Vacations, Travel and Tourism to Patzcuaro
Patzcuaro is an absolutely charming place, located in the state of Michoacan, only 33 miles (53 Km.) from the capital Morelia. This city is a fantastic place to explore, with its quaint cobblestone streets, wooded areas, age-old traditions and colorful buildings. In 2002, the Secretary of Tourism awarded this stunning city with the prestigious title of a ''Magic Town''.
Indigenous people have lived in this region long before the Spanish came and conquered the area. Interestingly, it turns out that the ancient Purepecha Kings (leaders of a tribe also known as Tarascan,) chose the town, now known as Patzcuaro, as the principal religious and entertainment center for their people. According to their beliefs it was the door to paradise, and they thought that this site was where the gods used to come and go from heaven. Nowadays, you can still see why they believed this fact, as you look out over the beautiful, tranquil landscape that almost seems blessed by divine intervention.
The entire area of Patzcuaro is made up of amazing mountains and magical forests that all surround a beautiful lake, which is home to the island of Janitzio, famous in Mexico for its cuisine, handicrafts and Day of the Dead celebrations. You can also find lots of attractions, which stand out for their beauty as well as for their historic and cultural value, such as the archaeological sites at Tingambato, Ihuatzio and Tzintzuntzan. There are many beautiful colonial monuments located around the city, and of course, the distinctive bright coloring found in every Purepechan fabric, painted on their handicrafts, and even in their food, is absolutely stunning.
The weather in Patzcuaro is quite extraordinary. It remains warm most of the year, and drops to a temperature of 60 F during the nights of the brief winters, and 73 F during the summers. It rains for about half the year, which is the reason for the feeling of damp in the air. Due to the geography, after a heavy rainfall all the water runs down into the lake.
Tradition and festivities
The religious celebrations in Patzcuaro are deeply rooted in the culture, and are also a popular tourist attraction for the town. Many of these celebrations have inspired the creation of handicrafts and even traditional dishes. Among these festivities, the most prominent ones are the renowned Day of the Dead, the Holy Week with its silent procession, and the Festivity of the Virgin of Health, who is the patron saint of the city.
The Day of the Dead celebration is one of the most important festivities in the region, and has deep cultural roots for the people of Patzcuaro. It starts with a duck hunt carried out on the first day of November, on the island of Janitzio, followed by a procession of beautiful, candlelit canoes. With the spoils from the hunt they prepare delicious traditional dishes for the community. The celebrations culminate in the cemetery with music, drinks, food, songs and prayers in honor of the dead.Easter celebrations are also interesting, with the ritual burning of effigies of Judas. Dolls made of a variety of materials are taken to the Main Square in a candlelit procession where they are set on fire, to rid the locals of bad energy and temptation. Christmas festivities are also a very religious experience and feature a procession known as the Posada. These are held in Patzcuaro and are a reenactment of the journey made by the shepherds looking for the Baby Jesus. There is a whole calendar full of festivals and celebrations for all the patron saints, churches and towns in and around Patzcuaro. All of them have their own individual way of conducting these rituals, but the common themes are the music, food and unwavering religious devotion.
The city of Patzcuaro was created in 1324, and is considered as the capital of the Purepecha community. This ethnic group is a mixture of the Chichimecan tribes and other regional ones. Years later, the Purepecha's capital was moved to Tzintzuntzan, which is where the majority of this indigenous group still live today. It's also worth mentioning that they were the only ethnic group that never fell under the control of the Aztec people.
The Franciscan bishop Vasco de Quiroga, or ''Tata Vasco'' as he was then called, brought Catholicism to Patzcuaro in 1538, and named the area as the capital city of what is now known as the state of Michoacan. He played a key part in the creation of many colleges, and organized the economic and social structure of the area, hence he is considered as the founder of this beautiful city.
The city has been the site of many historic events, including where parts of the Mexican Independence were planned, and it was also one of the major battlefields during the War of Reforma, in 1860. In the early 20th century, during the Mexican Revolution, Patzcuaro was used as a political base due to its excellent channels of communication, strategic location, and railroad connections, which also helped the city develop commercially. All these historic and social events prompted the government to help the many indigenous ethnic groups and also preserve the colonial heritage of this city.
The Lake of Patzcuaro was considered, by the Purepecha people, as the place where life and death were at their closest. Even these days, every Day of the Dead it is a tradition to sail across the lake in a candlelit procession of canoes, guiding the souls toward the light.
Tecuena, Yunuen, Jaracuaro, Copujo, La Pacanda, the Urandenes, and Janitzio are all islands in this famous lake. Each of them has fantastic attractions on offer for the visitor including beautiful ecological reserves where you can enjoy canoeing and camp out under the stars. The local people have made excellent gastronomic creations that you simply must try while visiting the area, using the delicious fresh water fish and other local produce grown in the region.
The inhabitants of these islands move everyday from one island to another, heading towards their places of work, schools, or to go shopping at the markets, which creates a constant movement of canoes and boats throughout the lake. It is always a very interesting show during peak hours that is great fun to see. It is also worth watching some of the most representative figures of this lake, the fishermen. They use their butterfly-shaped nets to catch fish, such as charales (a type of whitebait), and the delicious and incredibly popular Patzcuaro whitefish.
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