A rich vein of popular culture lies hidden near a lake with an enduring tradition in fishing
If you look closely at the faces of the people of Pátzcuaro, it’s easy to imagine something of their history, and still more if you take a walk through the cobbled streets with their whitewashed houses running down to the enchanting lake that has defined the history of the region and its inhabitants.
The town of Pátzcuaro – one of the most important in the state of Michoacán – is situated some 35 miles southwest of the state capital, Morelia. Here, nature and human beings have created the perfect synthesis to bring together the eminent past of the Purépecha people with the dignified culture of the Spanish colonial period.
Its history extends back into a time of legends. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, it was an important Purépecha religious center. One of the main indigenous groups were the Chichimeca, who settled in around 1324. They are known for the temples (called cues) that they built by placing four large rocks close together. The Chichimecas shared the area with two other indigenous peoples. All three lived around Lake Pátzcuaro and waged constant wars against each other.
Pátzcuaro (which means city of stones) was also the Spanish capital of Michoacán from 1539 to 1580, thanks to Vasco de Quiroga, who moved the Bishopric of Tzintzuntzan to Pátzcuaro.
The region is home to an important collection of different ecosystems and climates as well as some interesting mountainous areas. The municipality forms part of the government’s Pueblos Mágicos (“Magical Towns”) program, managed by the Mexican Department of Tourism. To the north is Lake Pátzcuaro, one of Mexico’s highest lakes. The butterfly fishermen, who dip their nets into the lake in search of whitefish, have become a trademark here.
Pátzcuaro became a center of cultural education, where pre-Hispanic traditions and trades were kept alive and the arts and artisanship are honored and celebrated.
The result are artistic treasures to be found in every church, convent, and monastery in the region, most dating back to the sixteenth century. These priceless religious carvings and paintings are the product of the fusion of Spanish and traditional Purépecha artistic sensibilities.
Patzcuaro has one of the best-known Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. It also boasts one of the best markets, held in the main plaza, and one of the major crafts competitions. The residents of Patzcuaro and the surrounding area take the Day of the Dead very seriously. Preparations include a major cleaning and repair of the local cemeteries.
Added to all this is the culinary tradition of Michoacán, and in particular that of Pátzcuaro, providing another example of the legacy of the indigenous peoples. Each of the town’s many squares has its share of ladies offering traditional local dishes like the classic Michoacán version of tamales, called corundas, or the tiny dried fish known as charales, caught in the lake itself. Plus, in the town’s restaurants you’ll find the perfect combination of family recipes and modern cooking techniques.
Pátzcuaro is a great place to experiment, because Mexican food is now classed as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Yet more excuses to visit Pátzcuaro can be found in the surrounding countryside, where there is ample opportunity to try adventure sports such as mountain biking, kayaking, and zip-lining, to name but a few. This is where the authentic Mexican experience begins: climbing on board a boat and watching the fishermen take you on a trip through time to when the Purépechas feared fire, contemplated the wind,and honored the moon, their most venerated deities.
- Museums and Cultural Centers
- Village Tours
- Arts and Crafts
- Traditions and Festivities