Cuernavaca is a casual city with lots of history. It attracts people who seek a sunny place for creative work or intellectual inquiry where they can find cultural simulation and spirited conversations, taken fascinating side trips and dance the night way. Residents have included Erich Fromm, Diego Rivera, Carlos Fuentes, Helen Hayes, Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo, Malcolm Lowry, Ivan Illich, Gabriel García Marquez, Barbara Hutton, Rufino Tamayo, Robert Brady and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Located an hour’s scenic drive south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca was founded seven centuries ago. It is located almost a mile high in the Sierra Madre mountains. Today, a Tlahuican pyramid still remains in a residential neighborhood, a half-hour from where Mesoamerican high priest at Xochicalco studied astronomy in 600 A.D. and arranged the calendar. In 1532, Conquistador Hernan Cortes built his palace here-now an historical museum with a dramatic Diego Rivera mural.
The Cathedral, with a Sunday “Mariachi Mass”, dates from 1528. Many 16th Century convents remain from area’s first Catholic missionaries.
Until 1910, this state was the third major sugar cane producer worldwide, after Hawaii and Puerto Rico, but peasants slaved without hope on the enormous sugar cane haciendas. When the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, most haciendas were burned to the ground and Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata took up the peasants’ plea for “Land and Liberty” Zapata’s village home remains, an hour away, as do several restored hacienda-hotels.
Cuernavaca, the Capital of Morelos state, is a modern tropical city with every amenity and service. Only 90 minutes from Mexico City’s international airport, it host a score of scientific research institutes, an industrial park with over one hundred industries, four universities and extensions of the National University in Mexico City, and a global assortment of retired diplomats, business executives and government officials.
Recreation may be golf (four courses), tennis, bowling, horseback riding, racquetball, water sports, or at a spa or gymnasium; hiking at the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park, exploring the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa’s extensive grottoes or watching life from an outdoor cafe in the Zocalo, the central Plaza. Day trips: Las Estacas, Taxco, Xochicalco, Tepoztlan, Puebla, Chalma, old convents route; Acapulco is three hours by car.
Cultural pursuits begin at Corte’s Palace or at 18th Century Borda Gardens for art, films, concerts, fiestas, puppet shows, other public events. Casa de la Torre_brady Museum in a 16th Century convent has art and folk art collection and occasional foreign or classic films. State Ethnobotanical Garden at Casa del Olindo is former home of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (ruled 1864-1867). Bellas Artes, branch of national fine arts institution, has art classes, exhibitions. Amigos de la Musica sponsors classical concerts. World Affairs Council-Mexico branch is here. Good stores for music, magazines, books from paperbacks to art and children’s; a leading library sells used books.
Cuernavaca’s fame as a center for the study of the language, cultue and history of Mexico began in 1961 when Ivan Illich opened his Center of Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) to prepare Catholic missionaries for the realities of Latin America.
Today eleven language schools comprise a prestigious non-profit association pledged to high standards and a strict code for ethics in teaching and with the public. Member schools of the “Asociacion de Institutos para la Enseñanza del Español en Cuernavaca, A.C.” (AIPEC), provide a high-quality education and a secure environment for classroom study and on field study trips. They are diligent in selecting Mexican host families and other student lodging, and have an excellent working relationship with government officials and social welfare organizations.
Besides becoming familiar with everyday Spanish, students can learn the specialized vocabulary in Spanish of diplomats, medicine, agriculture, banking, religion, aviation, or other specialized fields, with advance notice to the school.