It is the site of the oldest Christian church in Mexico, founded (1521) by the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes. Nearby is a famous Mexican shrine, the Santuario y Colegiata de Ocotlan. Usually spelled Tlaxcala.
tlaxcala historical churches
The colonial city of Tlaxcala (pop. 90,000) surprises visitors with well-preserved, colorful buildings, a breathtaking zócalo, and an abundance of cultural and social activities. Despite a growing population and steady modernization, the capital of the nation’s smallest state retains its provincial feel. Tlaxcalans were not always so peaceful; unable to withstand the Spanish onslaught during the 16th century, they made a pact with Cortés and sent 6000 warriors to raid and plunder the city of Cholula, ultimately helping Cortés to take Tenochtitlán in 1521. In return, Tlaxcala was granted Spanish protection and recognized as “muy noble y muy leal” (very noble and very loyal). Today, few traces of Tlaxcala’s mercenary history remain, and its tranquil beauty draws weekend guests from Mexico City and Puebla. Tlaxcala serves as a great base from which to explore the state’s now deserted convents and haciendas, relatively untouched indígena communities, and well-preserved ruins. As well, the city’s museums, art galleries, and cultural center provide a satisfying taste of the heartland.
: To get to the centro from the bus station (462 1347) on Carretera Tepeihtec, exit through the glass doors to a swarm of idling colectivos
. Those facing right go to the downtown area, the market, and the hotel district along Revolución (4 pesos). To return to the bus station, take any combi marked “Central” from the mercado, or flag one down behind San José at 20 de Noviembre and 1 de Mayo. Autotransportes Tlaxcala (466 0087; www.atahejecutivo.com.mx) runs buses to Mexico City (2hr., every 20min. 5am-9pm, 90 pesos) and Veracruz (6hr., 4 per day 6am-midnight). Autotransportes Mexico-Texcoco (462 3392) serves Puebla (1hr., every 10min. 5:30am-9:30pm).
:Kar, Topógrafos Pte 7, Col. Loma Bonita (462 4500), just outside of town. Open M-Sa 9am-8pm.
Tlaxcala is approximately 85km east of Mexico City and is most easily reached by Mex. 150. Don’t be fooled by the large number of colectivos leaving from the market—Tlaxcala is a very walkable city. Distances are manageable, and it’s 4 pesos cheaper and often more direct to chug up the hills yourself than to ride in the VW vans whose 1600cc engines can’t handle the steep grades, forcing drivers to take longer routes. 20 de Noviembre shoots north-south, connecting the Mercado Municipal (a hub of colectivo stops) and the main plazas, Plaza Juárez, Plaza de la Constitución (the zócalo), and the diagonally adjacent Plaza Xicoténcatl. A parallel landmark street, Juárez, becomes Independencia south of the zócalo.
Tourist Office: Juárez s/n (465 0960 or 0961; www.tlaxcala.gob.mx/turismo), at Lardizábal. Attentive and friendly staff provide a wealth of information, pamphlets, and touch-screen computer presentation (also available online). Open M-F 9am-7pm, Sa-Su 10am-6pm. The city’s 3 tourist information kiosks keep the same hours. Office sponsors cheap, comprehensive trolley tours that leave from in front of the Correos building. (F-Sa 11am, 1:30, 4, 5pm, Su 11am, 1, 2, 3pm.)
Budget Travel: Viamex, Camargo 5-B (462 9284; has student rates and packages. Open M-F 9am-8pm, Sa 9am-2pm.
Currency Exchange and Banks: Centro de Cambio Puebla, Juárez 33 (462 5050), at Guridi y Alcocer. Exchanges cash and traveler’s checks. Open M-F 9am-6pm, Sa 9am-1:30pm. Banamex, Plaza Xicoténcatl 8 (462 6743). Has 24hr. ATMs under the portales, as do several banks on Juárez, past the tourist office. Open M-F 9am-6pm, Sa 9am-2pm.
Laundromat: Lavandería de Autoservicio Acuario, Alonso de Escalona 13A (462 6292 or 3717). Full-service 42 pesos. 3kg min., 14 pesos per extra kg; 2hr. service available. Open M-Sa 8:30am-7pm, Su 8am-2pm.
Police: Xicoténcatl 13 (462 0735 or 1079), at Lardizábal. Open 24hr. Tourist police also available at the same number.
Red Cross: Allende Nte. 48 (462 0920), at the corner where Allende ends on Guerrero. 24hr. walk-in emergency service.
24hr. Pharmacy: Farmacia Cristo Rey 2, Lardizábal 15 (462 2913), between Xicoténcatl and Independencia.
Hospital: Hospital General, Jardín de la Corregidora 1 (462 0030 or 3555), 5 blocks from the zócalo at the corner of Camargo and Josefa Castelar.
Fax Office: Telecomm, Díaz 6 (462 4998). Offers Western Union services. Open M-F 8am-7:30pm, Sa-Su 9am-noon.
Internet Access: Cafes abound near the zócalo. Sistemas Teycom, on Independencia across from the Plaza Xiconténcatl (462 0716), just north of Lardizábal. 8 pesos per hr. Open daily 9am-9pm.
Post Office: Plaza de la Constitución 20 (462 0004), on the corner of Camargo. Open M-F 8am-6pm, Sa 9am-1pm. Postal Code: 90000.
tlaxcala historic architecture
Though you won’t find dirt-cheap accommodations in Tlaxcala, 200-250 pesos pays for some very comfortable rooms. Most hotels charge a standard price for rooms with one bed (for 1-2 people), so sharing is the best way to save. Be sure to make reservations on weekends and holidays, as lower-cost hotels, especially those near the zócalo, tend to fill up quickly.
Hotel Alifer, Morelos 11 (462 5678 or 3062; a short hike east of Plaza Xicoténcatl, just before Morelos starts to curve. Airy rooms with stucco walls and blindingly bright bedspreads include cable TV, phone, and marble baths. Remarkably close to the centro. Rooms on 2nd fl. command a view of the surrounding hillside. Complimentary bottled water, parking, and Wi-Fi. Check-out 1pm. MC/V.
Hotel Albergue de la Loma, Guerrero 58 (462 0424), equidistant from the bus station and the centro. The 61 steps leading to Albergue’s hilltop perch may be daunting, but clean rooms with bath, cable TV, and large windows with inspiring views await. Elevator accessible from the parking lot. Spacious rooms with 2-3 beds and sofas are perfect for family stays. Downstairs restaurant serves reasonably priced food daily 8am-10pm. Check-out 1pm. MC/V.
Hotel Quinta San Clemente, Independencia 58 (462 1989), about 10min. south of Plaza Xicoténcatl. The yellow-colored hotel is on the left 4min. after Independencia starts to curve to the right. A tinkling fountain in the courtyard and rooms with tiled bath, phone, and cable TV compensate for the distance from the zócalo. Parking, Wi-Fi, and coffee included. 10% discount for stays longer than 4 nights. Check-out 1pm. Cash only.
Hotel Mesón del Rey, Calle 3 1009 (462 9055), with a regal-looking entrance immediately to the left after exiting the bus station. The modern rooms—spacious but gloomy with small bath, phone, and cable TV—are the cheapest singles in town. Cash only.
Hotel Real de Lago, Av. de los Deportes 15 (462 0399), next to the convention center. Take Primero de Mayo from Plaza Juárez, cross the foot bridge, and follow Molina to the left. When the road splits, veer right on Col. Aldolfo López Mateos until it turns; the hotel is on the corner. Spacious, carpeted rooms with spotless bath and cable TV. Check-out 12:30pm. Cash only.
Hotel Plaza-Tlax, Revolución 6 (462 7852). From the zócalo, head north on Juárez, which changes into Valle; the hotel will be on your left soon after Valle becomes Revolución. Alternatively, take a “Santa Ana” or “Gigante” colectivo from behind San José, and get off near the large Hotel Jeroc complex. Location close to the small Valle club scene, but far from the zócalo. Clean rooms with small bath and TV. Check-out 12:45pm. Cash only.
tlaxcala cultural food
Tlaxcalteca specialties include pollo en xoma (chicken stuffed with fruit and other meat), barbacoa en mixiote (meat cooked in maguey leaves), and pulque (an unrefined alcohol made from maguey), which is also popular as pulque verde, (mixed with honey water, spearmint, and lemon juice). For delicious midday meals, duck into one of the small family-run restaurants on Juárez between Zitlalpopocatl and Alonso de Escalona, where comida corrida is usually 35 pesos or less. Around the zócalo, meal prices rise to 60-90 pesos. For antojitos and rarer regional specialties, try the vendors around the mercado, on the corner of Alonso de Escalona and Lira y Ortega, along 20 de Noviembre from Zitlapopocatl. (Open M-Sa 8am-8pm, Su 8am-5pm.) There is also a supermarket, Gigante, Valle 66 (462 5846), in the centro on the corner of Vera, and accessible by any colectivo of the same name. (Open daily 8am-10pm. AmEx/D/MC/V.)
Restaurante Sharon, Guerrero 14 (462 2018), between Independencia and Díaz. Big glass windows slide away to reveal an enormous and unassuming dining room. Tlaxcalans melt for their 9 varieties of quesos fundidos (melted cheese). Make a meal out of 3 stuffed-to-the-brim tacos. Meat dishes come with salad and beans. Open M-F and Su 2-9pm. Cash only.
Jardín Plaza Restaurante, Portal Hidalgo #5 (462 4891). The ideal location makes the Jardín a popular spot for lunch. Savor a molcajete jardín or the far more affordable and filling menú del día. Regional dishes. Seafood. F-Sa 9pm-midnight live music. Open M-Th and Su 7:30am-11pm, F-Sa 7:30am-12:30am. 100-peso min. for D/MC/V.
Tamales ‘Agus,’ Juárez 23-A (462 1107), between Lardizábal and Guridi y Alcocer. Doesn’t seem like much from the outside, but you can feast on inexpensive tamales, taquitos and tostadas. Wash them down with atole, a warm, milk-based, blue-corn beverage. Open M-Sa 7:30am-12:45pm and 6-9pm. Cash only.
Restaurant Tirol, Independencia 7A (462 3754), along Plaza Xicoténcatl. Catering to weekday business lunchers and a hip evening crowd, Tirol offers zócalo-quality service and food at more reasonable prices. Sopa tlaxcalteca. Regional specialties. 4-course comida corrida. Open M-Sa 7am-midnight, Su 7am-7pm. D/MC/V.
Comedor Universitario, Primero de Mayo 11 (460 3239), at Sánchez. Line up with fellow scholars for cheap Mexican cafeteria chow. 3-course lunch with unlimited juice refills. Open early Aug. to late March and mid-Apr. to late June M-F noon-5pm. Cash only.
Restaurant Esmeralda, Alonso de Escalona 7, between Lira y Ortega and Juárez. Small, family-run restaurant packed with locals on their lunch breaks. Cheap and tasty menú del día. Breakfasts. Entrees. Open daily 9am-7pm. Cash only.
Desayunos Lupita, Camargo 14 (462 6453), at Allende. This egg-yolk-yellow breakfast joint at the end of Tlaxcala’s mariachi row makes scrumptious huaraches (cornmeal pizza dish). Enjoy the full breakfast before 1pm, or the menú del día after. Open M-F 8:30am-4pm, Sa-Su 8:30am-1:30pm. Cash only.
tlaxcala culture bullfighting
Most of Tlaxcala’s attractions center around the streets off Plaza de la Constitución, but colectivos make the trek to farther sights manageable. Visit the vendors in Plaza Xicoténcatl on weekends for all your artesanía needs. Make sure to see Cacaxtla and Xochitécatl, two well-preserved archaeological sites nearby.
Sights Near The Centro
Plaza De La Constitución (El Zócalo) . The serene Plaza de la Constitución is the heart of Tlaxcala. Look for the octagonal fountain of Santa Cruz in the center by the bandstand. Built in Europe during the 14th century, it was given to the city by King Phillip IV in 1646—no small token considering the distance those stones were hauled—to symbolize Spanish gratitude toward La Ciudad Leal (The Loyal City) and its instrumental role in Mexico’s colonization. Four other fountains, a charming 19th-century gazebo, and the surrounding landscape contribute to the attraction of this plaza.
Plaza Xicoténcatl. Southeast of the zócalo is Plaza Xicoténcatl, dedicated to the young Tlaxcalan warrior Xicoténcatl Axayacatzin (1484-1521) who defied his chieftan father’s support of the Spanish and fought for Tlaxcala’s independence. Today, his statue commands a center spot in the plaza. Normally a tranquil area, the plaza livens up on weekends, when a small artisan market occupies the grounds. (F-Su 9am-8pm.)
Palacio De Gobierno. The former palace of the viceroys, where Cortés stayed when he was in Tlaxcala, now commemorates the history of the region’s people. Covering the interior walls of the 16th-century palace are immense, brilliantly colored murals by Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin (b.1922), depicting everything from early inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico to the Wars of Independence, accompanied by reproductions of the 16th-century codices that inspired the work. At the time of its construction in 1545, the palace was divided into three parts. The west end of the building housed the granary, the center contained the home of the four indigenous lords, and Spanish viceroys had quarters in the west. Don’t miss the representation of Tlaxacala (“corn tortilla” in Náhuatl) at the top of the far right arch. (Plaza de la Constitución 3. On the north side of the zócalo. Open daily 9am-6pm. Free. Guides loiter inside, offering to explain the murals.)
Museo De Arte De Tlaxcala. This new museum holds temporary modern and contemporary art exhibits as well as a small permanent collection of seven early works by Frida Kahlo. The building, built in 1898, was a home, a courthouse, a prison, and a hospital before its inauguration as the Museo de Arte in 2004. The Pinacoteca, a bit farther away on Guerrero, is affiliated with the museum and holds smaller but still impressive, exhibits by local artists. Eight large sculptures by artist Juan Soriano (1920-2006) spill out into the plaza from in front of the Museo de Arte, including an obstinate-looking bronze bull. (Plaza de la Constitución 21. Pinacoteca at Guerrero 15. 462 1510 or 466 0352; www.mat.org.mx. Both open Tu-Th and Sa-Su 10am-6pm, F 10am-10pm. Su free for Mexican nationals.)
Museo De La Memoria. A great first stop for history buffs, El Museo de la Memoria guides visitors through Tlaxcalan history from 1521 through the end of the 18th century. The museum occupies a 16th-century building that once housed the sisterhood of Santa Cruz of Jerusalem. Today, interactive computer programs and videos throughout help explain the various exhibits. The first room on the right holds temporary exhibits. (Independencia 3, across from Plaza Xicoténcatl. 466 0792. Open Tu-Su 10am-5pm. Tu free. Guided tours upon request W-Su)
Ex-Convento Franciscano De La Asunción. Built between 1537 and 1542, this was one of the first convents in the Americas. The thick, wooden door of the cathedral opens into a beautiful Romanesque nave and a ceiling of intricate Moorish-influenced mudéjar (woodwork) crafted in the Philippines. The main altar contains, among other artifacts, La Conquistadora, the canvas of the Virgin that Cortés is said to have kept between his armor and his breast. In the first of four chapels is a corn-paste sculpture of Christ, El Cristo de Centi, which dates back to the 16th century. The side chapel to the right, closest to the altar, La Capilla de la Tercer Orden, holds the basin used to baptize the four Tlaxcalteca lords at the time of the alliance in 1520. (Calzada San Francisco, on the southeast side of Plaza Xicoténcatl. A 400-year-old cobblestone way leads about 200m up to the ex-convent. Open M-F 6:30am-2pm and 3:30-8pm, Sa-Su 6am-7:30pm.)
Museo Regional De Tlaxcala. Meandering through the cloisters of the once imposing ex-convent, the museum presents a fascinating permanent exhibit, including artifacts from nearby archaeological zones, colonial religious-inspired art upstairs, and a library with works on Tlaxcalan history. Take a peek through the fence across the cobblestone road at one of Tlaxcala’s prized sites, the Plaza de Toros. Named for famed bullfighter Jorge “El Ranchero” Aguilar, the plaza has been used since 1788 and comes to life in the last week of October and first week of November, when Tlaxcala celebrates its annual fair. (Calzada San Francisco, next door to the ex-convent, on the side closest to the entrance. 462 0262. Open daily 10am-6pm. children, teachers, students, and seniors free; Su free for Mexican nationals.)
tlaxcala religious art
Parroquia De San José. Originally built atop a hermitage dating from 1526, the old parish church, once known as the Catedral de Tlaxcala, became an important center of Church administration in the 1640s. Today, the immense yellow structure remains an important religious place. At its entrance stand two stone founts of holy water, where weary pedestrians often pause to relax. The interior contains a stone image of Camaxtli, the ancient Tlaxcalteca god of war. The talavera tiles and bricks now covering the exterior of the church were laid over the original mortar facade in the 17th and 18th centuries. (Northwest of the zócalo. Open daily 6am-8pm. Mass M-F 7:30am, 7:30pm; Su 7 per day 7:30am-7:30pm.)
Museo De Artes Y Tradiciones Populares De Tlaxcala. The museum features six exhibition halls in which local artisans demonstrate their crafts. Presentations include a tour of a traditional Otomi temezcal (steam bath), an explanation of textile production, and an exhibit about the making of pulque. (Mariano Sánchez 1, on the corner of Lardizábal. A short walk west on Lardizábal from the Parroquia. Open Tu-Su 10am-6pm. artisans free.)
Sights Away From The Centro
Santuario De Nuestra Señora De Ocotlán. Though the Parroquia de San José is Tlaxcala’s main place of worship, Ocotlán boasts greater religious, symbolic, and historical significance and is a prime example of the Churrigueresque style, with lavish use of gold throughout the interior and on the altar. According to legend in 1541, Tlaxcala’s own Virgin, Nuestra Señora de Ocotlán, appeared to a sick indígeno named Juan Diego Bernardino. She provided him with a miraculous substance to cure those suffering from the mysterious epidemic and ordered him to build the church. The modern-day santuario holds a 16th-century wooden image of the Virgin—supposedly the same one that appeared inside a burning tree to Juan Diego—which is carried through the city streets every year on the third Monday of May. The star of the show is the camarín, a small octagonal room located behind the altar where the Virgin is “dressed” for important festivals. (Hidalgo 1. Head 2 blocks past the tourist office on Juárez until you reach Zitlapopocatl. Then turn right and follow the steep road uphill for about 1km. Alternatively, take a “Ocotlán” colectivo from 20 de Noviembre and Lardizábal and tell the driver to let you off at the Santuario. 462 1073. Open daily 9am-7pm.)
The Ruins Of Tizatlán. These tiny ruins, discovered in 1924 4km northeast of Tlaxcala, were the site of the fateful Tlaxcalteca-Spanish alliance and are all that remains of one of the four señoríos (warrior city-states) in the Chichimeca valley. The unusual use of brick—only two other ruins in Mexico use the material in construction—along with the remains of some murals can be seen in the Basamento de los Altares. The ruins themselves are underwhelming, but the view from the site is magnificent. A one-room museo del sitio provides a short historical account and displays Tlaloc (rain god) figurines. In front of the site is the golden-domed Templo de San Estéban, built on top of the Xicoténcatl señorío by indigenous workers in 1527. Access to the original, humidity-stricken 16th-century capilla of the church is included in admission. (To reach the ruins, take a 4-peso “Tizatlán” colectivo from the corner of Sánchez and 1 de Mayo or Guerrero. Tell your driver you want to go to the Iglesia, and he or she will drop you off in front of a bright green building on the Calzada Xicoténcatl . Walk left on this street, then up several flights of stairs and cross the bridge until you reach the ruins on your left behind the yellow Templo de San Estéban. Open daily 9am-6pm.)
Jardín Botánico Tizatlán. A showcase of the state’s natural beauty, this garden, encompassing about eight hectares, displays native plants in an otherworldly setting. Rocky paths meander across a creek to reveal a hidden greenhouse. No bikes, balls, radios, or alcoholic beverages are allowed in the pastoral paradise. A movie theater, Sala Miguel N. Lira, is located within the gardens. (Take a “Camino Real” colectivo from the market and tell the driver you want to go to the Jardín, in front of the Casa de Gobierno. By foot, follow Juárez past the tourist office until it turns into Valle and then Revolución. From the hotel district on Revolución, turn left at Camino Real before the brick bridge passes over the road. 465 0900, ext. 1702 or 1711. Office open M-F 9am-1pm and 4-6pm. Gardens open daily 6am-7pm. Free.)
Entertainment And Nightlife
On weeknights in Tlaxcala, lights go out early and most of the raucous nightlife can be found outside the city in Santa Ana or Puebla. However, more options pop up on weekends when the few discos in the centro and on Valle and Revolución open their doors to a young, eager crowd. Many of the restaurants and bars under the portales feature live music and outdoor seating that attract swarms of hip, coffee-sipping sophisticates. In Tlaxcala, many of the bars also function as discos on weekends. Early in the evening, patrons sit calmly at their tables. Later on, around 11:30pm, a sort of universal twitch sinks in, and the crowd surges to its feet, grinding and gyrating in sweaty, drunken bliss. Check www.mundotlax.com
for a listing of what’s hot at the moment.
La Revolución, Portal Hidalgo 9 (466 1637), under the portales. One of the most popular spots in town, this restaurant by day/bar by night boasts rare tequila bottles—including one bathed in gold and worth over 6000 pesos and another shaped like a rifle. Pop, reggae, and salsa. F-Sa live rock midnight-1am. Beer. Mixed drinks. Cover F-Sa. Open Tu-Th and Su noon-11pm, F-Sa noon-6am. D/MC/V.
Bar Cactus, Valle 63A (462 6864). 20-somethings gather in packs at all times of day to enjoy the beer and desert-themed decor. In El Kubo, the disco next door, the same crowd gets down on the large dance floor to all music spun by one of Tlaxcala’s best DJs. 4 VIP zones guarantee that you’ll feel special. Bar open M-Sa noon-10pm. El Kubo open F-Sa 8pm-late. Cash only.
La Cantina de los Amigos, Plaza Xicoténcatl 6 (458 7397). This centrally located, old-school cantina draws a mature crowd for 2-for-1 beer and copeo Happy hour (6:30-8pm). Botanas served 1-6pm. Live trova and mariachi music F after 10pm and Su 2-6pm. Open T-Su 1pm-midnight. D/MC/V.
Cafe-Bar La Fuente, Av. 20 de Nov. 56 (462 9722), at Guerrero. An alternative to the bar scene along the zócalo. Couples sip drinks and share semi-private balconies as Latin ballads play and dim lights throw the artesanía-clad ceiling into shadows. Live music Th-Sa 8:30pm. Open M-Th and Su 11am-11:30pm, F-Sa 11am-2am. Cash only.
tlaxcala colorful art
For information on cultural events in Tlaxcala, check out www.culturatlaxcala.com.mx or head to the Palacio de la Cultura (462 6069), Juárez 62, four blocks from the zócalo at the corner of Justo Sierra. To the right as you enter are monthly schedules and announcements of theater and dance productions, as well as art expositions. The Palacio also stages concerts, exhibits, and performances in its courtyard and all over town. Teatro Xicoténcatl, Juárez 21, hosts Theater Tuesdays and most of the Palacio’s weekend events. The theater’s bookstore offers some books in English on Tlaxcalan culture. (462 4073. Hours vary, depending on event schedule.)
Tlaxcala’s state fair, the Feria de Tlaxcala, is held from mid-October to mid-November. During the month-long feria, exhibitions of crafts and livestock dot the town, while Tlaxcalans from across the state participate in cultural and sporting events. If you have a taste for religious events, stop by Tlaxcala on the third Monday in May to see the sacred pine image of the Virgen de Ocotlán paraded through the streets or during La Fiesta de San José, March 19, when the national celebration centers on the Parroquia. The city livens up with street parades and folkloric dance during Carnaval, the first week of February, when tlaxcaltecas sport wooden masks and traditional costumes to mock colonial-era European hacienda owners. The Feria San Pablo del Monte, inaugurated in 2005, is celebrated from late June to early July. This festival features an impressive crafts fair and exposition. For more information on festivals, contact the tourist office.
Daytrips From Tlaxcala
In Tlaxcala, take a bus marked “Nativitas” or “San Miguel de Milagros” from 20 de Noviembre next to the market or behind San José. Tell the driver you want to go to Cacaxtla, and he or she will drop you off at the main entrance (50min.). If you happen to be dropped in San Miguel de Milagros, walk up the windy road, following the signs. To return, catch another colectivo in the same direction, get off at Nativitas and take a “Tlaxcala” colectivo back to town. By car, take Mex. 119 towards Tepetitla. 416 0000. Open daily 9am-5:30pm. students and teachers with Mexican credentials and children free; Su free. Spanish mini-guides available. Private Museo tour guides available.
tlaxcala archeological heritage
One of the best-preserved and best-presented archaeological sites in the country is the hilltop ruin of Cacaxtla (kah-KASH-tla), 18km southwest of Tlaxcala. The Olmec-Xicalancas, who once dominated the southwest corner of Tlaxcala state and most of the Puebla Valley, built and expanded the city during the Classic Period (AD 650-900). By AD 1000, Cacaxtla was abandoned, its inhabitants driven from the area by Toltec-Chichimec invaders. Excavation began here in 1975; since then 4000 sq. m of ruins have been unearthed.
The small museum on the right by the entrance contains artifacts and bones collected from the site, including a mutilated corpse and reproductions of the the site’s most important murals. From the museum, a paved road leads toward the ruins which, to prevent erosion, are covered by the world’s second largest archaeological roof.
Once upstairs, visitors move clockwise around 18 different points of interest including ceremonial courtyards, temples, tombs, and palatial remains. Location markers provide historical information in Spanish, English, and Náhuatl. Near the entrance to the ruins, visitors pass the Palacio complex, principally priests’ quarters, where archeologists found the remains of over 200 sacrificed children. Opposite the entrance, marvel at the free-standing latticework window, La Celosía. Made by surrounding interwoven twigs and branches with mud, lime, and sand, it is one-of-a-kind in Mesoamerica.
Another attraction is the series of murals throughout the site, considered to be among the best-preserved pre-Hispanic paintings in Mesoamerica. The largest of these murals, the Mural de la Batalla, stretches along a 26m wall and depicts a historical-mythological battle of two armies, one dressed in jaguar skins, defeating another dressed in eagle feathers. The still-visible original mineral-based colors show a distinct Mayan influence, which may indicate the existence of a trading network linking the Maya and the Olmec-Xicalancas. The walkway ends on one of the pyramid’s edges, providing a final touch to the tour: a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.
Xochitécatl ruins - Click image to view more photos about Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico from hailebet on flickr. More than 200 photos from recent travel to Tlaxcala.
There is no direct transportation to Xochitécatl; the best way to reach the site is from Cacaxtla. After visiting Cacaxtla, take the 2.5km dirt path to the right of the steps leading to the pyramid and walk for 35min. Ask for directions at Cacaxtla to make sure you take the right path and bring bottled water with you from Tlaxcala, as you won’t see a vendor for hours. To return to Tlaxcala, walk down the mountain road to the town of San Miguel Xochitecatitla and take a “Tlaxcala” colectivo, or walk back to Cacaxtla and take the colectivo from there. Open daily 9am-5:30pm. students and teachers with Mexican credentials and children free; Su free. Spanish mini-guides available. Free with Cacaxtla ticket.
The Nahua ceremonial center at Xochitécatl (so-chee-TE-cahtl, “place of flowers” in Náhuatl) predates Cacaxtla by several hundred years, and its ruins are located on a hill just opposite Cacaxtla. Before the Olmec-Xicalancas conquered the city in AD 300, the inhabitants of Xochitécatl constructed the temple to honor Xochiqueteali, the goddess of fertility. For this reason, archaeologists hypothesize that many of the artifacts at the site are remains of women or babies, who were sacrificed with some regularity at the site. There are four pyramids, the largest of which, the Pirámide de las Flores, is actually a pyramid on top of a pyramid. During the spring equinox, the sun passes through the columns on top, which are thought to have been constructed to bring fertility to all women who passed through them. Visitors are not guaranteed the same, but will surely appreciate the spectacular view of nearby volcanoes Popocatépetl, Ixtaccihuatl, and La Malinche (Malintzin). To the left of the floral pyramid is the Edificio de la Serpiente. The basin on top of this pyramid caught water and served as a mirror in which to observe the stars. Perpendicular to these two pyramids is a smaller, flatter structure, the Basamento de los Volcanes. At the western side of the site is the Spiral Pyramid, built in the late pre-Classic period. Dedicated to the wind god Ehecatl, it is the only such spiral pyramid known to exist. As no steps were found that lead up the structure, it is believed that priests actually walked the spiral walkway all the way to the top. The pyramid of Ehecatl now has a white cross dating from 1632 at its peak, which serves as a ceremonial center for the inhabitants of the area. On your way to the site, peek into the small museum near the entrance and see some of the many ceramic and basalt artifacts found atop the various pyramids.
Travel photo galleries from tourists to Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala and the surronding area.
Tlaxcala, Mexico – hailebet
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