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  PATZCUARO Directory and City Guide


Patzcuaro (PAHTZ-kwah-roh) is a small colonial gem in the state of Michoacan, a land of immense natural beauty. Michoacan's countryside is a vast expanse of rolling hills, deep lakes, winding rivers and green valleys. Patzcuaro is found on hills above one of the lakes; Lake Patzcuaro. Volcanic activity and the state's latitude position helps create a setting not unlike Hawaii. Rich soil supports lush jungle-like vegetation, with spectacular mountain landscapes, and velveteen pasturelands. The state has few large cities, but rather is a quilt of small villages and towns that have changed little since the early 1800's . Its pace is leisurely, its people friendly, and its Spanish colonial and indigenous heritage rich.


Janitzio Island in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro

Patzcuaro and the state of Michoacan has a fascinating yet tragic past. The region has been inhabited for hundreds of years by the indigenous Purepecha Indians or Tarascans as the early Spaniards referred to them. The Purepecha developed the most advanced pre-Columbian society in western Mexico. They resisted Aztec domination for decades, only to be brutally defeated by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Somewhat fortunately, the early Spanish development of this area was guided by the gentle and kind stewardship of Vasco de Quiroga, a bishop who made great strides to restore the land and its people. Today Purepecha descendants number over 120,000.

Patzcuaro's traditional architecture
Patzcuaro rests 5 kms. south of the shore of tranquil Lake Patzcuaro. It is 58 kms. southwest of Morelia, and midpoint between Morelia and Uruapan. It is a beautiful town (population 45,000) with graceful colonial architecture, vibrant native markets, and a strong Indian village atmosphere.

Bishop Vasco de Quiroga did his most important work here and led a building boom in the 16th century that left several splendid colonial buildings. The city has two central plazas and several smaller squares. A jumbled series of narrow cobbled lanes wind past former colonial era mansions.

Sightseeing includes the Museo Regional de Artes Populares, an excellent overview of Michoacan handicrafts housed in the site where Bishop Quiroga founded the first university on the American continent in 1540. The Plaza Principal is bordered by arched 17th century mansions overlooking a central fountain and statue of Quiroga.

The city's second main plaza, the Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra, is the site of the village's colorful Mercado de Artesanias and the theater, Teatro Emperador Caltzontzin. Other colonial gems include the Casa de los 11 Patios, Templo y Ex-convento Jesuita, and the lovely Basilica Virgen de la Salud.

You can take a short boat ride to the island of Janitzio, an interesting native crafts and fishing village in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro. An enormous statue of revolutionary hero Jose Maria Morelos crowns the island. Fisherman with butterfly nets fish the lake's shallow waters. It is also the site of one of Mexico's better Day of the Dead celebrations.

Festivals in Patzcuaro
Festivals abound here. Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) activities are especially prominent here. Between the last few days of October and the first two days of November, you will see some of the finer traditions of the Mexican/Indigenous culture. Traditional activities include celebrating the return of dead friends and family at the cemetery with meals, drinks and music. Family members and friends also clean and decorate the grave sites. Other festivities include in-town dances and shows, arts & crafts markets, regional and seasonal foods and candies, strolling musicians and lively plazas.

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