Sunday, July 17, 2016

Puebla - Day 2

You want a historical day? This day crossed the centuries from a buried Aztec Temple to yet more colonial churches and finally to the Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe which were critical in the Battle of Puebla. This battle in which the Mexican army defeated the armies of Napoleon III was given the historical date of the 5th of May, better known as Cinco de Mayo. You see there is a historical significance to that day and its not just a random day the Mexicans came up with to celebrate spring or Mexican Independence which is September 16th. Did you know that the French had invade Mexico in 1862?

These colorful Puebla signs are located all over the city
After enjoying my city bus tour yesterday my priority today, after coffee, was to get back up to the Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Once a history nerd always a history nerd. I mean this is the exact location where the phrase "Cinco de Mayo" originated so how could I not want to hang around there for a while? I like to walk as much as I can when I can. Cabs are for emergencies and this was a confirmed emergency, TAXI!!! Fifteen minutes and 40 pesos (C$2.75) lighter there I stood at the site of the Battle of Puebla.

Being from Niagara Falls I have access to quite a bit of historical monuments including forts from the battles of the War of 1812. Fort George, Fort Niagara and Fort Erie are all impressive but they were made of wood and I suspect vulnerable to cannon fire. Loreto (yes for those from the Falls that is Loreto with one t) and Guadalupe not to be out done from about the same time period were made of thick concrete with deep moats which were incredibly impressive and made to withstand cannon. There were remnants of the battle scarred all along the outer walls. I do not know why we need to see bullet pot marks to validate a battle field but it does lend some credence to the story, sadly.

Apple Soda and chips, lunch of champions
As is the case when I visit sites such as this I am not going to pontificate a history lesson about the Battle of Puebla but a quick recap. The 1858–60 Mexican civil war known as The Reform War had caused distress throughout Mexico's economy. When taking office as the elected president in 1861, Benito Juárez was forced to suspend payments of interest on foreign debts for a period of two years. At the end of October 1861 diplomats from Spain, France, and Britain met in London to form the Tripartite Alliance, with the main purpose of launching an allied invasion of Mexico, taking control of Veracruz, its major port, and forcing the Mexican government to negotiate terms for repaying its debts and for reparations for alleged harm to foreign citizens in Mexico. In December 1861, Spanish troops landed in Veracruz; British and French followed in early January. The allied forces occupied Veracruz and advanced to Orizaba. However, the Tripartite Alliance fell apart by early April 1862, when it became clear the French wanted to impose harsh demands on the Juarez government and provoke a war. The British and Spanish withdrew, leaving the French to march alone on Mexico City. Napoleon III wanted to set up a puppet Mexican regime. -- Wikipedia

Fort Loreto
 History aside the views were impressive and it was no wonder these fort were built where they were built and tough to defeat. I took my time in the museum then wandered around the fort picking various locations to sit and take it all in. Although a bit covered by clouds Volcano Popocatépetl loomed in the distance. My camera is crap so all the pictures of this active beast were washed out. As one of the most active volcanoes in Latin America I did sit and stare, hoping, like a freak.

Meat and Cheese Cemitas and lime soda
After spending an oddly long time at the site it was time to walk back into town to get a decent lunch. There was a little hole in the wall restaurant with an open air spit that near my hotel that I walked by a few times and now it was time to dive in, inhibitions aside. The grill was outside and inside the grey concrete walled room there were 4 small plastic tables with 4 chairs each that barely fit along with the prep stand and the beverage fridge (coke branded of course) and it was busy with "comida para llevar" as the main option. Me, I was staying and through a break in the crowed I ordered my Cemitas and lime soda and asked a young family of 3 if I could sit with them. They politely pulled out the chair and with big smiles we introduced ourselves ( Imara, Daniel and young Gabriel) then chatted a bit. It was mostly about me as they wanted to know where I was from, did I like Puebla and Mexico etc. When my food arrived they let me eat quietly after a detail explanation about what a Cemita was and why it was famous in Puebla. Boy do I love genuine kindness and it is small moments like this that I hope I can carry with me and pull from when I need them. The expected silence was not uncomfortable mostly because I was devouring my 50 Peso lunch like a hyena to the delight of young Gabriel. Smiles all around and quick good byes and I was off.

I was fully fueled up and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering and exploring and came to slightly understand why this downtown is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Each street is colorful, clean and historical. French, Aztec and Spanish influences were everywhere now that I new how to look for them thanks to the Bus Tour guide yesterday. Up and down Cinco de Mayo and continuing along 16 de Septiembre I went until I came across the oddly named  Alley of the Frogs (Callejon de los Sapos). This is a true flea market street as stalls were overflowing with old coins, metal toys and other assorted antiques plus the odd and interesting people that go along with it. One stand has a series of small metal Mexican soldiers that would have been a compliment to the WW2  German Metal soldiers I have in storage and I did not even ask the price. Each street brought new interesting sights, sounds and smells (not all good) but I was ready for a big sit down and a cold beer.

I was not in the mood for the Zocolo as I was all "Spanished" out so I stopped at the OXXO near my hotel and grabbed the first beer I saw and in this case Sol, not my usual choice but they would do. I rushed back to the hotel to my comfy patio chair, kicked of my shoes and smiled knowingly at the unmistakable sound of happiness being opens. I tilted the can and readily drank and it took about 3 seconds to realize that something was wrong in paradise. I looked at the can and knowingly I read "beer mixed with clamato". 

"Ah man that stings a bit" I thought as I finished the first can in about 10 seconds.

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