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  MORELIA History


The state of Michoacan has a fascinating yet tragic past. The region has been inhabited for hundreds of years by the Purépecha Indians (incorrectly labeled by the Spaniards as "Tarascos"). The Purépecha developed the most advanced pre-Columbian society in western Mexico. They resisted Aztec domination for decades, only to be brutally defeated by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Fortunately, the early development in this area was guided by the gentle and kind stewardship of Vasco de Quiroga, a bishop who made great strides to restore the land and its people. Today the Purépecha descendants number over 120,000. Excavated archeological sites are limited, but are viable attractions.

Morelia, originally known as Guayangareo by the indigenous people, was officially founded by New Spains first viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, in 1541 and named La Villa de Valladolid, in honor of the Spanish city of the same name. In 1580 Valladolid became the Capital of Michoacan and in 1640 construction of Morelia's Cathedral had begun. In 1787 the city changed it's name again and became Intendencia de Valladolid. This was the same year Fray Antonio de San Miguel built the magnificent Aqueduct which can been seen today.

Valladolid was at the center of the Mexican Independence War in the early 1800's as insurgents & traditionalists battled over the city. After victory by the revolutionaries, the cities name was changed in 1828 to honor it's native son, the revolutionary leader, José María Morelos y Pavón (1765-1814). In 1810, after meetings Miguel Hidalgo (Mexico's Revolutionary leader) in Charo and Indaparapeo, he was commissioned to the south coast to began insurgencies against the Spanish. Soon Morelos started to gain important victories. After nine months he had the control of the south coast area. He was arrested and executed in December, 1814 at the former Palace of San Cristobal Ecatepec.

Morelia has always been consider a leading city of Mexico and has been under siege or attack in every major war in Mexican history. In 1863 the French troops of Maximilian took Morelia. In 1867 the Mexican General Nicolas Regules retakes the city. With the assistance of a national railroad (the railraod came to Morelia in 1883) revolutionary troops led by Salvador Escalante, Saúl y Francisco Cano y Braulio Mercado enter in Morelia in 1911 during the Mexican Revolution.

The rest of the 20th century was mainly peaceful in Morelia. As a university and artists center, the city has been known to "speak it's mind" with student protests much in the way students do in the U.S. and Canada. One of Mexico's most famous historical figures was born in the state and is still revered to this day. Jiquilpan, Michoacan is the birthplace to whom many consider Mexico's greatest president, Lázaro Cárdenas. He was in office from 1934-1940 and brought in many of the reforms in Mexico evident even today.


Teatro Angela Peralta. This a three-tiered theatre built in 1865 which has been restored and offers a fine example of architecture during the Maximillian period. The theatre is open from 9am-6pm ever day and admission is 50 cents.

The main cathedral, Basílica del la Inmaculada Concepción, was built in the late 1800's and is located at Juarez & 21 de Marzo. It is a picturesque church with two, bright yellow towers and great craftsmanship inside.

Basílica del la Inmaculada Concepción

Near downtown is the old Spanish fort, Fuerte Carranza, from which Mazatlan defended itself from French invaders in the 1860's. Daily tours are available.


Museo Casa de Morelos
Former home of Mexican Indepedence leader Jose Maria Morelos (the city is named after him). Information on the War of Indepedence.
Ave. Morelos Sur #323 * Open Daily * Small Admission Fee

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
Contemporary artwork of locals, Mexicans & international artists.
Calle Aqueducto #18 * Open Mon-Sat * Free Admission

Museo Regional Michoacan
Information and artifacts from all areas of Michoacan's history. There is also a library and international film shows.
Allende #305 * Open Daily * Small Admission Fee

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