Puebla’s strategic location, on a major transportation corridor, permitted the exportation of its regional style of Baroque architecture. The urban design of the historic center, based on a Renaissance grid plan, has exerted a considerable influence on the creation of colonial cities across Mexico.
The city of Puebla de los Ángeles was founded in 1531, among the boundaries of the indigenous dominions of Tlaxcala, Cholula and Cuauhtinchan, following Spain’s regal recommendations to not take possession of indigenous territories. The original city Ciudad de los Angeles was laid out according to a Renaissance urban grid formed by rectangular squares laid out in a northeast-southeast orientation.
The city is situated in the Valley of Cuetlaxcoapan at the foot of one of Mexico’s highest volcanoes, known as Popocatepetl. It commands a strategic location on the commercial and cultural trade route between the Port of Veracruz to the east and Mexico City, approximately 60 km (100 mi) to the northwest, which allowed Puebla to be an important intermediate point and a core part of the Atlantic axle for over two centuries.
The city exercised considerable influence in the 16th century and was the recipient of several nobility titles during this century. In 1532, it received the "Title of city" (as the city was founded in 1531) and in 1538 the "Coat of arms;" both given by Charles V and signed by his wife, Elizabeth, from Portugal. In 1558, it received the appointment as "Noble and Loyal City of Los Angeles" and in 1576, by means of another Royal decree, it was declared "Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Los Angeles."
Many buildings from the 16th and 17th century have survived, including the university founded in 1587 as Colegio del Espíritu Santo, major religious structures such as the Cathedral (dating from 1575), and fine buildings like the former archbishop's palace, the location of the Palafox Library established in 1646 and credited with being the first library in the Americas.
Many houses are clad in colored tiles known as azulejos. The use of these tiles illustrates a new aesthetic concept and the fusion of European and American styles particular to the Baroque district of Puebla.
Reform laws in the mid-19th century required the closing of many religious institutions, which impacted the urban landscape. However, this era also saw the rise of high-quality public and private architecture.