Can an apple really be considered symbolic of sin? That forbidden pomaceous fruit caused Eve to forgo her promises in the garden of Eden, consequently incurring the wrath of a merciful God and leading to expulsion from the land of plenty. For the inhabitants of Zacatlán, within the far North of the East-Central Mexican state of Puebla, the forbidden fruit is responsible for a far more fortunate outcome. Often referred to by natives as “Zacatlán de Manzanas” (“Grassed Land of Apples”) the outskirts of the sierra town are laden with fruit-bearing orchards of a seemingly dateless age. Breaking up the verdant hilly topography of the Sierra Norte de Puebla, the orchards of Zacatlán comprise the largest apple-growing area of Mexico, contributing to the largely agricultural economy of the area for nearly 800 years. During the height of harvest season on August 15th each year, the townsfolk indulge in a week long celebration and thanksgiving for their quantitative crop. Many regard a plentiful harvest to be the result of pleasing some gracious higher power.
Ringed by the scarred Sierra Norte de Puebla, Zacatlán indulges with a plethora of gasp-inducing natural wonders, sunken into its many sub valleys like the lost realms of the Aztecs. Stacked like rock cakes or mushrooms upon the slopes of Valle de las Piedras Encimadas are just one of the bizarre Tertiary formations to be found in the area. Sensibility suggests they were formed around 60 million years ago – the result of volcanic violence beneath a once thundering valley river. Locals however convey a different tale, alluding to the myth that the stones are in fact sentries or soldiers, frozen forever in time by a wrathful sorcerer who continues to guard the town in spirit, from the caves of Jalguero Gorge. The gorge itself is a precipitous peak overlooking the Eastern frontier of Zacatlán, best known for the sheer drop to some 200 feet. Its a favorite with abseiling enthusiasts and climbers, although opportune moments are rare since the mountain mists descend upon the peak almost daily.
Beyond the pine crowded forests lies a municipal town distinguished by its harmonious blend of colonial and Porfirian architecture. Two main churches pierce the predominantly blue horizon, with spires decorated in a distinctly European flavor. Founded in 1562, the stuccoed Templo y ex-Convento Franciscano steals the title for the oldest Franciscan church and monastery within the state of Puebla. Ancient murals depicting indigenous life were found upon the site during renovation work in the 1950's and now hang proudly within the sculptured nave, alongside 17th Century characterizations of the Immaculate. Zacatlán's Plaza de Armas is regarded one of the most overwhelming central squares in Mexico, flanked by the arches and imperial splendor of the Municipal Palace to the North and the town's most quirky outdoor feature – the Two-Faced Clock to the South. Designed to be dual-facing to the North and South, the clock commands plenty of attention from visitors, since the facia is constructed entirely from planted flowers and shrubs.
Zacatlán was enlisted upon the Pueblos Magicos Program in 2010 - the primary reason being its abundant natural charms and lengthy indigenous history. Upholding tradition and custom remain integral to the community of Zacatlán, whom continue to honor the pottery, agricultural and marketing trades of their forefathers, implementing largely the same methods as 300 years ago. It is perhaps their striving efforts to preserve Zacatlán in the manner it has remained for centuries, that truly influences the magic of this town.
Attractions & Things To Do in Zacatlán
Relojes Centenario - the clock factory and museum of Zacatlan is probably the only place one can truly learn about the bizarre clock that now graces the Plazas de Armas South quarter. Clock-making was a significant industry within the town for over 200 years – now stunningly preserved through segueing galleries of exhibits, stories and narrative to be enjoyed by Zacatlan's visitors. Open: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm.