Down the mountain

I OFTEN refer to the capital city that sits down the mountain, about 40 minutes from here on a smooth four-laner.

We drive there at least once a week, almost exclusively for shopping. My mountaintop’s shopping is restricted mostly to tacos, tires and rebozos.

My first eight months in Mexico were spent in the capital city where I studied Spanish at a language school while living two months over a garage. I then spent another six months just walking around and living in a rented house.

I didn’t much like the town. Before moving there I read online that it was similar to the American Midwest, sorta dull. It was to Mexico what Topeka or Omaha are to America.

One day I took at bus up the mountain to visit the ancient and very different town where I’ve been a long time now. I liked it. I moved here. Been here ever since. Gonna die here.

However, in the past 17 years, the capital city has improved immensely. I would not mind living there now. I might even prefer it, but I’m not going to move.

Recently, an online piece from two years ago was brought to my attention by the inimitable Jennifer Rose. It describes our capital city in an admirable and accurate way.

Take a look. There are also great photos. The author, Stephenie Harris, claims it’s the most beautiful city in Mexico that nobody visits. And she says why she thinks that is the case.

20 thoughts on “Down the mountain

  1. Morelia is magnificent on the surface that I have scratched! There is an air of joy, history, youthfulness and hopefulness that fills the City’s aura. I have not spent much time there but have mentioned to El Esposo it is a city that he would fall in love with…Those feelings are not present when I visit Guadalajara. No comparison. Thank you…


    1. Peggy: It has improved immeasurably since I lived there. When I arrived, the downtown area was heavily congested with street vendors, hundreds, likely thousands, of them who covered about every square inch of sidewalk space. The beautiful Colonial façades were often impossible to see from the street or even see well from the sidewalks. It was ridiculous. About five years later, the city government finally worked up sufficient courage to evict them all. I wonder how many years that situation had existed before I arrived. The transformation was incredible.

      Also, since my time there, movie theaters have multiplied, high-end shopping centers have sprouted. Restaurants too, including many chains from the U.S., if you like that sort of thing. Sometimes I do. In short, it’s a million times better now. I would like to live there, but that’s not going to happen. The good thing is that it’s not far away from my house.

      Can’t really compare it to Guadalajara because Guadalajara is much, much larger, more congested and has lots of problems related to monster cities, which Morelia is not.


      1. Morelia is plenty congested, especially in the Centro Histórico. We avoid driving into the Centro. Most of our Morelia activity is confined to the peripheral roads, and to the upland suburb, Santa María de Guido.
        Occasionally, we go to Paseo Altozano, which, overall, I dislike. However, the Altozano Walmart is superior.

        Don Cuevas


        1. Don Cuevas: Sure, the center of Morelia is usually congested. The eternal revolutionaries and their demonstrations don’t help any. But I’ve yet to see the center of any Mexican city, especially colonial ones, that is not congested. You want to see a real mess? Go to downtown Guanajuato, especially into those cursed tunnels.

          As for Altozano, I like it. Were I to move to Morelia, which I ain’t gonna do, but if I did, it would be to Altozano. And the Walmart there is exceptional, as you noted.


  2. Happy Monday, Felipe. Has the crime improved down the mountain in the last 17 years? I heard it was high, but I have never been there myself.


    1. And Happy Monday to you too, Mike. Likely that mine is a bit happier than yours simply because I don’t have a job to go to.

      Oh, I don’t think the crime is any worse in Morelia these days than in any other Mexican city of comparable size. I’m imagine the crime is less than, say, in Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Washington D.C., etc., etc.

      When I feel uneasy is when I go north above the border, which is one reason I haven’t done that since 2009.


  3. I have always liked Morelia — with the exception of the traffic and the air pollution. But it does have almost everything I was looking for as a place to retire in Mexico. But, like you, I chose another location.


    1. Señor Cotton: Air pollution? It’s always seemed quite breathable to me. There is little heavy industry there. Gotta be clearer there on the sweaty beach where you reside, however. I’ll give you that.


      1. Notable air pollution comes in noxious clouds from the paper factory, which can be viewed below as you drive down the mountain. Fortunately, it doesn’t spew every day.



  4. I live down the mountain and I haven’t been to Morelia since 2014 when I was snarled in traffic for over an hour while I returned from Mexico City with my new passport. For me, Morelia is too crowded and Patzcuaro is too small and both of them are too cold for my blood.

    I am still a mile high in elevation, the same as Denver, in a more tropical city founded by the same San Miguel who founded SMA where gringos are as rare as hens’ teeth.


    1. Andrés: Smack in the middle of town, the traffic can get challenging, but I’ve encountered worse in other Mexican cities. I think Morelia is about par for the course, so to speak.

      I try to avoid going directly downtown except when absolutely necessary, and usually it is not necessary.

      And Gringos are almost nonexistent in your town. There is a reason for that. Aside from the heat, it was where the infamous heads were rolled down the cantina floor. I don’t think you’ll ever live that one down.


      1. Sol y Sombra is Uruapan’s largest titty bar located a block from the bus station and deserves a historical marker for an event that happened over eleven years ago. Some view the lack of gringos as a positive attribute.


  5. Morelia is a beautiful town, but it does have its traffic problems especially midday when some people go home. We usually go to places in the periphery and have gone to the centro when taking some visitors from afar.

    I wouldn’t mind living up the hill, except for the continual drone of the background noise which is one of the reasons we love Patzcuaro. We hear your train horn and some trucks on the road now and then, oh, and chickens and roosters along with Banda music from some neighbor’s parties now and then.

    The ideal situation would be to have a home at the coast to use for four months out of the year. Maybe someone will want to house trade.


    1. Tancho: We’ve given some very brief thought to buying a tiny place in Zihua for visits, but I doubt that will ever happen. We’ve stuck to going during the off season when it’s hotter, but the hotels are cheaper.


  6. The first time I saw Morelia was when F and I met you in Jan of 2007. It was charming then (as were you) and remained so in 2014 when I did my monster road trip. And the traffic didn’t strike me as any worse than anywhere else of similar size. And if you’re stopped, at least the buildings are beautiful.

    However, I’ve heard it’s conservative and doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife, something consistent with my own experiences.

    So I’ll stick to bigger places.


    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where the vibe is Morelia-like without the fabulous 400-year-old buildings.


    1. Kim: I agree that the traffic is no worse than you’ll find in other cities of comparable size, and once you get out of the very center of town, it’s quite manageable, especially if you’re not in a big rush.

      And, yes, Morelia is basically a quite conservative place, as is Mexico in general. Socially conservative. If you get into politics, however, we can get downright revolutionary. We always assume the government is corrupt and should be tossed out on its ear, no matter who is running the show. As for nightlife, it’s not something I do, but I imagine finding plenty of nightlife in Morelia is not difficult. You, of course, are interested in gay nightlife. What level that would be, I have no clue. Plus, you were not there long enough to know either. I guess you folks have your ways, however, your underground communication routes.

      And I think lots of downtown Morelia is more than 400 years old. Try 500 and above.

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  7. If there was ever a Goldilocks town in Mexico, that would be Morelia. And even more so after returning from a few days in San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro. Not too warm, and not too cold. Not too small, and not too big. And just the right distance from everything.

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