Morelia: A Pink Rose in the Heart of Central Mexico
July 14, 2016
by Lindsey Green
A Brief Intro:
Walking through the streets of Morelia in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, you cannot be surprised that you are indeed stepping back into history – literally. Being in the presence of what was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991 for its preservation of the city since the Spanish conquest of the area in the 1500’s, the capital of Michoacan and the largest city in the state, named after Jose Morelos, a Mexican war hero from from the Mexican War of Independence, brings as much enchantment as any other magical place in the world. With its pre-hispanic roots and Spanish colonial influence, it is truly a pleasure to walz through the streets of this beautiful and friendly city while gazing upon the historic hotels, monuments, musical conservatories, art museums, numerous churches, and of course, the magnificent Cathedral in the center of the downtown.
Conservatorio de las Rosas:
This city is certainly one of Mexico’s treasures – A Pink Rose in the heart of Central Mexico. It is not easy to miss the beautiful pink cantera stone that has been used to many many of the buildings of the city. Even the musical conservatory here, which is built from the same pink cantera stone, is called Conservatorio de las Rosas (Conservatory of the Roses) and was built back in the 1700’s. Believe it or not, musicians still perform and practice their talents here to this day. All you have to do is stroll into the conservatory following the serene melody from inside one of the rooms of the conservatory where students and professionals continuously hone in on their talents in a beautiful pink stone edifice where musicians have been making music for almost 300 years. This is exactly what I did – followed the alluring tune of the musicians right into a rehearsal for a graduation performance scheduled for the next day – a marvelous duet of a violin and piano and the result of what must have been hundreds of hours’ worth or work.
Music of Morelia:
Believe it or not, instead of asking me to leave, the musicians warmly welcomed me into the room and asked me to make myself comfortable and take a seat as they played absolutely enchanting music for about an hour. In another room of the conservatory I found another group of students rehearsing for a different performance – drummers, bassists, pianists, etc. After listening to the work of the pianist and violinist in the first room, I was invited by the pianist to listen to him privately play a 15 minute piece by Chopin – and I cannot express enough my incredulity at the awe-inspiring talent of this Russian musician. It was the best piano performance I have ever seen in my life – and it was free and by chance. After performing for me this musician was kind enough to invite me to the final performance of the duet scheduled for the next day, which was very much a treat. That night, I had the pleasure of attending the Festival Internacional de Guitarras, which was also free, and which consisted of a two different guitarists, one after the other, accompanied by a full orchestra, in the Teatro Stella Inda. You never know what free events you can stumble upon when you keep your eyes and ears open while traveling!
Can’t-Miss Events and Places:
When I was not stumbling upon beautiful and free classical music in the city, I was exploring the many historical and charming sites to behold in Morelia and attending other special events going on. One event to make a special note of is the firework light show on Saturday nights in front of the main Cathedral in the center of downtown. It is a magnificent light show, one like I have never seen before in my life. These shows are only on Saturdays at 8:45PM, and be sure to be on time, as a crowd starts lining up to see the show at 8:30PM. The inside and outside of the Cathedral are beautiful – be sure to check them out. Also, the Plaza de Armas, which is the green garden with a kiosko (gazebo) in the center, which is something you will find next to the main church in mostly any downtown center in Mexico, is quite a nice place to relax. It looks out upon the historic hotel Virrey de Mendoza, which is worth a look inside at the beautiful multi-colored glass ceiling and the Spanish colonial influence found in many of the paintings and structure of the hotel. Be sure to stop inside the Biblioteca Publica de la Universidad Michoacana, down the street from the Cathedral, which has an monument surrounded by rose bushes outside. On the far side of the Biblioteca you will find the Mercado de Ducles, the Market of Sweets, something Morelia is famous for, along with the Museo de Dulce, the Museum of Sweets, on the other far side of the Cathedral, down the street. Also be sure to, in addition to checking out the Conservatorio de las Rosas, see the Jardin de las Rosas just outside the conservatory and the church right next to it, Templo de las Rosas.
Other Honorable Mentions:
The Parroquia del Sagrario Metropolitano, which inside houses an art museum with rooms upstairs acting like portals into some of the surrounding pueblos magicos (magical Mexican towns) is where you can see the artisan work from these local towns. The Museo Regional Michoacano is worth a visit as is the Palacio de Gobierno Estado, the Hotel Alameda Centro HIstorico, where you can walk up to the roof of the restaurant to have a great view of the Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, and Templo de los Agostinos (also worth a look inside). Check out the Museo Casa de Morelos (the historical home of Jose Morelos, the war hero after whom the city is named), the Santuario de Guadalupe (do not miss this exquisite church), the Fuente Villalongin (a beautiful fountain), and the Palacio Clavijero, which is also a large historic church-like building which is more of an art and anthropology museum of the area. You can also visit the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Contemporary Art, though these are smaller and not as grand as the other sites to see, in my opinion. Walking through the streets you will encounter people selling all kinds of things including candy, tacos, churros, balloons, trinkets, clothes, and more; you’ll also come across street performers singing and dancing and others who draw caricatures. In my opinion these small vendors and street artists add character and charm to the city. It is surely a place to see if one loves beautiful music, Mexican culture, the intersection of pre-hispanic and Spanish Colonial history and exquisite and well-preserved UNESCO world heritage sites.