Exploring the Colonial City of Morelia and Cathedral Fireworks
My second and last weekend in Mexico had arrived and I was ready to start my next out-of-town excursion from Guadalajara: I was planning to take the ETN bus to Morelia, the capital of the neighbouring state of Michoacán. I woke up early around 5:30 am and little later Wouter Stut from the Guadalajara Language Center came to pick me up to drop me off at the Estación Nueva, the city’s main bus terminal. He had already been picking up several of my student colleagues from the language school and dropped them off at the airport. Saturday was a big departure day for many of the language students at the Guadalajara Language Center.
My luxury bus left at 7:30 am and I sat back in my comfortable recliner seat and watched the landscape pass by on this gorgeous morning. In between I checked the Internet from the on-board Wifi connection on this luxury bus. Admittedly I had never travelled on such a well-equipped bus in Canada, but Mexico is equipped with a large network of busses of different categories that crisscross the country and provide transportation for a large part of the population.
Rodrigo Muñoz, my expert guide, with his wife and children
Shortly before 11 am and after a very comfortable ride I arrived at the bus station in Morelia, and my local expert guide, Rodrigo Muñoz, was already waiting for me. He is a trained pilot and has been running a successful sightseeing company for the past several years that takes international tourists to a wide variety of destinations across Mexico. Rodrigo originally hails from Mexico City but relocated to Morelia about seven years ago and loves this city.
The famous cathedral of Morelia
Rodrigo scooped me up and we started our sightseeing tour of this historic gem of a city. Morelia was originally founded in 1541 under the name of Valladolid by Spanish Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza. In 1810 it became the site where Miguel Hidalgo, the Father of Mexican Independence, proclaimed the end of slavery in Mexico. After the Mexican War of Independence the city was renamed Morelia in honour of independence hero José Maria Morelos who was born in this city.
View of Morelia’s Plaza de Armas
We stopped at the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Morelia that is anchored on the east side by the Cathedral of the Divine Saviour of Morelia, a magnificent building whose construction started in 1640 and was completed in 1744. The two 60 metre high towers of the cathedral are the second tallest Baroque towers in all of Mexico.
Morelia’s Cathedral – an impressive structure
Punctually at 12 noon Rodrigo and I boarded a double-decker sightseeing bus that would give us a great overview of the city. From our comfortable open-air seats on the upper deck, Rodrigo started educating me about the city. Until 1985 Morelia only had about 250,000 residents while the population has since grown to more than 1.5 million people in the surrounding region. After the severe 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, many residents of that city had felt unsafe and relocated to other cities in the country. Morelia, being located about half-way between Guadalajara and Mexico City, benefited from this migration, as it was only three hours away from the capital. Today the city is an important centre of government administration, education and commerce.
The Ex-Convento del Carmen, one of the hundreds of colonial buildings in Morelia
Our bus took us down the main street called Francisco I. Madero, past gorgeous well-preserved colonial buildings that are made of pinkish “cantera” sandstone. The city is embellished by over 1100 buildings that were built between the 16th and the late 19th century and create a uniform historic appearance. We then travelled to the Sanctuary of Guadelupe, one of Mexico’s most beautiful churches. With its soft pink, salmon and gold-trim colour palate, the church is an outstanding example of Mexican church architecture from the early 1700s.
The overwhelming ornamentation of the Sanctuary of Guadelupe