Pronunciation: PWEH-blah.

Origin of state name: The state of Puebla was named for its capital city, which was established by the Spaniards. New settlements were often called pueblas.

Capital: Puebla. The formal name, Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, honors Ignacio Zaragoza who led the Mexican army to defeat the French.

Entered country: October 13, 1824.

Coat of Arms: The coat of arms is a shield divided into four squares: one depicts a factory, representing progress; the hydroelectric dam represents Puebla's contribution to the supply of electricity; the rifle commemorates the Civil War that began November 20, 1910; the human hand holding a plant with farm land in the background represents agriculture. The smaller shield in the center features a mountain landscape with a rising sun, marked 5 Mayo 1862. (This is the date that the Mexican army defeated the French.) At the top of the shield is a native symbol for the sun. The snakes along the sides are symbols of the Tolteca culture. Around the shield is the state motto unidos en el tiempo en el esfuerzo en la justicia y en la esperanza (United in time, in effort, in justice and in hope).

Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez's birthday (March 21); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).

Flag: There is no official state flag.

Time: 6 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

1 Location and Size

Puebla is part of the central region of the country that is known as the breadbasket of Mexico. The state has an area of 33,919 square kilometers (13,096 square miles), which is twice the size of the US state of Hawaii. It is bordered by the Mexican states of México, Morelos, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Tlaxcala. Puebla is divided into 217 municipalities. Its capital city is also called Puebla.

The landscape is mountainous. Wide valleys, such as the one where the capital is located, lie at high elevations.

Three of the highest volcanoes are Citlaltépetl (also called Pico de Orizaba), which lies on the border with Veracruz and has an elevation of 5,700 meters (18,700 feet); Popocatépetl, which lies about 48 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital and has an elevation of 5,450 meters (17,887 feet); and Malinche (also called Matlalcueyatl), which lies on the border with Tlaxcala and has an elevation of 4,461 meters (14,636 feet).

There are dozens of small rivers in Puebla. The Necaxa River flows for about 200 kilometers (125 miles) through Puebla and Veracruz to the Gulf of Mexico. It provides water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Near the Veracruz border, the Necaxa Falls cascade over 165 meters (540 feet). There are several reservoirs in the state. The mineral waters of the state's natural springs are believed to have healing properties.

2 Climate

Temperatures are fairly constant year-round, with variation depending on elevation. The daytime temperatures range from 21°c to 27°c (70°f to 80°f). At night, the temperature drops to around 4°c (45°f). There is little rainfall from November to March, but from April through October heavy afternoon rains are common.

3 Plants and Animals

Pine, willow, and oak trees are common throughout the state. There are large forest areas in the Huachinango region. Animals common to the state include hares, raccoons, rabbits, and eagles. The quetzal, a green-feathered bird, is found in the Tezuitlán region.

4 Environmental Protection

La Malinche National Park (lah mah-LEEN-chay) is a protected area on the border with the state of Tlaxcala. The park is located at the base of the Malinche volcano (4,461 meters/14,636 feet). The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, with protected pine and oak forests, lies on the border with Oaxaca.

5 Population, Ethnic Groups, Languages

Puebla had a total population of 5,076,686 in 2000; of the total, 2,448,801 were men and 2,627,885 were women. The population density was 148 people per square kilometer (383 people per square mile). The capital, Puebla, Mexico's fourth-largest city, had a 2000 population of 1,346,176. Almost all citizens speak Spanish as their first language. About 13.1% of the population speaks indigenous (native) languages, a number that is almost twice as high as the national average of about 7%.

6 Religions

According to the 2000 census, 78% of the population, or about four million people, were Roman Catholic; about 4%, or 188,586 people, were Protestant. That year there were also 42,415 Jehovah's Witnesses and 2,251 Jews. Almost 95,000 people reported no religion.

7 Transportation

Puebla-Huejotsingo Airport provides international flights to and from Puebla. The state has about 8,046 kilometers (4,998 miles) of roads and 709 kilometers (440 miles) of railroads.

8 History

Archeological evidence points to a civilization that developed agriculture and established sedentary human settlements in the region around 6000 B.C. Olmec influence was clear in Puebla starting in 1000

© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp The El Parian market in the capital, Puebla.
© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp

The El Parian market in the capital, Puebla.
B.C. Around 300 A.D. Teotihuacán culture was present in the region, especially in Cholula. The Totonaca culture developed in the northern part of Puebla. Mixteco Indians occupied Choloula starting in 900 A.D. In the 12th century, an exiled Toltec-Chichimec group from Tula occupied the region. Mexicas occupied most of the region starting in the 14th century.

In 1519, on their way to Tenochtitlán -Mexico (present-day Mexico City), Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés's (1485–1547) troops occupied Huejotzingo and Cholula. They killed most of the native people living there. In 1520, the Spanish conquistadors (those who sought to conqueror Mexico for Spain) controlled most important villages and human settlements in the region. After the fall of the Aztec empire, the Spaniards moved on to conquer the remaining indigenous territories in Puebla. In 1524, massive land grants, known as encomiendas, were assigned by the Spanish crown to the conquistadors. The purpose of the encomiendas was to promote the exploitation of the land for agricultural and mining. Cattle ranching and sugarcane and silk production were developed during the late 16th century. Franciscan priests initiated the conversion of indigenous groups to the Roman Catholic faith starting in 1524.

During the early 17th century, the most important textile factories of the Spanish American colonies were situated in the city of Puebla. A printing press brought in 1640 reflected Puebla's importance as a commercial, agricultural, and industrial center in Mexico. Yet, the indigenous population was decimated rapidly. They died from poor living conditions forced on them by the Spanish colonizers. They also died from diseases brought by the Spaniards to the new continent.

The independence movement came to Puebla in 1811. But fierce resistance from Spanish royalists (people loyal to Spain) prevented a decisive victory by the pro-independence fighters. The independence fighters were led by José Morelos (1765–1815). Neither side exercised definitive control of the state until Agustín de Iturbide (1783–1824) led his army into Puebla and declared independence in 1821.

Between the late 1820s and 1867, Puebla was characterized by constant conflicts between different factions and internal power disputes. First, federalists against centralists and later, liberals against conservatives faced off in confusing and often bloody battles for the control of one of the most economically and strategically important states in the federation. The Battle of Puebla was one of the most symbolically important battles. It took place on May 5, 1862, when French troops invaded Mexico. They faced fierce resistance by Mexican patriots loyal to constitutional president Benito Juárez (1806–1872).

Porfirio Díaz (1830–1915) followed Juárez as president of Mexico, and Díaz reign in power is often referred to as the porfiriato period. Puebla experienced healthy and sustained economic growth resulting from agriculture, cattle production, and textiles. As in the rest of the country, growth of the infrastructure was central to the economic development plan pushed for by authoritarian leader Porfirio Díaz.

The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, was fiercely fought in Puebla. Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919) fought against those opposed to land redistribution and peasants' rights. Eventually, the winners of the revolution imposed their more moderate views and the revolts were pacified.

After the revolution, Puebla evolved to become an industrial center, but its large rural population remained largely impoverished. People in rural areas had limited access to the benefits of economic development.

9 State and Local Government

The state governor is democratically elected every six years. Immediate re-election is not allowed. The legislature is comprised of a unicameral (single chamber) congress elected every three years, with no immediate re-election provisions. Its forty-one members are made up of twenty-six legislators elected from single member districts and fifteen elected by proportional representation. Because the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) continues to dominate the executive and legislative branches, constitutional provisions for separation of power have not been fully implemented.

The 217 municipalities that comprise Puebla hold democratic elections for municipal presidents and council members every three years. Immediate re-election is not allowed. Because of the widely varying size and financial resources of the different

© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp The voladores (people who fly) perform during the October feria (festival) in Cuetzalan.
© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp

The voladores (people who fly) perform during the October feria (festival) in Cuetzalan.
municipalities, decentralization efforts have produced mixed results in recent years.

10 Political Parties

The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRI has historically dominated power in Puebla since the end of the Mexican Revolution. Puebla is one of the PRI strongholds. Governor Manuel Bartlett (1993–1999) unsuccessfully sought the PRI presidential nomination in 2000. Most recently, PRI's Melquiades Morales became the governor in 1999. Although they have made electoral gains in the larger urban areas, the PAN and the PRD remain largely minority parties in Puebla.

11 Judicial System

The Superior Tribunal of Justice is the highest court in the state. Its members are appointed by the legislature from a three-person list presented to it by the state governor. Only highly qualified attorneys can be appointed to the highest court. Because Puebla has been ruled exclusively by the PRI since the end of the revolution, the judiciary has historically exercised little independence and autonomy.

12 Economy

Manufacturing companies account for the largest percentage of the economy, at about 24%. General service-based companies account for about 19% of the economy, followed by trade activities at 18%, finance and insurance companies at 18%, transportation and communication companies at 8%, agriculture and livestock production at 8%, construction at 4%, and mining at 1%.

13 Industry

Puebla's manufacturing activity centers on the automotive and textile industries. Volkswagen is one of the major companies with facilities in the state. The textile industry is centered in the capital city of Puebla. Handicrafts are popular products in some regions.

14 Labor

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages increase 17%, from $2.09 per hour in 1999 to $2.46 per hour, in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 per hour in 2000.) After one year, workers are entitled by law to six days paid vacation. People living in rural areas of the state earn much less than the national average hourly rate.

15 Agriculture

The main agricultural crops throughout the state are corn, coffee, avocados, beans, and alfalfa. Apples are another important crop, and the Huachinango region even hosts an annual apple fair. Other fruit crops produced in the state include mangos, grapes, oranges, lemons, and peaches. Potatoes are an important crop in the Ciudad Serdán region, which also hosts a regional fair to celebrate this crop.

Livestock includes cattle (for both meat and dairy products), pigs, and poultry. In some areas, donkeys are raised as well. The San Pedro Cholula region is known for its honey, milk, and cream cheese production. The Tehuacán region is one of the nation's most important producers of poultry and eggs.

16 Natural Resources

The silver mines in Puebla are known for their rich deposits of ore and a high-quality silver product. Deposits of gold, copper, and lead are also found in the state.

17 Energy and Power

Almost all of the energy in Mexico is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). In February 2002, the CFE introduced new electric rates. For households that use less than 140 kilowatt hours per month, there was no rate increase. (This is about 75% of all households in Mexico, according to CFE).

18 Health

There are 50 general hospitals, 939 outpatient centers, and 106 surgical centers in the state of Puebla.

Most of the Mexican population is covered under a government health plan. The IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) covers the general population. The ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) covers state workers.

19 Housing

Only about one-half of the housing available in Puebla is in good repair. More than 25% is in need of significant upgrading. Many homes in rural areas do not have running water or access to electricity.

20 Education

The system of public education was first started by President Benito Juárez in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students from ages six to sixteen. According to the 2000 census, there were approximately 912,000 school-age students in the state. Many students elect to go to private schools. The thirty-one states of Mexico all have at least one state university. The Universidad de las Américas, Puebla (University of the Americas, Puebla) is found in the state.

21 Arts

Puebla has many cultural centers and theaters. The Teatro Carpa Carlos Ancira is a theater for the blind. The folk ballet company, Ballet Folklórico of Puebla, performs regularly. Local artisans produce handicrafts, including clay pottery, wooden masks, and fiber works.

22 Libraries and Museums

There are 566 libraries in Puebla. The capital, Puebla, has a museum displaying the many species of snakes found in the state. There are several other museums in the capital, including a puppet museum, a railroad museum, a science museum with an IMAX theater, a natural history museum, and an auto museum.

23 Media

The capital city, Puebla, has three daily newspapers: AL de Puebla, El Sol de Puebla, and La Jornada de Oriente.

24 Tourism, Travel, and Recreation

Puebla is a large commercial state. Buildings and ruins from the colonial and pre-Columbian period may be found in the city of Cholula, where there is a site with pre-Columbian pyramids and a church built in the 18th century. Tourists enjoy visiting the cathedral and the El Parian marketplace, both in the capital, Puebla. Tourists also enjoy sampling foods that originated in the state, including mole sauce (spicy chocolate sauce of Aztec origin) and chalupas. Tourists also are drawn to the mineral springs of Tehuacan and the thermal baths of Chignahuapan.

In October Cuetzalan, about four hours by bus from the capital, hosts a feria (festival) that features voladores (people who fly). The voladores dress in colorful costumes, and climb to the top of a pole 150 feet (45 meters) tall. The voladores then tie their ankles to ropes wound around the pole, and leap away from the pole. They fly around and around the pole as the rope unwinds. Their flight is accompanied by flute music.

25 Sports

The capital, Puebla, has a soccer team that plays in the 42,649-seat Cuahutehmoc stadium. Two minor league baseball teams, Los Pericos and Los Tigres, play in the Estadio Hermanos Serdán.

26 Famous People

The ceramic artist Herón Martinez Mendozo is from Acatlán, Puebla. His work is included in the Nelson A. Rockefeller collection of Mexican art at California's Mexican Museum. His relatives in Acatlán continue to produce ceramic works from his designs.

27 Bibliography


LaFrance, David G. Revolution in Mexico's Heartland: Politics, War, and State Building in Puebla, 1913–1920. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2003.

Supples, Kevin. Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Web Sites

Mexico for Kids. http://www.elbalero.gob.mx/index_kids.html (accessed on June 15, 2004).

Puebla, Mexico. http://www.sipuebla.com/travel.htm (accessed June 15, 2004).

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