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Introducing Papantla

Getting off the bus in Papantla, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve decamped to the Andean altiplano. Spread across a succession of wooded hills, this is a solidly indigenous city whose geography belongs in La Paz, but whose history, look and feel is distinctly pre-Hispanic or, more precisely, Totonac. Predating the Spanish conquest, the city was founded around AD 1230. Traditionally a launching pad for people visiting the nearby ruins of El Tajín, Papantla has carved its own niche in recent years, stressing its indigenous heritage and promoting its central position in the world’s best vanilla-growing region (although these days the bulk of production has migrated to Madagascar). Art, and in particular murals, is another of the city’s fortes. Don’t be surprised to see Totonacs wearing traditional clothing here – the men in loose white shirts and trousers, women in embroidered blouses and quechquémitls (traditional capes).