Driving along the Streets of Puebla – Trinette & I

Talavera Fountain

Talavera Fountain

PS: Talavera Pottery stills plays a very important part of my life. While I lived in Dayton, USA, a dear friend of mine owned a Talavera store and I still have it all displayed at home. Adding two more photos below to show my fondness towards it!

Delia & her Store called Little Bit of Mexico at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton, Ohio.

Delia & her Store called Little Bit of Mexico at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton, Ohio.

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The Legend of Popo – Mexico

Legend of Popo

Since I had a few friends living in Mexico, I decided to visit the culturally rich and beautiful country. Before I left, I had no idea about the stunning experience I was about to have.  While driving from Mexico City to visit my friend in Puebla, I noticed a high mountain, amidst the misty clouds reaching an incredible height of 17,802 feet. That was the volcano called Popo or Popocatepetl or the “Smoking Mountain”!  One of the continually active volcanoes of the world!

The Smoking Mountain - Popo rises upto 17,802ft
View of the Popo from the highway with its emissions

The Legend of Popo & Izta

Izta, the dormant volcano lies in a shape of a “Sleeping Woman” next to the Popo
The Izta, a dormant volcano lies in a shape of a Sleeping Lady

I was bubbling with immense excitement and did not once take my eyes of the enchanting view. This was my first experience with an active volcano though it was at least 20 kms away from me. That is when I decided to know more about it. Since I wanted to grasp it all, we stopped on the highway to get a good view of it. I could not hold my curiosity and hence started asking questions with a help of my Spanish book to the people around me. I wanted to know what people thought about it, how was life living around such a dangerously beautiful volcano, or if people worshipped it and so on. A very old lady selling a local desert fruit called the prickly pear started narrating the mythological beliefs of the people of Mexico. The tragically beautiful story is from the Aztec era where Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl (mountain next to Popo) were lovers. The father of Iztaccíhuatl, a mighty ruler, placed a demanding condition upon Popocatépetl before he could take Iztaccíhuatl as his bride. His mandate required that Popocatépetl first engage in battle against the tribe’s enemy and return victorious. Treacherously, a rival of Popocatépetl’s sends a false message back to the ruler that the warrior has been slain when in fact, Popocatépetl had won the battle and was ready to return to his Iztaccíhuatl. However, the princess upon hearing the false news falls ill, dying of a broken heart. When Popocatépetl returns only to encounter his beloved’s death, his heartbreak is inconsolable. He carries Iztaccíhuatl’s body to the mountains whereupon he has a funeral pyre built for both himself and his princess. Grief-stricken beyond measure, Popocatépetl dies next to his beloved.  And hence, both the mountains lie next to each other, one dormant and the other yet sizzling. So this was a heart-rending story or myth that people of Mexico believe.

Ixta_Popo_from_PueblaDormant Mount Izta next to the Smoking Popo

Later after we reached Puebla, I decided to talk to the “city” people about the Popo. While walking around the city, my friend met an acquaintance and we got together to have a cup of coffee. I couldn’t wait to start asking question as my curiosity of the Popo wasn’t fulfilled. To my surprise, he owned a farm at the base of the Popo and described the way the local farmers and Indians in the area have different opinions and ways of worshiping the mountain. He said the most common thing was to trek up the ash-coated, belching mountain with offerings of fruit, flowers and chocolate mole chilli sauce, beseeching the angry “Smoking Mountain” not to blow its top. He also agreed that prayers and offerings will help them as he lives in the Yellow Alert or “not so urgent” area while his friend who lives in the Red Alert or “run for your life” area had actually clambered to the caves high in its rugged folds to make offerings to the 17,802-foot volcano.  After the 1994 eruption of ash and sulphur-di-oxide, the farm town people of the Americanas have started indulging more and more into pleasing the chain-smoking mountain. Almost 75,000 people were evacuated though no lives were lost but one cannot forget that the volcano is just 60kms from the largest city in the world – Mexico City and 40kms from Puebla putting almost 20 million lives at stake.

After perceiving the stories of the volcano, I thought about how we as people create and make ourselves believe in little legends and stories in order to exult the land we live on or the crop we grow or ask the natural forces to protect us. Even though so many people live with their lives at stake,  the Americanas boast and worship  the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl’s along with the farmland of peaches, corn, rice, beans, fruit, the culture, art and its historic churches. It indeed makes it unique and dangerously spectacular.