We continued walking to the base of the hill, then joined a procession of other pedestrians using the sloping path to make our way up to the top and the Santuario de la Virgen de los Remedios (Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies) the 16th-century Catholic parish church built between May 1574 and August 1575, consecrated on March 25, 1629 and embellished with 24-carat gilded panels and shims.
The image of Our Lady of the Remedies that protects the church is about 11 inches high and is carved and gilded. It arrived on Mexican soil in 1519 with Captain Juan Rodríguez de Villafuerte, who brought it from the Basque Country, Spain, to protect him during the campaign. Various versions exist of a legend about its prior history and origins as far back as 700 AD. It was in Veracruz where Rodríguez de Villafuerte presided at the first mass celebrated in Mexico, on April 21, 1519, the same year as Hernán Cortés’s mandate was affirmed by the Spanish in the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan.
In 1520, when the Spanish under Cortés were defeated by the Aztecs while fleeing by way of Naucalpan, de Villafuerte concealed the image in a native temple on the highest part of the hill of Otocampulco. Twenty years later, indigenous people discovered it there under an aloe plant, and from then on, the virgin was kept in the house of the chief of San Juan Totoltepec until he built a chapel.
We wandered around the plaza in front of the church admiring the view of the surrounding countryside bracketed by the La Malinche, a dormant 14,636 foot high volcano, the fifth highest peak in Mexico and named after Herman Cortes’ indigenous interpreter and lover.
The interior of the church was closed and so after lingering a bit longer, we descended to the bottom with the intent of visiting the Zona Arqueologica, the area comprising the excavated areas around the pyramid and the tunnels underneath.
The Pyramid Tepenapa is the largest archaeological site of a pyramid (temple) in the New World, as well as the largest pyramid by volume known to exist in the world today. It stands 180 ft above the surrounding plain, and in its final form measured 1,480 by 1,480 ft. Traditionally viewed as having been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl, its architectural style was linked closely to that of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico.
Unfortunately for us, it was a Saturday and the site was very crowded. We stood in line to get tickets to enter and after some time waiting, we abandoned our quest as we discerned little or no movement towards the ticket window. Not sure if it was a holiday weekend, we’d encountered huge lines in Puebla at all of the banks that day and the day before as people waited to pull money out of their accounts or cash paychecks.
So, instead we walked around the outskirts of the site, checking out a souvenir shop or two and then settling in at a café for a cold drink while we waited for the Puebla-Cholula Tourist Train to take us back to Puebla.
Arriving back in town, we walked back to the hotel and for the first time in weeks, my back didn’t bother me, which of course we attributed to our visit to Our Lady of Remedies, the downside of which was the realization that we would either need to return to Cholula periodically to get my fix, or visit Our Lady in one of her other locations throughout the world. Not an entirely discouraging development if you think about it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon completing our souvenir shopping, getting the items we needed at very affordable prices and while doing so, noted as we had earlier, metal tracks in the sidewalk, which we concluded were walking aids for the blind.
In the early evening we went around the corner to La Casita de Antano, an attractive looking and highly rated restaurant for dinner. One enters through a lobby corridor into the open courtyard of the restaurant, which was completely empty, which didn’t concern us as it was fairly early for dining.
Seated, we asked to see a wine list and were advised in garbled English that bottles weren’t available, a curious situation, but as we would come to be enlightened later, completely understandable given the circumstances. We proceeded to order from a limited menu, and while enjoying a glass of wine apiece, watched our waiter prepare salsa at our table.
Delightfully spicy but not too hot, we finished it off just in time to enjoy a bowl of soup, brimming with squash and other vegetables, then on to our entrees, Camarones al Mojo de Ajo with rice and perfectly cooked vegetables for me and two delicious petite chili rellenos with the first refried beans we tasted in Mexico for Joanna.
To finish we split a portion of crumb cake alongside vanilla ice cream, a great way to complete our meal, which along with the glasses of wine we consumed ran us 969 Pesos ($49.79), another completely affordable fine dining experience in Mexico.
On the way out of the restaurant we discovered why it was so empty and they didn’t have a full bar service; they weren’t open for dinner yet. Instead of turning us away they instead accommodated us with service anyway, an act of hospitality we’d encounter numerous times in Mexico.
Later that evening we discovered that one of the downsides of having a room that overlooks a public plaza is that when it is turned into a concert venue, you can’t do much about the sound that emanates from it. But traveling has provided us with some level of immunity against obtrusive noise and light, as witnessed by our campground experiences in Munich in 1984 and Pamplona in 2014
The next morning, we had some time to kill before catching our bus back to Mexico City and I ventured out to get some cash from an ATM as we’d not had the chance given the long lines we’d encountered that weekend As I turned the corner to head to the Zocalo I ran into crowds of people gathered to participate and cheer on those doing so in the Marathon de Puebla, a 5K to 42K run to celebrate making history and the future (hacer historia, hacer futura).
It recalled when we ran into another run of this magnitude when we visited Burgos, Spain on the back side of our adventure on the Camino de Santiago in 2017 (https://3jmann.com/2017/11/11/europe-2017-the-camino-de-santiago-part-sixteen/). We were heading to the Museum of Evolution that morning and paused for a moment to breath in some of the excitement the run was generating.
I stopped in at a bank lobby on the corner of the Zocalo and without a line got to an ATM right away. And that’s when the adventure started; I inserted my card and went through all that was needed to get cash, but the machine closed out without dispensing any. WTF!! I tried getting back into the unit without success so foolishly moved over two machines and tried again at a new one. This time not only did I not get cash, but it immediately ate my card and wouldn’t return it. This. Is. Not good. Fortunately, Joanna had brought her card for our other bank and I would eventually get cash off it from a different bank. Upon our return home I’d go to that bank and get an additional card for my accounts, resolving to always have at least two options for getting cash in a foreign country.
And so, we closed out our time in Puebla, another great stop in Mexico, one full of vibrant memories, great meals and friendly people. We’d embark for Mexico City later in the day and complete our time in country a few days later. The fun would continue, albeit for a short time. But we’d return for sure.
Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies: https://www.facebook.com/santuarioremedioscholula/
La Malinche: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malinche_(volcano)
Pyramid Tepenapa: https://sic.gob.mx/ficha.php?table=zona_arqueologica&table_id=80
La Casita de Antano: https://lacasitadeantano.com/