I’ve been in Mexico for over a week, enjoying the sights and sounds of El Centro Historico de Puebla. It’s a gorgeous city with a slightly unnerving view of an active volcano. There’s no mistaking this thing for a mountain; the ribbon of smoke is clearly visible.
I’m here for a Spanish program, but I’m finding myself learning more than language. The culture here is palpable and embracing. The people are proud of their city, and they want to show it to you. The history, the churches, the art, the music, it resonates with me. Beautiful murals, graffiti art, and street vendors. The smells of grilled meat, car exhaust, and fresh crepes. Cobblestones, brick, slate, and marble; iron balconies with canvas awnings, and cabbies dodging in and out of traffic like they were trained in Manhattan.
But everyone is calm. No one is stressed about their jobs, their lives, or their circumstances. No one rushes down the street. People stroll. Couples walk around holding hands, or arm in arm, and they whisper while stealing kisses, unaware of anyone around them. Children tote balloons of their favorite cartoon characters, as they walk with their parents around the Zocalo.
Walking into any of the 300 iglesias around Puebla, there’s a sense of quiet reverence. Lit candles, people having confessional, others taking pictures of the ornate and elaborate ceilings and fixtures, gorgeous chandeliers, and quiet mass services. I even walked right in and witnessed a wedding on a Friday afternoon. It was different than others I’d witnessed in a Catholic church, but it was gorgeous. I could feel the nervous joy of the bride and groom, the amusement of their families, and the excitement of the children trying their hardest to keep still.
The music, almost competing from the four corners of the Zocalo, is rhythmic and romantic. The mariachis play, and then a drum line appears, and crowds gather in appreciation. It’s hard to decide which one you want to listen to. Hearing the different bands play at the time still sounds like music, and not just a bunch of noise. I have no idea how that works, but it does.
Street vendors, performers, and people handing out flyers. People sitting at patio tables under big umbrellas eating ice cream cones. Folks standing in line for street tacos. The scents of chocolate and mole sauce as you pass the closest restaurant. Museums standing open, waiting for you to come in.
It’s a lovely place. If you haven’t visited, you should.