Churches, Pyramids, Volcanoes and Pure Colonial Charm: Cholula

Churches, Pyramids, Volcanoes and Pure Colonial Charm: Cholula
Just this week I posted a picture of one of Mexico’s most famous volcanoes – Itzaccihuatl, the one that looks like a sleeping woman.  Now, this volcano is right next to another one, Popocatepetl, which recently had a small eruption.  Some photographer captured a picture of a church on a hilltop with the erupting volcano behind it; the picture is so beautiful that I decided to make it my computer wallpaper.

Here’s the funny thing; I didn’t realize until today that I’ve actually visited this site!

This discovery has brought to mind another great place to visit in central Mexico – the town of Cholula.

Where is it?

Cholula is a town which has been swallowed up by metropolitan area of the larger (colonial) city of Puebla.  It would be misleading to say “suburb” since it’s much more like a town and not at all like the modern idea of a suburb.  This means it’s about 2 hours away from Mexico City, just on the other side of the famous volcanoes I’ve mentioned.

The colonial beauty

Like the city of Puebla, Cholula is full of pure colonial charm, with many churches and buildings with colonial architecture; the town is simply a lovely place to walk around and enjoy the scenery.  There are also good restaurants.

Mystery and Magic

While there are many sites worth seeing and writing about in Cholula, I want to focus specifically on the one I mentioned at the top – the church, called Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, on the hilltop with the view of the volcano (more correctly volcanoes, since besides those two, you can see 2 others further in the distance.)

First of all, it’s worth noting that it’s actually not on a hilltop.  If you look at any picture of the church and “hill,” you will notice that the sides are very straight and almost flat; what appears to be a hill at a first glance is actually a pyramid that has been overgrown.  The church was built on top of the pyramid!
The pyramid was from a more ancient civilization in the area, and was actually abandoned around the 12th century; by the time the Spanish arrived and built the church, the pyramid was long out of use and overgrown.

In recent decades, the bottom part of the pyramid was excavated, allowing you to see the bottom steps, and revealing a large network of secret tunnels in the bottom part of the pyramid!  The top has not been excavated because of the church on top, which is also a treasure!

The Church

After you check out the fascinating pyramid, you can make your way up the “hillside” to the church (walking only, 48 steps, 850 ft upward!).
First of all, the views of the volcanoes are stunning! You can look out over the green, patchwork countryside with the majestic volcanoes towering in the distance.

The views of the city of Puebla are also amazing. (Here’s a challenge; count how many churches you can see.  If you can visit all of them, you’ll know the entire city, and have seen some of the most beautiful architecture to be found!)

The church itself is spectacular.  The orange painting outside with white trim and elegant domes and arches is true to the best of colonial style.  In the interior, the painting, gold work, images, statues and structure are all very original and very beautiful.  It’s a place where you can just stand in silence, absorbing it!
It’s easy to see why the church, like the pyramid in ancient times before it, is one of the region’s most important pilgrimage sites.

If you are traveling in central Mexico, I would definitely recommend a trip to Puebla and the town of Cholula!  Among the many sights you will see in your life, few will be as specular is this one.

-by Bea Lozano
Mexico Closing Costs Kit

The Hidden Magic of Guanajuato, Mexico

Recently, we’ve started exploring some of Mexico’s “Hidden Gems” – places that absolutely fabulous to visit, but in the international picture, are entirely off the radar.

The central Mexican city of Guanajuato is one such place.

The Magical City

With beautiful, classic old homes, and alleyways so narrow that two people leaning out two opposite windows could kiss, this city is not only very beautiful, but also very romantic.  The hill landscape and and the seemingly orderless roads add an element of the unknown and discovery.  There are also the classic old churches and gardens with bright flowers:

The city is also fmous for its mines and mummies:

A Beautiful State

Besides the beautiful city, there are many amazing places to see throughout the state, which has the same name.  These include the town where the Mexican War of Independence started (Dolores Hidalgo,) old monasteries and a huge statue of Jesus on hill (called “Cierro de Cubilete”) just north of the city of Guanajuato:

A Touch of the International

While I’ve said that Guanajuato is largely off the international radar, there are a couple of striking exeptions.  One is the town of San Miguel de Allende, which is a beautiful colonial town that is home to between 8000 and 12,000 expats, mostly Americans.  This is one of the largest community of Americans in Mexico, and they have been largely responsible for restoring and keeping up the authentic colonial beauty of the town.

Another exception is that in 2012, the pope visted the City of Guanajuato and gave a Mass at the bottom of the hill where the huge state of Jesus; since he was old, he couldn’t travel to the top:

Some Americans will be familiar with San Miguel de Allende or the pope’s visit to El Cierro de Cubilete, but even most of these will be unaware that these are located within the State of Guanajuato, or of the riches to be seen and experienced here!

I would certainly recommend Guanajuato as a top option for a place to visit on your travels around Mexico – or even to live in for those interested in a small colonial town like San Miguel.

-by Bea Lozano
Mexico Preconstruction Condo Kit

Photos: A Sacred Cenote Used to “Return the Dead to the Place of Origin”

The more they find out about the ancient Mayan civilization, the more impressive it is to be right here in the heart of it and see the sacred places of these people.


National Geographic recently published an article about a cenote, a large sinkhole leading into an underground river/cavern system, in Yucatan. The cenote seems to have been used a burial place for the bodies of nobility, as attested to in the ancient Mayan writings.  The idea was that the people had originated from the cenotes, and that they were returning them to their place of origin:


“The work has already yielded significant new insights into the cenote that many here still believe is guarded by a large serpent, that some say has feathers and the head of a horse.


“We have located 15 human crania and a large number of other bones, attesting to the use of the site as a burial location. Some of the remains are as delicate as small finger bones, sternums and a patella (knee cap). Indications are that there are many more bones located below the heavy silt that blankets much of the floor of the feature.


“Early data suggests that the site contains burials of both sexes and a range of ages from young adult and up. Ceramic fragments from water jars and a plate show a mix of Preclassic and Postclassic Maya use of the cenote. We have recovered a small sample of the bones (two femurs, a mandible and a tibia) that we will used to gain radiocarbon dates for the burials themselves.”


Here are some pictures of the cenotes and the discoveries:

Diving down into a cenote is purely magical; it’s easy to see why the Mayans connected these places to the underworld and afterlife, so dark and isolated, yet teaming with a secret life of their own.  This is part of why living in Mexico is so cool!


Read the entire National Geographic article here.


-by Bea Lozano

5 Great Tips for Traveling … and Living in Mexico

Browsing Google today, I found these 5 Things You Should Know When Travelling in Mexico.  Even for people living in Mexico or planning to live in Mexico, they are excellent little bits of info since expats always enjoy traveling around the country.  Here are excerpts of each of the 5 points:


1. Not every pyramid is the same

The mind-baffling pyramids, scattered all over Mexico among jungle and ancient settlements, are among Mexico’s top attractions. However, do not assume that once you’ve seen one Mexican pyramid you’ve seen them all! Each pyramid site in Mexico is not only unique in its size, design and structure – but also in its history and origins.  …


2. There is more to Mexican music than mariachis

Mariachi music is synonymous with all things Mexican, and rightly so as it is considered the national music of Mexico. However, it is important to realise that there are lots of other forms of important traditional Mexican music that form part of the colourful history and culture of this musical country. One form of Mexican music you are likely to come across when you travel around Mexico is ranchera music. The word “ranchera” is derived from the Spanish word for farm (rancho) as it was among rural farmers where these folk songs originated. …


3. The Roman Catholic religion is important

Catholicism is the dominant religion in Mexico. This is more than just an interesting fact – it is a must-know for anyone planning to travel to Mexico. … According to the 2010 census, more than 80% of the population of Mexico are of Catholic denomination. For this reason, it is important to show respect for Catholic tradition both inside and outside of churches while travelling in Mexico.


4. Festivals are a year-round occurrence

I don’t think it’s a sweeping statement to say that Mexican’s love a good celebration! At least this is what their impressive calendar of ancient traditional, spiritual and religious festivals would suggest. There are numerous festival celebrations all year round in Mexico both at a local and national level. These include celebrations which worship the patron saint of one’s neighbourhood; regional food, craft, music and folklore festivals; as well as country-wide events such as the Day of the Dead. …


5. The natural environment is highly respected

As the fourth country in the world for biodiversity, Mexico is an attractive place for natural scientists, geographers, marine biologists, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. With a variety of diverse ecosystems differing from one end of the country to the next, there are all manner of landscapes to explore in Mexico. These highly protected geographical regions range from landscapes comprising volcanoes; rainforests and mountains; to deserts, reefs and sacred limestone wells. [“cenotes”]


Read the rest of this very informative article over there.


-Bea Lozano

Oops – Did Somebody Die Here?

“Did somebody die on the construction site?”


That was the question I got earlier this month on a phone call.  It was a Canadian who we helped buy a home in a new development here in Playa.  I have to admit – I was worried, even though I shouldn’t have been.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “What happened?”


“Well there’s a cross up on one the buildings – one that they’re still working on. It looks handmade, just out of wood from the site. They put it up quickly this morning.  We tried asking the workers, but, you know, the whole Spanish-English thing.”


“Really?  Are you sure?  I haven’t heard anything.”


“Well we say a priest there and everything.  It looked like some special service – we thought it might be some memorial on site for the other workers or something.”


After ending the phone call I was about to start making some frantic calls to the developer and construction team. But Bea had overheard.


“What’s going on?” she asked.


I told her the story.


“Oh, they do that every year at the beginning of May. It’s for the day of the workers and the Holy Cross.”


Of course!  I knew that.  The concerned Canadians on the phone had got me worried, made me forget the culture.


At the beginning of May there are two holidays that workers have combined in a way.  May 1 is the international worker’s day, which is important for construction workers.  May 3 is the day of the Holy Cross, which is why they put the cross up.  They often have a priest come and bless the construction site.


I called the Canadians back.  We all shared a good laugh – and a sigh of relief!


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Insurance Kit

Mexico Shows its “Passion” for Jesus – Pictures of Passion Plays

Most people know something about Mexico’s Passion Plays; these plays act out the last hours of Jesus’ life in which he is put on trial, carries his cross and is crucified.


The extent to which these events are acted out and the realism of them varies from region to region and community to community.  At the very least, they include someone acting the role of Jesus carrying often large and heavy crosses for fairly long distances.  In the most extreme cases, they actually have someone physically strike Jesus with a with a whip, and even tie him onto the cross which is raised as though it were a real crucifixion with the person Jesus on it, although such extremes are rare! (I haven’t heard of any cases where they actually use nails or anything like that …)


Take a look at the pictures below:


Retirement Living in Mexico - Religions Events


Retirement Living in Mexico - Religions Events


Retirement Living in Mexico - Religions Events


Retirement Living in Mexico - Religions Events


So, do I think this stuff is a good idea? Well, it’s certainly very different, and a very foreign expression of very different values.  What I will say is that they certainly take their religion seriously!  It is worth noting, however, that it’s very rare that Mexicans are push about their religion; they prefer to show their passion (no pun intended) rather than tell you about it or try to convince you of it.


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate Testimonials

In Mexico, Easter is an Entire Week

The week leading up to Easter is important in many countries and cultures.  However, Easter up in the U.S. is usually just a nice family dinner on Sunday, and an Easter egg hunt – lots of fun, but still only one day.


Of course, many people will go to church on Good Friday, and in Canada they add a day on Monday, but otherwise these days carry on, business like usual.


As is often the case, the Mexican Easter holidays are more “substantial.”


In Mexico, Easter is an entire week of holidays (Holy Week).  Many people have the entire week off work.  Of course, some people – especially those who work in tourism or restaurants – have to work not only regular hours, but overtime to accommodate everyone else’s holiday cheer!

What people do during these days varies greatly depending on their personal values, beliefs and finances.  There are enough Mexicans who enjoy the time for travel and simple pleasures, or just to relax.


However, with Mexico’s strong Catholic roots, most people will include some religious activity, and many will dedicate the week to their faith.  As happens in Canada and the U.S., at Easter (like at Christmas) many people who aren’t very dedicated to religion will go to church and participate in related activities – but probably in greater numbers and more passionately so (no pun intended!)


Holy Week includes the Palm Sunday processions, the Passion plays of Good Friday, in which people re-enact the story of Jesus’ death (which we’ll look at tomorrow), and going to mass really often.  On Saturday, there’s a strange little tradition in Mexico City at least of throwing water on passers-by.  I’m still not sure why they do this.


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate Testimonials

Jesus Rides to Mexico on a Donkey – Processions for Beginning Holy Week

Anyone familiar with Catholicism will know about the Palm Sunday processions.  However, as in just about all other cases, the Mexican take on these processions is more elaborate; here they are longer, more “acted out” and more realistic.


The procession will generally take place between two nearby churches.  In many cases, people will be dressed in costume of people from ancient times.


A man – sometimes with long hair and a beard, sometimes artificial – will ride on a donkey which is led at the front of the procession.


Later in the week we’ll see some more impressive scenes of the passion of Christ acted out!


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate Testimonials

Find Real, Secret Mayan Ruins – In a Theme Park in Playa del Carmen! (Part 6)

Last week, I said that I had finished the posts on Xcaret. However, looking through my pictures, I noticed that I had missed something important; in Xcaret, there is a site of ruins of ancient Mayan pyramids – authentic pyramids that existed on the site chosen for the park.


Take a look at my pictures:


Mexico Retirement Travel


Mexico Retirement Travel


Mexico Retirement Travel


And finally, in the middle of the agave field (agave is the cactus used to make tequila), where one of the re-enactments takes place, there is a beautiful little statue of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe) – very Mexican!


Mexico Retirement Travel


Now, this will really be my last post about Xcaret, at least for a while!


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate Testimonials