Just before walking to the main square in the city of Tlaxcala, capital of the eponymous state, I told Ferda about how Mexicans make jokes about the tiny state of Tlaxcala not really existing except perhaps in fairy tales. How appropriate then some thirty minutes later to see for the first time the state tourism board’s motto: Tlaxcala, ¡sí existe! (Tlaxcala, yes, it exists!)
The tradition that I have always associated with Tlaxcala is pulque,
and indeed here’s Ferda trying five different pulques (verde, manga, piñon, tamarindo, and natural) at Pulquería la Tía Yola on Plaza Xicohtécatl in the center of the state capital. Natural was our favorite.
But first how did we get to Tlaxcala? Turned out again to be a bit of a bus adventure to get from Orizaba via Ciudad Serdán (a corn growing area), El Seco (apples), and Zacatepec (vegetables) to Huamantla, yet another pueblo mágico.
We found some tasty food and drinks at the mercado municipal,
and walked around the small city a bit.
The area is high (2500m) and fairly flat. For the next day I was hoping we could rent bicycles and visit a couple of the nearby haciendas where supposedly they make pulque and offer fancy lunches for tourists. Huamantla is a pueblo mágico after all. Alas, no bicycle rental. What to do?
Well, I said the area was fairly flat. It’s certainly not completely flat. SW of town is the 4440m volcano, La Malinche (aka Matlalcueye or Malintzin). Our decision to climb it was rather last minute. I scrambled around in the morning trying to find tamales or something we could take with us for lunch. Oxxo was the only thing open so we ended up with a selection of processed, packaged junk food. I also managed to forget my sun hat. We took a taxi to 3100m to start our walk.
At treeline we got our first view of the false summit which just barely hides the real summit.
A bit higher up we caught up with five young friendly locals who shared their watermelon, pulque, and music with us. La Malinche may be higher than anything in the 48 US states, but that’s no reason to take it too seriously (when there’s snow, however, you need crampons and an ice axe).
Ferda started noticing the altitude at about 4100m. By 4300m her head was throbbing and with each step she thought she’d throw up. It didn’t help that neither of us help had slept well (at 2500m) the night before. She told me to go on the short distance to the summit.
Ferda waited at the base of this boulder field at the dark colored rock that juts out from the ridge.
The summit view was not exciting. May is the hottest month in Tlaxcala, the end of the dry season, and the air is very hazy. Orizaba, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccíhuatl were not visible (they sometimes are). Here I am at the summit of the sixth highest peak in Mexico and the third highest peak I’ve ever climbed!
As we descended, it didn’t take long for Ferda to feel better.
The next morning we made the great decision to leave Huamantla and take a short bus ride to Tlaxcala. Wow, another Mexican jewel!
The Palacio del Gobierno houses some impressive murals by Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin, “the last of the Mexican muralists”, according to our guide. The murals depict Mexican history.
I liked the small Capilla del Pocito with its (according to me) Islam influence via Andalucia.
There’s a bullring that appears (we saw an advertisement for tickets) to still host bull fights.
We also visited a small art museum which houses some (five or six?) early Frida Kahlo works. Retrato de Miguel N. Lira (1927) is supposed to illustrate the development of Frida’s style.
The biggest treat was visiting the state legislature building (Palacio Legislativo) with its beautiful stained glass ceiling, portraying the four Tlaxcalan rulers at the time of the Spanish arrival.
The guard showed us around a bit and took us into the room where laws are debated. He explained that Tlaxcala has 25 delegates — 13 women, 12 men! Yes, he boasted, Mexico is losing its machoness, but he also complained that some men still make it difficult for women to legislate.
Tlaxcala was a wonderful small city to walk around for a few hours.