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Published: March 27th 2009
Orquesta Sinfónica de Michoacán
A free concert outside of the cathedral. It was broadcast onto 10 or more flat panel TV's hung on the cathedral's fence.
I made it to the Morelia shortly after it was dark on Saturday night and took a cab to the center of the beautiful, colonial city. I found out from the taxi driver that the main street (where I wanted to go) was closed, but I didn't know why. It was apparent when I got there - there was a huge festival! People crowded everywhere and police were directing traffic while many drivers complained about the lack of parking. I made my way down the street towards the cathedral in the center of the commotion and saw a stage set up at the end of the street in front of the cathedral's plaza. The state symphony was playing a free concert! Along with that, there were booths for tourist information about other cities in the state, and lots of street vendors selling glowing and noise making toys to kids who crowded around them. There were people dressed in 19th century costumes wandering around as well. The symphony was playing music from the film E.T. when I arrived, then moved on to play Ravel's famous bolero for which they showcased a dancer center stage, then a suite of well known Mexican tunes.
In the kitchen at Museo de Dulces
I got behind the counter to show my friends a little bit about making ate de membrillo (quince paste).
I stood watching, and turned to one of the many flat paneled T.V.'s that were strung on the iron fence around the cathedral for a better view. I walked inside the cathedral and was impressed by the organ. The decor was in pastels - pinks mostly, with gold and some blue. It was very different from those I've seen in other countries. I went back out to watch the crown and listen to more of the concert, then I got a message to meet my friends, who were driving into town from a bullfight, and hopped in the car to check into the hotel.
We got an accidental tour around the city and ended up in an inexpensive hotel ($120 pesos for each or 4 of us) far from downtown, close to the bus terminal (I remembered passing the same businesses earlier). After cleaning up a little from a day hiking, we went back downtown and had a late night snack at a cafe across from the cathedral, with a live band covering many famous American, and some Latin, songs. The singer had an amazing range, mimicking everyone from Michael Stipe to Tracy Chapman to Shakira, and well. I
tried my first Mexican stout, a bottle called Luna Llena (full moon) along with a fancy looking plate of guacamole and chips. Everyone was tired from a long day, so we headed back to sleep.
I was sore from horseback riding and didn't sleep very well in the hard bed, so I got up very early and read through some of the tour books my friends brought. When everyone was up and ready, we grabbed our free hotel breakfast and headed for my one must see stop in the city: Museo de Dulces. Yes, it is a museum of candy and desserts, but this is culturally and historically significant for Morelia. Many young women entered the convents and with lots of extra time, the invented many foods, often with elaborate and time consuming recipes. In the 19th century many of the candies were produced and sold from homes by families, each with their own recipes. There are many candies made with whole and pureed fruits with sugars here, and of course the famous morelianas which look like cookies but are made from very condensed milk.
We walked towards the main plaza by the cathedral again, and explored some
of the pretty buildings, hotels, and the cathedral before heading over to the Museo del Estado de Michuacán, the museum of the state. There we saw ancient artifacts including beautiful jewelery and elaborate knitting tools, colonial artifacts of all sorts, and modern art. Afterward, we tasted the local special ice-cream, "pasta" ice cream, nieve de pasta, which does not actually have pasta in it. The ice cream is actually made with a paste of almonds, honey, and cinnamon. I was excited to try some fruit flavors too and got a scoop of black zapote (which is a kind of pudding fruit that is green on the outside and black and tar-like on the inside - it's great stuff as long as you don't have to dodge it falling from a tree every day like I do on my way to class), and fresh fig ice cream too.
We headed to the car and left for some other, small towns nearby to grab lunch and see the area. But first, we couldn't miss seeing the 19th century fountain of three women holding cornucopias of food near a wall of arches - an original Spanish colonial aqueduct. There is certainly a lot more to see and do in Morelia - it's not a little town with a population of more than half a million, and there is a lot of colonial history (with more than 200 original Spanish colonial buildings in good condition downtown, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a lot of places here seem to have this designation) and a large university here, but with limited time, I am satisfied with what I got to see.
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