Tlaxcala

Travel Guide North America Mexico Tlaxcala

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Introduction

Tlaxcala, officially Free and Sovereign State of Tlaxcala, is one of the 31 states which along with the Federal District make up the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 60 municipalities and its capital city is Tlaxcala.

It is located in East-Central Mexico, in the altiplano region, with the eastern portion dominated by the Sierra Madre Oriental. It is bordered by the states of Puebla to the north, east and south, México to the west and Hidalgo to the northwest. It is the smallest state of the republic, accounting for only 0.2% of the country’s territory.

The state is named after its capital, Tlaxcala, which was also the name of the pre-Hispanic city and culture. The Tlaxcalans allied themselves with the Spanish to defeat the Aztecs, with concessions from the Spanish that allowed the territory to remain mostly intact throughout 300 years of colonial period. After Mexican Independence, Tlaxcala was declared a federal territory, until 1857 when it was admitted as a state of the federation.

Most of the state’s economy is based on agriculture, light industry and tourism. The tourist industry is rooted in Tlaxcala’s long history with major attractions being archeological sites such as Cacaxtla and colonial constructions in and around Tlaxcala city.

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Geography

Tlaxcala is a land-locked state situated on the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. The average altitude for the state is 2,230 metres above sea level, making it a bit higher than the Valley of Mexico just to the southwest. The western part of the state lies on the central plateau of Mexico while the east is dominated by the Sierra Madre Oriental, home of the 4,461-metre-high La Malinche volcano. Most of the state is rugged terrain dominated by ridges and deep valleys, along with protruding igneous rock formations. This ruggedness, along with large-scale weather phenomena such as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, gives the state a complex climate. Overall rain patterns for the state are about 400mm in the summer rainy season and 30mm in the winter. Locally, however, this varies dramatically between the drier plateaus and valleys and the wetter mountains. Variations in altitude produce sub-climates between semi-tropical to temperate, with frosts likely in the higher elevations during the winter. Temperate forests of pine, fir (abies religiosa), evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) and junipers (Juniperus communis) dominate the mountain highlands while the flatlands, with their drier climate, are characterized by agaves and prickly pear cactus (opunita). The state has no major lakes or extremely large rivers. The principal water sources are the Atoyac-Zahuapan basin and the reservoir of the Atlangatepec dam

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Sights and Activities

  • La Malinche National Park is located in the states of Puebla (State) and Tlaxcala. The park is east of Mexico City and about 44 kilometres from the capital city of Tlaxcala city. The La Malinche—Matlalcueitl volcano, part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, is within the park. The volcano has an elevation of 4,462 metres above sea level. It is frequently used by mountaineers for training and altitude acclimatization before climbing the higher volcanos in the region. The volcano's slope is gentle, and its vicinity to Mexico City makes it a popular weekend destination. A paved road reaches the top of the volcano. The "Centro Vacacional IMSS La Malintzi" on the volcano has 40 cabins, a camping area and some recreational facilities.
  • Cacaxtla is an archaeological site located near the southern border of the state. It was a sprawling palace containing vibrantly colored murals painted in unmistakable Maya style. The nearby site of Xochitecatl was a more public ceremonial complex associated with Cacaxtla. Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl prospered 650-900 CE, probably controlling important trade routes through the region with an enclave population of no more than 10,000 people.
  • Xochitecatl is a pre-Columbian archaeological site located 18 kilometres southwest of Tlaxcala city. The major architecture dates to the Middle Pre-classic Period (1000–400 BC) but occupation continued, with one major interruption, until the Late Classic, when the site was abandoned, although there is evidence of ritual activity dating to the Post-classic and Colonial Periods. The ruins cover an area of 12 hectares on top of a volcanic dome. Xochitecatl, unlike other contemporary sites, appears to have been a purely ceremonial centre for a population dispersed through the surrounding countryside rather than the centre of an urban area.
  • Ocotelolco, sometimes spelled Ocotelulco in pre-Columbian Mexico, was one of the four independent altepetl (polities) that constituted the confederation of Tlaxcallan. Excavations at the site in 1990-1991 carried out by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología (INAH) exposed a room with a painted altar and bench 47 centimetres high extending 8 meters along the room's north wall. The painted frieze closely resembles the Codex Borgia in style. The bench features a series of alternating skulls, human hearts, hands, and shields while eight anthropomorphic serpents descend on three sides of the altar, surrounding a central image of a deity (identified as Tezcatlipoca) surrounded by a frame of flint knives, similar in its composition to the image on plate 32 of the Codex Borgia.
  • Tecoaque is another Mesoamerican archaeological site. This was inhabited by the Acolhuas, allies of the Texcocan. In Nahuatl, "Tecoaque" means "the place where they ate them” it replaced the earlier name of Zultepec. It had many white-stucco temples and was the home to approximately 5,000 people, mostly priests and farmers and is close to Calpulalpan. Tecoaque includes a prominent circular structure dedicated to Ehecatl. Parts of this primary three-tiered structure were restored in 1992, which has an eastern facing stairway. Nearby archaeological features include residential structures and an important rectangular plaza.
  • Tizatlan was one of the four independent altepemeh (polities, sing. altepetl) that constituted the confederation of Tlaxcallan. Today Tizatlan is a part of the modern city of Tlaxcala, and the Pre-Columbian city is visible as a small archaeological site. The site is in the state of Tlaxcala in central Mexico.

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Events and Festivals

Regional festivals here are known for dances featuring men in mustached masks (imitating Spaniards), large-plumed hats and colorful garb. This is especially apparent during Carnival, when over 4,000 folk dancers from different villages come to the capital to celebrate. In a village just north of the capital, in San Juan Totolac, every year they commemorate the departure of 400 families in 1591 who went north to colonize the land known as the Great Chichimeca, which primarily covers the northeast of modern Mexico. Streets in Huamantla are decorated with flowers in intricate designs on “La Noche que Nadie Duerme” (The Night No One Sleeps) in August. Many other festivals are in the state, many of which display the state's long tradition of bullfighting

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexico where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Grito de la Independencia - September 15th is Mexican Independence Day! A massive celebration involving plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks takes place in the Zócalo. Everyone here awaits an appearance from Mexico's president who rings a bell from a central balcony of the Palacio Nacional overlooking the Zócalo. The president then shouts out the Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores which was Father Hidalgo's famous call to arms against Spanish rule in 1810.
  • Dia de la Candelaria. Candlemas is held February 2nd and commemorates Jesus being introduced into the temple 40 days after his birth. This nationwide celebration sees many different ways of celebrating and many towns in Tlaxcala State hold processions, bullfights and dances. Of course, plenty of delicious, traditional foods are served during Dia de la Candelaria as well.
  • Carnaval is held in late February or early March throughout Tlaxcala State and all of Mexico. This big party is meant to celebrate the 40 day penance of Lent. Carnaval always takes place during the week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Mexicans celebrate this holiday with fireworks, food, dancing, parades, dancing and drinking.
  • Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge celebration which starts on Palm Sunday. This is a very popular time for Mexicans to take a short break; as a result, it seems most of the country is on the move, with buses and hotels often booked out. As for the celebration of Semana Santa, expect colorful processions and many masses at churches everywhere.
  • Día de Nuestra Seňora de Guadalupe, or Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, is held December 12th. There is a week-long build up to this religious celebration in honour of the Virgin who appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in the year 1531. Since then, the Lady of Guadalupe has been Mexico's religious patron and her veneration is very significant. It is traditional for young boys to be dressed as a Juan Diego and for young girls to be dressed in indigenous garb and brought to a special mass, held at many churches throughout the country.
  • New Year's Eve. Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.

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Eat

  • Tacos are by far the most prevalent food in Mexico and come in many varieties and regional variances. Here, tacos are more often served on corn tortillas instead of wheat. Flour tortillas are the norm in the northern states of Mexico. Beef is also the meat of choice for tacos here,
  • Mollete is an open faced sandwich consisting of a bolillo roll smothered in refried beans and melted cheese.
  • Carnitas are slow braised meats usually bought by weight. These often come with tortillas to wrap the meat in. Any meats cooked in this fashion are always tender and very rich in flavor.
  • Cabuche is the flower from the biznaga cactus. this edible flower is a delicacy in San Luis Potosi state. There are many dishes this flower can go into and many ways to prepare it on it's own.
  • Chiles en Nogada - this dish is meant to represent the Mexican flag's 3 colors; red, white and green. The red portion of this dish is a garnish of pomegranate seeds, the white from a cream sauce and the green from poblano chili pepper.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on organic corn ears due to the lack of anti fungal chemicals introduced to the crop. When cooked and added to certain dishes huitlacoche is very earthy in flavor.
  • Pozole - Choose either red or green pozole. This corn and chile based soup is very tasty and is served at many comedors and loncherias in marketplaces throughout Mexico.
  • Rosti-Pollo - Roast chicken is a hugely popular meal in Mexico and represents an astounding value for travelers on a budget. Order a whole, or half chicken. Each order comes with french fries, unlimited tortillas and salsa.
  • Birria Stew - Birria is typically goat meat but many establishments prepare it with beef. The broth is a tomato and chili based one although it is not too spicy. Fresh diced onions and cilantro always accompany birria stew as a garnish. Of course, unlimited corn tortillas are served with each bowl.

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Drink

Beer

Mass produced Mexican beers tend to be a bit less sweet than their American counterparts. All in all, Mexican beers are quite good and go very well with Mexican food. Microbrews are starting to pop up in big cities and certain varieties are distributed further afield. Many bars catering to a hip clientele will feature imported beers from throughout the world

Montejo, Leon, Victoria, Superior, Carta Blanca and Estrella are national brands that can be difficult to find at times depending on where you are in Mexico. Lately, both Tecate and Indio brands have become the most widely distributed beers next to Corona. Many of the beers mentioned are brewed by Mexico's brewery powerhouses - Modelo and Cuauhtemoc.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to add lime to beer, adding a pleasant acidity. Another popular way to drink beer in Mexico is to mix it with lime, tomato juice, spices and assorted chili-based sauces. This drink is known as a Michelada and is very popular in hotter climates throughout Mexico and actually makes for a very refreshing concoction.

Tequila

Tequila is the signature firewater of Mexico and nearly all of it hails from the state of Jalisco. Here, small agave plantations and larger haciendas churn out a staggering number of brands. Of those brands, there 5 varieties of tequila:

  • Oro, or gold is possibly the poorest quality of the lot. That gold color this variety is known for is artificial and this tequila really burns the throat. It is best used in cocktails and margaritas.
  • Plata is also known as Blanco and represents the next lowest quality of the 5 varieties but tastes better than the Oro variety. This is unaged and the flavor is much less complex, making it suitable as a mixer rather than a shot for sipping.
  • Resapado means rested and this variety is aged for up to 9 months. Flavor profiles become more complex and respado makes for a good introductory sipping variety. Expect a clean, sharp taste with a subtle peppery finish.
  • Aňejo. This aged variety, conditioned in oak barrels for up to 1 year, is very smooth and sweet. Many people enjoy this variety as an aperitif, or even an after dinner drink. Certain brands of aňejo represent a very good value, especially considering the amount of nuanced flavors created by each distilleries' aging techniques.
  • Extra Aňejo, or vintage, is a relatively new variety. This is aged for 3 years, often using other types of barrels aside from the traditional oak ones. This is best sipped neat. Extra Aňejo has boosted the craft tequila market in Mexico.

Mezcal

  • Mezcal can sometimes be as high as 60% alcohol, so enjoy this drink with caution! Mezcal is made from 1 of around 20 different species of agave, some of which can take decades to mature. Only once will a mature agave sprout the flower whose sap is fermented to make this potent potion. Some varieties include:
  • Minero is distilled in clay pots and is a very high quality variety. Subtly smoky in flavor and very smooth.
  • Arroqueňo tends to be a subtly sweet-tasting Mezcal. Many find this to be the most pleasant variety. The flavor begins a bit bitter but quickly finishes sweet and warm.
  • Joven means young, and this variety is simply unaged and therefore a little bit rough.
  • Tobalá is named for an actual variety of agave plant, grown in mountainous regions.

Pulque

Pulque has been enjoyed since well before the Spanish conquest of Mexico but has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, especially among the hip crowd. Pulque is simply the fermented sap of the maguey plant. The end result is a very thick, cloudy drink with a slightly acidic taste. This viscous liquid is often given artificial fruit flavoring to improve it's overall uninspiring taste, however many pulque drinkers are purists when it comes to quaffing this strange alcoholic beverage. In Mexico, pulquerias - bars exclusively serving pulque - offer a real authentic drinking experience and many feature roving musicians ready to play a tune for the merry patrons. Pulque has an alcoholic content between 4% and 6%.

Other Drinks

  • Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy. It is a part of Mexican cuisine, and is also common in regions of the United States with significant Mexican-American populations. The drink is usually sweetened with mangoes or apricots. It is essentially a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, chili powder, and fruit chunks. In certain variations, a whole fruit popsicle, or paleta, is added to the drink and mixed with the shaved ice. The drinking straws served with chamoyadas also often have tamarind candy on the outside. Chamoyadas do not contain any dairy products. The different flavors of chamoyadas can include fruits like mango, lemon, guava, tamarind, pineapple and strawberry.
  • Champuraddo is a warm and thick chocolate-based drink, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated-corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be employed to thicken and enrich the drink. Atole drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (or a blender). The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
  • Liquados are a Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice.They are also sometimes called "preparados" (meaning "prepared"). Licuados and other fresh fruit juice drinks are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, and in special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants specializing in fresh fruit).
  • Aguas Frescas, (Spanish for "cool waters", or literally "fresh waters") are light non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Some of the more common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus, and horchata. Aguas frescas are sold by street vendors, but can also be found in bodegas (convenience stores), restaurants and juice bars.
  • Atole, also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It typically accompanies tamales, and is very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas).
  • Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee beverage. To prepare café de olla, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot, as this gives a special flavor to the coffee. This type of coffee is principally consumed in cold climates and in rural areas. In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries).
  • Jarritos is a popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is less carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means "little jug" in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs. Produced in Mexico, they are sold throughout the Americas.

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Sleep

As is typical with all of Mexico, accommodation options in Tlaxcala run from budget hotels and hostels to fancier lodges and resorts. Every city and town caters to the traveler as many people traverse the country by bus and often find themselves staying overnight along the way, especially on long-haul routes. Because of this, many hotels can be found around bus stations and in small towns those accommodation options will extend well beyond the transportation terminal. You will find an accommodation type to suit any budget in Tlaxcala.

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Accommodation in Tlaxcala

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This is version 11. Last edited at 13:29 on Apr 27, 20 by road to roam. 4 articles link to this page.

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