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Toluca de Lerdo, official name of the capital of Mexico State, is a beautiful contemporary city and the main industrial center in the country. Located 65 kilometers to the west of Mexico City, it is guarded by the Nevado de Toluca Volcano, which measures over 14,800 feet high. The city is situated in the Matlazinco Valley where the Matlazintli tribe, who used to inhabit this region, fished in the lagoons and the Lerma River.
Some historians say that Toluca was founded on March 19th, 1522 by Christian missionaries. Toluca is a rich and diverse territory thanks to its location in the center of the country, where the ground is fertile, the landscapes are stunning and the history and traditions of the people are fascinating.
Toluca is the highest city in Mexico, located 8,800 feet above sea level and it has an average temperature of around 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, making for a generally cold and dry climate. Despite the weather, Toluca is a fantastic city to stroll around and enjoy the many restaurants, bars, discos, museums, markets, hotels, zoo and large recreational parks.
Toluca is often referred to as ''La Bella'' (the beautiful one) primarily because of its French and neoclassical architectural style, seen predominantly in the city houses. Modernity and history converge here resulting in a fantastic blend of industrial buildings intertwined with relics of a time gone by. Buildings such as the Cathedral and Los Portales are considered two of the most important artistic expressions of colonial times and should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Toluca provides its visitors with the ideal environment to enjoy so many different activities, from watching a beautiful sunset from the Mirador (lookout point) to admiring the architectural beauty of the city's stunning buildings, and so much more.
Toluca has several beautiful buildings to explore that include fantastic examples of baroque, neoclassical, modernist and contemporary architecture. The city attracts all types of visitors, from business people to vacationers and has an impressive hotel infrastructure ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Toluca is one of the most important industrial centers in Mexico, and it serves as the headquarters for many of the most important factories in the country that export their products around the world. Some of the biggest companies in Toluca are Chrysler, Nestle, General Motors, Bimbo and the Cuauhtemoc brewery, who all represent an important source of employment and income for the people of Toluca.
Walking through the Historic Center of Toluca, there are streets, buildings and plazas that direct us to the colonial era, the times of Portfirio Diaz and to the modern day sites of this city. The indigenous tribe of people called the Matlatzincas had inhabited the area and even though they stood up to the Mexica empire, they were defeated, renaming the people with the Nahuatl word "Tollocan." No traces remain of either the Tollocan or the Mexica but their presence is felt in the blood of those who reside in Toluca.
In the conquest, Tollocan was forced into submission by Gonzalo de Sandoval. During the colonial period, it was converted into a center of laborers with beasts of burden as well as a strategic communication point between the capital of New Spain and the provinces of New Galicia, Michoacan and Acapulco. This also became an obligatory transition point when taking minerals from the south to the Hacienda de Beneficio de Metal de San Francisco Javier in Guanajuato.
During the War of Independence, Toluca was taken by Felix Maria Calleja and used as barracks and a base for the troops of the east. After the triumph of the insurgents as well as becoming capital of the state, this city was transformed into a trading and financial center of prosperous landowners and farmers of the region. In the times of Porfirio Diaz, Toluca initiated a slow industrialization without ever losing its agricultural nature. This was particularly true in General Jose Vicente Villada's regiment, when the beer brewing company Toluca y Mexico, S.A. was founded, which would later became Cerveceria Modelo, the world famous beer company. Also founded here were diverse factories, tanning shops, packaging companies and dairy producers.
Art and Culture
The people of Toluca appreciate how fortunate they are to live in a city so rich in art and culture, with exquisite regional gastronomy and steeped in a colorful history. The mix of indigenous tribes in the Matlazinco Valley, such as the Matlazincoes, Toltecs, Mexicas and Otomies, resulted in the fusion of different cultures and traditions, which led to the wonderful vibrant style of today's western-central Mexico.
Toluca boasts a great deal of cultural and folkloric diversity which can be appreciated in each one of its traditional festivities, such as the traditional and very solemn ''Procession of Silence'' that takes place every Good Friday, when all the Catholic congregation from Toluca and the surrounding area get together in the center of the city to express their respect and devotion for Jesus Christ. The Holy Week and Lent are celebrated and venerated in a similar way. When it comes to art and culture, Toluca has the second most number of museums in the country, some of which are located in the Mexiquense Cultural Center. Toluca also features a Villa Charra (a place for rodeos) where visitors can discover the folklore of the region and visit several art galleries.
Today, Toluca is experiencing rapid growth in urban development thanks to its industrial economy. One thing is for sure, with the amount of activities on offer you will never get bored in Toluca. Take the time to discover the history, culture, gastronomy and stunning landscapes that all add up to make Toluca one of the most amazing Mexican destinations to visit for either business or pleasure.
Metepec is a suburb of Toluca so many actually consider it an extension of the city. An incredible amount of investment has been made here in the recent years and this can be seen in the modern shopping malls and housing complexes. This city, however, does maintain its traditions and crafting activities (such as clay and ceramic) promoting its culture, especially with one of the most representative handicrafts being the Tree of Life, a clay tree, made in sizes that vary from being small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or as tall as a one story building. The tree itself is normally decorated with clay figurines of the story of creation and of Adam and Eve.
Ixtapan de la Sal
Located 30 minutes from Toluca, Ixtapan de la Sal is a zone that is rich in minerals and ever since pre-Hispanic times, it has been a source of salt. It has also functioned as a public bath for the Matlatzincas and the Mexica, considered one of the biggest in Latin America. There are also a number of modern corners as well as traditional nooks and crannies about the city so come and discover them.
Upon arrival, the beautiful effigy of Ixtapancihuatl and the Diana Cazadora (the Hunting Diana) welcome you to this town of lovely lanes lined with jacarandas, a large main plaza with typical cobblestone streets, houses with red tiled roofs and hundreds of picturesque corners, typical of the towns of this region.
You can always find a reason to celebrate here. The inhabitants take part in their traditional festivities with the utmost joy: in February, El Carnaval; in March, the Regional Fair; in May, the Feast of San Isidro Labrador. Holy Week is also a very important holiday and chock-filled with festivities. The Independence Day celebrations are very colorful and also very peculiar to the place, where visitors and locals participate.