My Morelia Adventure
I am an American, college student and I study at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I am a Spanish major with plans to graduate in a month. With my fine arts focus in Spanish, I was required to study abroad for a semester to have a full immersion experience 'under my belt'. Through the K.I.I.S. program that is based out of Kentucky, I traveled to Morelia, Michoacan(Mexico) for an entire semester (three months).
To increase the aspect of 'immersion', all of the students were required to stay with a host family for the duration of our studies in Mexico. Not only did this give us a chance to speak Spanish the majority of the time, but it also was proof of how hospitable the Mexican culture is. As a guest in a Mexican home, you are treated as near royalty. A common tradition is to serve the guest a drink and food upon their arrival. I found that it is usually expected of the "señora" of the household and/or the eldest daughter to tend to the guests food and drink needs.
While I could list a million positive attributes of the Mexican culture, I want to focus this article on the city Morelia. While having a population of one million people, this city is surprisingly not well-known. It is located in the pacific bound state Michoacán and lays approximately two hours west (by car) from Mexico City.
Morelia, while sounding like an overpopulated metropolis, has a shockingly familiar and welcoming feel to it. Also, it is spread over such a wide area that no particular part of it is overpopulated. Morelia has a beautiful downtown that is fashioned around its famous catedral (Cathedral). Other large buildings are spread throughout the Centro (downtown) such as an art museum, several historical landmarks where past government representatives resided, as well as large indoor markets. Of course, being downtown looks very "Mexican" because of the people and the slightly different architecture than what you are accustomed to...but just around the corner is a Cafe Europa which is basically equivalent to a Starbucks in America. There are six or seven of these coffee shops placed throughout the large city, each of them having very personable staff members and a comfortable ambiance.
Another very "at home" feeling that Morelia exudes (to Americans specifically) is through their shopping mall and movie theatres. I highly recommend visiting Morelia's movie theatres because they are classier and have a wider range of concessions than any American theatre I have ever visited. The Morelia theatres show the popular American movies (with Spanish subtitles) even before they come out in the States. Morelia's mall is very clean and modern. The stores in the mall range from a Cafe Europa, to a hair salon, to an incense shop, etc. Also, attached to the mall is the equivalent of a Wal-mart where you can find all of your necessities and luxuries for low prices (side note: you can find all name brand products there just like in the States).
One last attraction that is the icing on the cake of Morelia is La Bandera ("The Flag") at the top of one of the small mountains that surround Morelia. This huge, Mexican flag waves high and proud over the city...but it's not just a flag...it is surrounded by a beautiful outlook area where benches and small parks accommodate your experience. The most impressive view of the city is at dark when the night life illuminates the entire city. From La Bandera, you can see how vast and beautiful Morelia is, free of charge.
If I have an opportunity to return to Mexico some day, the first place I would want to visit would be Morelia because it automatically makes you feel at home.