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The Roman Catholic church of Nuestra Seńora de los Remedios overlooks the town of Cholula from atop the Great Pyramid.
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View of Nuestra Seńora de los Remedios church with Popocatépetl behind it from UDLAP in Cholula.

Cholula is a small city in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The legal, though little used, full name of the city is Cholula de Rivadavia. The city of Cholula is divided into two municipalities, San Andrés Cholula and San Pedro Cholula. Both of them are considered to be part of the conurbation of the city of Puebla.

Cholula is located at Template:Coor dm, about 15 km west of the city of Puebla, at an approximate elevation of 2135 meters (about 7000 ft) above sea level. The population of San Pedro Cholula is somewhat less than 100,000 people, and the population of San Andres Cholula, a little less than 50,000.



Cholula was an important city of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, dating back to at least the 2nd century BC, with settlement as a village going back at least some thousand years earlier. It was later the second largest city of the Aztec empire.

Cholula was a major center contemporary with Teotihuacan and seems to have avoided, at least partially, that city's fate of violent destruction at the end of the Mesoamerican Classic period. Cholula thus remained a regional center of importance, enough so that, at the time of the fall of the Aztec empire, Aztec princes were still formally anointed by a Cholulan priest, in a manner reminiscent, and perhaps even analogous, to the way some Mayan princes appear to have come to Teotihuacan in search of some sort of formalization of their rulership.

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The Cholula Massacre of 1519

At the time of the arrival of Hernán Cortés Cholula was part of the Aztec empire and was second only to the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City) as the largest city in central Mexico, possibly with a population of up to 100,000 people. In addition to the great temple of Quetzalcoatl and various palaces, the city had 365 temples.

In 1519 Cortés, either in a pre-meditated effort to instill fear upon the Aztecs waiting for him at Tenochtitlan or (as he later claimed when under investigation) wishing to make an example when he feared native treachery, conducted an infamous massacre here, killing thousands of unarmed members of the nobility gathered at the central plaza and partially burning down the city.

A few years later Cortés vowed that the city would be rebuilt with a Christian church to replace each of the old pagan temples; less than 50 new churches were actually built, but the Spanish colonial churches are unusually numerous for a city of its size.

During the Spanish Colonial period Cholula was overtaken in importance by the nearby city of Puebla.

Great Pyramid of Cholula

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Only a fraction of a staircase on one side of the Great Pyramid of Cholula has been restored to its former glory.

See main article: Great Pyramid of Cholula

Cholula is most famous as the site of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the largest man-made structure by volume in the world.


The original Nahuatl name was cholöllan, chol-öl-tlan, of which two possible etymologies are:

  • [flee]-[öl(mëcatl)]-[place where happens]  meaning something like  "place where the Olmecs fled"
  • [chol]-[öl(mëcatl)]-[place where happens]  meaning something like  "place where the Chol-Olmecs are", referring to the Chol branch of the Maya

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Alternative meanings



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