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Cuernavaca ( ) is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelosmarker in Mexicomarker. It is also a municipality. It is located about south of Mexico Citymarker on the D-95 freeway.

The city was nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. It has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of this warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and even today many famous people as well as Mexico City residents maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.

The name “Cuernavaca” is derived from the Nahuatl phrase Cuauhnahuac, and means “surrounded by or close to trees.” The name was eventually Hispanicized to Cuernavaca because the Spanish could not pronounce the Nahuatl name. The coat-of-arms of the municipality consists of a tree trunk with three branches with foliage, and four roots colored red. There is a cut in the trunk in the form of a mouth, emerging from a grey swirl.


Ruins at Teopanzolco, Cuernavaca
The first major culture to inhabit this area was the Tlahuica, whose main settlement was where the city of Cuernavaca is today. The Tlahuicas have inhabited this area at least since the 12th century.The first incursions south into the area by peoples of the Valley of Mexicomarker occurred in the 12th century, when after a lord named Xolotl had conquered most of the Valley of Mexico. An allied Chichimeca tribe also moved south into what is now northern Morelos state, making Techintecuitla lord of the Cuernavaca area, with the Tlahuicas concentrated in the nearby towns of Yecapixtla and Yautecatle. According to the Tlatelolco Annals, in 1365, the lord of Cuernavaca, Macuilxochitl tried to conquer lands as far as the Valley of Mexico, but was met by the lord of Chalcomarker, Tzalcualtitlan, with similar ambitions.

The first Aztec emperor, Acamapichtli, began to expand his empire to the south of the Valley of Mexico and beyond in the 1370’s. His successor, Huitziliuitl, was eager to press on into what is now Morelos state because of the cotton grown there, then called Tlalnahuatl. He asked to marry the daughter of the ruler of Tlalnahuatl, but was rejected, starting a war that ended with Aztec victory in 1396. Huitziliuitl married the princess and the Moctezuma I was born of the union. Credit for the conquest of Cuernavaca is given to Acamapichtli in the Mendocino Codex, but later writings cite Itzcóatl or even Moctezuma I as conqueror. The conquered dominion, Tlalnahutl was roughly the size of the modern state of Moreles, and was subsequently renamed Cuauhnahuc by the Aztecs.

From 1403 to 1426, this province grew in strength, subduing neighboring peoples such as the Coauixcas. Eventually, the province, then ruled by Miquiuix, rebelled against the Aztec Empire. This rebellion was put down by Totoquihuatzin and Netzahualcoyotl in 1433. This area would then enlist in the conquests of what are now known as Taxcomarker, Tepecuacuilcomarker and Ocuilánmarker. For tribute purposes, the dominion was divided into two zones, one headed by Cuernavaca and the other by Huaxtepecmarker.
View of the Palacio de Cortés

At the time of the Spanish Conquest, Itzohuatzin was governing Cuernavaca. At the time it was a rich city and densely populated, with large farms and its characteristic ravines bridged over. In the center of the city was a large fort. However, this fort and city fell to the Spanish. The Spanish marched on Cuernavaca even before taking the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, led by Gonzalo de Sandoval and joined later by Hernán Cortés himself.

Cortés returned to Cuernavaca in 1523, stopping in Tlaltenango, where he founded the Church of San José and constructed the first sugar plantation. The fertility of these lands compelled the conquistador to found his favorite residence here. Juana de Zúñiga, Cortes’ wife, lived in Cuernavaca in the palace that was constructed in 1526. Cortes himself moved the hacienda in Tlaltenango to Amatitlan and finally settled in his hacienda at Atlacomulco.The Franciscans arrived to Cuernavaca in 1529 and founded their fifth monastery in New Spain here. These first group included Martín de Lua, Francisco Martínez, Luis Ortiz, Juan de Cervo, Francisco de Soto, Andrés de Córdova, Martín de Jesús, Juan Juárez, Juan de Motolinía and Juan García de Cervo. Originally they lived at the San Francisquito hermitage but later they constructed the open-air chapel (capilla abierta) at the Church of San José in Tlaltenango. They extended their presence in to the neighboring communities of Tetecala, Jiutepec, Tlaquiltenango among others, eventually forming the province of Santo Evangelio, which would later be part of the province of Mexico in 1543. In 1646, this province would be reorganized several times. Cuernavaca and Cuautla became high mayorships which answered directly to the viceregal authorities in Mexico City. In 1786, New Spain was divided into twelve provinces and in 1824, Cuernavaca was initially a district of Mexico City.

During the Mexican War of Independence, José María Morelos was imprisoned at the Palacio de Cortés in November 1815. Agustín de Iturbide’s army passed through here to fight Vicente Guerrero in 1820 and came through again in 1821 as the head of the Ejército Trigarante.After Independence and with the Constitution of 1824, the territory now-known as the State of Morelos was part of the State of Mexicomarker. Between 1827 aand 1829, Cuernavaca was a district of this state. From 1829 to 1833, it was called a prefecture. In 1833, the State of Mexico declared the Atlacomulco Hacienda, which contains the Palacio de Cortés and Cortés’ houses in Coyoacanmarker, to be public property.

In 1834, Ignacio Echevarría and José María Tornel drafted the Plan of Cuernavaca, which permitted Antonio López de Santa Anna to disregard the laws protecting church property, exile Valentín Gómez Farías, reopen the University, and dissolve the Tribunal which was set to convict Anastasio Bustamante for the assassination of Vicente Guerrero. In the same year, the State of Mexico declared Cuernavaca to be a city.

During the Mexican-American War, Cuernavaca was captured by the Cadwalader Brigade and was forced to pay retributions to the U.S. Army when the Cuernavaca Infantry under Francisco Modesto Olabuibel fell. During the Ayutla Rebellion in 1854, Santa Anna was forced out of the capital of Mexico City in 1855. He moved his government to Cuernavaca, reorganized it and named a junta to elect an interim President. This junta consisted of Valentín Gómez Farías, Melchor Ocampo, Benito Juárez, Francisco de P. Zendejas, Diego Álvarez and Joaquín Moreno who then voted Alvarez as president. This new president swore to uphoald the Plan of Ayutla and his inauguration was celebrated with much pomp in the city.In 1856, the District of Cuernavaca and the District of Mexico were declared separate.During the Three-year War (1858-1860) when conservatives rejected the liberal Constitution of 1857, Juan Vicario voiced the cry of “Religión y Fueros” in Cuernavaca on 13 January 1858. In 1861, the Government of the State of Mexico created the districts of Cuernavaca, Morelos, Jonacatepec, Tautepec and Tetecala.

In order to facilitate operations against the French during the French Intervention, President Juarez divided the State of Mexico into three military districts. The third consisted of the territories of Cuernavaca, Yautepec, Morelos and Tetecala, with its capital in the city of Cuernavaca. Soon after, this district fell into French hands. Maximilian I converted the Borda Garden into his summer residence and bought land in nearby Acapantzingo to construct a chalet. This prompted the construction of the Mexico-Cuernavaca highway.

When the French-installed monarch fell in 1867, Republican forces under Francisco Leyva, Ignacio Figueroa and Ignacio Manuel Altamirano laid siege to Cuernavaca, which was defended by General Joaquín Ayestarán. The attackers cut off water supplies to the city attacked on 3 January but were met with a long series of street battles throughout the city. During the fighting, General was killed and the Republican forces withdrew victorious to Mexico City, but after burning a large portion of the city.
Emiliano Zapata in Cuernavaca

The State of Morelos was created in April 1869, with General Francisco Leyva as its first governor. Cuernavaca was declared the capital of the new state in November of the same year. In 1877, the Tolucamarker-Cuernavaca highway was built as well as a rail connection between Cuernavaca and Mexico City. In 1891, the Diocese of Cuernavaca was established by Pope Leo XII, comprising the entire state of Morelos, with Fortino Hipolito y Vera as first bishop of Cuernavaca.The first locomotive to arrive in the city was in 1897 and greeted by President Porfirio Diaz.The Bank of Morelos was founded in 1903. In 1909, the anti-reelection movement was established here, and by the end of this same year guerilla operations against the Diaz government were headed by Genovevo de la O in Santa María Ahuacatitlán. Emiliano Zapata took over the movement in the south and named De la O in charge of the Cuernavaca area.

In the first decades of the 20th century, Cuernavaca became a place to come and gamble, when the Hotel de la Sevla, was converted into the Casino de la Selva, which attracted people like Rita Hayworth, Bugsy Segal and Al Capone here. However, gambling was shut down by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934. It was also the “capital of divorce in Mexico” during this time period because of its lenient divorce laws.

In the 1960’s, the city was one of the centers of the psychedelic movement. Timothy Leary tried psilocybin mushrooms here in the summer of 1960 and came back regularly to repeat the experience. In 1956, Erich Fromm founded the Sociedad Mexicana de Psicoanálisis and from his house in Cuernavaca promoted new ideas in the field, incorporating Zen Buddism and “communal psychoanalytic studies” (estudios psicoanalíticos comunitarios). This attracted many artists, composers, architects and counterculture types here.

The city

City of Eternal Spring

Flora in Cuernavaca
Cuernavaca was nicknamed “city of eternal spring” by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. The city is located in a tropical region but its temperature is kept fairly constant in the 70sF. It is located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains. In the morning, warm air flows from the valley below and in the late afternoon, cooler air flows down from the higher elevations. This climate has attracted royalty and nobles from Aztec times. Most of the Aztec emperors called Cuernavaca their summer residence. Foreign princes, archdukes and other nobles have been attracted to this place because of its flowers, sun, fruits, fresh-water sprinks and waterfalls. The Shah of Iran had a house here as well as sculptor John Spencer, relative of Princess Diana.

Cuernavaca metropolitan area

Cuernavaca has always been a popular place for people from Mexico City to escape the city. In the 20th century, the climate and flora began to attract foreigners as well. Population increase in this urban area began in 1940, but the metro area was not created or recognized until the 1960s. From this time the population and the extension of the metropolitan area has grown. From 1960 to 1980, the population had grown from 85,620 to 368,166. From the 1980’s to the present, the municipalities of Emiliano Zapata, Jiutepec, Temixco, Tepoztlán, Xochitepecmarker and Yautepec have been added to the metropolitan area. These municipalities have seen the highest rates of growth. However, population and economic activity is still concentrated in the city of Cuernavaca proper. As of 2005, the metropolitan area had a population of 802,371, with 349,102, living in the city proper.

Over the last forty years, this metropolitan area has become more economically and socially integrated with the Mexico City metropolitan area. Many people from Mexico City own second homes here for weekend retreats, both for the climate as well as its well-developed infrastructure. Starting in the 1980’s permanent migration of Mexico City residents began, spurred by pollution and crime problems in the capital. The 1985 Mexico City earthquakemarker pushed many well-to-do families here, fearful of the next catastrophe. In many of these cases, the main breadwinner commutes each day to work in Mexico City.This has producted the great increase in housing developments on the outskirts of the city, especially in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. This influx has had a positive economic benefit for the city but has put pressure on the infrastructure as well. 85% of the city of Cuernavaca is dedicated to housing, and much of this is upper-class housing developments such as Rancho Cortés, Rancho Tetela and Colonia del Bosque, which are located on the outskirt of the city. Lower-income housing is concentrated in the city proper. Only 2% of the housing here is in high-rise buildings. Cuernavaca has been called the “Beverly Hills of Mexico.” From just about any elevation in the city, one can see that many of the homes here have swimming pools.

Industry here is minimal and mostly limited to micro-industries such as printing, framing, ceramics, garment-making, and the production of cleaning supplies. This employs about 28% of the population. Most of the population (67%) is employed in commerce and service industry, which includes tourism.


Palace of Cortés

The Palacio de Cortés is east of the Morelos Garden and is considered to be the most representative building of Cuernavaca. It was built by Hernán Cortés and finished in 1535. It is one of the oldest, European-style civil constructions in the Americas, but in Renaissance style. The series of arches of the central terrace, the battlements and the thick walls are the most representative of the original construction. It is said that this residence looks much like the mansion build in Santo Domingomarker by Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus. Just outside the front of the building is the old pyramid base over which Cortés had the structure built, on a hill that dominated the old city. Petroglyphs from this pyramid base are on display. From right to left the petroglyphs are named Lagarto de San Antón, Aguila de Chapultepec, Piedra Chimalli or Piedra de los Encantos.

After having been the residence of Cortés and his descendents for several centuries, the building became a warehouse, a jail, a military barracks and the State Government Palace until 1969. From 1971 to 1973, the building was extensively restored and today houses the Museo Regional Cuauhnáhuac, dedicated to the history of Morelos State. It has ten exhibit halls with maps, illustrations, photographs, works of art, everyday items from various epochs from the first first human settlements in the state to the present day. The murals done by Diego Rivera reflect both Morelos’ and Mexico’s history. Adjacent to the Palacio a permanent local handicrafts market in which one can purchase silver jewelry, T-shirts, beaded bracelets, pottery, hammocks, blankets, and much more.

Morelos and Juárez Gardens

Juárez Garden
The Juárez and Morelos Gardens are in the center of the city, both of which are plazas lined with trees. Between the two is the State Government Palace, a three story building with a tezontle facade built between 1955 and 1969. The Morelos Garden dates from 1908 and is easily recognizable by the large stone statue of José María Morelos, which is colloquially known as “Morelotes.” The Juárez Gardin is located to the north of the State Government Palace and is the oldest public square in Cuernavaca. The Garden contains a kiosk from England from the end of the 19th century. Unlike most main squares in Mexico, neither of these open up the way to the main cathedral, which is located a few blocks west of here.

These two gardens/plazas are known colloquially as the “zocalo.” Spectacles are often to be seen here and can include people dancing the “danzón” or other popular dances and “estudiantinas” dressed in colonial-era Spanish garb, playing instruments and dancing and any number of free concerts. Often clowns perform on the zocalo as well, with balloons and tricks for the children and double-entendre jokes for the adults. Locals use the plazas to sell products such as honey, yogurt, traditional candies, and crafts. Street food such as corn on the cob, snow cones, candies, fruit smoothies and more are generally available.

The cathedral

Facade of Cathedral
The Cathedral of Cuernavaca is the main church of what was the monastery of the Third Order of the Franciscans called La Asunción that dates back to the 16th century. It sits on the southeast corner of a large atrium which also contains a number of other chapels, which were built a different times and with different architectural styles. This complex is located at the intersection of Hidalgo and Morelos streets, a few blocks west of the town center.

The cathedral was built by Cortés to double as a fortress, with cannons mounted above the buttresses. Over time, this church underwent a number of transformations, updating its interior. This was undone in the mid-20th century, when restoration work took out all the Neoclassical altars and images. These are now stored in the cathedral’s pinacotheca and not available to the public. Restoration work uncovered al fresco murals on the lateral walls relating to the martyrdom of Philip of Jesus, the first Mexican saint. The only other decoration inside this church now is a modern-style crucifix and an image of the Assumption of Mary. This restoration work was carried out by then Bishop Sergio Méndz Arceo.

After the Reform Laws in the 1860s, most of the monastery property passed into state, then private hands, leaving only what is now the cathedral and several smaller chapels on a very large atrium. The Revolution Garden was the orchard of the Cathedral, and the cloister with its observatory is now the Robert Brady Museum. The church became the Cathedral of Cuernavaca in 1891.
Cathedral's side-chapel at dawn
Next to the Cathedral is the “open chapel” (capilla abierta) of San José, which is the original built in the 16th centuy. It was also rescued and restored by Bishop Méndez Arceo and is one of the oldest constructions on the site. The building consists of a vault with three arches that face the atrium. These arches are supported by a pair of flying buttresses. Inside the arches is an altarpiece dating from the 17th century.

The main entrance is on Hidalgo street, where one passes between two large chapels called the Chapel of Santa Cruz and the Chapel of the Tercera Orden. The Tercera Orden is considered to be the more valuable artistically, with its highly-sculpted early Baroque main and side portals painted in various colors. Inside, there is a later Churrigueresque main altar. A third chapel, called the Chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores is further into the atrium and near the Open Chapel of San José.


Teopanzolcomarker is an archeological site located just east of the historic downtown of Cuernavaca. Its construction is dated to the year 1427, and it was an important ceremonial center during the 15th and 16th centuries when the native Tlahuicas were dominated by the Aztecs. The site shows significant Aztec influence with a large pyramidal base, called the Gran Basamento, topped by two shrines, much like the Templo Mayormarker in Tenochtitlan. Only the stone columns are left of these shrines. The teocalli, or sacred plaza, contain fourteen monuments including a circular altar dedicated to the wind god Ehécatl. There are also two concentric structures separated by a moat or ditch. Both were possibly dedicated to Quetzalcoatl.

Borda Garden

Borda House courtyard
The Borda Garden is located near the cathedral on Morelos Street. Originally, this was a house bought by José de la Borda, the mining magnate of Taxco, in the mid-18th century. Later, his son, Manuel de Borda y Verdugo, transformed the grounds of the house into gardens filled with flower and fruit trees to satisfy his passion for botany. These gardens also contain a number of fountains and an artificial lake and were completed in 1783. The complex also contains lodgings, offices, a restaurant and a nightclub. In 1865, this was the summer home of Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Carlota Amalia. It hosted major political soirees in the 19th and 20th centuries such as those sponsored by Porfirio Díaz and Emiliano Zapata. Today the area is a public park where the gardens have been maintained, and it is possible to take a short boat ride on the lake. The house itself has been converted into a museum. Six of the halls are dedicated to temporary exhibits while the othe seven are devoted to recreating the feel of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is located next to the Borda Garden, and was constructed by Manuel de la Borda in 1784. It has a Baroque facade and what is considered to be the best cupola in the city. It was the royal chapel of Emperor Maximilian.

Robert Brady Museum

Museum Courtyard
The Robert Brady Museum is on Nezahualcoyotl Street and occupies the building known as the Casa de la Torre, originally part of the monastery of La Asunción. In 1960, it was purchased by U.S. artist Robert Brady who transformed it into his home and private art and collectible museum. It contains a collection of art and crafts from around the world as well as the original “Self-portrait with monkey” done by Frida Kahlo. Other works are by artists such as Miguel Cobarruvias, Pelegrín Clavé, María Izquierdo and Rufino Tamayo. Non-Mexican paintings include those from North America and Europe. Other objects here include antique furniture, African and Indian crafts and archeological pieces. The collection occupies fourteen rooms of the old house, which has been kept mostly the way it was when Brady died in 1986, bequeathing the house and its contents to the city.


Atrium and facade of the Nuestra Señora de los Milagros Church
Tlaltenango used to be a separate town but is now a neighborhood of Cuernavaca city. The main attraction here is the church compound containing the Church of San José and the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros de Tlaltenango. San José is one of the oldest churches in Mexico, built between 1521 and 1523. Two centuries later an image of the Virgin appeared to this village, prompting the building of the second church. This is the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, which was built in 1730, with the bell towers built at the end of the 19th century.

Hacienda Atlacomulco

The Hacienta de San Antonio Atlacomulco is located south of the city and was established by Hernán Cortés as one of the first sugar plantations in Mexico. Descendents of the conquistador held onto the property until the 19th century, when it became the property of Lucas Alamán, who modernized the facility. The hacienda lost is surrounding properties during the Mexican Revolution and all that remains is the main house. After a long period of restoration and modification, the hacienda today houses an exclusive hotel, which can accommodate conventions and banquets.

Museum of Traditional and Herbal Medicine/Ethnicbotanical Garden

South of the city center is Acapantzingo, which was a separate town but now is part of the city. Here was a large farm owned by Emperor Maximilian I in the 1860’s named Olindo, referring to a character in the poem by Torquato Tasso. The emperor used this as one of his residences in Cuernavaca, and according to rumor, enjoy the company of a certain beautiful Indian woman. On this farm and in what was the Pavilion is now the Museum of Traditional and Herbal Medicine. (Museo de Medicina Tradicional). The museum sponsors workshops and classes on the use of plants to make soap, cremes, dyes, decorative objects and more. Outside is the ethnicbotanical garden with exhibits 800 species of plants organized by use such as the making of textiles, animal feed, condiments, ritual etc.

Museo Moros

Located some distance outside the city center is another art museum called the Museo Muros (Avenida Vicente Guerrero 205, Colonia Lomas de Selva). This museum exhibits the art collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. Jacques, a Russian émigré, made his fortune as the producer of hit comedies by legendary Mexican comic Cantinflas. A good portion of the money he made went into the acquisition of art, which he did for half a century. Works by Rivera, Kahlo, David Alfaro Siquieros, Francisco Toledo, Rufino Tamayo, Cisco Jimenez, Gerardo Suter and Juan Soriano are among the works that can be found here.

Chapultepec Ecological Park

This park is located about four km southeast of the city center. It contains fresh-water springs surrounded by large trees called Chapultepec, which form the beginning of a river. Before 2003, this area was privately operated under concession as the “Magic Jungle.” Today, it is a public park administered by the State Commission of Water and Environment. In addition to a large family picnic area with playgrounds, the park has constructed habitats for monkeys, birds, crocodiles, reptiles and aquatic plants. It also has a petting zoo, environment museum, planetarium, house of terror, theatre and tour train.

Sumiya/Hotel Camino Real

Sumiya is the Japanese-style extravagant mansion built by Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune. She chose this place for its climate and “magnetism.” It was designed and built completely by Japanese artists and architects and includes a replica of the Kyoto Kabuki Theater in Japan. Today it has been transformed into the Hotel Camino Real. This hotel was opened in the 1950’s and is the only Relais & Châteaux associated hotel in Mexico. Its rooms are equipped with chimneys, hand-carved headboards and gilded artworks. Presidents and royalty have stayed here, and its restaurant is popular with Mexico City residents because of its terraces with flamingos, peacocks and African cranes.

Restaurante Bar Gaia

The Restauante Bar Gaia is located in an old mansion built at the beginning of the 20th century. The mansion’s pool was supposedly decorated by Diego Rivera during the time that Cantinflas lived here. The design is of an pre-Hispanic goddess, done in Venetianmarker-style mosaic. This design is the basis of the restaurant’s logo. For the most part, the original design of the house has been respected. The furniture is modern and the walls are covered in paintings done by contemporary artists from Morelos state. The food is a mixture of Mexican and international influences. The wine cellar contains Mexican and international vintages.

Chapitel del Calvario

The Chapitel del Calvario
The Chapitel del Calvario is a church located at the corner of Morelos and Matamoros streets constructed in 1532. The word “chapitel” means “spire” as the church is named after the two spires that define its appearance. It also has a fourteen-meter dome. It was constructed in the 16th century and was the last building of Cuernavaca as one left the city on the road to Mexico City. In 1772, this church was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupemarker.

El Castillito

Museo de Fotografía Antigua, also known as El Castillito (the little castle), is located one block from the Chapitel del Calvario. It is a very small brick building that dates from the late 19th/early 20th century. It is now a small museum dedicated to antique photographs of the city of Cuernavaca.

Salto de San Antón

Inside the Salto de San Antón ravine
The Salto de San Anton is a large ravine with a small waterfall located within the city limits of Cuernavaca. The waterfall is 36 meters high, with its water coming from a small tributary of the Zempoala River. The vertical walls of the ravine are of basalt and broad-leafed vegetation grows in the nooks and crannies. A series of stairs and platforms have been built to access the waterfall area from the park above. Unfortunately, a lot of trash gets dumped here.

Festivals and dance

The Feria de la Flor was established in 1965, which goes from 2 to 12 May. In the Borda Garden, flower growers from all over Mexico come to exhibit their wares, competing for an annual prize.The event also has traditional fair rides, cockfights, horse competitions as well as music and sociocultural events. Neighborhood celebrations, mostly for patron saints, include 15 May, the feast of San Isidro Labrador; 13 June, the feast of San Antonio in the neighborhood of San Antón, with Aztec dances; 6 August, the feast of the Savior or the Transfiguration in Ocotepec, featuring the Moors and Christians dance, mole and pulque; 10 August the feast of San Lorenzo in Chamilpa; 15 August, the festival of the Assumption of Mary in Santa María Ahuacatilán and 8 September, Festival of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros in Tlaltenango. Since 1965, the city Cuernavaca has had a carnival as well.

The Huehuechis were a dance group that was started in Cuernavaca in 1870 by a group of young people. They dressed up in old boots and clothes, covering their faces with cloth, dancing sponteaneously with whistles and shouts in the streets. The name comes from a Nahuatl word for old, worn-out clothing. The event spread to other municipalities. It became popular enough among participants and spectators alike to be organized formally in 1871, when it became a traditional way to celebrate the days just before Lent, or the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of Carnival.The tradition spread to Tepoztlan, where it became even more famous after the people there modified the clothing worn, adding masks with beards and large mustaches. The dance here was renamed “Chinelos” This new version became a fixture at the carnaval of Yautepec and other towns in Morelos as well.

International presence in Cuernavaca

Cuernvaca has been a getaway, especially for the well-to-do, since Aztec times. This has continued to the 21st century, with many of these including artists, intellectuals, and film stars. For example, María Félix, a Mexican diva, had an opulent cobalt-blue and papaya-colored villa on Avendia Palmira, along with five other houses. It is known as the Casa de las Tortugas (House of the Turtles) and has Louis XV beds, and adorned in silk brocades, Venetian mosaics, talavera urns, marble chimneys, 16th century Spanish armor, Italian guilded chairs and portraits of herself done by Antoine Tzapoff. It is rumored that she is still there alone, after she dismissed her chauffeur and companion and the death of her son left her without an heir.

The legalization of gambling for a short time in the 1930’s attracted Hollywood visitors such as Rita Hayworth and mafia figures such as Bugsy Segal and Al Capone from the United States. Cuernavaca was the setting of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano written in 1947. It is a tale of despair and self-destruction due to alcoholism. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the city attracted many directors, producers and actors from Hollywoodmarker, many of whom had been blacklisted by McCarthyism. In the 1960’s, the city became one of the centers of the psychedelic movement, attracting many artists, composers and hippies. Another infamous resident was Sam “Momo” Giancana, a mafia boss from Chicago, who made Cuernavaca his home from 1967 until is arrest and deportation in 1974. He was associated with the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Many of these foreign residents, famous or not, first come as visitors, but then decide to stay.

The trend continues today, with a large number of retirees, diplomats, business executives and government officials living in Cuernavaca from all over the world. It still attracts creative and intellectual people. Many of these foreign residents have formed active expatriate groups, such as the Cuernavaca Newcomers Club to offer get-togethers and advice for its members and newcomers to the city. Services for foreign residents include a large network of English-speaking doctors, foreign mass media via satellite and ATM’s networked to U.S. banks.Cuernavaca is one of the premier destinations to study Spanish abroad. This city has been popular with students since the 1960’s and has grown since. More than fifty schools are in operation today. Some of the most popular schools include Universidad Internacional-The Center ofr Bilingual Multicultural Studies, the Cuernavaca Language School, The Experiencia Centro de Intercambio Bilingüe y Cultural, A. C. and the Cemanahuac Educational Community. Most courses are taught by immersion, with optional classes in grammar or conversation, and students can be in class for a full day. Use of English or one’s native language is forbidden. Many students have the option of living with a Mexican family while they are enrolled in courses. Students can also do internships, volunteering at hospitals and other places for college credit.

The municipality

As municipal seat, the city of Cuernavaca has governing jurisdiction over 142 other communities. This municipality is located in the northeast portion of the State of Morelos and borders the muncipalities of Huitzilac, Texmixco, Xochitepec, Tepotztlán, Jiutepec and Ocuilan. In the 2005 census, with municipality has a total population of 349,102 only 3,041 are counted as speaking an indigenous language in the municipality. The city is located in the southern portion of the municipality. Urban development covers about 38% of the municipality, which is the city of Cuernavaca and a few suburbs. The rest of the municipality is isolated towns and villages.

It is located between the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the north and the Sierra Madre del Sur in the south, in a sub-mountain ranged named the Sierra del Chichinautzin. The municipality contains an area of 151.2 km2. 5,668 hectares is dedicated to agricultura, 8,227 for fishing, 5,400 is developed and 1,390 is forest. Average altitude is 2,200 meters above sea level, varying between 1,255 and 2355 meters. The highest elevations are in the east and north. The municipality is located in the Amacuzac Basin. Major rivers here include the Ixtapan, Apatlaco, Yautepec, el Pollo and Chapultepec. There are a number of small streams and fresh-water springs.

The municipality has two climates. In the north, it is temperate and somewhat moist with rains predominantly in the summer. This area is covered in forests of pine and holm oak. In the south, it is warmer with the same moisture patterns. This area is primarily grassland with some rainforest. Average annual temperature is 21.1C with the warmest montsh in April and May and the coldest in December. Temperatures rarely exceed 28C or fall below 15C.

Most of the economic activity in the municipality is commerce, concentrated in and around the city of Cuernavaca. Agriculture and fish farming employs the least number of people although the municipality contains a quantity of resources for these enterprises. The far north of the municipality is generally not suited to agriculture due to the terrain and/or types of volcanic soil found there. Most agriculture is concentrated in the southeast. The lower elevations, at around 1,800 meters is best-suited for fishing and fish-farming. The middle range, between 1,800 and 2,100 meters has usage mixed between agriculture and forest products and elevations above 2,100 are primarily forest. Fish farming areas are under pressure from urban development, especially in the Ahuatepec region east of the city, where irregular and sometimes illegal housing developments are appearing among the farms.

Crafts from this area primarily consist of ceramics and wax products. The wax is from bees and generally shaped into capricious figures. Flowerpots and clay objects from San Antón, handcrafted paper from wood chips with multicolored paintings as well as wood laquered masks.


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