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The Cholula (choh-LOO-lah) of today is practically a suburb of ever-expanding Puebla, but at the time of its destruction in 1519 by Hernando Cortés it was a religious city built on the foundations of a ceremonial center that had flowered by the second century A.D. At its peak Cholula was inhabited by 100,000 Cholultecs—a mixture of Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, Mixtec and Mazatec Indians.
When Cortés arrived in Cholula en route to Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs mistook the conqueror for the god Quetzalcóatl, which their mythology described as being fair skinned and with light hair. Consequently, the 100,000 inhabitants showed deference to Cortés and his band of 500 men. The conqueror promptly shattered this illusion by having his second in command, Pedro de Alvarado, carry out the slaughter of 6,000 Indians and the destruction of their temples and shrines.
Following custom, the Spanish conquerors erected a church atop the rubble of each temple they razed. An example sits atop Tepanapa Pyramid, one of the New World's largest structures. Burrowing into the earth near the base of this brush-covered hill, archeologists discovered that the Cholultecs, in fact, appeared to be better builders than the Aztecs who last occupied the city.
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Current Location: Cholula, Puebla, Puebla