The people settling in the valleys of modern Morelos around 1220 developed a highly productive agricultural society based at Cuauhnáhuac, the original name of Cuernavaca meaning Place at the Edge of the Forest.
When the Spanish arrived, the Tlahuica were fiercely loyal to the Aztec empire, savagely resisting the advance of the conquistadors. In April 1521, they were finally overcome, and Cortés torched the city. Destroying the city pyramid, Cortés used the stones to build a fortress-palace on the pyramid's base. He also built from the rubble the Catedral de la Asunción, another fortress-like structure in a walled compound.
CUERNAVACA SIGHTS :
Plaza de Armas & Jardin Juárez
The Plaza de Armas, Cuernavaca's zócalo, is flanked on the east by the Palacio de Cortés, on the west by the Palacio de Gobierno and on the northeast and south by a number of restaurants. Roving vendors sell balloons, ice cream and corn on the cob under the trees.
Palacio de Cortés
Cortés' imposing medieval-style fortress stands at the southeastern end of the Plaza de Armas. Construction of this two-story stone palace was accomplished between 1522 and 1532, and was done on the base of the pyramid that Cortés destroyed, still visible from various points on the ground floor. Today the palace houses the Museo de Cuauhnáhuac with two floors of exhibits highlighting the history and cultures of Mexico.
These gardens were built in 1783 for Manuel de la Borda, as an addition to the stately residence built by his father, José de la Borda, the Taxco silver magnate. From 1866, the house was the summer residence of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota, who entertained their courtiers in the gardens. You can tour the house and the gardens to get an idea of how Mexico's aristocracy lived.
Recinto de la Catedral
Cuernavaca's cathedral stands in a large high-walled compound (recinto). Like the Palacio de Cortés, the cathedral was built on a grand scale and in a fortress-like style, as a defense against the natives and to impress and intimidate them. Franciscans started work under Cortés in 1526, using indigenous labor and stones from the rubble of Cuauhnáhuac; it was one of the earliest Christian missions in Mexico.
Museo Robert Brady
Robert Brady (1928-86), an American artist and collector, lived in Cuernavaca for 24 years. His home, the Casa de la Torre, was originally part of the monastery within the Recinto de la Cathedral. Brady had it extensively renovated and decorated with paintings, carvings, textiles, antiques and decorative and folk arts he'd acquired in his travels around the world.
The main attraction is the sheer size and diversity of the collection, and the way it is arranged with delightful combinations and contrast of styles, periods and places.
Salto de San Antón
The salto is a 36m waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. A walkway is built into the cliff face so you can go right behind the falls, where there are a few picnic tables.
In Cuernavaca's suburbs, this 1866 house was once the rural retreat for the Emperor Maximilian, where he would meet his indigenous lover. Now the house includes the Museo de Medicina Tradicional, a museum of traditional herbal medicine. Around the museum, the Járdin Etnobotánico has a collection of 455 herbs and medicinal plants from around the world.
Pirámide de Teopanzolco
This small archaelogical site is on Río Balsas. There are actually two pyramids, one inside the other. You can climb upon the outer base and see the older pyramide within, with a double staircase leading up to the remains of a pair of temples. Several other smaller platform structures surround the double pyramid.