Morelos: Introduction to Downtown Cuernavaca
The City of Cuernavaca has grown at a rapid rate during the last decade, in terms of population. There are over 6o universities, public and private, within this city and many of the students are out-of-state as well as international students. It has also been the weekend vacation spot for many of Mexico City residents. The downtown area is full of people during the week, but it is the weekend where most of the movement happens in the area. There are interesting places that many of the locals have yet to explore, but are perfect sites for a weekend in Cuernavaca. The intention of this article is to give you a brief introduction to Downtown Cuernavaca, although there are more sites to check out in the city, such as Teopanzolco Pyramids, Chapultepec Ecological Park and the San Anton Waterfall.
Centro Cultural Jardín Borda
This museum and park was built in the late eighteenth century, the work of a wealthy French migrant. Joseph de Laborde, or José de la Borda as he is known in Spanish, made his riches from mines in Taxco, Guerrero, the neighboring state. Joseph built it as his summer mansion with lush gardens, along with the church of Guadalupe that is adjacent to the mansion. After his death in 1776 it served as a hotel as well as a public park, by then it already contained many varieties of trees and plants. In 1865, then emperors of Mexico, Maximilian and Charlotte, chose this mansion as their summer home, turning it into a royal palace. During their stay at the Borda Mansion, they had various reunions in which notable guests such as Emiliano Zapata, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, Francisco Leyva, Porfirio Díaz, and Diego Rivera were entertained. Currently, Jardín Borda is a museum, part of the Morelos’ Culture Institute. There are different exhibitions throughout the year in the indoor areas, movies and live concerts in the gardens as well as bazaars in which you can find local, hand-made crafts. All the cultural activities and museum’s activities can be found listed on the online Cultural Agenda of the Morelos Secretary of Culture‘s website.
Catedral y ex-convento de la Asunción
The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary was originally built as a monastery in the late sixteenth century with the intention of evangelization after the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire, founded in 1525. The land on which the construction began was donated by Hernan Cortés’ wife, Juana de Zuñiga de Cortés. This monastery went through various changes throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and ended up including a great deal of land which the monks used to produce food and lost much of this land during the Reform Laws of the mid-nineteenth century, where much of the lands of the Catholic church was confiscated by the federal government. Some of these structures can also be seen inside the Robert Brady Museum, which also used to be part of this monastery. The church offers mass many days throughout the week and even offers mass in English on Sundays.
After entering through the main gate of the Cathedral grounds, I saw a smaller chapel on the left, beige color the chapel of Santa María. Straight ahead was the first view of the main church from the front entrance, after passing a pathway of brick sidewalk. To the right another chapel, the chapel Tercera Orden, pink and beige with beautiful sculptures on each side of the wooden doors. Inside the chapel of Santa María stands a sculpture of Saint Christopher holding baby Jesus.
The chapel of Santa María, and the chapel of Tercera Orden
What caught my eye from the first time I visited the Cathedral was the carving of a skull and cross bone above the door to the main church:
Barranca de Amanalco – Gully
This area is one of the oldest tourist sites in Cuernavaca, a river valley that runs throughout a good portion of the city and is full of vegetation. You can enjoy a brief 20 minute walk through the park, since only a small portion of it is actually open to the public. The walk includes many steps, a hanging wooden bridge, lookout areas, beautiful views of the water and at times throughout the year, events arranged by the Secretary of Tourism of the state. My favorite part of walking through here is the smell at times of the fresh vegetation, of the moss that grows on the rock walls and the sound of the water pouring.
Palacio de Cortés – Museo Regional Cuauhnahuac
During the Spanish Conquest, a former Tlahuica structure was torn down, although not in its totality, to construct a fortress that would become residence of Hernan Cortés and his then wife Juana Zuñiga. It was built in the early sixteenth century and three centuries later was used as a local jail. Over the centuries it has been renovated and worked on various times and has since reduced in size. It now serves as a regional museum, named Cuauhnahuac, which was the prehispanic name of Cuernavaca. The museum charges fifty pesos for entrance during the week and has free admission to Mexican citizens on Sundays with official government identification. The areas of the museum open to the public consist of three stories, which show the history of the state of Morelos. The exhibits include artifacts such as coins, swords, carriages, prehispanic crafts, colonial furniture, maps and pictures of important characters throughout history, both Spaniard, Criollo, Mestizo and indigenous. On the second and third floor, there are open balconies with gorgeous views of downtown Cuernavaca at the front of the building and the view of Leyva street and the courthouse from the back of the building. Throughout the tour, one can also witness what remains of the ancient Tlahuica and Aztec structures that were not destroyed after the Spanish Conquest.
The City of Eternal Spring
On the second and third floor, there are open balconies with gorgeous views of downtown Cuernavaca at the front of the building and the view of Leyva street and the courthouse from the back of the building. Throughout the tour, one can also witness what remains of the ancient Tlahuica and Aztec structures that were not destroyed after the Spanish Conquest.