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Morelia : capital
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Morelia, capital of the state of Michoacán, was first called Guayangareo. It was built on the purépechas lands. Then, at the time of the Conquest, it was called Valladolid, in honor to its Spanish counterpart. It was built like the Spanish cities. It was founded by Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New Spain. A religious man, Vasco de Quiroga, first Bishop of Michoacán, made his mark : he is at the origin of the College of San Nicolas, one of the oldest universities in America. In the villages of his diocese, he knew so well how to encourage craft that Michoacán has an essential place in the Mexican popular arts. Don Vasco taught the difficult art of lute-making to the wood carvers. Nowadays, the best violins and the most lilting guitars in the country come from villages of Michoacán.

In 1826, it was called Morelia. The origin of this name has a huge importance. It was named after the priest who fought for independence, José María Morelos y Pavón. This man was a Mestizo, and once he became a priest, led the War of Independence, succeeding to Hidalgo. His belief is still alive and profoundly influenced the Mexican politics. After the capture and execution of Hidalgo, Morelos called the Congress in Chilpancingo (nowadays the capital of Guerrero) and the Congress endorsed the Declaration of Independence. Because of the stranglehold of the Spanish over the economy and the government of the country, Morelos asked for a strong control of immigration and for equality in front of the law for every native of Mexico. But he was defeated by the man who became the first leader of Independent Mexico : Agustín Iturbide.

Morelia, built in pink stone, has the charm of a colonial town. In Mexico, there are not so many huge Baroque palaces, churches and cloisters of Renaissance and Baroque styles and mansions and houses of colonial style. Its climate is mild with temperatures ranging from 14°C to 18°C (57°F to 64°F), all year long. The city is located at 1,950 m (6,400 ft) of altitude, at the north-east of the state. Its population is 685,000 inhabitants in a state with three million inhabitants (in 2007).

Morelia is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1991.

Extract of UNESCO :
« Built in the 16th century, Morelia is an outstanding example of urban planning which combines the ideas of the Spanish Renaissance with the Mesoamerican experience. Well-adapted to the slopes of the hill site, its streets still follow the original layout. More than 200 historic buildings, all in the region's characteristic pink stone, reflect the town's architectural history, revealing a masterly and eclectic blend of the medieval spirit with Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical elements. Morelia was the birthplace of several important personalities of independent Mexico and has played a major role in the country's history».

As in any other city in Mexico, start the visit in the Zócalo, central plaza where you can stroll and meet friendly street vendors. The plaza of Weapons was built from 1541 to 1546 but the kiosk was built only in 1887.

facade of the cathedral of Morelia The Cathedral dominates the Zócalo. Built from 1660 to 1744, it is a mix of neo-classism and baroque, with two baroque 65 m (231 ft) high towers. The cupolas, covered with azulejos, are silhouetted on the blue sky.

     Right picture : facade of the cathedral of Morelia

The outside is beautiful but the inside is plain and of little interest. However, you can look at the neo-classical altars, a Manifestador (baroque style), baptismal fonts (neo-classical style) made in silver at the eighteenth century, an amazing German organ with 4,600 pipes (it delights the International Festival of organs organized every year in Morelia). Look also at the Christ, in one of the seven lateral chapels, made from maize and orchids powder paste applied to a reed frame. The statue’s gold crown, dating from the sixteenth century, was a gift from Philip II of Spain.

On the avenue Madero side, the Palacio de Gobierno (Madero # 63, open daily 9 AM-7 PM) set in an old seminary, dates from the eighteenth century. Morelos and Ocampo, both revolutionaries at the origin of the Movement for independence, studied there. The inside is adorned with 3 colorful frescoes from Alfredo Zalce. This painter portrayed different events in Mexican history. The two huge courtyards house the main offices of the state government.

During the War of Reforms, liberal Epitacio Huerta assaulted the seminary to establish the headquarters of the executive power of the State in 1867. Since, it has been converted into the Palace of Government.

South of Zócalo, in an old palace dating from the eighteenth century, the Museo Regional Michoacano (av. Allende and Abasolo, open 9 AM-4:45 PM, Tue-Sat and 9 AM-4 PM on Sundays, $41) traces the history of Michoacán State since the Pre-Hispanic time to the presidency of local Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940). This museum houses a small collection of Michoacán art, showing the richest Indian traditions. You can also see a beautiful mural of painter Alfredo Zalce.

The museum is located by the Palace of Justice, one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was built in the nineteenth century. Its facade is eclectic, with a French influence; the beautiful baroque inside comprises a nice spacious court surrounded by archways and an imposing stair. A huge fresco of Agustin Cárdenas overlooks the central stair. It is a work painted to remember the First Court of Justice established according to the Constitución de Apatzingán, promulgated on October, 22nd 1814. You can notice a Pre-Hispanic influence on the decorative elements on the second floor.

Going north from the Zócalo, you will pass in front of the Municipal Palace (Allende and Galeana). It was first built as a tobacco business and then it became the property of the Federal Government and was converted into the City Hall in1859. The octagonal patio is a jewel of Morelian architecture.

Visit the Colegio San Nicolás (Madero Poniente and Nigromante), founded at the sixteenth century as the first University in the American continent. Morelos, Alfonso Reyes, Xavier Villaurrutia, Samuel Ramos, Diego Rivera, Ernesto Cardenal and Pablo Neruda were students there. Hidalgo was a student, teacher, treasurer and president of University before he became priest of Dolores. This school has a neoclassical facade and a baroque influence inside. It still houses a preparatory school. On the first floor, you can visit the Melchor Ocampo room (Mon-Fri 8 AM-3 PM).


Next door, the Palacio Clavijero, an old Jesuit School built in 1660, is a magnificent ensemble housing the library of the University of Michoacán (free admission), the Tourism Office and some government administrative offices. In the late seventeenth century, the palace was the Temple of the Company of Jesus, then the home of the Congress of Michoacán in 1824. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM and from 10 AM to 7 PM on weekends (free admission).
The patio, made from pink stone, is adorned with archways and a central octagonal fountain reminding the castellan tradition.
The antic Jesuit School was named after one of the brightest masters of this order, Francisco Javier Clavijero who was born in Veracruz, from Spanish parents. He went to school in Paris, came back to New Spain to take care of the most important city halls in Puebla State. He joined the Company of Jesus in 1748; he studied physics and biology as well as Latin and Castellan. Expelled by the Jesuits in 1767, Francisco Javier Clavijero went into exile and died in Bologna, Italy on April, 2nd 1787. His ashes rest today in the Rotonda of the Illustrious Men in Mexico City.


Video about Michoacán state, made by the state secretary of tourism
The Sweets and Handicrafts Market (mercado de Dulces), located behind the Clavijero Palace, is worth the detour for the sweet teeth. You can find a great variety of local sweets : ate (kind of jellied fruits to eat with cottage cheese), rompope, local fruits as well as local handicrafts from Indian communities of Michoacán (open daily 10 AM-9 PM).

A little further north, the old Dominican monastery dating from the eighteenth century, Santa Rosa (Santiago Tapia # 334) houses a music conservatory. It housed the oldest liturgical music school in America. It is set on a huge surface between two streets, facing a nice plaza. It is, without any doubt, one of the most noticeable buildings in the city, dating from the mid eighteenth century. It was first the home of nuns. When the nuns moved to Santa Catarina Monastery, the building was abandoned. Then, in1738, Bishop Matos Coronado acquired it and converted it into the girls’ School of Santa Rosa. Since, it is called The Roses.
This music Conservatory has taught and still teaches important musicians. It also houses the internationally famous “Boys Choir of Morelia”.
The church of this old monastery has a noticeable baroque façade looking at the romantic monument dedicated to Cervantès. The monastery of Santa Rosa also houses the Museo del Estado. This museum was inaugurated in 1986. It displays three categories: archaeology, ethnology and history. There are important archaeological collections of ceramics and jewels. Each Wednesday, it is the home to cultural events with free guided tours. (Guillermo Prieto # 176, in front of the Roses garden). Here is also an old pharmacy dating from 1868. The museum is open daily from 9 AM to 2 PM and from 4 PM to 8 PM except on weekends. (Free admission)

ex-convento del Carmen Farther north, the House of the Culture of Morelia (Morelos Norte # 485) is set inside the old Carmelite convent, called Convento del Carmen. The convent was built in 1596. It preserves paintings of famous masters. There are also some temporary shows. Site : www.cmmas.org or info@cmmas.org (open 10 AM-1 PM and 3 PM-6 PM Mon-Fri).

Left picture : ex-convento del Carmen

Several museums honor Morelos. One of them is the Museo de Arte colonial on avenue Morelos. Housed in a eighteenth century house with the original baroque style, this small museum was the first printing shop in the city (1821). Nowadays, the museum offers visitors works of art from the viceroy time as well as a collection of Christ made from maize paste dating from the evangelism time. Open to the public from Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 8 PM and from 9 AM to 7:30 PM on weekends.

The Casa Natal de Morelos is close to San Augustin Church. (Open 9 AM-8 PM, Mon-Fri and 9 AM-7:30 PM on weekends, free admission). It is the house where Morelos was born. Located on Corregidora # 113, it houses a library and murals of Alfredo Zalce.

The San Agustin Church :
This building dates from the sixteenth century. The façade is of late plateresque style. People worship the Virgin of Succor, a gift from Santo Tomás de Villanueva. The tower dates from the early seventeenth century. The cloister, of gothic influence, reflects a surprising dignity.

Two blocks east, the Museo de Sitio Casa Natal de Morelos located on Avenue Morelos # 323, in an eighteenth century baroque mansion, traces the history of the Independence of Mexico. It displays furniture, photos, documents, paintings and personal objects of the Hero (open 9 AM-5 PM, Mon-Sat and 9 AM-4 PM on Sundays, $31).

embroider in Morelia A little further north-east, close to Plaza Valladolid, the Casa de las Artesanías houses another aspect of the popular traditions in Mexico. The handicraft of the villages of Michoacán State is, without any doubt, one of the richest with the one of Oaxaca State. If you like this kind of craft, you will be tempted to buy everything! It is both a museum (Museo de los Dulces) and a handicraft store. The entrance of the Casa de las Artesanías (open daily 9 AM-7 PM) is located under the archways of plaza Valladolid, leant against the Templo and the Ex-Convento Franciscano (Fray Juan de San Miguel #129 and Humboldt), the oldest church in the city. It was first a chapel and then was converted into a church in 1575. The works ended in 1610. Admire the plateresque type work and the archway.

     Right picture : embroider in Morelia  

By the post office, visit the beautiful Temple of the Nuns (Templo de las Monjas) located on avenue Francisco Madero Oriente. It was part of the old convent of Santa Catarina. It was built from 1729 to 1737, during the baroque era. Its facade is very rigorous with plateresque reminiscences. Inside, the lying Christ, made from maize reeds and orchids, deserves the admiration. The people named this temple after the Nuns of the order of
«Catarinas» who lived there.

At the east of downtown, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Acueducto # 18, open 10 AM-8 PM, Tue-Fri and 10 AM-6 PM on weekends, free admission) offers a nice collection of works of Zalce and other contemporary artists. The building, dating from the nineteenth century, shows a French influence. It is located next door to the Museum of Biology named after Dr Manuel Martinez Solorzano, a doctor, naturalist and scientist from Morelia (open daily 9 AM-6 PM, free admission).

The two buildings are on the edge of the Bosque de Cuauhtemoc, the biggest park in Morelia. To reach them, go to the aqueduct dating from the eighteenth century (1785). It comprises 253 archways that supplied drinking water to all the fountains in the city. It also gave work to the indigenous of the city. This aqueduct was ordered by Bishop Fray Antonio de San Miguel after a two year shortage of water.

You can follow the Calzada Fray Antonio de San Miguel, a pedestrian cobblestoned street built in 1732. It was named after Father Antonio de San Miguel who restored it. You will first cross a charming neighborhood with mansions dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, then, you will reach the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, built from 1708 to 1716. The gate is of baroque style. The inside is worth the detour. It was decorated in 1915 by Joaquin Orta, with a mix of baroque art and Art-Nouveau. The bright colors, yellow, red and fuchsia, are awesome and will be engraved on your memory. Nowadays, it houses the Law School of the University of Michoacán.

Map of the state :

Map of Morelia :

History of the state :


Very nice shootings at the world of the Purépechas
10 years of travels in the world of the indigenous communication.
Celebration of 10 years of journalistic work in the purépecha region.

To go to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, take an organized tour from Morelia. It is an easy way to access to reserve and get information about this astonish migration (entrance fees : $25 + guides tips, open 10 AM-5 PM, daily from mid-November to March). Allow a full day.


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