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CUERNAVACA

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CUERNAVACA

MEXICO


Warm and friendly land, naturally beautiful, historically transcendent; Cuernavaca, the "City of the Eternal Spring", must be walked step by step, and from north to south, to enjoy its serene beautifulness and discover, maybe under the shadow of one of the centenarian trees of the Borda Garden, maybe at the fields of the placid haciendas, why it is a refuge of calmness, a paradise of tranquillity.

A pleasant and welcoming place anytime of the year, no, excuse me, anytime or period in Mexican history. This history is better read and understood in Cuernavaca, because Mexico's conquistador Hernán Cortés himself settled in this place and built a palace where he lived with his wife and children, surrounded by his immense and prosperous haciendas sown with sugarcane.

And it was because of its serene air and its closeness to the capital of the country that, in the XIX century, emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife Carlota chose the splendid baroque house in Borda Garden as their summerhouse.
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    But the wicked dignitary also had a hacienda (the current Ethno-botanic Garden or House of the Olindo) on these lands. There in the far end he commissioned the construction of the main mansion, of multiple rooms in neoclassical style, that, according to gossip, housed his lover, the India Bonita.

    No more needs to be said, Cuernavaca is and has been an oasis of peace and, in these modern times, its everyday quietness contrasts with the tumultuous agitation found at Mexico City (only 90 kilometres away), turning it into an exhaust valve for the inhabitants of the uneasy megalopolis.

    It is in its plazas and streets, in the haciendas where the first sugarcane plantations were sown, and in its emblematic archaeological centre where travellers find the best remedies for urban stress: good weather, gentle people, museums, parks, peoples of millenarian cultures and of pre-Hispanic roots, strong roots indeed those of the Chichimecas, Xochimilcas and Tlahuicas, that remain alive.

    How could we forget them when it was the Tlahuicas who founded Cuauhnáhuac, today Cuernavaca, capital of the State of Morelos, between the years 1250 and 1300 AC? How could we not remember the Náuatl origin of the Tlahuicas? How could we ignore that the prosperity of their fields, and its proximity to the centre of power of the Aztecs, fed the expansionist urges of its almost invincible neighbours?

    The brave Tlahuicas resisted almost four decades the enemy attacks, but in 1398 the Mexican ruler Huitzilihuitl, tired of fighting, decided to marry Miahuaxóchitl, the daughter of the Tlahuica ruler. After the strategic liaison the lordship of Cuauhnáhuac would become one of the major contributors of the Aztec Empire, and the couple would have a son: Montezuma I.

    Subduing Spanish forces would replace the Aztec domination; Hernán Cortés and his troops would enter triumphal the pre-Hispanic Cuernavaca on October the 13th of 1521. Turned arrogant by the victory and determined to impose their ideas and believes, the westerners would destroy the native temples and palaces to build churches, convents and the dwellings of the new rulers.

    The majestic Palace of Cortés, current seat of the Museum of Cuauhnáhuac, was one of the first dwellings built in the conquered City. Its foundations were "sown" over the ancient Tlahuica Palace, in which the tributes that the Mexicas handed over were presumably kept.

    By destroying in order to build, the colonial physiognomy was imposed little by little. The Hispanic replaced the Mesoamerican and where there had been a Teocalli (name given to native temples), the Franciscan friars built, between 1526 and 1552, a celestial religious compound that would be promoted to Cathedral in October of 1891.

    In spite of their effort to erase all Mesoamerican trace, Cuernavaca keeps one of the few Tlahuica monuments in the country: the Twin Temples of Teopanzolco, "rediscovered" in 1910, when Emiliano Zapata's troops placed their artillery pieces on a hill to bomb the centre of the City in the midst of the Mexican Revolution.

    The archaeological zone presents two precincts of religious character, similar to the main temple in Tenochtitlan not only due to its constructive style, but also for being a place of veneration of Huitzilopochtli (the war god) and Tláloc (the rain god). Teopanzolco was built between the years 1150 and 1350 AC, being considered amongst the most important edifications of the lordship of Cuauhnáhuac.

    The tourist adventure in Cuernavaca is not reduced to the city limits. More than a handful of reasons compel travellers to keep on exploring, and that is how the lavish haciendas, formerly important sugar refineries, currently magnificent hotels of traditional architecture, though with the commodities of modern life, are discovered.

    If you are not done yet with your restlessness, you should "escape" to Chalcatzingo, an archaeological compound that is characteristic due to its sculptures and bas-reliefs in stone; or visit Xochicalco, where a centre for high studies, to which the wise and the erudite of the Mesoamerican nations came to exchange astronomical knowledge and perfect their calendars, might have worked.

    And there is yet more to do and see. There is Tepoztlan for instance, a millenarian Town in which the celebration of the Virgin of the Nativity blends with the festivities to honour Tepoztécatl, the god of fertility, the pulque (an alcoholic beverage) and the wind. Other undoubted attractions are the Pyramid of Tepozteco, the former Dominican Convent and the tianguis, a colourful fair on which barter is still practiced.

    For those who love nature and extreme sports, the Tequesquitengo Lake awaits for you with its enviable natural settings and its superb tourist infrastructure. Here you can swim and ride on a motorboat, or even "tame" a jet ski. The ponds at the Las Estacas National Park and at the Lagoons of Zempoala National Park are equally amazing.

    Attractions in Cuernavaca not only catch the eye, they are tasted as well. The exquisite gastronomy of the State of Morelos is concentrated on its capital, where it is always possible to enjoy that especial crossbred taste that is found on its tortillas, its grilled meats and its always spicy sauces.

    Surrounded by sierras and semitropical vegetation, the spring City attracts since always all those who seek tranquillity. Blessed with weather that averages 20° Celsius, heir of a marked colonial imprint and sustained by its cultural roots, which go back to pre-Hispanic times, Cuernavaca leaves no room for boredom.

    Come and convince yourself.

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