Morelia seems to be rocketing into the modern age while conserving its beautiful colonial heritage. The city of almost 650,000 is beautifully situated just under the Santa Maria mountains, includes Mexico’s most famed golf course and one of its most prestigious universities. Exclusive up-market residential areas just outside the city attract Mexico City’s finest. Its most recent claim to fame is the imminent opening of Latin America’s largest mall. Yet the 150 square block historic center is one of the most beautiful on the continent, carefully conserved and methodically preserved since its founding in 1548 by Spanish conquistadors.

At a mile high, Morelia has a fabulous climate that stands in marked contrast to the pollution and harshness of Mexico City, only three hours away. For a time, in fact, it was far more important to the Spanish than Mexico City. The Spanish considered it the seat of their religious orders and authorities from the mid 18th century until Independence 100 years later. That’s the main reason for the unique beauty of the 150-square block historic center, which is a virtual city museum within a city. This historic downtown area is composed of more than 1000 colonial buildings and churches became a World Heritage Site in 1991.

The historic quarter and its periphery are increasingly inhabited by artists and artisans, many of them foreign nationals. There is a sense of Bohemia in the mixtures of music and art works found throughout this area, which might include one boutique cleaning 16th Century filigree silver jewelry next to a modern art gallery.

The city is named after Jose María Morelos (1765), who together with Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla began the Mexican War of Independence from Spain in 1810. Politics is still a fiery issue in the city, often demarcating the social differences with the more progressive and less religious political inclinations of Mexico City.