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Mexico Travel - Tlaxcala, Texcoc, Jalapa, Tehuacan
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
TLAXCALA CAN BE REACHED BY AUTOMOBILE BY TURNING off the Puebla highway at kilometer go. If you go by rail, it can be reached by the Mexican railroad with a change of cars at Santa Anna. SANTA ANNA, by the way, is famous for sarapes and tablecloths, which are on sale at the railroad station. There is a good modern hotel there. From Santa Anna to Tlaxcala there is a little electric train, or connection by automobile.
The CHURCH OF SAN FRANCISCO In Tlaxcala is historically the most interesting church in Mexico. The church dates from 1521 and contains the pulpit from which the gospel was first preached on the American continent. Here also four Tlaxcalan chiefs were baptized, the first converts to Christianity in America. The baptismal font, bearing an inscription describing the incident, still stands in the church.
The ceiling of the church is one of great beauty, and in the chapel of the Tercer Orden there are some magnificent altars of gilded carved wood.
By far the most impressive ecclesiastical building in or around T1aXCala is the SEMINARY OF oCOTLAN. The carving within the church is particularly noteworthy. But the crowning point of the visit to Ocotlan is the superb view from the church of the snowcapped volcanoes and the valley.
If you are interested in archaeological research, you will enjoy a visit to the ruins of SAN ESTABAN DE TIZATLAN. These are about four miles from Tlaxcala over a bad road. The ruins have hardly begun to be uncovered. San Estaban de Tizatlan contains some excellent frescoes, of great interest historically as the best preserved preConquest frescoes uncovered to date.
On the way to Puebla by automobile, you will pass a side road which leads to Texcoco, or, if you wish, you can go by the narrow-gauge railroad from the San Lazaro Station in Mexico City. Just before you reach Texcoco, you will pass through CHAPINGO, where the government agricultural college is located in an old colonial hacienda. Here there are same fine frescoes by Diego Rivera, who also designed the doors and seats for the chapel.
A little further along the road from Chapingo is HUEXOTLA, where there are some small pyramids and a famous wall, 30 feet high and 200 feet long, believed to have been built by the Chichimecs. A short distance from the ruins of Huexotla is the great IDOL OF COATLINCHAN. This immense monolith, which is supposed to be the largest ever carved by any Indian tribe, still lies in a ravine where it was being worked and where it was never finished. It is supposed to represent the goddess of water.
TEXCOCO itself was the capital of a great kingdom before Cortes arrived and was the cultural center of the Aztecs until the time of the Conquest. The great library that Bishop Zumarraga destroyed, containing all the records of the Aztec and pre-Aztec civilizations, was at Texcoco. Texcoco is also the place from which the Spanish invaders started out in boats for the attack on Tenochtitlan. The land between Texcoco and Mexico City is now dry, but in those days the great lake covered the entire plain.
Texcoco today bears little resemblance to the city it was, having been almost completely destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. The most famous sight is the PALACE OF KING NETZAHUALCOYTL, W110 lived at TeZcotzingo, a few minutes away from Texcoco. The ruins of his palaces and of his famous bath can still be seen. The best excuse for going t0 MOLINO DE LAS FLORES nearby is to walk through the beautiful old gardens. The modern town is picturesque and an excellent shopping center. Market days are on Thursdays and Sundays, on which days the Indians bring in excellent sarapes and pottery from the valley.
Here is a good place to eat certain delicacies of the land. The larvae of the salamander from the Texcoco lake are considered a wonder treat, as are the tortillas of Aztec caviar, which are really the eggs of a particular kind of fly.
The narrow-gauge railroad from Mexico City to Veracruz is not often used by tourists, although it is a line of great scenic beauty and follows very closely the route of Cortes, from the coast to Mexico City. While I do not advise you to take the line all the way through (the Mexican railroad by way of Cordoba is prettier and more comfortable), you should not miss Jalapa if you can possibly spare the time.
In addition to the railroad connecting Mexico City with Veracruz, there is an automobile road now being improved which leaves the main Puebla-Tehuacan highway at kilometer 176 and crosses to Jalapa, passing through some beautiful stretches of land on the way. Another route is from Cordoba, by way of a narrowgauge railroad connecting the two points.
If you are in Mexico City and have the time, take the trip to Orizaba and Cordoba by way of the Mexican railroad. By this route you will have a chance to see the finest scenery along that line. From there you can go across to Jalapa from Cordoba and return to Mexico City either by railroad or automobile.
Whichever way you go to Jalapa, whether by train from Mexico City or by automobile, you will pass through the little town of PEROTE, interesting only on account of the exquisite beauty of its setting. It stands in the center of a broad plain, on one side of which you have the Cofre de Perote (13,419 feet high), and on the other, Orizaba (18,209 feet high). There is nothing in particular to do at Perote, nothing in particular to buy, and hence nothing in particular to make you want to stop there. The only thing that could possibly be called a sight is the old fortress of San Carlos de Perote, which was erected between 1770 and 1777 and has now been converted into a military prison.
If you travel by rail, some twenty-five kilometers beyond Perote you will reach La Cima, which is the summit of the line, 9,280 feet up in the air. La Cima lies in the center of a pine forest and is hardly a spectacular sight. Here the line begins to descend, and in the next forty to fifty miles it will drop 4,80o feet.
The scenery after La Cima is magnificent. On one side of the train the view is dominated by the Cofre de Perote, and on the other side, as the railroad goes down the hill in a series of bold loops, it is possible for you to see thousands of square miles of the Terra Caliente. The COFRE DE PEROTE is one of the great volcanoes of Mexico. It derives its name from the fact that the topmost point is said to resemble a coffer or chest. The Aztecs called it the "Square Mountain."
JALAPA itself is a town almost without sights, but it is such a beautiful place that it is a pity so few tourists ever get to see it. The town has been practically unspoiled throughout the years, and many of its houses date from the days of the viceroys.
The morning is the best time to see the city of Jalapa, for then the streets are thronged with Indians and their burros, carrying great baskets of flowers and fruits to market. The houses have overhanging balconies, which are almost always decorated with flowers, and the roofs are made of tile, stained with age.
The CATHEDRAL in Jalapa is done in the Gothic style. Architecturally it is inferior to most of the other churches in Mexico. Outside of this one, there are no noteworthy churches in town.
You will enjoy the short excursions to the ORCHID and GARDENIA GARDENS at BANDERILLA, and t0 COATEPEC, about three and a half miles away. The scenery along the way is exquisitely beautiful, and Coatepec itself is quaintly picturesque, a typical tropical Indian village. The village of TEOCELO, a little further along the road, is interesting mainly because of its triple waterfall. The best time to see the waterfall, of course, is at the end of the rainy season.
I can give you at least three good reasons why you should include Tehuacan in your itinerary. The road which takes you there is beautiful beyond description; it has one of the best hotels, not only in Mexico, but in North America, for an overnight stop or longer; and it is the best place from which to start your trip to Oaxaca. This town of only about 8,00o inhabitants is situated 5,400 feet above sea level in a lovely country setting. The country surrounding Tehuacan is famous for its streams, which start in the nearby mountains and rush through the valleys near the town.
The town is, of course, the site of the great Garci Crespo spring. The only other "things to see" here are several old churches, interesting chiefly for their architecture and their beautifully colored tiled domes.
The place to stop is the Garci Crespo Hotel, fully equipped to provide you with all the requisite features of resort hotel life. There is good SWIMMING in the great hotel pool and well-maintained GOLF LINKS and TENNIS couRTS. The hotel is enormously popular with the better-class Mexicans and with foreigners, so I advise you to make your reservations in advance.