Founded by Spanish settlers in 1531, as Ciudad de los Ángeles, with the aim of surpassing the nearby pre-Hispanic religious center of Cholula, the city became known as Puebla de los Ángeles (‘La Angelópolis’) eight years later, and quickly grew into an important Catholic center. Fine pottery had long been crafted from the local clay, and after the colonists introduced new materials and techniques, Puebla pottery evolved as both an art and an industry. By the late 18th century, the city emerged a major producer of glass and textiles. With 50, 000 residents by 1811, Puebla remained Mexico’s second-biggest city until Guadalajara overtook it in the late 19th century.
General Ignacio de Zaragoza fortified the Cerro de Guadalupe against the French invaders, and on May 5, 1862, his 2000 men defeated a frontal attack by 6000, many handicapped by diarrhea. This rare Mexican military success is the excuse for annual (and increasingly corporate-sponsored and drunken) national celebrations and hundreds of streets named 5 de Mayo. Few seem to remember that the following year the reinforced French took Puebla and occupied the city until 1867. Touché!