LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IN CHOLULAS ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM.
Fear not old birds for I battled onto this wonderful place of Cholula, by bus from Puebla, early in the morning finally breaking from my touristy shackles of ye olde historik centre to the frilless modern zone and got myself a bus. The twenty minute walk was worth it for it gave me the chance to see the slightly darker side of the poorer commercial area. The bus ride was a bland half hour and I got off in the centre of the small town to another lip glossed Spanish style, town centre, and walked onto where the museums and bizarre site it.
When I say bizarre it’s more of a tragedy really, a Spanish church plonked on the top of a huge pyramid, this with a full view of one of the local temperamental volcanoes, Popocatépetl or more easily known as ‘Popo’ and Iztaccihuatl or ‘Izta’. According to one Aztec Legend, Popo was a great warrior who loved Izta. He went off to war and when Izta heard false news of Popo’s fall in battle, she died of a broken heart. When Popo returned to find his love gone, he vowed to always watch over and defend her. The shape of Iztaccihuatl mountain is that of a ‘sleeping woman’. It is also said locally, that when trouble is brewing in the world Popo becomes active
As I ambled around to the usual misinformation about what was closed or open (never trust a vaguery from a cafe even if it right next door for they will not know but say things with great authority!) I found that although the actual site was closed the absolutely great museum was open. I didn’t know at that point how great it was but suffice to say even with half of it closed and a power cut I still was blown away. The Mexicans are really good at curating museums and combining ancient with modern with flair.
According to one Aztec Legend, Popo was a great warrior who loved Izta. He went off to war and when Izta heard false news of Popo’s fall in battle, she died of a broken heart. When Popo returned to find his love gone, he vowed to always watch over and defend her. The shape of Iztaccihuatl mountain is that of a ‘sleeping woman’. It is also said locally, that when “trouble is brewing in the world”, Popo becomes active.
To get the idea about Cholula you have to understand not only was it a crossroads for trading but also a mystical place surrounded by volcanoes. So this place was second only to Tenochtitlán. The city fell to the Olmecs sometime around 600AD, and again to the Toltecs about three hundred years later. When Hernán Cortés arrived,during the early part of the 16th Century, the city was under the Aztecs, so it’s had it’s fair share of very disparate cultures and add to that the traders coming in bringing their wares from all over.
Pyramide Tepanapa, or the Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest in the world by volume (sorry Egypt) and it is on that, that one of Cholulas forty six churches is built, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, and although they say the Spanish didn’t know there was a pyramid under this hill, I have my doubts. This indeed was the problem, if there hadn’t been so much squabbling between the native people then the Spanish would not have had such an easy ride.
I could have walked up to the church but I was super keen on getting into their museum knowing they must have a great collection having had this wild history.I hung around the main gate waiting for it to open and chatted with the rather amorous doorman in the sunshine. Gate open I charged in like a mad woman in the Harrods sale, then ticket clutched in sweaty paw I impatiently waited for the girl to explain the protracted covid route and expectantly rushed up the stairs. I wasn’t disappointed as, even though a bloody guard trudged around with me as I was the first and only person there, it held wonderful things.
Although I hadn’t really grasped the pyramid within a pyramid with a church on top concept and those crazy volcanoes, I had understood after going to the Amparo Museum the day before that this area was rich in it’s diversity of all sorts of artistic treasures. You really got a lot of everything there, and I explained this to the guard who was very interested but clueless (how can you work at a museum and not learn stuff?) She laughed raucously at my comments as to the very small sizes of mens penises but what expansive bums they had. She took on board the negroid features of the Olmec heads and the laughing figurines very Chinese appearance. After a while some more people came in so I was left in peace.
THE MODERN ART
Leading on to the the many halls that we were allowed in, I sadly gave up on the more ancient very important collections of ceramics, famous in the area in antiquity as for their designs, as basically, despite the large windows and great natural light, the power cut had made it too hard to read the signs and see the colours and indeed it had started raining which made it even harder to see anything at all. So I went to the last rooms and was able to get a few shots of the more modern art and recent ceramics and handicrafts.
“PARADE OF ALEBRIJES ” (see above)
“Alebrijes were created by Pedro Linares Lopez. The great artisan, born in Mexico City on June 29, 1906, tells the story of a strange dream he had as a result of a serious illness, when he was 30 years old. He dreamed he was in a strange place that resembled a forest.
Suddenly, the rocks, clouds and animals turned into strange and un known animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, and a lion with an eagle head. They alaa shouted a single word, “Alebrije.” The sound was so terrible that he got a terrible head ache while he was fleeing the sinister spot.
Then he saw a man, who he asked for help. This man said it was not yet his time to be there, and that if he continued walking, he would find his way out. Pedro walked until he saw a narrow window. He climbed through it and woke up.
His family was glad, they thought he would never recover from his ill ness. When he was feeling better, Pedro began to remember the dream He wanted everyone to see the wonderful creatures that he had seen. He took a piece of paper and began to sketch them. Afterwards, he created them out of paper maché. “
The best thing about this little rip off was the huge model that made some kind of sense out of this massive enterprise. The fact so little work has been done on it and its myriad of tunnels stretching staggering kilometres inside, is somewhat of a surprise. Now they got the church on top of course it’s nearly impossible to get at most of it. anyway I loved the model and was furious that the much hyped frieze of the ‘drinkers’ wasn’t in the base of the pyramid as suggested just a very tacky reproduction. After the archaeological museum this place felt like a nasty little expensive fraud.
I breezed in and out. I had gleaned no extra information and was weary. I’m sure that when less battle weary I would have stayed a night there and witnessed a sunrise of that magnificent volcano but it was rainy and depressing and sweaty at the the same time. I was all Cholula’d out and although ravenous started on the mission to get back.
BACK IN PUEBLA.
Heading back to Puebla, after rejecting the smart new train that goes there, I walked down a couple of streets to get a collectivo, finding along the way a delicious lemon ice from a little shop at the side of a house. I felt I’d had enough and had nearly ruined my mood at the last place. The actual archaeological site was closed so I didn’t want to hang out there and it was getting increasingly busy. I could feel a bit of a temper brewing with all the idiots in my space. I flagged down a collectivo and was delivered back, quite close to the hotel so I decided to give some other places a try. Closed all closed. What was the fucking point of it all here?
Still I had sucked the marrow from this place in the barren times of Covid. I had been lucky and privileged to find anything open and indeed this would be the last place I did, for everything was closing around me, the lights in Mexico were being switched off and the warning was clear that I needed to make some harsh decisions about my journey from here, to return to Yucatan, or carry on up North to brand new territories and my Sangria pals in their own towns. With heavy heart I decided that I needed to get back with just one more stop en route, the famous Tehuaca
The back streets had a grubby down to earth feel and the rampant Catholicism reared it’s ugly head with shop after shop of tacky wedding dresses, christening gowns, coming of age outfits etc. All decked out with candles and veils and cheap crucifixes. I remembered this from South America too. There are kind of zones for all things religious ceremonies and as they are for the poorer people they are vile but also terribly sad. That’s why I prefer to be in the more rustic areas where the real people are and not in these towns with the taller arrogant Mexicans dwell full to brimming with Spanish blood. I got back to the hotel checked my ADO app and decided I’d get the 6am bus out the next day. I had had enough of this place and Teohuaca was just down the road and oooooh look a lovely hotel really near the museums and pyramid site. I would just get on that bus.