Puebla, which was founded ex nihilo in 1531, is situated about 100 km east of Mexico City, at the foot of the Popocatepetl volcano. It has preserved its great religious structures such as the 16th–17th-century cathedral and fine buildings like the old archbishop's palace, as well as a host of houses with walls covered in tiles (azulejos). The new aesthetic concepts resulting from the fusion of European and American styles were adopted locally and are peculiar to the Baroque district of Puebla.
In an untouched urban network, the Historic Centre of Puebla comprises major religious buildings such as the Cathedral Santo Domingo and the Jesuit Church, as well as superb palaces such as the host of old houses whose walls are covered in gaily coloured tiles (azulejos). Although 19th-century transformations resulting from the Reform Laws (1857) modified the urban landscape through the closing of many convents, they made it possible for Puebla to be endowed with high-quality public and private architecture.
Puebla and Cholula lie some 100 km east of Mexico City, at the foot of Popocatepetl, one of the highest volcanoes in Mexico. The two cities constitute the same type of colonial city/pre-Hispanic city combination as Oaxaca and Monte Albán further to the south.
The two cities, which are about 12 km apart, are very closely associated with the history of New Spain and Mexico. Cortés reached Cholula during the summer of 1519 and it was there that he ordered one of the bloodiest massacres of the entire conquest, with the number of victims among the population reaching between 3,000 and 6,000.
It was in Puebla on 5 May 1862, that General Zaragoza won the first significant victory over the French expeditionary corps. The city was subsequently renamed Puebla de Zaragoza in memory of this event of national importance.
The cultural heritage of Cholula and Puebla, which is of considerable interest, cannot be reduced to such simple definitions as an archaeological site or a historic centre.
In Cholula the Spanish city was built on the ruins of the temples which were burnt during the massacre of 1519. Legend has it that the Spaniards, by building a church on the site of each temple, founded a total of 365 churches, one for each day of the year. This is clearly an exaggeration, but the church of San Gabriél, which the Franciscan began building in 1549, lies in fact on the site of the Quetzalcoatl Sanctuary, and Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which was built in the 18th century at the very top of the enormous acropolis-pyramid clearly illustrates an unbroken historical continuity stretching from pre-Hispanic times to the present day.
In Puebla, the urban layout of the 'Ciudad de los Angelos', founded ex nihilo in 1531, has been greatly extended into the Cuetlaxcoapan valley. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the original historic city from the highly industrialized (steelworks, mechanical constructions, canning factories) conurbation of over 1 million inhabitants, and the balance between the new city and the old Indian city has been lost for good. Cholula now appears to be just a western suburb of Puebla and it is bound to merge with the state capital in the medium term, even if the two communities remain district. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC