Originally, Jeff and I had planned that Guanajuato would be our last “destination” of our 4-month road trip before heading back to Puerto Vallarta and our home aboard El Gato in early October. But upon regular checks on the weather, we were dismayed to see that the temps in PV hovered consistently around the low 100’s, when you added the humidity factor. Well, nothankyouverymuch. Since we had no interest in returning to what we left to escape (torrential rain, heat and humidity), we-that means I, perused Google to find another destination or two to enjoy before the eventual return.
In my research, I read about Patzcuaro, a colonial town on the edge of its namesake Lake Patzcuaro. OK, that looked interesting. I plotted our route, and noticed Morelia, the capital and largest city in the state of Michoacan, on the way. Hmmmm… we have loved exploring Mexico’s urban areas, so…
Wait! Michoacan? Oh, that changes things. The state of Michoacan in western Mexico has quite a reputation, and not a stellar one. Previously, my only reference to Michoacan was from the Cheech and Chong movie “Up in Smoke,” describing the (many) kinds of weed they smoked. It was relevant to me, personally, because in the 70’s in rural Appalachia, Michoacan was considered primo weed. (These days, from what I’ve heard, Mexican marijuana is usually crap.)
For many years, reported carjackings, kidnappings, murders, and other cartel-related crimes have discouraged tourists from visiting this western state. Beheadings are a thing of the not-too-distant past here. And I like my head-especially when it is attached to my body.
The city of Morelia itself, does not have a reputation for violence, especially against tourists. (Most places in Mexico don’t). Morelia sounded beautiful, but, in comparison to what? Up to this point, I believed we had seen the best of the Mexican cities. That cinched it. Next up? Morelia.
As a university city, Morelia seems to be made up of a large percentage of students and middle to upper middle-class residents. There was a medical school across from our hotel, and med students populated the park and nearby areas. Morelia is also home to one of the most important Film Festivals in the World.
That is not to say that Morelia, or Michoacan, is lacking in the fun and funky shopping for art that I have delighted in across Mexico. In fact, I found the artisan craftmanship in this Mexican state to be superior to most of what I have seen. Michoacán is one of Mexico’s major handcraft producers, with over thirty types including pottery, metal work, textiles, lacquer and wood working. This was an unexpected surprise, because Michoacán handcrafts lack access to tourist markets. The main promoter of Michoacán handcrafts is the state-run Casa de las Artesanías, and I spent several hours wandering the individual stalls and shops within the central building repurposed from a former monastery. I really wish I had been aware of the shopping possibilities here, because at this point, our little rental car was packed as tight as sardines.
Just down the street from our hotel was Morelia’s aquaduct. Built of stone in 1785, this mile-long Aqueduct with 253 arches is one of Morelia’s biggest attractions. It was beautiful at night, lit up in all its glory.
After spending four days in Morelia, we agreed with other accounts that it is, perhaps, Mexico’s Most Beautiful City You’ve Never Heard Of.