Tlaxcala: An Unknown Capital
Correct me if I am wrong. You have never heard about Tlaxcala (congratulations if you had!).
Tlaxcala (pronounced tlas – ca – la) is the name of the smallest state in Mexico. The capital of the state bears the same name (actually, the state takes the name of the capital). Even though you have probably never heard about it, the city has been around since 1522 (others date the founding in 1527 when the first bishop was appointed).
Tlaxcala means “place of the corn or maize tortillas”. The Aztec glyph describing the area contains two green hills and two hands holding a corn tortilla. The name also refers to a pre-Hispanic city and culture. The Tlaxcalans allied with the Spaniards in an effort to destroy the Aztec empire. As a reward, Spaniards left the territory almost intact for 300 years of colonial period.
You may ask what brought me to Tlaxcala. I think it was a combination of factors. I first heard of the city and state when I read about the ruins of Cacaxtla. This pre-Hispanic city is the major attraction in the state because it contains the oldest murals in Mesoamerica. I definitely had to visit those so I decided to stop by the capital at least for one day.
Additionally, I don’t think you get a complete picture of a country if you only visited the big and well-known cities. You get a better understanding of how society works in places far from mass tourism. For this reason alone, I felt Tlaxcala was calling me.
I am not going to lie. It is not easy to find good information about Tlaxcala. Maybe you find something decent about the city but it is almost impossible to find good info about the rest of the state. Therefore, in a visit to the area, you have to go with the flow and use the locals as your guides.
The city center is compact and filled with colonial era buildings painted in colors such as burnt orange, salmon pink and mustard yellow. Compared to others capitals in Mexico, it feels “sleepy.” For what I have read, the place attracts hundreds of visitors from the Federal District during the weekends. We visited on a Monday and the touristic quiosks were closed. There was no place to get a map.
So we had to use our natural compass to navigate thru the streets. Don’t get me wrong. Our walk was filled with delightful encounters. We absorbed all the façade colors, ate delicious food, found a book fair, admired the city from high ground and visited the ruins (of course). I even had to make a kilometric line in the bank (to exchange money). Reminded me of when I lived in Puerto Rico.
I will be talking more about Tlaxcala in upcoming posts. For now, I want to leave you with some practical information. Who knows, you may feel attracted to the city too.
How to Get There
From Mexico City
From the international airport take a taxi or the MetroBus to TAPO’s bus terminal. A company called ATAH has direct, high quality coaches to various destinations in the state. A ride to the capital of the state takes 2 hours. Buses depart every hour (or more frequently).
Take a small bus to the capital from CAPU’s bus terminal. Transit time is about 45 minutes.
How to Get Out
From Tlaxcala’s bus terminal, small buses depart frequently to Puebla and other cities in the state.
The bus terminal is located close to the city’s center but you would probably not want to walk. Take a taxi or bus to the center (around 30 pesos in taxi). I recommend you stay in the center.
How to Move Around
I recommend you print a map of the city before arriving. Here are other options to get a map:
– Ask your hotel for one
– Visit the an information quiosk in the center (this will probably work only during the weekends)
– In the center, there are signs with maps pointing to the places of interest. Take a photo of one and use it as your guide
If you need a taxi, they are parked in the main plaza. Negotiate the rate before going in.
Where to Eat
There are many restaurants around Plaza Constitucion (in the Portales). The municipal market is close to town.
Some recommended restaurants:
Where to Stay
TripAdvisor has a list of hotels in the city. I stayed in the economic Hosteria de Xicohtencatl.
Where to find touristic information
Hands down, the best information about the city is found on the page of a magazine called Mexico Desconocido. The information is only in Spanish. Use a translator if you need.
See the following notes:
The New York Times has an article about the haciendas in the state. Find it here.
Have you visited Tlaxcala? Let me know in the comments section below.