Along with the butterfly trip to eastern Michoacan we decided to explore the region around Lago Patzcuaro in mid-west section of the state. The area has a rich history of creative people.
In about 1540 Don Vaseo Quiroga transferred the Catholic Churches “Bishopric” to Patzcuaro effectively making this the new capital for the state of Michoacan. In doing so he also went about organizing the area so each puebla surrounding or actually on the lake(think islands) had a talent or art that will only be done in that particular puebla. Thus ensuring that the peoples needs are met throughout the area and each area became a hub for industry without competing with other towns for resources..
Patzcuaro was built to be the religious center. It was also known as the doorway to heaven. To this day the festivities for the two day celebration known as the day of the dead are the largest in all of Mexico. Be it the boat tours on the lake at night or the all night women’s only gathering at a cemetary, there is much to take in, The buildings are well preserved, The city square is a very large park setting surrounded by restaurants, shops of all kinds and hotels. There are also a plethera (Sandy and MG that was for you)of artisans studios and museums. Also to note in the centro square is the abundance of houses for bats suspendened in the trees. The people know that the bats take care of a major problem of any lakeside town….mosquitos.
Surrounding the lake are towns each known for a different specialty. Capula (not on the lake but close enough) is best known for Catrina’s
Tocuaro for carved wooden masks, Jacuaro’s people make sombrero’s, Quiroga is wooden toys and fine art crafted in wood, Tzintzuntzin high fired ceramics which are lead free for those wondering. Tzurumutaro fine wood furniture that is painted and or carved and decorated.
The island of Janitzio (corn silk) is the home of a 40m statue of Don Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon and also the butterfly net fisherman. Choose a none windy day to see the men fishing with nets on your boat ride out to the island. The The island was interesting to explore. To the center is a a very steep hill with what seemed like millions of stairs. So for those of us less than abled people the actual lakeside area is accessible with plenty of shops and wonderfully tasty restaurants to explore while your companions climb those many steps to view the statue. I also admired the island for the large recycling “globes” in which to pitch your plastics. The boat we returned on was the Titanic, complete with musican’s to entertain us. The boats operator avoided all hidden dangers for our trip and we arrived safely back to Patzcuaro. If by chance you are in a wheelchair or need assistance, it seems all the men on board are quick to either lift you on board or offer their hands to steady you.
The pueblo of Yunuen is known for the clothing and shawls seen with fine embroidery work. Ok, there are items embroidered for the home and even the car also. A slight distance from Patzcuaro is the town of Santa Clara de; Cobre, The copper town. If you love bright shiny things or to camp this is the area for you.
There are architectural ruins and a pyramid to explore in areas surrounding the lake. Camping areas are scattered throughout also. As well as lots of other towns with their individual focuses. I highlighted only ones we stopped in. Easily we could have spent a full week exploring.
Further west of the lake is the town of Paracho. This town is known for the wonderful guitars and stringed instruments made by the artisans. We ambled through dozens of studios seeing hundreds of instruments made of every conceivable wood grown on earth. Its was amazing to see the skill and pride the luthier’s put into their work. To touch and strike a cord on an almost 200 year old cello in for some minor repair and hear that still rich deep sound produced was my highlight of this trip. To see children playing at the feet of their father and or mother in the saw dust was inspiring to know that within a few short years those children will be making their own instruments. It gives one a sense of continuance.