Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Veneto in Puebla..... Chipilo, a town from the past!

Chipilo is a small city in the state of Puebla, Mexico. It is located twelve kilometers south of the state capital Puebla, Puebla, at a height of 2,150 meters above sea level. You can find it going towards Atlixco in the municipal area of Cholula. Its official name is Chipilo de Francisco Javier Mina. It has about 3,500 inhabitants. The people of Chipilo are called chipileƱos. We took off from Puebla and where there before you knew it, very close to us, YAY! The free road is colorful and offers many an opportunity of seeing local handycrafts, fruit stands, rustic furniture stores and all types of restaurants for all tastes.....

Chipilo was founded on October 2, 1882 by immigrants from the northern Italian region of Veneto. There was a great flood of the River Piave which left many dead and homeless and so the President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, decided to import 500 persons from this area since there were more lands than hands to work them and to raise the working conditions and techniques of the indigenous indians of the area. Most of them came from Segusino and the surrounding towns in Treviso. Thus, the immigration to Chipilo is different from the Italian immigration to Buenos Aires, where most of the immigrants came from the southern regions of Italy.

The immigrants came to Mexico in search of fertile land and running from the poverty that was plaguing Veneto at that time. Most of them decided to raise cattle, and the dairy products of Chipilo became famous in Puebla and other regions in central Mexico. In fact, they dedicated themselves so much to the dairy trades that this area is known for it's milk production, cheeses and meat as at one time over 75% of families here had an operating dairy on their property.

In 1982, the townspeople of Chipilo celebrated the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the city along with visitors from the Veneto region. In this celebration the city of Segusino, Italy, was declared Chipilo's twin city.

Venetian descends from Latin, possibly influenced by the Venetic substratum and by the languages of the Germanic tribes (Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Lombards) who invaded northern Italy in the 5th century. The earliest texts that can be recognized as "Venetian" date from the 13th century.

Venetian was spread through the world by the massive imigration from the Veneto region between 1870 and 1905. Those migrants created large Venetian-speaking communities in Brazil, Mexico, and Romania, where the language is still spoken today. Internal migrations under the Fascist regime also sent many Venetian speakers to other regions of Italy.

Chipilo is unique to many other immigrant pockets due to the fact that until very recently, this town was cut off from mainstream Mexico (liking it that way) and since they thought all they had were their roots, decided to conserve their way of life and language; to this day the ancient Venetian dialect is still spoken here and most of the townspeople do not look favorably on locals mixing with non Chipilenos.... customs and way of thinking remain and they are not known for lots of fiestas or celebrations, are usually reserved and closed to strangers and state that all they have is work so there is no time for other pursuits (this certainly doesn't sound Mexican, huh?).

We had considered taking a drive to look for raw milk, curd and renet and were told about this town by another expat. That's all I needed to hear and off we went. Our plan was to get lunch at the Veneto Hotel (only one in town) and have some good Italian food, buy our stuff and spend the afternoon....BUT, we were told the hotel is only for locals and they don't serve "outsiders".... Uh oh.... that meant us, so no authentic Italian food.... at least for the time being, let me work on it and I'm sure I will report some progress next time I report on the town.

Anyway, got to Chipilo and went on the hunt for the milk and other stuff.... drove around and saw several cheese and cream places but we decided to have an expresso first and scope our the area; got to talking to the people from the Buonsimo Coffee (on the Main drag there, across from the Church) and they gave us some good places to check out, plus we learned the owner's father-in-law had a large dairy where we could get the milk around 6pm (which meant we'd do everything else first)... Got the cheeses and salami (all home made and really fresh with no preservatives or anything added) and then we went to look for the dairy.

Had to go to the Veterinary Pharmacy to get the "cuajo" (natural rennet which is the actual cow's digestive juices, no chemicals here), and then where off to find the cheese. Went to a couple of the cheese stores on the main road, especially the one's that been recommended to us and spent quite a while talking to the shop owner about the town and her products which are all home made and contain no chemicals or additivies.... even fresh pasta here!

Got to the dairy and had to go around since they were right in the middle of the late afternoon milking time (they milk at 6am and 6pm) and if you want milk you have to go during these times; so we went in and found the owner working on one of his tractor motors and asked if we could purchase some milk. It was only then that we realized that he wasn't speaking Spanish nor Italian!!!! We couldn't make out anything he was saying but he seemed to understand our Spanish more or less and agreed to sell us 5 liters and told us to go in the back.

We walked into the property and saw what must have been hundreds of milk cows! The older son wouldn't even talk to us (he was busy and just stared) but then the youngest son came running up (must have been 12 or so) and tried to help us, he didn't speak Spanish too well either and like most everyone else in town, was blond and blue eyed..... We didn't think to bring a container so he ran around and found a tub for us to put our milk in and we walked around and watched them milk the cows while they got ours..... it smelled of manure, hay and farm animals and for a second I was back at the family ranch with those familiar aromas.....

With our milk in hand and our other goodies we were ready to return to Puebla, but first we made a stop at the Church (on the main road) of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which was being rennovated. Not your typical Mexican looking Church either but very nice.

Once on our way back we passed the town of Tlaxcalcingo, on the same road Atlixco-Puebla, Highway 190 - and noticed a large and beautiful Church there dedicated to Christ the King and had to take a picture of this too. Really worth seeing, the front is amazinly beautiful.... you could see another, smaller but equally lovely Church before this one but set further from the main road which might merit a look too, but there was quite a bit of traffic and we wanted to get back (getting close to dinner time by now) and see what projects we could organize early the next day (YAY! finally get to make cheese, Canolis, Lebanese Yogurt..... my mind is reeling...) so we kept going home.

Got home right before the thunderclouds started their usual concert and got my Kitty all nervous (she hates thunder) plus it only lasts half hour or so which made it the perfect time to begin dinner and settle in. But I was glad we'd had such a productive day that would reap benefits for a long time to come.... We will be sure to go back to Chipilo time and time again, not just to visit, sit and talk with the locals but to get our dairy supplies whenever we run low..... A great day enjoyed by all!.....

Keep checking in for many more adventures to come, we've got plenty of other trips planned to equally interesting places in the Heart of Mexico, so why don't you come along!

Talk soon.....


  1. Belina.. a popular dish in Chipilo is Polenka...since it is made with cornmeal, this is one of the best places in Mexico to get cornmeal... Since I like cornbread and my grandkids like corn dogs I go to Chiopilo often.

  2. What an interesting town and history - thank you for your descriptive overview and photos of this very unique little "immigrant pocket" - it's fascinating. and sounds like a great place to visit.