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01.27.2010

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Tlaxcala
Surroundings of Mexico City

Located less than two hours away from Mexico City, the state of Tlaxcala hoards within its serene landscapes surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, a great cultural wealth and one of the strongest architectural traditions in our country.

Of Mayan etymology, several meanings have been accredited to the word 'Tlaxcala' like “above the burner”, “above the volcanic rocks” or “land of corn bread”. This region has been inhabited since remote times by diverse groups dedicated to agriculture and commercial trade. The first large human settlements that are registered, date back to the first millenium AD, one of the most important being the city of Cacaxtla, an ancient Olmec – Xicalanca capital, of which several constructions still remain, like the palace complex which has several murals that represent different aspects of prehispanic life and outlook, related with other cultural traditions of Mesoamerica like the Mayans, the Teotihuacans and the cities of Oaxaca. After the site was abandoned, the domains of Ocotelolco, Tiztatlán and Quiahuiztlán were established, and together they are known as the “Republic of Tlaxcallan”, an authentic federation in which the representatives of each domain would get together to make strategic decisions for their republic, which, for local administration, they divided into freeholds, some in which the people even got to elect their rulers: a noticable contrast compared to the absolute monarchy political system which not only ruled the rest of Mexico at the time, but also most parts of the world.

This is probably why the Republic of Tlaxcala started to develop so well, specially in things regarding the commercial trade of the coast, which made it stand out from the rest and gain a lot of rivalry from the nearby towns, with which it frequently engaged in battle. Nevertheless, in spite of the frequent wars, Tlaxcala was able to remain autonomous, even from the powerful Mexica Empire.

With the arrival of the Spaniards, Tlaxcala played a fundamental role in the Conquest's process due to the fact that after several defeats suffered against the European army, they decided to create an aliance with them instead; they were baptized into Christianity and played an importanted role in the fall of Tenochtitlan. All of this awarded the people of Tlaxcala certain privileges during Colonial times, like the ability to have their own indigenous representatives and the liberty to participate in economic activities which in other regions were reserved only for the Spanish.

Today, it's possible to recognize the fusion of these two worlds in different places all throughout the state. On one hand, when you see its fields dotted with prehispanic remains it's easy to imagine what this land could have been like a few centuries ago, on the other, while walking through its small towns, its temples show the arrival of another faith, even if strongly marked by the traditions of the local culture, its colours, its exhuberant ornamentation and its atmosphere.

Of particular importance is the City of Tlaxcala, the state's capital, which nevertheless leads a peaceful life, with its broad streets, the joyful colours of its faҫades and small places which transport us to the past, like its cathedral, an exceptional building which, in addition, presents characteristics that are unsual in Mexican cities, like the fact that it's located at the top of a hill, outside of the main square, and that its bell tower is separated; the cathedral presides over a quiet walkway surrounded by ash trees and arches, while the interior was done in stone and wood and there's an undeniable presence of islamic elements taken from the architecture of southern Spain, which, at the time of the cathedral's construction, was only just coming out of the “Reconquista” (reconquest) wars.

Another important spot is the Temple of Our Lady of Ocotlán, located on one of the hills which make up the valley where the city of Tlaxcala rests, its white towers completely ornamented with barroque motifs rise against the deep blue of the sky, making it one of the most vibrant spacial experiences in the country.

To get to Tlaxcala you can take the TAPO bus, which costs approximately 96 pesos and consists of a two hour journey, in which we recomend you enjoy the beautiful views from the highway of the Iztaccihuatl and Popocatépetl Volcanoes. Once in Tlaxcala, you can take a public bus which can take you to the Cacaxtla archeological site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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