While traveling through Mexico we have at times consulted the United States state department travel advisories to make sure that we are not entering an area that is dangerous to tourists. Twice we have traveled through Do Not Travel sections of Mexico, but only after a little independent research as well as a deeper dive into why the area is flagged. Aside from the negative air in Los Mochis, both times we were rewarded. In fact, Morelia would not have been on our list without first traveling through Mazatlan, a Do Not Travel zone, and meeting Ivan.
Morelia is the capital city of the state of Michoacán, a state that in the south has increasing cartel and criminal activity. However, while the state’s crime rate has risen, the city of Morelia has seen a decrease in murder rates.
Taking the grassroots approach to solving crime problems the police of Morelia have enlisted the help of good people in the neighborhoods to help buck the scary label that has floated around the city. Listening in action. Together rebuilding. Pairing this approach with an investment in the police force ( ie. improved uniforms, new squad cars, and a whole host of social workers to augment the revamped police force) has proved to be an effective initiative. The police of Morelia are changing their image so they are no longer a force for criminal activity, but a force for the people of Morelia. This is not all of Mexico, and certainly not all of Michoacán, but it is a step in the right direction.
Walking through Morelia we were certainly the only gringos who were walking the streets, but at no point did we ever feel threatened. In fact, several people on the street asked how we liked Morelia and to enjoy. Enjoy we did, as downtown Morelia showcases the biggest church we had seen up to that point, the best art exhibit I have ever been to, and an aqueduct that runs through the city.
One of the more surprising parts of Mexico for me has been the art and culture that permeates all the big cities. From street art to giant museums with a whole host of unique exhibits. The Centro Cultural Clavijero was a real treat for us. In one exhibit you walk through the art which plays with shadow, light, rich color, and optical illusions.
Immersed in the exhibit, the artist weaves you into the fabric of the art, leaving you with a sense of oneness with the imagery.
Aside from this exhibit, there were many different artists with art ranging from dark expressions of melancholy to playful vibes of inconsistency.
The aqueduct that runs through the city slowly descends until it reaches the outskirts of the city central. As we walked along in the shade of the many parks along the way we appreciated the scale and function of this structure that was built in the 17th century. Not a bad way to spend a morning meandering aiming to find some food at the end of the aqueduct.
Another unique bit of architecture that commenced in the mid 17th century is the Cathedral of Morelia. Over a period of 104 years the cathedral was finally finished, overseen by two different architects. The idea that the man who started the structure would never see the fruits of his labor was interesting to consider when juxtaposed against our instant gratification society of today.
The structure itself is simply massive and stands out as a iconic piece at the heart of Morelia. Walking around and taking pictures of this 275 year old church, who shares its grounds with a giant tree, was a peaceful slice of our experience in Morelia.
After a few short days we moved on, but the modern city with colonial bones was a just reward for checking out a city trying to transform its image.