Morelia is a city and municipality located in the north central part of the state of Michoacá in central Mexico. The city is located in the Guayangareo Valley and is the capital of the state. The main pre-Hispanic cultures here were the P’urhépecha and the Matlatzinca, but no major cities were founded in the valley during this time. The Spanish took control of the area in the 1520’s.
The Spanish under Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza founded a settlement here in 1541 with the name of Valladolid, which became rival to the nearby city of Pátzcuaro for dominance in Michoacán. In 1580, this rivalry ended in Valladoid’s favour and it became the capital of the colonial province. After the Mexican War of Independence, the city was renamed Morelia in honour of Jóse Maria Morelos y Pavón, who is from here. In 1991, the city was declared a World Heritage Site for its well preserved colonial buildings and layout of the historic centre.
Almost all of Morelia’s notable sites lie in its historic centre, due to its history. This historic centre is roughly equivalent to the original layout of the city when it was founded in 1541, and most of this layout has survived intact to the present day. Anticipating growth, this original layout had very wide streets and plazas for the time, with streets systematically arranged to allow for elongation. The streets are systematically laid out, but not rigidly squared, with most having gentle curves designed into them. Most of the grandest structures were completed during the 18th century.
The first church on the cathedral site was built in 1577, which was a modest structure of adobe and wood. Many years later, this structure would be almost completely destroyed by a fire. Originally, the Cathedral of Michoacán was in Pátzcuaro in a church that now is the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Salud. When cathedral status was moved from there to Valladolid in 1580, the city became the civil, religious and cultural capacity of the territory.
As a municipal seat, the city of Morelia is the governing authority of 423 other communities, almost all of which are small communities between three and 1,000 people. The municipality covers a territory of 1,199.02km2 and borders the municipalities of Tarimbaro, Chucándiro, Huaniqueo, Charo, Tzitzio, Villa Madero, Acuitzio, Lagunillas, Coeneo, Tzintzuntzan and Quiroga. As a municipal seat, the city of Morelia is the governing authority of 423 other communities, almost all of which are small communities.