Pátzcuaro

At a cool, dry 75ºF we had temporarily escaped the sauna-like (hot/humid) costal climate. We pulled into the Villas Patzcuaro Hotel and RV Park, where we were amazed at what 180 pesos ($15) per night could get you compared to Saladita. We had been paying 100 pesos per night to stay at Paco’s on the beach in Saladita. Here in Patzcuaro, we enjoyed a well-kept, grassy camping area, shade trees, clean bathrooms (with toilet seats!), RV hookups, and an absence of dogs and horses cavorting throughout the night.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud

During our first morning, hummingbirds fed on purple flowers as we gazed up at tree leaves glowing green from the morning sun. Laying in dappled shade on the ground outside the camper, we still felt exhausted after a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast and a post-breakfast nap. It’s amazing the impact that 7,021 feet of altitude can have. It took us about three days to adjust to the thin air.

Pátzcuaro has a deep, rich history. It was originally founded cerca 1324 by the Chichimecas, as the center of the small Tarascan kingdom surrounding the lake region. The Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s and established forts within the city. Nuño de Guzman, head of the Spanish government in New Spain cerca 1526, tortured the last Tarascan emperor and maltreated the indigenous groups in the area. Vasco de Quiroga arrived in Pátzuaro to remove Nuño from power (Nuño was sent back to Spain to be punished for his war crimes) and in 1538, established Pátzcuaro as the capitol of the state of Michoacán.  Vasco de Quiroga is still revered as a hero of the region and the largest park in Pátzcuaro is dedicated to him.

Plaza de Vasco de Quiroga

Bicicles and bugs. They both go well together in Pátzcuaro.

Since the pre-hispanic times, Pátzcuaro has been a place where the noble and well-to-do spent their time. In current times, the Plaza de Vasco de Quiroga is one of the most well-kept parks in the entire country. The manicured lawns, clean sidewalks, and ample lighting are complemented by a stereo system (outdoor speakers are wired throughout the park) that plays romanic songs during weekend nights. Each day we visited, the park was full of locals, Mexican tourists, and foreigners enjoying the ambience and each other.

On Tuesday morning we visited the Mercado Municipal. We toured the stalls full of just about any commodity one could wish for. The market is informally separated by commodities – an area for clothes and accessories, one area for meat and animal products, an area for handicrafts, and of course – the largest area dedicated to the abundance of local produce (our favorite). Amy was elated to find a huge bunch of locally grown chard (acelga) for only 5 pesos. Finally, we got to eat some greens!!!

Around Mexico and the rest of the world, Pátzcuaro is most well-known for it’s handicrafts. We visited the area near the lake, where the woodworkers shops are located. The intricate, detailed furniture made us wish for a permanent home where we could enjoy such treasures. During our tours of the woodshops, we noticed some motifs in the local production – Jesus’ face carved out of single piece of tree trunk; a wooden carving of the Aztec sunstone; elaborately carved wooden columns; and course many variations of the crucifix.

Amy was startled by the guard dogs, who took offense to the presense of my camera within their owner's shop.

Around the Plaza Grande (Vasco de Quiroga) and the Plaza Chica, we visited shops with locally made artifacts and textiles. Amy’s favorite handicrafts were the nichos, shadowboxes containing day-of-the-dead figurines (skeletons). Each nicho scene represented part of the local culture – the farmers, the amorous couple, the fisherman, even the office workers. As we’re only half way through our trip, we resisted accumulating much in the way of artifacts at this time. We managed to only purchase four locally-made cloth napkins for 30 pesos total. Our plan is to return to Pátzcuaro on our trip north to stock up on gifts for our state-side amigos.

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