State of Morelos

Morelos – Estado de Morelos

Morelos is located in south-central Mexico. The region is known as the “Central Breadbasket” because it is an important center for agriculture. The state has an area of about 4,942 square kilometers (1,908 square miles), about the same size as the US state of Delaware. It is bordered on the north by the Distrito Federal (Federal District); on the northwest and northeast by México state; on the southeast by the Mexican state of Puebla; and on the west and southwest by the Mexican state of Guerrero. Morelos has thirty-three municipalities. The capital is Cuernavaca.

The northern and eastern regions of Morelos are mountainous. The highest peaks are El Tezoyo, Tres Cumbres, El Palomito, La Corona, and La Herradura.

Most of the rivers of Morelos are formed by rainwater that runs off the northern mountains. The Amacuzac River crosses the southeastern part of the state. The Grande and Tepalcingo Rivers are found in the eastern part of the state.

The largest lake is Laguna Tequesquitengo (teh-keh-kee-TEN-go), with an area of about 124 square kilometers (48 square miles). Many popular hunting and fishing resorts are found there.

Pronunciation: moe-RAY-lohss.

Origin of state name: Named for the military hero José María Morelos y Pavón (1765–1815), who fought in the war for Mexican independence.

Capital: Cuernavaca (kwair-nah-VAH-kah).

Entered country: April 1869.

Coat of Arms: The green field in the center features a cornstalk, symbolizing the fertility of the land. The silver banner above the cornstalk contains the Spanish words for land and freedom. Around the border is a slogan from revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919): “The land will be returned to those who work it with their hands.”

Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year’s Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez’s birthday (March 21); Commemoration of the Free and Sovereign State of Morelos (April 16); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).
Flag: There is no official state flag.

Time: 6 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).


The country is divided into three basic climatic regions: Sierra Alta, Piedemonte, and Los Valles. Los Valles (the valleys) covers most of the state and has hotter temperatures. The small Sierra Alta and Piedemonte regions are in the higher elevations of the north, which generally have cooler temperatures.

Temperatures in the state range from a minimum of about 10°c (49°f) to a maximum of about 23°c (74°f). The capital city of Cuernavaca is known worldwide as “The City of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate. The average year-round temperature in Cuernavaca is 20°c (68°f). The main rainy season is from the end of May until September. Annual precipitation ranges from 87 centimeters (34 inches) in some regions to 183 centimeters (72 inches) in other areas.

Plants and Animals

In the Sierra Alta region, there are forests of pine, fir, and oak. Other plants include madrona (a shrub with yellow berries) and ferns. Carnations, lilies, violets, and marigolds are common flowers. In the Piedemonte region, there are nopal (a type of cactus), cactus, mesquite, and maguey. In the valleys, there are willows and amates. Poinsettias, the official flower of Cuernavaca, are grown in some regions. Bougainvillea is common throughout the state.

Common bird species include quail, eagles, sparrow hawks, and doves. The gallina de monte, an endangered bird species, is found in Morelos as well. Coyotes, badgers, and tlacuaches (Mexican opossum) are found throughout state, as are chameleons and iguanas.

Environmental Protection

Lagunas de Zempoala National Park (lah-GOO-nahs dai zem-po-AH-lah) lies in northwest Morelos near the border with the state of México. It features three volcanic crater lakes. Cacahuamilpa National Park near the town of Taxco serves to protect a series of dramatic natural caverns with some chambers that are 82.2 meters (270 feet) high. There are six national parks in Morelos.

Population, Ethnic Groups, Languages

In 2000, Morelos had a total population of 1,555,296. Of the total, 750,799 were men and 804,497 were women. The population density was 318 people per square kilometer (823 people per square mile). In 2000, the capital, Cuernavaca, had a population of 337,966. Almost all citizens speak Spanish as their first language. About 2.3 percent of the population speaks an indigenous (native) language as their first language.


According to the 2000 census, 72% of the population, or 1.1 million people, were Roman Catholic; 6%, or 97,860 people, were Protestant. That year there were also 9,455 Seventh-Day Adventists, 4,719 Mormons, 27,084 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 1,788 Jews. Over 70,000 people reported no religion.


Cuernavaca Airport provides international flights to and from Morelos. The state has about 1,819 kilometers (1,130 miles) of roads and 246 kilometers (153 miles) of railroads.


The first human settlements in Morelos date back to 2000 B.C. Toltec groups inhabited the land and started farms in the area. Around 600 A.D., the Xichicalco became the region’s largest settlement. According to some historians, the worshiping of Quetzalcóatl (believed to be the father of civilization) was first started there. In the 12th century, the end of the Toltec empire allowed for the settlement of different groups in the region. In the 14th century, the Tlahuicas became the largest group in the region. In the late 1420s, the Tlahuicas were overpowered despite fierce resistance and were then absorbed by the Aztec empire.

When the Spaniards arrived, Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) sent Gonzalo de Sandoval to conquer the region in 1521. In 1523, Sandoval settled in the region. He established North America’s first sugar cane mill at Tlaltenango. The first Franciscan priests arrived in 1529 to convert the indigenous people to the Roman Catholic faith. Diseases and mistreatment by Spanish settlers drastically reduced the indigenous population during the 16th and 17th centuries. Later in the 17th century, African slaves were brought to work on the sugar cane and other plantations. The region became an important route to connect the capital city of Mexico with the southern provinces during the colonial period.

The independence movement did not reach Morelos until 1811, a year after the historic uprising initiated by Mexican priest and revolutionary Miguel de Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811). Cuernavaca, the most important city in the region, became a center of independence revolt. Priest José Morelos (1765–1815) fought for independence in the state until he was killed in 1815. Yet, resistance against Spanish rule persisted in the region. When independence was finally achieved for the entire country in 1821, Cuernavaca joined in.

As in the rest of Mexico, political instability characterized much of the 19th century. Morelos continued to be one of the largest producers of sugar cane in the world. The large landowners and the plantation economy combined to create enormous inequalities between the wealthy and the working peasants. Morelos lies close to the capital of the country. Because of this, Morelos also became a strategic battleground for all those who sought to overthrow the national government during the 19th century. During this period, the region was given the name Morelos after independence leader José Morelos.

In 1910, when the Mexican Revolution began, several leaders who sought to promote land distribution revolted against the government. Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919) was among them. Together with revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa (1878–1923), Zapata is one of the best known heroes of the Mexican Revolution. Zapata was leader of the Southern Liberation Army. He fought fiercely alongside the ever-changing factions of the revolution to demand peasant rights and land reform. After the new constitution was approved in 1917, Zapata continued fighting to improve the lives of peasants. He was captured and killed in 1919.

Several uprisings demanding land reform and vindicating peasants’ rights took place during the 20th century after the revolution. But the central government successfully maintained order and peace. A rapid industrialization process and ambitious development of the infrastructure helped Morelos become an industrial, agricultural, and tourist center in the decades after the end of the revolution.

State and Local Government

The governor is elected for a nonrenewable six-year term and exerts an enormous influence over state matters. The legislature is comprised of a thirty-member state congress. Deputies are elected for nonrenewable three-year terms—eighteen members are elected from single member districts, and twelve are elected for proportional representation. Formal provisions for separation of power and checks and balances have recently been tested. For the first time since the end of the revolution, a party other than the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won the gubernatorial race in 2000. Sergio Estrada Cajigal Ramírez, a member of the National Action Party (PAN), was elected for a six-year term ending in 2006.

The thirty-three municipalities that comprise the state of Morelos elect their municipal presidents and council members every three years, for nonrenewable terms. Larger municipalities have more leeway to decide their own budget and make administrative decisions.

Political Parties

The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Despite the historical predominance of the PRI in the state, the emergence of strong opposition in the 1990s in the rest of Mexico reached Morelos, too. The PAN is now the strongest party in the state, but the PRD has a growing presence as well. The PRI continues to exert influence in local governments.

Judicial System

The Superior Tribunal of Justice is comprised of justices appointed by the state congress from a three-person list presented by the Council of the Judiciary. Justices are elected for an initial six-year period. If they are ratified, they cannot be removed until they reach the mandatory retirement age of sixty-five. Only highly qualified attorneys familiar with state legislation can be included on the list presented by the Council of the Judiciary.


Service-based companies account for about 23% of the economy in the state. Manufacturing is the second largest economic group at about 19%. Trade accounts for about 17%, followed by finance and insurance companies at 14%, agriculture and livestock at 12%, transportation and communications at 9%, construction at 5%, and mining at 1%.

The main exports are motor vehicles, tomatoes, sugar cane, honey, and flowers.


Nissan Mexicana, Upjohn, Beecham de México, and Firestone all have large facilities in the state, mostly near Cuernavaca.


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages increase 17%, from $2.09 per hour in 1999 to $2.46 per hour in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 an hour in 2000.) After one year, workers are entitled by law to six days paid vacation.


Morelos is considered to be one of Mexico’s most important agricultural regions. Flowers such as carnations, bird of paradise, and chrysanthemums are grown for export. Corn, tomatoes, and avocados are grown throughout the state. Sugar cane and peaches are also important crops. Livestock include sheep, cows, pigs, horses, goats, and poultry.

Natural Resources

Morelos has rich archaeological sites.

Energy and Power

Almost all of the energy in Mexico is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). In February 2002, the CFE introduced new electric rates. For households that use less than 140 kilowatt hours per month, there was no rate increase. (This is about 75% of all households in Mexico, according to CFE). Electricity consumption declined in the mid-1990s in Morelos.


There are 12 general hospitals, 264 outpatient centers, and 33 surgical centers in Morelos.

Most of the Mexican population is covered under a government health plan. The IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) covers the general population. The ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) covers state workers.


About two-thirds of the housing available in Morelos is in good repair. Only 10% is in need of significant upgrading. These homes do not have running water or access to electricity.


The system of public education was first started by President Benito Juárez (1806–1872) in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students from ages six to sixteen. According to the 2000 census, there were approximately 300,200 school-age students in the state. Many students elect to go to private schools. The thirty-one states of Mexico all have at least one state university. The Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos (Independent University of Morelos) is located in Cuernavaca.


Morelos has seventeen theaters, many of them open air. There is a French Alliance chapter in Cuernavaca. Also in Cuernavaca there is a cultural center named after the famous muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974). Two musical groups, Mitote Jazz and Banda de Música Santamaría, are famous in Morelos. There are two puppet theaters: Artimañas and Groupo Gente (which cater to hospitals and social interaction groups).

Libraries and Museums

There are 133 branches of the national library in Morelos. There are also thirty-eight museums. In Cuernavaca, there is a science museum and a museum of herbal medicine, which has a medicinal herb garden. Cuernavaca’s Palacio de Cortes has some murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The David Alfaro Siquieros museum also houses murals by muralist David Alfaro Siquieros.


The capital, Cuernavaca, has two daily newspapers: El Sol de Cuernavaca and La Unión de Morelos. The city of Cuautla has El Sol de Cuautla. There is also an English-language newspaper, Cuernavaca Lookout.

Tourism, Travel, and Recreation

Morelos has a temperate climate. There are many golf courses, national parks, and spas catering to tourists. There are also many archeological sites, including Las Pilas at Chalcatzingo and the Pyramid of Tepozteco. A favorite site with tourists is the San Anton waterfall. Fairs and festivals include the Feast for Our Lady of the Miracles (late August–early September). Cuernavaca has many language schools catering to American and Canadian tourists wishing to study Spanish.


There are no major stadiums or sports teams in Morelos. Spectators enjoy sports in Mexico City.

Famous People

Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919) was a revolutionary who lead the native peoples of Morelos to fight for their right to own their own land. The troops who fought with him were called zapatistas.



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