Author’s family visits the Cholula Pyramid–an agnostic father and Catholic aunt.

I have lived in three different cities in Mexico, in three different states. None of them is like Cholula. I walk to school every day, and even though I hate waking up early, when I manage to get out of my house, I really like the morning stroll. As soon as I cross the door, I get the best view of combis (questionable public transport, typical to little towns in Mexico), dropping off kids at the school that I live next to. I’m sure the kids appreciate the stench of horse manure as much as I do.

I can also see the usual people opening up their businesses: grocery stores, butcher shops, papelerías, and the rest. If I see them, I greet them, because it is the expected thing to do–everyone around the block knows them. Rather than using the big chain stores, we get our things from Don Beto and Doña María– being younger, I still use the respectful Mr. and Ms.

These things didn’t happen in the other towns I lived in. But that is not the reason why I think Cholula is unique. What strikes me as odd is the fact that only three blocks away, not far from the cows, horses and milkmen, I will see really classy nightclubs.

San Andrés Cholula is what we call in Mexico a Pueblo Mágicos. “Pueblo Mágico” is a touristic program, with the intention of protecting the cultural value and identity of a place. Cholula is one of these “pueblos”; it really doesn’t feel like one, however, since there is so much big business here. We have not only companies coming here, but Cholula has also become one of the “go-to” destinations for students. A lot of people from all over the place come to live here, making it feel a lot more like a city than a town.

Funny enough, I think the most well-known Cholula landmark represents this merging of cultures. It’s a church commonly known as “La Pirámide.” Even though it is a church, where you can go to mass on Sundays, it is also a tourist attraction for everyone–from the hard-core Catholic to the most skeptical atheist. One time I saw a group of people doing one of those cleanses, where they rub an egg all over your body and I’m pretty sure God would have frowned on that. Yet the cleansing was happening right next to the church.

What I’m trying to say is that even when the original purpose of that church was to be cleansed of horrible sins, by sitting around on a Sunday, it is now a place for everyone passing through to take a long walk. I think there is a parallel between how that church is now two things at once: just as Cholula is a town that loves to throw fireworks every day in the name of a lot of different saints and virgins, it is also a place to throw up and fall asleep on the side of the sidewalk at two in the morning.