Cuernavaca

Travel Guide North America Mexico Morelos Cuernavaca

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Introduction

Cuernavaca is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos. The name "Cuernavaca" is derived from the Nahuatl phrase "Cuauhnāhuac" and means "surrounded by or close to trees". The name was Hispanicized to Cuernavaca; Hernán Cortés called it Coadnabaced in his letters to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Bernal Díaz del Castillo used the name Cuautlavaca in his chronicles. The coat-of-arms of the municipality is based on the pre-Columbian pictograph emblem of the city which depicts a tree trunk (cuahuitl) with three branches, with foliage, and four roots colored red. There is a cut in the trunk in the form of a mouth, from which emerges a speech scroll, probably representing the language Nahuatl and by extension the locative suffix "-nāhuac", meaning "near".

Cuernavaca has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of its warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. The municipality was designated a Forest Protection Zone by President Lazaro Cardenas in 1937 to protect the aquifers, the vegetation and the quality of life of residents both in Mexico City and locally. The city was nicknamed the "City of Eternal Spring" by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and considering its location of just a 1½-hour drive from Mexico City, today many residents of the capital city maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Tlaltenango used to be a separate town, but now is a neighborhood of Cuernavaca city. The main attraction in this neighborhood is the church compound containing the Church of San José and the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros de Tlaltenango. San José is one of the oldest churches in Mexico, built between 1521 and 1523. Two centuries later an image of the Virgin appeared to members of this village, prompting the building of the second church. This is the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, which was built in 1730, with its bell towers built at the end of the 19th century.
  • Colonia Las Granjas, located on Vicente Guerrero Street, features a water park containing a small waterfall, Olympic swimming pool, picnic area, parking, and basketball and volleyball courts.
  • Colonia Miraval. Children and adults can visit El Túnel (the tunnel), an important source of drinking water for Cuernavaca. El Túnel was discovered by Eugenio Jesús Cañas in 1898, and in 1932 pipes were laid.
  • Barrio de Gualupita contains the Melchor Ocampo Garden of Art was inaugurated by Porfirio Díaz, on December 11, 1897, and was built as part of the festivities for the arrival of the railroad to Cuernavaca. Governor Vicente Estrada Cajigal in 1934, built a rudimentary zoo and a swimming pool and the name was changed to "Parque Emiliano Zapata". The zoo and park are mentioned in the novel Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. The park was remodeled in 2013 and its name reverted to Melchor Ocampo, a space where natural or vegan products are bought and sold, and crafts are exhibited and sold. Every last Sunday of the month, dogs and cats are sterilized for free while others are offered in adoption. The park is located in the Barrio de Gualupita, near the Pullman de Morelos/Selva bus station.

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Sights and Activities

  • Palcaio de Cortes is east of the Morelos Garden and is considered to be the most representative building of Cuernavaca. Built by Hernán Cortés, it was finished in 1535. It is one of the oldest European-style, civil constructions in the Americas, but is executed in Renaissance style. The series of arches of the central terrace, the battlements, and the thick walls are the most representative aspects of the original construction. It is said that this residence looks much like the mansion built in Santo Domingo by Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus. Just outside the front of the building is an old pyramid base over which Cortés had the structure built, on a hill that dominated the old city. Petroglyphs recovered from the site and from throughout the city are on display. From right to left the petroglyphs are named Lagarto de San Antón, Aguila de Chapultepec, Piedra Chimalli, or Piedra de los Encantos.
  • Juárez and Morelos Gardens are in the center of the city, both of which are plazas lined with trees. Between the two is the State Government Palace, a three story building with a tezontle façade built between 1955 and 1969. The Morelos Garden dates from 1908 and is easily recognizable by the large stone statue of José María Morelos, which is known colloquially as "Morelotes". The Juárez Garden is located to the north of the State Government Palace and is the oldest public square in Cuernavaca. The Garden contains a kiosk designed by Gustave Eiffel and brought from Britain toward the end of the 19th century. Unlike most main squares in Mexico, neither of these open up the way to the main cathedral. The main cathedral in Cuernavaca is located a few blocks west of the square.
  • Cuernavaca Cathedral is the main church of what was the monastery of the Third Order of the Franciscans, called La Asunción, that dates back to the 16th century. It sits on the southeast corner of a large atrium, which also contains a number of other chapels that were built at different times and with different architectural styles. This complex is located at the intersection of Hidalgo and Morelos streets, a few blocks west of the town center. The cathedral was built by Cortés to double as a fortress, with cannons mounted above the buttresses. Over time, this church underwent a number of transformations, updating its interior. This was undone in the mid-20th century, when restoration work removed all the Neoclassical altars and images. These now are stored in the cathedral's pinacotheca and not available to the public. Restoration work uncovered al fresco murals on the lateral walls, relating to the martyrdom of Philip of Jesus, the first Mexican canonized as a saint. The only other decoration inside this church now is a modern-style crucifix and an image of the Assumption of Mary.
  • The Church of Tepetates was built in the 16th century at the time of the conquest of Cuauhnáhuac, was named after the type of soil found in the area. It is located off Guerrero Street in the old district of Tecoac, which was one of the five neighborhoods that made up the center of the City of Cuernavaca. For years it was the symbol of the city due to its picturesque façade flanked by two cypresses. This temple is designed in neoclassic style, dedicated to Jesus of Nazareth. The church a small atrium, an open chapel, and a nave in addition to two bells that date from 1791. Fr. William Wasson founded the orphanage Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos here in 1954.
  • The Borda Garden is located near the cathedral on Morelos Street. Originally, this was a house bought by José de la Borda, the mining magnate of Taxco in the mid-18th century. Later, his son, Manuel de Borda y Verdugo, transformed the grounds of the house into gardens filled with flower and fruit trees to satisfy his passion for botany. These gardens also contain a number of fountains and an artificial lake that were completed in 1783. Today the complex contains an art gallery, offices, a restaurant, and an open-air theater. In 1865, this was the summer home of Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Carlota Amalia. Some sources say the emperor met his mistress, "La India Bonita," there, (although other sources say they met at his home called "El Olindo" in Acapantzingo.) In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Borda Garden sponsored soirees, such as those sponsored by Porfirio Díaz and Emiliano Zapata. Today the area is a public park where the gardens have been maintained and it is possible to take a short boat ride on the lake. The house has been converted into a museum. Six of its halls are dedicated to temporary exhibits while the other seven are devoted to recreating the characteristics of the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Robert Brady Museum is on Nezahualcoyotl Street and occupies the building known as the Casa de la Torre, originally part of the monastery of La Asunción. In 1960, it was purchased by the U.S. artist, Robert Brady, who transformed it into his home and a private art and collectible museum. It contains a collection of art and crafts from around the world as well as the original Self-Portrait with Monkey painted by Frida Kahlo. Other works are by artists such as Miguel Cobarruvias, Pelegrí Clavé, María Izquierdo, and Rufino Tamayo. Non-Mexican paintings include those from North America and Europe. Other objects in the collection include antique furniture, African and Indian crafts, and archeological pieces. The collection occupies fourteen rooms of the old house, which has been kept mostly the way it was when Brady died in 1986 and bequeathed the house and its contents to the city.
  • Hacienda Atlacomulco is located south of the Cuernavaca and was established by Hernán Cortés as one of the first sugar plantations in Mexico. Descendants of the Conquistador held the property until the 19th century, when it became the property of Lucas Alamán, who modernized the facility. The hacienda lost its surrounding properties during the Mexican Revolution and all that remains is the main house. After a long period of restoration and modification, the hacienda today houses an exclusive hotel, which can accommodate conventions and banquets.
  • Museum of Traditional and Herbal Medicine and the Ethnicbotanical Garden is south of the city center is Acapantzingo, which had been a separate town, but now is part of the city. A large farm owned by Emperor Maximilian I existed there in the 1860s. It was named Olindo, referring to a character in the poem by Torquato Tasso. The emperor used this property as one of his residences in Cuernavaca, and according to rumor, to enjoy the company of a certain beautiful Indian woman. On this farm and in what was the Pavilion, is now the Museum of Traditional and Herbal Medicine (Museo de Medicina Tradicional). The museum sponsors workshops and classes on the use of plants to make soap, cremes, dyes, decorative objects and more. Outside is the ethnicbotanical garden with exhibits including 800 species of plants organized by uses, such as the making of textiles, animal feed, condiments, ritual, and others.
  • Chapultepec Ecological Park is located about four km southeast of the Cuernavaca city center. It contains fresh-water springs, which form the beginning of a river, and is surrounded by large trees called Chapultepec. It is a public park administered by the State Commission of Water and Environment. In addition to playgrounds, the park has constructed habitats for monkeys, birds, butterflies, crocodiles, reptiles, aquatic plants, and orchids. It also has a petting zoo, environmental museum, planetarium, house of terror, theater, and tour train. Beginning December 2018, Diana Ríos, a Mexican designer and artist working with the company Veneno Ríos is in charge of creating a new façade called “Metamorphosis” inspired in evolution and species changes as well as the love of nature in Morelos. Featured species are the cangrejito barranqueño (a crab), the carpita morelense (carp), and the amate amarillo (yellow fig tree).
  • Chapitel del Calvario is a church located at the corner of Morelos and Matamoros Streets, which was constructed in 1532. The word "chapitel" means "spire" as the church is named after two spires that define its appearance. It also has a fourteen-meter-high dome. It was constructed in the 16th century and was the last building encountered within Cuernavaca, as one left the city on the road to Mexico City. In 1772, this church was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
  • Salto de San Anton, or saint Anthony's Waterfall, is a large ravine with a small waterfall located in the neighborhood of San Anton Analco on the west side of Cuernavaca. The waterfall is 36 meters high, with its water coming from a small tributary of the Zempoala River. The vertical walls of the ravine are of basalt and broad-leafed vegetation grows in nooks and crannies of the stone. A series of stairs and platforms have been built to enable access to the waterfall area from the park above. The area is a popular place to purchase potted plants.
  • The Juan Soriano Museum of Contemporary Art is located east of downtown near the Adolfo López Mateos Market in Colonia Amatitlan. The museum opened amidst controversy on June 8, 2018, and includes a collection of 1,200 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs, including a permanent collection of works by the artist Juan Soriano. The museum was designed by the architect Javier Sanchez and it cost 300 million pesos to build.
  • David Alfaro Siqueiros House and Studio was donated to “the people of Mexico” by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974). In the late fifties, Siqueiros was creating the mural Del Porfirismo a la Revolución (1957-66). On August 9th of 1960, this project was abandoned because he was charged with the crime of “social dissolution” and the muralist was imprisoned. When he left prison in 1964, Siqueiros finished the mural and built a house and workshop in the city of Cuernavaca. There, he lived and executed the mural La Marcha de la Humanidad (1971-73), currently located at the Polyforum Siqueiros. The house/workshop is located in Parque Siqueiros at the intersection of Calles Marte and Venus, Colonia Jardines de Cuernavaca. It is recommended that one enter from Calle Marte in order to fully appreciate the recently restored murals outside.

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Events and Festivals

The Feria de la Flor was established in 1965 as a festival that is held from 2 to 12 May. In the Borda Garden, flower growers from all over Mexico come to exhibit their wares, competing for an annual prize. The event also has traditional fair rides, cockfights, and horse competitions as well as music and sociocultural events. Neighborhood celebrations are held in Cuernavaca, mostly for patron saints, they include 15 May, the feast of San Isidro Labrador; 13 June, the feast of San Antonio in the neighborhood of San Antón, with Aztec dances; 6 August, the feast of the Savior or the Transfiguration in Ocotepec, featuring the Moors and Christians dance, mole, and pulque; 10 August the feast of San Lorenzo in Chamilpa; 15 August, the festival of the Assumption of Mary in Santa María Ahuacatilán; and 8 September, Festival of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros in Tlaltenango. Since 1965, the city Cuernavaca has had a carnival as well.

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensely celebrated in Mexico where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Other Events and Festivals

Grito de la Independencia - September 15th is Mexican Independence Day! A massive celebration involving plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks takes place in the Zócalo. Everyone here awaits an appearance from Mexico's president who rings a bell from a central balcony of the Palacio Nacional overlooking the Zócalo. The president then shouts out the Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores which was Father Hidalgo's famous call to arms against Spanish rule in 1810.

  • Dia de la Candelaria. Candlemas is held February 2nd and commemorates Jesus being introduced into the temple 40 days after his birth. This nationwide celebration sees many different ways of celebrating and many towns hold processions, bullfights and dances. Of course, plenty of delicious, traditional foods are served during Dia de la Candelaria as well.
  • Carnaval is held in late February or early March throughout all of Mexico. This big party is meant to celebrate the 40 day penance of Lent. Carnaval always takes place during the week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Mexicans celebrate this holiday with fireworks, food, dancing, parades, dancing and drinking.
  • Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge celebration which starts on Palm Sunday. This is a very popular time for Mexicans to take a short break; as a result, it seems most of the country is on the move, with buses and hotels often booked out. As for the celebration of Semana Santa, expect colorful processions and many masses at churches everywhere.
  • Día de Nuestra Seňora de Guadalupe, or Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, is held December 12th. There is a week-long build up to this religious celebration in honour of the Virgin who appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in the year 1531. Since then, the Lady of Guadalupe has been Mexico's religious patron and her veneration is very significant. It is traditional for young boys to be dressed as a Juan Diego and for young girls to be dressed in indigenous garb and brought to a special mass, held at many churches throughout the country.
  • New Year's Eve. Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.
  • Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. A year after the battle, a larger French force defeated Zaragoza at the Second Battle of Puebla, and Mexico City soon fell to the invaders.

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Weather

Cuernavaca has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw) with temperatures that are moderated by its altitude. The warmest month is May with an average temperature of 23.5 °C and the coolest month is January with an average of 18.7 °C.The municipality has two distinct climates. In the north, is a temperate climate that is somewhat moist with rain predominantly in the summer. That area is covered in forests of pine and holm oak. In the south, the climate is warmer with the same moisture pattern. The southern area is primarily grassland with some rainforest. Average annual temperature is 20.9 °C with the warmest months being April and May and the coldest December. Temperatures only occasionally exceed 34 °C or fall below 10 °C.

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Getting There

By Plane

General Mariano Matamoros Airport (IATA: CVJ, ICAO: MMCB), also known as Cuernavaca Airport, is an airport located in Cuernavaca, near Mexico City. It handles only national air traffic for the city of Cuernavaca. It is part of the Mexico City Metropolitan Airport Group, along with the airports of Puebla, Querétaro, Pachuca, Mexico City, and Toluca.

By Car

Federal Highway 162 (Carretera Federal 162) is a Federal Highway of Mexico. The highway travels from Tepoztlán, Morelos in the east to Cuernavaca in the west. In Tepoztlán, the highway continues south to Yautepec as a Morelos state highway. Federal Highway 162 is an important connector route from Cuernavaca to El Tepozteco National Park and Tepoztlán, itself a popular tourist destination in Morelos that is an official Pueblo Mágico as designated by the federal government.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

Intra-city buses ply nearly every main street in the city and are cheap; expect to pay a few pesos for any route. Major points along the way of each route - markets, plazas, malls, hospitals and so on - will be displayed in the front window of the bus. Most people wait for their bus at designated stops but it is often possible to flag down a bus anywhere.

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Eat

The center of town has some excellent restaurants. Las Mañanitas is a Relais & Chateaux hotel with excellent if somewhat dated cuisine on a menu that never changes. Famous for its large garden with free-roaming peacocks and other large birds, Las Mañanitas is well worth a visit for cocktails or a meal. On the main square facing the Palacio de Cortes is Casa Hidalgo also serving excellent food. These restaurants serve a variety of dishes consisting of traditional Mexican and international fare. Trattoria Marco Polo, across the street from the cathedral, serves good Italian food and pizza. For about $60 pesos, Marco Polo offers a very large pizza (about 1 m wide) loaded with everything. Definitely not something would find in Italy, it is, however, a sight to see and excellent to try if you are eating with a large group there. El Faisan on Emiliano Zapata and on Rio Mayo is another excellent high-end restaurant featuring Yucatecan food that is worthwhile visiting when in Cuernavaca. La Provence in a boutique hotel of the same name a short distance south of the zocolo is Cuernavaca's leading French restaurant.

In the downtown 30m down the street Calle Fray Bart De Las Casas from Plazuela del Zacate, on the right hand side on corner, there is a small nameless place with open grill that has indescribably delicious arrachera and tortas/hamburguesas. M$135 for arrachera. For the best hamburgers in town, however, you'll need to go to either La Casa de Hamburguesa on Teopanzolco (inexpensive) or Meson Gaucho (expensive), on Domingo Diez across from one of Cuernavaca's Walmart stores, which features Argentine steaks in addition to the great burgers.

If you are looking for a true Mexican meal be sure to try tacos where the locals eat them. Try the calle de los tacos (street of tacos), Nueva Inglaterra. This street is lined with taquerias with Grano del Oro being particularly good. On Plan de Ayala try the tacos at Los Orientales or have a torta (sandwich) at La Cubana. La Princesa has two locations on Teopanzolco plus a location within Plaza Cuernavaca and one near the village of Parres close to Mision del Sol and Camino Real Sumiya. A taco al Pastor (pork) will cost between M$3 and $8. Traditional Tacos accorizados, which are large tacos served with chicken or beef and rice, are offered at a number of family restaurants.

  • Arrachera Rey de Reyes, Blvd. Gustavo Díaz Ordaz 117, Acapantzingo, ☎ +52 777 289 29 26, +52 777 100 10 60. "Arrachera" refers to skirt steak, a thicker cut of meat than "bistec." which is what one gets at most taco places. At Rey de Reyes you'll pay a little more than some other places, but the taste is far superior. They offer a wide variety of tacos, sausages, and other Mexican specialties. Located 3 km from downtown; take Ruta 6 to Diaz Ordaz. There are branches at Boulevard Cuauhnahuac Km. 3.5, Col. Tarianes, Jiutepec; Av. Par Vial No. 34, Col. Begonias, José G. Parres, Jiutepec; and one is proposed for Temixco. Mains M$40-125, steaks (for 4 people) M$270-350.
  • Cecinas de Yecapixtla, Av. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines 117, Acapantzingo, ☎ +52 735 135 7554. "Cecina" is salted beef; Yecapixtla makes the best cecina in the world. It is served with sour cream and sauce.
  • Tacotitlan, Pozoleria y Taqueria, Av. Plan de Ayala No. 347 Col. Santa Veracruz, ☎ +52 777 316 98 27. Special price on pozole Tuesday and Thursday (M$53), discount on beer on Sundays. Delivery service. House specialties are "Alambre al Pastor" and "Alambre Vegetariano". Branches at Calle Orquídea No. 19 Esq. Nardo Col. Satélite and Av. Centenario 31, Col. Las Torres de CIVAC. Credit cards accepted. M$63-129.
  • El Madrigal, Calle Rio Sonora #115, Col. Vista Hermosa, ☎ +52 777 100 7700. This well-known restaurant offers Mexican, International, and Vegetarian food; Gluten free. Kid friendly. Free parking, wheelchair access, accepts credit cards. Wine list. Large garden. Expensive, but worthy of the splurge.
  • House Restaurant (Las Casas B & B Hotel), Calle Fray Bartalome de las Casas #110, Centro Esq. Benito Juarez (one block southeast of Palace of Cortes), ☎ +52 777-318-3782. 08:00-22:30. Inspired by Southern California’s laid-back vibe, House puts an unexpected Modern-Mexican twist on an upscale California bistro. As casual as it is beautiful, dining alfresco amidst the whitewashed wood, lush greenery, and a classic Cuernavaca pool. House passionately interprets Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine like the delectable Pork Belly in Lavender Honey and the Sea Bass Carpaccio.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafe's are widely available and you generally can find one in the direct vicinity. Sometimes photocopy stores or photo processing stores will double as an internet cafe with a couple of computers. Look for signs reading "Acceso a Internet" or "Cibernautica" or "Cibercafe". Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Phone cards can be purchased anywhere and are needed for the majority of public phones. To call any number outside your region you have to dial 01 then followed by the area code. If calling a cellphone from a normal phone start with with 044. If calling cellphone to cellphone just dial the 10-digit number. To make an international call dial 00 followed by the country code then the local number. To call to Mexico, also dial 00 (most of the times) followed by the national code 52.

Post

The Mexican postal service is operated by Correos de México. The post service in Mexico is pretty good although not very cheap. It is reliable regarding the sending of postcards, but it takes at least a week to send it to other countries (US/Canada), more so if you send it to Europe or Australia. For packages it is better to use international services like FedEx or UPS. If you are sending a package internationally with the Mexican postal service, take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Post offices typically open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday. You will find post offices (Oficina de Correos) is almost any town or city in Mexico. To buy stamps it is best to go to the post office, although you can also get them at stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 0:02 on May 21, 19 by road to roam. 2 articles link to this page.

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