Michoacan: Patzcuaro region and beyond

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.


Mariposa Monarca or the Monarch Butterfly


Monarchs feeding taken by Oscar Reyes

Every year from November to sometime in March the forest of Rosario Michoacan Mexico are inundated with Monarch butterflies.  They hang together off  the branches of trees huddled on top of each other for warmth.  As the weather starts to warm in February their activity increases.  The last week or two in February to the first couple of weeks of March they leave the winter home and begin their northern journey.

Those giant clumps in the middle are resting butterflies. Imagine millions instead of a couple thousand.

I was interested to learn that the butterflies leaving Michoacan are not the ones that will eventually make it somewhere near the Great Lakes in the United States and southern Canada.  The Monarch life last only about 4 – 6 weeks.  The female will carry the fertilized eggs to the next stop on the journey, lay them and then die.  The males die in about the same time period. The new off spring carry on the trip for another 4-6weeks.   It is a travesty that the big reserves full of milkweed and other food on the southern US border are being bulldozed to build a stupid, unnecessary, illegal and useless wall.  Large areas of natural habitat for the monarchs are being destroyed because of the insecurities and insidious ego of one man abusing his power. And because the construction crews love the idea of bulldozing everything in sight. (Rant over for now)  Any way there will be 3 generations of Monarchs born before wintering again in the hills of Rosarioo.

Entry into El Rosario

Some warnings to those wanting to see this spectacular site.  The altitude gets to many causing many to become light headed and have breathing problems.  If you know you have issues get altitude sickness pills from your doctor before coming.  Second  the hills are very steep and while the Ejido(native people) who own the land and the sanctuary have worked very hard to build stairs and ramps  to ease the hike for most, but a warning to keep in mind: the ramps are much to steep for wheelchairs or powered scooters. IMG_3740 Plus there is there is no power should you need to recharge.   There are also horses available to ride for a charge. With some sort of steps to help in saddling up at the bottom of the hill making this a great option for many. They advise people who have difficulty mounting the horses to stay on the horse the whole trip up and down. Me personally, I could not use this option because I could not have stayed on the beast.  Leg strength and control, to some degree, is needed to keep you in your seat both up and down.  Bottom line know your personal limitations.

Every group going up the mountain is accompanied by a guide.  Please tip these people well, they are up and down these hills several times a day.  Most do not speak English, but will point out things of interest and stop you from doing anything that will harm the environment or the butterflies.  They do an amazing job protecting what some consider just a bug.

Other rules:

  • do not leave the roped marked path.
stay within the roped off path
  •  Do not bring animals of any kind.  Mexico does not have a support animal law and if the guide decides it, your animal must stay behind.  Best to leave them home or at the kennel and out of the locked up car.
  • Watch where you are walking.  Please try not to step on the Monarchs.
  •     Talk in whispers as not to disturb the peace, you are but one of thousands that traipse this hill daily to see the Monarch’s.
  • Take water.  There are no refill stops or vendors.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen the sun is intense.

Many hire individual or group guides to drive them up to the reserve and to guide them up the trails. And yes an Ejido guide will accompany you also.  Many of these guides do speak english.  I can recommend one such, his name is Oscar Reyes (Butterflý Guid In Angangueo on facebook)

Guia Oscar Reyes and Elizabeth

His English was very good as was his knowledge of the area, especially which areas were best to stop for photographs.  His photographers’ eye is very keen.   The best pictures taken this day on my camera were not by me but by him.  Lucky for you I have his permission to post them. He is also a cab driver if you need transportation to other locales.

The butterflies seek out the bright yellow flowers and then the white.  Around the mountain is a red flower, I believe called paintbrush. When we asked why there were no butterflies around the red paintbrush blooms the answer was the bloom is too deep for the butterflies to draw food from. The aha answer to why my garden fails to attract butterflies….I love the bigger deeper blooms. So YES, I will be adding to my garden.  I love watching both the hummingbirds and the butterflies through our window.  So red, yellow, white and bright purple or pink small blooms are a good thing for butterflies.

To tell which butterfly is the male look for the two black dots in the lower V section on the wings (photo far right)

We stayed in the town of Angangueo the night before. Most hotels are on the main road heading into town.  There are also B&B’s located in the vicinity of the central plaza. (If you expect upscale accommodations both Mexico City and Morelia are within 3 hours or so.)  For dinner we ate across from the plaza at Los Arcos. The food and service were very good. The plaza and town were gearing up for a week-long festival celebrating the Mariposa (butterfly) starting that night. Everyone was dressed for the evening chill, which was strange for us to see.   (Hats and coats might be needed this time of year, so come prepared.)

The plaza is built on several levels and there were few accessible ramps.  (The ramps are there but to accommodate food vendors the ramps were hidden or blocked, which is not uncommon in most Mexican towns when there are celebrations going on). The curbs abnormally high.  Definitely not a town friendly to wheelchairs or scooters.

Near the square the town has dedicated a mural that takes up both sides of an alley that is for foot traffic only and runs about 2 blocks.  It depicts the history of the town and mining. It also commemorates a horrible mining accident that took the lives of many men.

The Mariposa are losing habitat to logging. Land is being cleared to make room for aquacate (avocado) trees.  The Mexican government has done their best to shut down the illegal logging.  But to help save the Monarch Butterfly please stop demanding avocado’s.  No more toast, dip or salads, your burrito is no more important than the Monarchs.

Anyone know what this beauty is called. Found him hanging with the Monarchs’


The Rodeo

The Charro’s here in Mexico love putting their skills to the test.  Control of their horse, control of the rope, control of the bull or calf.  The rodeo’s seem more about the subtleties and less about brute force dominion over an animal. For example the running down of the calves and bulls where points are scored(it seemed) by pulling the tail out straight. The rodeo I went to also included a competition of Mariachi bands.  Someplace in my “stuff” I have misplaced a brochure which explained in detail the different events and how each are scored.  And I will update when found.  Until then enjoy some of the pictures I took.



We love watching birds.  I am attempting constantly to capture in pictures those birds.  Luckily, all around Guadalajara are lakes.   Within 30+-minutes from our casita are 4 good sized lakes, complete with bird life of many types.  Added to the lake birds are thousands of birds in the trees, on roof tops and in the farm fields.  A birders paradise. 

If you know the name of a specific bird please let me know in the comments what the bird is.  I have yet to locate a regional all encompassing book with pictures.   Enjoy some of my shots.






(Confession time some of these pictures were taken in Leon, Guymus and near San Christobal)


More of Mexico’s Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous peoples such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexican, Aztec, Maya, P’urhépecha, and Totonac. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years.   In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl,  known as the “Lady of the Dead,” corresponding to the modern Catrina.


Because of a failure of our previous blog, no thanks to Google taking over the world through buyouts and bad customer service.  I am re-posting some of our favorite pictures taken here in our little (yah right, “little” is a bit of an exaggeration) of Tlajomulco de Zuniga which is located south of Guadalajara.
Mexican graveyards can look a lot like miniature housing developments from the street.  Quite literally the family plots are houses simple or ornate for their dead.  There can be covered spaces to construct alters or hang pictures and the like.  Lee and I had been invited by a local family to enter their family’s burial home.  The deceased is placed down below on shelves to begin the process of returning to the dust whence they came.  Caskets for this family are rented for the viewing and funeral services and once the services are over, male family members remove the body and place it on a shelf.  They also reverently remove the ashes and bones of the older inhabitants not out of the crypt just to vessel of some sort and onto a different shelf.  Family takes this gift to their dead seriously and with humility, knowing somewhere in the future it will be their turn to have this done for them. 
Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos
2017 Lee and I went to the town of Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos to see their festival including the new worlds tallest Catarina.  It was a fun day.  The town put on a wonderful display of all things commemorating the day of dead.  Many alters lined the center of the main road, a huge stage where dancers displayed the many costumes and dances of the many regions of Mexico.  All tied together by a tale of death and the afterlife told through dance.
The Dancers

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The Centro Decorations

To end out this years festivities we include pictures from our neighborhood alter contest.


Guadalajara First Annual Dias de Muertos Parade 2017

Dias de Muertos is known in English as the Day of the Dead.  And this year Guadalajara has had several planned events.  Parades, a tienda with everything from sugar skulls to face paints or costumes.  Items such as candles, flowers, food and drinks are left for the dead so that they feel welcome.

Every celebration we have attended started with the acknowledgement of the heritage that is Mexico.




Horses, Floats and Puppets







Globo’s are small to large balloons made of paper and  propelled or lifted by heat.  They are a fun yet not unique tradition here in Mexico.  Globo’s can also mean regular balloons of plastic blown up with air or helium loved and adored by children everywhere.  Or to really confuse the non-spanish speaker they are also hot air balloons carrying lucky folks off on a romantic sunrise adventure(on my bucketlist as #3).  Puebla’s have competitions and festivals dedicated to these colorful paper balloons.  Lee and I went to one of the larger festivals in the Guadalajara area.  The town of Ajijic is located on the largest land locked lake in Mexico.  Lago Chapala has much to offer those who live near it, in this case a nice steady breeze.  We learned that the breeze makes for some great entertainment and unexpected consequences…

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The towns soccer field hosted this days event.  Most of the spectators chose to spend the afternoon on the grass. The more adventurous sat in the grand stands.  The reason it was for the more adventurous is the wind sent the balloons directly towards the stands, if the balloon had not made enough elevation to clear the stands or had started a fire before hand, those in the stands got to show off their agility and speed to all of us slackers on the grass.  Much to our amusement.

The balloons are built by families, companies or civic groups.  The paper is a tissue like paper is every imaginable color.  The groups decide on things like pattern, colors and size.  Not having seen any official rules, I by just watching think the groups are graded on how many balloons are launched, how long they stay airborne without starting fire.  And my personal rule, how many people have to make a mad dash from the stands if the balloons do catch fire.  At this point I have to say the Marachi band playing in the stands won my vote because the music did not stop when they had to scurry off.  (It is not a festival in Jalisco without a Marachi band playing)

We were greatly entertained by the days offerings.  The skill and creativity each group displayed was appreciated by the two of us.