The Zócalo is the main square of the city of Puebla. In the 20th century, this Main Square or Plaza Mayor was called the Main Garden, Central Garden, Central Park, and, in 1919, Juárez Park. The first reference to “Zocalo” appears in 1905.
The Main Square or Zocalo is located in the heart of the area known as the Historic Center of Puebla and is an important part of the historic area of monuments declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The location of the Zocalo was chosen by the founders of the city in a place formerly called Cuetlaxcuapan (“the place where snakes change their skin”) to establish an intermediate city between Veracruz and Mexico. It functioned as a “plaza” or market for clothing and supplies from 1531 to 1854 when it was converted into Central Park.
The Zócalo adjoins the Cathedral of Puebla to the south; to the north with a long portal that makes up the Portal Hidalgo, for commercial use, and the Portal of the Municipal Palace of Puebla, the seat of the Town Hall, both separated by the Passage of the Town Hall; and, finally, the Iturbide and Morelos portals located to the west and east respectively with premises for commercial use.
The axes that make up the intersection of the streets located in its northeast corner serve to divide the city into the four cardinal points and serve, in turn, to nomenclature the streets.
The main square was also the place where the sentences of the Court of Audience were applied; in the first years, there was the wooden pillory in which the inmates were exposed to shame and the gallows for capital punishment.
The main square was used for entertainment of a sacred and pagan nature. Following medieval custom, theatrical performances were held in the main square or in the atrium of the cathedral during the 17th and 18th centuries.
These parties or comedies did not always have the approval of the ecclesiastical council. Originally the celebrations of Corpus Cristi were accompanied in the Octava (8 days later) with religious acts, which over time were losing predilection, imposing secular comedies.
During the peaceful New Hispanic era, the Plaza Mayor was a space for the various civil and religious demonstrations of the people of Puebla, unlike the 19th century and the revolutionary episode in which it was the scene of sites and battles that were fought to conquer it.
Today it is the place for different civic, political, and cultural manifestations. Its current appearance dates from the sixties.
The origin of the Plaza Mayor or Zócalo de Puebla dates back to the year 1531, the year of the founding of the city. Its founders, once the land had been chosen, opted for a pattern of rectangular blocks inspired by the new Renaissance humanism, they determined that the central block was dedicated to the main square or the main square and to locate around it the buildings of the civil and ecclesiastical powers. in imitation of Spanish cities.
According to the old system of measurements, this square was given 200 yards long-running from east to west and 100 from north to south, and they served as a measure for the other blocks, thus forming a reticular grid.
In the corners of the Zócalo are the sculptures given away by colonies of foreigners living in Puebla: German, Spanish, Syrian-Lebanese, and English. There are also other monuments such as the one dedicated to the Army of the East, which defended the city from the French siege of 1863. The date that appears there, May 17, was the day that General Jesús González Ortega decided to hand over the city to the French army. to avoid further destruction and bloodshed.
From the beginning, the Plaza Mayor was dedicated to a product market, receiving the name of “tiánguis” which comes from the Nahuatl “tianquiztli” market and it lasted with that use for three hundred and twenty-three years, from 1531, the year of its foundation to 1854 when the municipal president, in turn, Baltazar Furlong gave the square its first general renovation, endowing it with gardens, floors, lamps, benches, among other ornaments.
In 1531 the Zócalo served as the axis of the street grid, as was to be expected in this type of space, merchants soon came to occupy every corner. The indigenous people sold their merchandise for the same purpose that they had before the arrival of the colonizers.
Faced with these practices, the government authorities had their interests in those practices, to the extent that a president came to legislate in 1545 that the bread would be sold at that point. With the purpose of encouraging the most reluctant parishioners to visit the Zócalo and with it the nearby churches.
Around the year 1556, water was introduced to the Plaza Mayor with an octagonal fountain located to the east of the square and which lasted until 1777 when it was replaced by a baroque fountain, this time placed in the center of the square and dedicated to San Miguel. patron of the city. The latter was withdrawn in 1873 and placed five years later in the Plazuela de San Francisco from where it returned to its original site in the main square in 1963.
The authorities, at different times, tried to rid the Plaza Mayor of merchants, thus in 1629, it was decreed that on Wednesdays there would be a market in the Alameda (Plazuela de San José) and in 1714 in the Plazuela de San Agustín. In 1764, Governor Esteban Bravo ordered the removal of the improvised posts “with mat or mat shadows” establishing wooden posts and ordering them through the streets; Several of these stalls located next to the portal de las Flores (Morelos) caught fire on the night of January 7, 1796.
The mayor Flon, between 1801 and 1803, solved the problem of the agglomeration of merchants by removing the drawers of clothes and moving the “baratilleros” (“persons who have a cheap store or a cheap store or stall”) to the new Parian market. However, the square continued to suffer from the problem of filth, the carts could not cope to remove the garbage produced by “the many people who came to it”, therefore it was ordered in 1816 that there should only be a market on Thursdays and the Saturday and the other days in the Plazuelas de Santa Inés, el Montón, and Los Sapos.
Throughout the Spanish domination and part of the independent period, Spaniards were consistently prohibited from selling food products or clothing in the Plaza Mayor, activities that only natives could carry out.
The days that by tradition were designated for the market in the Plaza Mayor were Thursdays of each week, although according to Cerón Zapata the required products could be found every day, only on Thursdays and even on Saturdays the natives came down from their towns to sell merchandise “of Creole fabrics, rigging, and fruits in such abundance that they often return with the same thing they brought”.
In front of the Plaza Mayor, the first parochial temple was built, a straw shed that lasted only a few days, which was built in 1531 in the current Iturbide portal, today Av. September 16, was located in the middle of the lots granted to the first residents of the city, the mayor Hernando de Elgueta and Alonso González, who were given a license to build the first portals of the Plaza Mayor.
A second temple was built in front of the Plaza on the site that today occupies the current Tabernacle of the Cathedral, which began in 1531 and was completed on August 29, 1535.
Apart from the cathedral complex and the Municipal Palace, other notable places within the square are the Portal Hidalgo, the Portal Morelos, and the Portal Benito Juárez. However, one of the most characteristic elements of the Zócalo is a vestige of the old water distribution system: the San Miguel fountain, installed in 1777.