By: Carlos Dragonné (Accompanied by: Elsie Mendez)
It’s midnight and the Morelian night is calling me…
Sitting in front of a small table, I see through the open door of the balcony, the Cathedral of Morelia illuminated in all its splendor. The pink quarry and its baroque style reveal it as an impressive witness to the daily evolution of the city. It is a city that struggles to show Mexico and the world that there is much more to it than what the mass media has spread in recent months, affecting its tourist image. Morelia, a city that was declared as a Cultural Heritage Site of Humanity by UNESCO since 1991. From the balcony I see the stillness of the street and I reflect on the day that Michoacán invited us to rediscover its corners, its villages, its flavors and, above all, the beat of a state with enough history to open our eyes and make us listen attentively to the echo of the legends.
Michoacán welcomes us from the road with a wonderful view of the Cuitzeo Lake. We head to a village as the first stop on our tour that, since 2006, has been designated as a Magical Town by the Tourism Secretariat. It is distinguished by its colonial architecture and the unique landscapes created by being surrounded by the second largest lake in the country. Cuitzeo -which means “Place of Jars or Vessels” in the Purépecha language- receives us with the majesty of the Santa María Magdalena Convent, an Augustinian ex-convent built in the 16th century. The monument not only represents the progress of the Conventual Missions of Michoacán, but is also intimately linked to nearly 460 years of history because they begain its construction when Cuitzeo was founded.
Walking through the gardens is just a prelude to what awaits us in this Elizabethan Gothic building built with quarry. The level of conservation is impressive and allows us to observe and enjoy the frescoes on the walls. The natural passage of time prohibits us from appreciating all of its splendor, but allows us to intuit -as in many other places like this- whatever was in the strokes. On the upper floor, an invaluable piece of the spirit of the place awaits us: a long corridor with heavy wooden doors interspersed every 3 meters and that, when crossing the threshold, show us what were once the cells where the Augustinian missionaries lived. In spite of what one might think, each cell has a distinct particularity, whether it is a decoration on the wall, a postcard backlit on a window, we imagine someone religious contemplating the beautiful landscape.
Any journey through the past could be satisfied with what we discovered here in this monumental vestige of viceregal culture. Nonetheless, after passing through the door at the end of the corridor, we see the copper pipes of an old organ that contemplates, from its privileged position, the church that appears before our eyes. It is inevitable to materialize the ghosts of countless settlers who, from their indigenous origins, entered the evangelical culture of New Spain in the midst of these traditional long wooden benches. The echo of our words resound and, trying to give a sense of realism to our imagination, we read the beginning of the hymn written in Latin on the walls: Tantum Ergo Sanctorum… To describe the timeless feeling that connects us with history is like wanting to capture the aroma of a dish in a photograph; the answer always ends up being “You should have been there.” We left the convent and, walking through the streets of the town, we see the effort of its inhabitants to keep the scenario as authentic as possible. Except for the cars and trucks that circulate in the streets, one could swear that, at any moment, a regiment of men will ride into the main square.
In the midst of a silence, we take the road to Morelia, the capital of the state and, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful viceregal cities in Mexico. There is a mixture of endless pre-Hispanic traditions that remain even today. Morelia receives us with a sunset for which even the threatening clouds decided to accelerate their pace and, at least for today, avoid the rain that seemed imminent.
Back at Los Juaninos Boutique Hotel, we opened the balcony door for the first time and watched the movement of the people in front of the Cathedral. There was something special about the scene. We tried to figure out if it was the children running between the fountains, the helium balloons strolling from side to side in the square, the countless couples walking at that speed practiced in contemplation of romance, or the simple sight of the Cathedral still with natural light. Then it became evident… The magic was the set of all of these small individual moments combined, as if it were a choreography of the harmony of the sounds of laughter, the talks and, above all, the astonishment held by those of us contemplating this scene.
Our dinner at Los Mirasoles, a restaurant owned by the Figueroa family that sets the standard of the Michoacan cuisine, was the next step of this adventure and we will tell you in detail, as the experience far exceeded any expectations we had.
Already back in the room, with satisfied body and spirit from the first night in this capital city, the pentacle of historical and legendary moments that contributed to the creation of present day Mexico, I turn on the computer and the intermittent cursor of the word processor flashes impatient, curious, expectant. It’s midnight. The Morelia night is calling me …
Continue the story here Morelia, a message among the pink quarry
This post is also available in: Español