Patzcuaro is the ex-capital of
Michoacan and before that was Tzintzuntzan, a small town nearby dating
to the Purhépecha empire in the 1300's. The museum in Patzcuaro is
finding ruins in it's back yard that predates history and they are
believed to be earlier than the history of Tzintzuntzan. The Purhépecha
were the only (one of) the indigenous tribes that were not conquered by
the Aztecs. Then came the Spanish and the area was lucky to have the
catholic bishop Vasco de Quiroga (town named after) who promoted the
local culture and helped the villages around the lake develop crafts.
The Museum has examples of the types of crafts from various villages.
A schoolmate and I took the bus and found very little calling out to be
visited (like most of the area). A few little shops along the main
street with pottery and circular pyramids that were closed in the late
afternoon. A few blocks off the main street while having a beer at a
local "abarrotes" we gazed at these complex walls across the
street. After the beer we tried the old wooden doors and found the
grounds of an old church compound. Two really beautiful churches, well
kept inside, very simple ... and on the grounds ... the oldest olive
trees in the Americas. Really a trip in time.
San Pedro, Huecorio, Santa Clara (de cobre)
Well a famous friend came over from Morelia and we spent the afternoon
in a few small towns on the lake and then up to Santa Clara to see the
copper crafts ... yes it was Jennifer and we had a great time. The first
two are along the lake and we visited a wood carving shop and a straw
"hat maker" ... who was probably only shaping them in his gas
fired mold. Had a great dinner at a German owned restaurant and then
headed to the other side of Patzcuaro to Santa Clara to see the copper
craftsmen at work. We finished off the day with coffee on the Plaza
Grande in Patzcuaro watching the town go by.
On a quiet Sunday I wanted to take the boat trip to the islands on Lago
de Patzcuaro even after hearing what a tourist trap it was. Most people
said just take the boat ride but don't get off. (btw - two boat services
- one is tourist, other is working class). ..... So I grabbed a taxi to
the lake but he immediately suggested going to Zirahuen (Lago Azul).
Great suggestion and great way to spend an afternoon (sunny preferably).
Town of the same name has a funky waterfront with restaurants and gift
shops and tour boats that circle the lake for 35 pesos. The larger of a
number of boats has what looked to be highschool aged musicians playing
classical/typical Mexican favorites and a bar with table service. After
the tour of the lake the boat stops at a restaurant and at that point
you can walk into town, take another boat ... or just eat and finish the
short trip. We got rained out/on .. with lightening and hail.
Tocuaro, San Francisco Uricho
A tour with the school - visited a mask carver and got an extensive
philosophical/historical lecture/story about the deeper side of
Purhépecha religion/life. The speaker/tourguide has written for numerous
travel books (this one included)(only know his first name to be
Francisco). Tocuaro is famous for it's masks and the "mascara"
festival where people act out while hiding behind the mask. For some
reason the young men choose to beat the crap out of each other with this
mask as an excuse to let it all out.
In San Francisco Uricho we visited a Purhépecha home where three
generations lived. These people had no money to speak of, the woman made
tortillas and sold them in the Patzcuaro market (or traded them for
other things to sell). The local Mexicans fixed the price for tortillas
at 10 for a peso ... so with the help of our guide and teachers at our
school she had a few gringos that would pay a peso for 3 tortillas. I
hate to say "sad to see this" but it's real discrimination by
both the Mexicans and the government against the indigenous (no
government funding at all).
Second school trip on the lake road near Tzintzuntzan. A small community
that has an originally government funded project to continue the
knowledge and practice of indigenous medicine and medical practice. The
site is a combination of garden (herbs) and small hospital with a man
and his mother acting as the "curanderos". Her specialty is
helping pregnant women with natural birth and he is closest to a
chiropractor (spinal alignment) along with herbs and good heathy advice
you'd hear anywhere. I asked him what he could do for GW but he thought
- very little.
I also hopped a bus to Uruapan and Paracho but should have focused on
Uruapan. Unless your are a guitar freak, theres little to see or do or
see in Paracho. Uruapan on the other hand is a busy large town with an
interesting Museum, plaza, PARQUE NACIONAL EDUARDO RUIZ, water fall from
the natural spring in the park ... and a converted cotton weaving
factory that is now an exibit (only heard of this one).
The second week the whole school (8 people) went to the Monarchs on the
last weekend the santuary was open. Also a worth while visit.
In Patzcuaro there are many little things to see; library, museum,
market, plazas ... and just general history. Very relaxed and a place to
consider if you want to get away from large towns and the tourist
beaches. The school I attended is the only one in town (CELEP) and a
great bunch of people. Hey !!!!