In Veracruz towns, they fall from trees by the hundreds. In Puebla markets, they sit in crates by the hundreds. There are yellow Ataulfos, palm-sized Mangos Niño, and others types whose names I don’t know. They are all delicious! My favorite ways to eat them are in banana smoothies or covered in lime, salt, and chili powder. You can even buy them on a stick in the street!
From one of my best friends, Isaiah:
- How long were you in Puebla?
I was in Puebla from February 2006 to August 2006 and have returned to visit a couple of times (2007 and 2009, I believe).
- Why did you decide to move here?
A friend of mine—a certain blog proprietress—were hanging out at our alma mater while I was visiting and she mentioned she was moving to Mexico. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with my job at the time and basically figured “Why not?” I was young and inclined to foreign travel, wanted to improve my Spanish, and have always loved Latin America, so it just made sense to jump on this opportunity.
- What are you doing now?
I live and work in New York City, providing sustenance and lodging through job-related payments for my wife and child.
- What did you find difficult about living here?
There were a lot of things that were annoying or hard to adjust to, like public transportation’s nonexistence or general differences in cultural values (especially since Puebla is fairly conservative and I was—and am—fairly liberal), but it wasn’t particularly difficult. At least “difficult” isn’t the right word. As I mentioned, I was young and rather flexible. I didn’t have a significant other, didn’t have anyone but myself to provide for, and I was interested in seeing and learning about Mexico, so it was mainly easy to exist. Certainly being an adult in a foreign country is difficult from a social perspective unless you have a particular in with a variety of groups (this is true where ever your home country is as well, of course, but at least in that instance you are fully communicative in your native language and probably have some family or friends somewhere that are able to provide a level of support that may not be available abroad), but it was a pretty care-free time for me given my particular situation. If I were to narrow it down to one particular thing that annoyed me the most, I’d say that it was the constant lateness of nearly everyone for every occasion. That, I understand, is cultural and personal, but it definitely drove me batty!
- What do you really like about it?
Well, the food is pretty extraordinary, but I think I just liked it for being itself. It was different, it was new, it was constantly showing me things I didn’t understand or didn’t know about and that was fascinating. I’m assuming that would have worn off if I’d stayed for longer, but I was only there for 6 months, so it remained capable of surprising me throughout my stay.
- What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here?
If you’re fair-skinned, take a lot of sunscreen!
- Favorite food here?
Quesadillas con chorizo. Mmmm. They were good just about everywhere, but I particularly liked the ones from the woman near the craft stalls in the center of town. They were delicious, if never quite as big as the ones you found farther from the zocalo.
- Favorite drink?
Non-alcoholic: ice cold horchata on a burning hot day.
Alcoholic: Palomas (tequila and grapefruit soda)
- Favorite activity?
I’m not even sure. I was there during World Cup 2006, so I was pretty into that, but for regular occurrences, I guess going to see the variety of things around town, like the mini volcano or Chelula’s pyramid, was pretty fun. Traveling up to the forts was interesting, if somewhat overgrown and strange if no one else was around. [Note: The Fuertes have been rennovated since Isaiah was here, and are no longer overgrown or rundown. The area now features wooden walkways, scenic overlooks, an artificial lake, and even colored lights that pulse inside the fountains].
- Favorite place?
The Zocalo. Shade and people watching is an amazing thing. I spent a lot of time there given the whole “everyone is late” thing…
- Favorite holiday?
I visited for El Grito once and that was pretty fun given the downtown festival and the general party atmosphere. I’ll go with that, though the Cinco de Mayo festival was pretty neat too.
I’d like to start posting interviews with other foreigners and expats living here. For the first one, I’ll start with myself:
- How long have you been in Puebla? Since 2007.
- Why did you decide to move here? Because I had studied abroad here, I already had some job contacts, so I decided to see if I could start my English-teaching career in Puebla.
- What are you doing now? I teach English and English Literature.
- What do you find difficult about living here? Getting anything done that involves paperwork, but especially anything that involves the bank (and paperwork).
- What do you really like about it? The laidback attitude, the family culture, the food, and the sightseeing.
- What advice would you give to someone wanting to move here? Make sure you’ve got your important documents apostilled and notarized, and that you know where you’ll live and how you’ll be getting your visa. Also, brush up on your Spanish.
- Favorite food here? Pretty much all of it except anything made with sheep or goat meat.
- Favorite drink? Rompope is really nice. And non-alcoholic “Rusas,” which are made with Squirt, lime juice, ice, chile powder, and a stick of candied tamarind, and “tepache,” fermented pineapple juice that is best served ice cold with chile and lime, will taste like glory on a hot day.
- Favorite activity? Sightseeing
- Favorite place? The mountains of Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl, and La Malinche
- Favorite holiday? Day of the Dead and Christmas
In an email, I got a question about running in Puebla. You can do just about any sport here, as there are myriad gyms and public parks all over the city, including two new public swimming facilities.
If your thing is doing organized sports like soccer or basketball, you can probably find a local team to join. Here at my job, for example, we have employees’ soccer and volleyball teams.
If you like running or cycling, then you’ll find many options:
- Parque Ecológico (3km paved loop)
- El Bicentenario (5km dirt loop)
- El Atoyac (5km paved path)
- Parque Ecológico (3km gravel loop, soccer fields, and a standard track)
- El Bicentenario (5km dirt loop)
- El Atoyac (5km paved path)
- Parque del Arte (1.6k/1 Mile gravel loop, soccer field, and a standard track)
- Laguna de San Baltazar (1.5k gravel loop)
Of course, you can always find your own routes within the city or outside of it. Many cyclists take roads that radiate out from Cholula towards the towns at the bottom of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. You can also find endless paths for both running and mountain biking at the Izta-Popo National Park and La Malinche. Because Popocatépetl is an active volcano, you can’t go up it, but you can use all the trails on neighboring Iztaccíhuatl. La Malinche is at a slightly lower altitude and also offers many trails.
Lastly, Mexico City probably has more race opportunities than any other city in Mexico, and it’s only an hour and a half from Puebla.
That is, unless you don’t like spicy food. Having grown up in Texas and eaten a ton of Bob’s Jalapeño Chips, I came here ready to try all the salsas available! My first experience with salsa macha left me choking and almost crying in the middle of my host family’s lunch. That moment was later followed by eating a canned chipotle with nothing else, which also resulted in tears and near-suffocation.
I’ve since learned to moderate my salsas and this is currently what I have in my fridge:
“Why so many?” you might wonder. Well, they all have different flavors and can be used in a variety of dishes:
“Búfalo” is like Tabasco sauce (vinegar-y) and is good on potato chips.
“Herdez” is for when you’re feeling lazy and want a fresh-tasting salsa, but don’t want to make it.
The “Salsa de Chipotle” is sweet and smoky, and tastes great on seafood.
The three “Kin T’iyat” jars are salsa macha– ground chilies in olive oil– and two are made with “chiltepin” pepper, while the third is made with “chile mora,” meaning each flavor is distinct. The bottom one also contains peanuts and pumpkin and sesame seeds. I will eat salsa macha on anything, but it is especially incredible on pizza and quesadillas.
“Chimay” and “De Boca en Boca” are Habanero salsas (only a few drops will suffice in any dish).
Finally, the “Nescafe” jar contains homemade chiltepin and peanut salsa. I also put it on everything.
As you can see, there is no shortage of opportunities to spice up your food here! If you can tolerate varying degrees of fire in your mouth, I suggest you try every salsa you find!
Far more interesting and climb-able than Chichén Itzá, Uxmal is an extensive site full of intricate mosaics and curious decorations. And it even has a –shhh– hidden “Temple of Phalluses” (which we didn’t find because the path was so overgrown…but it’s there, somewhere…as are several stone phalluses which are readily on display beside said overgrown path). I loved Uxmal and would highly recommend it over Chichén Itzá. Bring snacks and water and plan to spend a good three hours here exploring all the structures (and maybe wandering down some secret pathways).