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Location DB > Mexico > Tlaxcala > Tlaxcala > Tlaxcala
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created by lopix on 7/30/2005 2:47 PM
last modified by lopix on 7/30/2005 3:37 PM
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Tlaxcala was founded in 1524 by the Franciscans. It was laid out in the style of a Spanish Renaissance city, with civic buildings, arcades, and churches facing a tree-shaded central plaza.

On the east side of the plaza is a complex of buildings referred to as "City Hall", built in the mid-1500's. The complex included the Royal House, town hall, and the granary. The Royal House was where the viceroys and other Spanish dignitaries stayed when visiting. The center building was the seat of local government, headed by a governor elected from the heads of the four dominions. The pre-Columbian republic or confederation of Tlaxcala was divided into four dominions with their seats of government in or near the present city of Tlaxcala. On the left was the corn-exchange or granary. Over the centuries the complex has suffered from usage, fires, and earthquakes, but has been restored.

A local artist, Desiderio Hernandez Xochitiotzin, for a period of about 30 years, off and on, has been depicting the history of Tlaxcala in over 450 square meters of wall space in the Palacio de Gobierno (City Hall). Preparations are being made for even more of his work. Actually, the historical murals depict the arrival of the first men in the area of the Central High Plains, the founding of the four dominions of Tlaxcallán, the prophecy of Quetzalcoatl, the military alliance with the Spaniards, the so called Golden Century, and Mexico's independence. To me, the most interesting part is the busy, crowded market with its large variety of merchandise and the temples and other structures.

At the NE corner of the plaza, across the street from "City Hall" is the Parish Church of Saint Joan and Saint Joseph. It was built on the site of the old Marian Hermitage, which dated back to l526. In 1640 it became an important ecclesiastical administrative center and at one time served as a Cathedral. An interesting example of the compromises the church often made with the natives, are the two holy water fonts carved from stone at the entrance of the church. On the pedestal of one is engraved the Spanish Imperial Coat of Arms. On the pedestal of the other is engraved a Tlaxcalteca god of war and hunting, Camaxtli.

On the north side of the plaza, close to the church, is the Legislative Palace, originally the Royal Inn of the native government. Construction of this building was completed in l55l. It was originally an inn for important visitors. As time went by it was modified for various uses, such as an annex to the parish church, a bakery, a slaughterhouse, a hotel, and finally in 1982 it was restored to house the state legislative body.

In 1550, the Spanish Magistrate, Diego Ramirez, called upon the natives to build the Portales to improve the looks of the market and to provide protection for the vendors. They were later described as "well carved stone portales, which run along two sides of the square, under which, are many stores". Merchandise from both Spain and the Philippines could be found there.

Leaving by the southwest corner of the plaza one enters another plaza. On weekends it becomes a market for the art and handicrafts of the area. At the southwest corner of this smaller plaza one climbs wide stone steps, shaded by huge old trees, to an old Franciscan church and ex-convent. It was built between 1537 and 1540, making it one of the first four Franciscan convents in the Americas. It became an ex-convent in 1861 during the reform. During the revolution it served as a barracks and later, a jail. In 1981 the convent part was made into a museum. Services are still held in the church.

On another hill is the Basilica of Ocotlán, a dazzling white wedding-cake confection filled with marvelous art, especially in the ornate "Virgin’s dressing room" behind the altar. Down a side street below Ocotlán is El Pocito, a precious painted chapel sheltering a sacred spring, where the faithful come to fill duck-shaped ceramic vessels with healing waters.

Nearby are the pre-Hispanic ruins at Cacaxtla, with their puzzling Mayan-style murals, hundreds of miles from Maya country. They are located next to the newly discovered ruins of Xochitécatl, enjoying views of the three volcanoes Popocatepetl and Izta, with the dormant La Malinche to the south (check satellite view to see them). You can roam the catwalks and wooden stairs laid over the dusty digs and see the paintings brought to life all the empty stone ruins of ancient Mesoamerica. There were handsome warriors in fantastic feathers and ornaments, mysterious ceremonies, fanciful plants and mythical animals, folk legends, serpents, deities.
 Basic Information
Type: City
Status: Active
Accessibility: Easy
Recommendation: worth the trip
 Physical Information

Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala
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  •  Hazards
     Interesting Features
    Every and anything. Could not even begin to give a good list, but here are some:

    Mexico's First Bullfight Ring
    Strange Cemeteries
    Monk's Tower & Convent
    Various Ruins & Ancient Buildings
    Historical Murals
     Security Measures
     Historical Dates
    Built: 1524
    Closed: 0
     Required Equipment
     Recommended Equipment
    Ability to speak Spanish
    NOTE: Zoom out on the satellite image to see the volcanoes!

    The Tlaxcallans are probably the best known of the non-Aztec groups in Mexico. They were actually surrounded by Aztec-controlled territory, and almost in a state of siege when the Spanish arrived. They initially fought the Spanish, then became Spanish allies and provided vital manpower for the Spanish conquest.

    This was not a small group. Pre-conquest population estimates for the Tlaxcallans are usually in the 5-600,000 range. That population declined sharply from European diseases, but it was still well over 100,000 as late as the 1560's.

    The Tlaxcallans' reward for their help against the Aztecs was rather substantial by Spanish standards. They were promised freedom from tribute and their territory was to be off-limits to Spanish settlement. Spain actually made an effort to keep those promises for quite some time after the conquest. The Tlaxcallans remained useful allies against unconquered groups into the 1590's. By the 1540's, Christian Tlaxcallans of the nobility had the right to ride horses and carry swords. They were often literate in Spanish and very good at using the Spanish legal system to advance their interests.

    Spain eventually broke its promise not to settle in Tlaxcallan lands. One of the kings of Spain made a large land-grant to one of his supporters in the middle of Tlaxcallan territory. That land-grant was gradually subdivided, and as more and more Spaniards settled on that land, the Spanish gradually came to ignore that promise.

    As they gradually lost their lands, some of the more adventurous Tlaxcallans headed north to found colonies among the wild Chichemic Indians of northern Mexico. The remainder gradually became more desperate until they launched a pathetically futile revolt against Spanish rule in the 1630's—at least 70 years too late.

    Alternate Tlaxcallans: In 1520 and to a lesser extent in 1540 or thereabouts, the Tlaxcallans had opportunities to decide the fate of New Spain. Had they turned on the Spanish at a vulnerable time they could have definitely wiped Cortes and company out to the last man. At least one of their major leaders wanted to do that at a couple of points. In 1540, if the Tlaxcallans had added their weight to the Mixton Rebellion, Spanish rule in New Spain would have been seriously threatened.

    Later in their history, the Tlaxcalans were junior partners in the Spanish conquest of the Chichemic areas of Northern Mexico. They founded their own military colonies in those areas. Given the right timing, or the right perceived threat, they could have easily ended up supporting Spanish efforts to colonize in the Pueblo areas or even Texas and/or Florida. A Tlaxcallan colony in Texas would have made for an even more colorful history of that state, while Tlaxcallans in Florida in say the 1560's could have transmitted a subset of Mexican Indian culture mixed with Spanish borrowings to the American southeast, revitalizing the fading Mississippian Mound Builders.
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    Land of Volcanoes
    Tue, Nov 23rd, 2004
    posted by lopix
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    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Steed on 7/24/2008 4:57 AM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Jul 24 08 at 4:57, Steed validated this location
  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:14, lopix made this location available
  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:13, lopix updated a gallery picture
  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:11, lopix updated a gallery picture
  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:11, lopix updated a gallery picture
  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:11, lopix updated a gallery picture
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  • on Jul 30 05 at 16:07, lopix updated a gallery picture
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