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Plaza Grande Patzcuaro

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 !!!!

Center for Languages and Ecotours of Pátzcuaro


Jaracuaro Hats
Lake Zirahuen Drive
Santa Clara del Cobre
Patzcuaro 2003

Patzcuaro Links

CELEP Language School

Patzcuaro Blogs

Birding in Pátzcuaro
Patzcuaro Birder
Surviving La Vida Buena

Near Patzcuaro

Potters of Cocucho
Uruapan y Paracho
Morelia – Michoacan
Volcan Paricutin
Highway 37 Michoacan
Volcan Paricutin