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Morelia is one of the jewels in the crown of Mexico’s colonial history. Its downtown streets are lined by old colonial buildings, looking as Spanish as they did in the 17th and 18th centuries.


The city sits on a 6,400 foot (roughly 2,000 meter) plateau, and is the capital of the state of Michoacán. As big as it is, with a population roughly estimated at 577,000, it is a relaxing place to explore and enjoy. Situated midway between Mexico City and Guadalajara, Morelia is a city waiting to be discovered.


In May, 1541, Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza founded a city on the site, calling it Valladolid after his hometown in Spain. When Mexico gained its independence, the name was changed to Morelia, in honor of General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavón, a native son and war hero. Morelia boasts a mild climate, its year round temperature averaging a balmy 73°F. Often, winter temperatures hover around 60°F and summer rarely tops 90°F. Casual dress is the norm, but during the rainy season (summer) don’t forget your umbrella.


In 1991, the city was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, due in large part to the stunning Spanish-style colonial architecture and distinct artistic flourishes.


City laws now require any new construction in the historical center, be built colonial-style, with arches, baroque façades, and carved pink stone walls. The rose-colored stone shines and the clean streets reflect the pride its citizens have in their city. Morelia, and the surrounding area, is recognized for the beautiful handmade folk art on display all over the city.


The most popular (and highest quality) pieces are the woodcarvings and pottery. Created in many styles, the varying designs and colors indicate which village was home to the artist who created the work. Another sought-after craft product is the fine lacquerware boxes and trays, created with layers of vibrant paint and inlaid gold leaf. The best quality pieces are expensive, but add a colorful flair to any collection.


Morelia’s center of activity is the zócalo, or main plaza. Shaded by large ancient trees, surrounded by colonnades, and lined by sidewalk cafes, it offers a unique opportunity to sit and mingle with the life of the city. Sunday is family day in the plaza and includes concerts and cultural programs. At night, the Cathedral sitting on the north end of the plaza is lit up and its famous 70 meter high twin towers make an impressive sight. On Saturday and Sunday nights, groups of local university students stroll through the cafes in costume, singing and entertaining the crowds.


Morelia is a city teeming with life, offering the discerning visitor a diverse cultural experience. There is something for everyone, from shopping and meandering through museums to checking out local art and music and indulging in comfortable hotels and great restaurants. To visit Morelia is to marvel at the preservation of the past and pay tribute to the culture of the present.

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