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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Video about Michoacán state, made by the state secretary
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)
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 :
or firstname.lastname@example.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).
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.
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
Celebration of 10 years of journalistic work in the purépecha
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.