It’s Hot in Zacatepec, Morelos

First Published
on Mexico Connect January 1, 2008

It’s Hot in Zacatepec, Morelos

By Julia Taylor © Julia Taylor 2008

Zacatepec Morelos has three claims to fame – the sugar mill, the Instituto Technológico de Zacatepec and its soccer stadium.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008There are two reasons you might want to go to Zacatepec, Morelos. The first is to warm up your frozen bones after a few months of northern winter – it’s hot in Zacatepec, really hot. The second is to be in a place off of the beaten tourist track, seeing the “real Mexico” as many call it.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008It was October and still sweaty in Zacatepec. I was finally visiting this town because I had been invited to give an English as a Foreign Language presentation. After the presentation, a colleague generously took a few hours to give me a whirlwind tour of the zócalo of Zacatepec and to visit a church in nearby Tetelpa. My colleague is from Cuernavaca, and has recently become director of a branch language school in Zacatepec – in “the hot lands” as the southern part of Morelos is commonly called by morelenses. Apparently, he’s had some time to think about the hot lands.copyright Julia Taylor 2008 “It’s as hot as Acapulco, but the problem is that it’s without the beach,” he told me, sweat gathering on his forehead as we left a small store where we’d purchased ice-cold pop and bottled water. Later, as he guided a borrowed car toward Tetelpa, he explained the main reason for the differences in the temperatures, “Cuernavaca has an altitude of 1500 meters and Zacatapec only 910.”

Zacatepec has three claims to fame. One is the sugar mill itself. President Lazaro Cardenas inaugurated the mill on February 5, 1938 inside the burned-out walls of an older hacienda built in the late 1800s and destroyed in 1910 during the revolution. The president wanted to improve the economic conditions of the people of the region. Interestingly, the mill is right in the middle of town because on December 25th of 1938, the state governor created the municipality of Zacatepec as the head of Tetelpa, Galeana (the site of another ex-hacienda), and the former Zacatepec hacienda.

The second of Zacatepec’s claims to fame is the well-known engineering university, Instituto Technologico de Zacatepec (ITZ – Technological Institute of Zacatepec) where students can major in civil, chemical, biochemical, and electromechanical engineering among other careers. The university is part of the federal education system (SEP) and is almost free for students. The university is the outgrowth of a community effort throughout the 1950s to create an institution of higher learning. Until November 28, 1961, students who wished to continue on to secondary school after completing primary school had to travel to nearby Jojutla for their daily classes. The first classes offered were for secondary school students with higher and levels of education being offered as students needed them.

There are close ties between the sugar factory and the school, as some of the first community members who organized and petitioned the federal education system for the creation of the school were members of the factory advisory board. The factory donated the 7.5 hectares of land that are now the university campus and the workers of the factory each donated three days worth of their salaries toward the initial construction costs in 1955. (There had been an agreement between the factory advisory board and the federal school system that the factory was to provide 50% of the construction and ongoing maintenance costs of the school.)

copyright Julia Taylor 2008The third claim to fame is a large soccer stadium adjoining the zócalo. During the ’50s the team won two titles in the First Division League Championship. The Cañeros (sugar cane growers) of Zacatepec are now Third Division, but it’s still fun to watch a game in the stadium. If you are in town, check for signs indicating upcoming games.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008The polluted Apatlaco River supports Zacatepec, allowing for the irrigation of rice, corn, peanut, watermelon, melon, and especially sugarcane fields. Surrounded by sugarcane fields, Zacatepec is accessed by a wide highway leading from the toll Acapulco-Mexico City highway or from nearby Jojutla. All along the highway there are motorcycle-taxis pulling little passenger wagons behind them.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008Zacatepec isn’t usually a tourist destination, but my colleague knew of a recently opened museum in Tetelpa that he’d wanted to see since he had missed the opening ceremony due to work obligations. We made the 15 minute drive to the San Esteban church in Tetelpa and parked in the shade on the street. We were greeted by a copyright Julia Taylor 2008uniformed police officer and young local man, casually guarding the church and museum. The church and museum were closed, they informed us, but the young man would take us to the home of the curator, who lived nearby, to see if he would come and open the museum just for us. A few blocks away, we stood in front of a long driveway and the young man shouted for Edgar. Eventually a young woman came out and told us that Edgar wasn’t home, but that she could send someone for him if we really wanted to see the museum. We told her that we’d better come back some other time and thanked her very much.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008Our young companion, Jorge Maldonado Hernandez, who gave me permission to include his name in my article, gave us a personal tour of the church grounds, ending with a spectacular visit to the rooftop where we saw the bells and enjoyed the view of the land surrounding Tetelpa, Zacatepec, and Jojutla.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008The view from the churchyard is inviting, since the church is built on top of a small hill. Pedestrian streets lead up to the gated entrances from the four cardinal directions. In addition to our voices, the only sounds in the churchyard were birds chirping in the trees and music from a house adjoining the yard on the other side of the whitewashed wall.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008Jorge told us that the church had recently been the victim of vandals (probably the reason for the uniformed guard we had encountered). The wooden door had been broken and this allowed us to peek inside. Jorge knew a bit about the history of the church and told us where priests had been buried in the yard; he also pointed out the stained glass windows on all sides of the lovely little church.

We climbed a stairway built onto one wing of the church and stepped out onto the rooftop, painted brick red, and sloped with the curving lines of the church roof. Jorge showed us the four church bells copyright Julia Taylor 2008and encouraged us to climb into the small bell tower. Once he had us all safely stationed on the roughly warn stones of the tower, he extracted a small nail clipper from his pocket. He wouldn’t ring the bells for real, he told us, but he would show us the different sounds of the bells. He tapped lightly on each bell so that we could hear the difference in the sounds. copyright Julia Taylor 2008His favorite is the bell called la campana reina (the queen bell), made of bronze, gold, and silver. Another bell, the largest of the four, had a gaping crack in one side. This one had fallen from its mount about six years before, and luckily nothing had happened to the man who was ringing the bell at the time.

From the church roof we could see the lush, irrigated fields surrounding Zacatepec and Tetelpa. There was a lot of sugarcane, of course, but there was also, rice, corn, and sorghum (Jorge confirmed or corrected our guesses on each field). We saw one field of familiar copyright Julia Taylor 2008blue-green plants. Someone has planted a field of agave and plans to produce tequila, though the agave hasn’t quite matured yet. To the southeast we could see the aqua colors of the pools at the Iguazu aquatic park and, much further in the distance, the church in the center of Jojutla and, to the north, the swimming pool of a club for rich people who come from Mexico City and other places to spend time relaxing.

Beneath our feet in one wing of the church, the community museum waited silently for Thursday to roll around when its doors would be open from 10:00 to 2:00 copyright Julia Taylor 2008and 4:00 to 6:00, daily through Sunday. The cost of the museum is $10 pesos (about 1 dollar) and is a guided visit. For information about the museum write to museosanestebantetelpa at (Replace the word “at” with the @ symbol and remove the spaces when you enter the address). A brochure about the museum that Jorge removed from the locked ticket office outside the entrance to the museum says that the museum consists of five rooms – a traditional kitchen used by the formerly resident vicars, archeological pieces and models of the original inhabitants of Tetelpa, copyright Julia Taylor 2008information about four centuries of Catholic presence in Tetelpa, historic archives including regional records of births, marriages, censuses, deaths, and even mass deaths caused by cholera, and finally a multiuse room for art and cultural exhibits that are changed monthly.

If you want to visit Zacatepec and Tetelpa, stay in a hotel in nearby Jojutla, about 10 minutes away. Consider including a visit to the aquatic park Iguazu, right on the main road from Zacatepec to Tetelpa, to refresh yourself from the intense “hot lands” heat.

copyright Julia Taylor 2008Plan your visit during one of Tetelpa’s local festivals so that you can enjoy the awe-inspiring hospitality of Morelos’s traditional townspeople. Jorge carefully reviewed with us the important festival dates which are as follows.

September 16th is the date of los tamalazos. This is when the women make small tamales de ceniza (tamales with a tiny bit of ash in them for flavoring. Don’t worry. They aren’t gritty.) Anyone in Tetelpa on the 16th will be fed this delicious homemade treat.

December 8th is la natividad de la Virgin copyright Julia Taylor 2008Conchita and is celebrated with castillos (fireworks on a temporary tower, a wonderful Mexican invention that you’ve got to see to believe). Comidas (traditional foods, such as mole are prepared in copious amounts and all who come to a family’s house are fed), and danzas (dances – each town will have its own traditional dances) are a part of the festivities.

December 26th is the day San Esteban is celebrated with another castillo. There is regular bus service to Zacatepec provided by Pullman de Morelos (from the downtown Cuernavaca station, the trip takes 40 minutes and buses depart every 30 minutes for 24 pesos and from the Tasqueña Station in Mexico City for 85 pesos). Once in the “hot lands” the peseros or local buses connect Jojutla, Zacatepec and Tetelpa into a convenient network. Taxis and motorcycle taxis are also available to take you from place to place.


Zacatepec municipal web page

Instituto Tecnólogico de Zacatapec web page


For further reading:
GPS bicycling tour Mexico City to Jojutla (near Zacatepec) with an interactive topographic map

copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008
copyright Julia Taylor 2008


  1. roberto espinoza Apr 15

    Que recuerdos me trai al ver estas fotos de mi pueblo querido. Naci en Zacatepec Morelos, fui a la Ramon Beteta, Revolucion Agraria, y e la escuela nocturna en Jojutla. todas estas fotos veo las calles y lugares que en un tiempo recorri. gracias y sigan poniendo mas.

  2. Adali May 17

    I didn’t born in zacatepec, but my parents are from there. I do still have uncles there, but mostly of my cousins left to the USA. After they divorce my father bring my sisters and a brother to live with my sibilings in Zacatepec when I was almost 11 years old. I attend the Jr. High “Aparicio”? I made such a good friends there, dispite the sadness of missing always my parents, my sibilings, unts and cousins, the people and the friends that I made in Zacatepec keep me happy until I grow up, mix feelings when I saw your pictures and these memories still in my heart along with this cute town.

  3. Edgar Arce May 26

    Checa este reportaje sobre el Dia Mundial del Museo, hice lo que pude….
    Ahora un nuevo mural y subire fotos al blogspot del museo.
    Exposición de Trajes de la Danza de los Tecuanes de Tetelpa…..tambien subire fotos.
    Nota periodistica:
    Gracias por tu ayuda es sobresaliente…..Edgar Arce
    Puedes documentarte más ahora con este nuevo Blogspot del museo:
    Ahi viene el carnaval, checalo por favor hay videos varios, todos buenos para nuestros amigos compatriotas.
    Ha sin olvidar enviarte el Facebook:
    Museo Tetelpan Morelos (
    Saludos cordiales y muchos abrazos.

  4. marcelina Oct 18

    Everything that you wrote is beutiful; I was born in the us but i was raise by my grandma in santa rosa treinta morelos. Your report was the awesome i ever seen congraduation i hope in the future you put more ditails from santa rosa for example: la sienda, la clinica, la iglesia, la paroquia de la cruz etc…. kudus for everything.
    Este reportaje que has echo es lo maximo que he visto en el interne interesante felicidades;por dar un poco de nuestra cultura y atravez de esta pagina,gracias por todo mi familia aun esta en mexico,y con mucho orgullo soy la hija del popis amo mucho mi tierra Santa Rosa Treinta.

  5. Julia Taylor Oct 20


    !Muchas gracias!

    Julia C Taylor

  6. Maria de Loudes Sanchez Nov 27

    Julia – Wow!, I am so very impressed with your article. Filled with nostalgia, thinking of the “posadas”, I decided to do a random search. What a wonderful surprise to find your article and all the posts from other Morelenses like myself. I was born in Santa Rosa Treinta but have lived in California since the age of 11. My father (my hero) Francisco Sanchez “Don Pancho” loved our hometown and moved back after retiring. I visit whenever I can and I ALWAYS experience the same welcoming warmth of the towns folks and am reminded of my father’s love of this land. VIVA MORELOS. Again, thanks a million for the great tour!

  7. Julia Taylor Nov 29

    Maria, Thank you for your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed my article. I hope you can enjoy the posadas this year. It’s almost time!
    !Viva Morelos!
    Julia C Taylor

  8. Lino Dec 26



    Que Viva mi Lindo Zacatepec!!!
    I was born and raised in California but my parents were BORN AND RAISED IN ZACATEPEC!! Over on Ingenio Sanalona by “la curva” and on Oacalco! Visiting Zacatepec this August after 8yrs of not visitng!! Loved your article! Brought nothing but smiles and good memories!!!

  10. francisco vazquez May 17

    Oh my god!! Such a beautiful article about my zacatepec morelos….thank you julia…..I was born in jojutla y creci en zacatepec y la colonia benito juarez…back in the 90.s my brother and I went to new york….but now I live on californiia I was born n 1974 so if anyone es de mi generacion let me know …fui a la revolucion agraria y a la ega… jullia thank u very much for bring in us such a great memories about zacatepec…ill pray to god for more people on the world like you….god bless you y a todos mis paisanos gente linda……somos los mas guapos y guapas d morelos….jajajajj my wife its from cuautla…she’s beautiful too…

  11. lilianita dela hacienda vieja May 19

    Yo tambien soy de Zacatepec ase 25 anos estoy aki en california pero el ano pasado fui por aya por ke mi papa se me fue el cielo 🙁 y tambien traje fotos de Zacatepec deverdad si esta super cambiando muy poblabo bueno CHINELOS cuidense y suerte .

  12. Antonieta Jul 21

    Hello Julia,
    It’s been a pleasure to find and read your article regarding to my beautiful Zacatepec, Morelos, town where I was born. Being a CBETis teacher (high school here in USA) for about 13 years, I came to California in 1994 for reasons beyond my control but I always remember the place where I was raised with full of love. It’s been 4 years since the last time I was in Zacatepec, Jojutla, and Acapulco that I am planning to go this year again. Thank you so much for taking the time to describe our roots, culture vividly. Please, I encourage you to continue doing it no just with Zacatepec, Morelos but with every town because they are full of unforgettable memories.

  13. Julia Taylor Jul 30

    Thank you, Antonieta, for taking the time to comment. I am looking forward to writing more articles like this one.

    Julia C Taylor

  14. David Rios Nov 13

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to writhe such a beautiful article, I was born in zacatepec and grew up in Santa Rosa Treinta, I went to Instituto Tecnologico de ZAcatepec one of the best engineering schools in the state of Morelos. Seen some of the pictures from your article bring back many beautiful memories.
    Me dio mucho gusto que algunas de las personas que comentaron son de Santa Rosa “my viejo y querido pueblo”

    Saludos a todos.

    David RIos

Leave a reply

To protect against spam, each post is reviewed. Therefore your comments may not appear immediately. Remember to check back later to see if someone has replied to your comment.