Barrio de Xanenetla, the mural district in Puebla
Xanenetla - a poblano-nahuatl neighborhood that climbed out of poverty and onto a stage where it is nationally recognized for its sprawling street art. And it’s just on the other side of the boulevard.
Xanenetla is a neighborhood full of history, characterized by hardworking people that strived to grow their neighborhood alongside the colonial Spanish centre - until the districts grew further apart than closer together. It became marked as a dangerous neighborhood where residents could no longer leave their home after a certain time, where the houses were often abandoned or neglected, where people had to live in difficult ways unknown to other poblanos, where the hard way became the way of life.
Art changes everything and el barrio de Xanenetla proves it. The story of it being a dangerous neighborhood has transformed into a story of life and colorful murals that represent the culture, history and people of Xanenetla. This transformation was directed by a collective of mural artists, Colectivo Tomate. They led not only a physical change, but also one that was social and cultural.
The District of Xanenetla is located between the Calzada de Loreto and Guadalupe and the Boulevard 5 de Mayo. It was founded in the year of 1551 and was a neighborhood influential to the construction of the city. El Xalnene, a special mix of stone and mud, was predominant in the area and used throughout the city. For this reason, the neighborhood was referred to as "Las praderas de Xalnene" beginning in 1751. We now know it as “Xanenetla.”
Inhabitants of Xalnene were for the majority natives (Nahuatl) who worked for the spanish. It became known as the district of the “brickmakers and potters.” The residents also aided in the battle of May 5th in 1862, as locals reported finding French soldiers lost among the streets of the neighborhood.
One of the unique attributes of Xanenetla is the urban planning rather distinct from that of the historical center. Some say the historic center of Puebla have roads traced by angels. But in Xanenetla, the roads are narrow, winding, and difficult to predict if they will lead you to an alley, private home, or boulevard.
By 1970, Xanenetla (among many other neighborhoods) were largely forgotten. In this time the San Francisco River that bordered the area was intubated into what we know now as the Boulevard 5 de Mayo. The boulevard cut through the historic center and Xanenetla, forcing a divide between social classes. The structures, life, and culture of Xanenetla began to deteriorate.
In 2009, Colectivo Tomate arrived with a social project that would change everything for the residents of Xanenetla. They created what we now know as “Puebla Ciudad Mural,” a project of more than 75 murals that fill the neighborhood. They started by knocking on doors, encouraging neighbors to join their mission. The collective and the people worked side by side, addressing themes like peace, coexistence and non-violence through painting. They wanted to promote the real identity of Xanenetla and its people, and what the neighbors wanted to pass onto new generations.
Visit Xanenetla today to witness the massive street art and tranquil, cobble-stoned pathways.
Know Before You Go
Get to the neighborhood of Xanenetla by following Calle 2 Norte or Calle 4 Norte northbound from the historic center. Cross the Boulevard 5 de Mayo and you’ve made it! It’s recommended to visit before the sun sets, the neighborhood can still be complicated at night.