Classicism as the foundation for Puebla’s viceregal architectural tradition

Founded in 1531, the City of Puebla de los Angeles became, by the end of the century, a manufacturing and agricultural hub. This is not surprising considering the advantageous conditions the town enjoyed almost from the

A detail of the facade of Puebla’s alhondiga or public granary, late sixteenth century, Puebla

Figure 3.10 A detail of the facade of Puebla’s alhondiga or public granary, late sixteenth century, Puebla.

outset. Being a social and urban experiment (see Chapter 2), its founding was meant to counter the power of the Mexico City encomenderos. In order to promote its growth, the city enjoyed, as Miguel Angel Cuenya has investigated, generous tax exemptions and encomienda de indios94 benefits that fueled economic ventures by local entrepreneurs who took advantage of the fertile land, mild climate, the abundant labor by the Indigenous populations of the surrounding towns, and generous natural resources to turn the city into an economic hub by the end of the sixteenth century.95

This condition, in turn, made the city an architectural and artistic center, the second most important after Mexico City. For this reason, the presence of notable artists such as Luis Lagarto, buildings such as the Casa del Dean, or libraries such as those of the Jesuit College of the Holy Spirit, and the Diocesan Seminary (Colegios Tridentinos) became staples of the city’s cultural life by the early seventeenth century. Ultimately, Puebla became the second most important artistic and architectural center in the viceroyalty, which spoke of an eminently urban culture where a small elite composed of proto-capitalist entrepreneurs and letrados fueled an architectural and artistic tradition that was aspirational of Spain’s, with the added characteristic of an important influence exerted by the native craftsmen.

The architectural and artistic objects reviewed in this chapter, inspired by Classicism and Humanist culture, represent the architectural and artistic ethos that defined the aspirational tastes and sensibilities of the Spanish and criollo poblano society, which, as Jorge Manrique and Martha Fernandez have argued, represented their efforts at forging a local identity and a nexus with the metropole.96 This phenomenon will be further explored as the architecture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries become the focus of the following chapters.

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