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PATZCUARO

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PATZCUARO

MEXICO


Patzcuaro: mountains and forests with a huge lake containing inhabited islands. Patzcuaro: Doorway to Heaven say some, Michoacán Eden say others, last stronghold of the native resistance according to history. Patzcuaro: tranquil refuge of the noble Purepachas, stronghold of the faith of the Mesoamerican priests, attractive destination for travellers and cosmopolitan striders.

You only need to go along 53 kilometres from Morelia, the capital of the State of Michoacán, to discover a place that seduces due to the cosiness of its narrow pitted streets and its architectonic beauties of the XVI century, to the quietness of its immense lake, to the call on memory on its monumental archaeological sites, and to the natural lavishness of its woods of oyamel, ilex and pine trees.

Urban, natural and historic features that justify its denomination as Eden or Doorway to Heaven, for if there is anything that Patzcuaro keeps since the times of the Purepachas, or Tarascas, is that gentle and peaceful countenance ideal for rest and solace. It is a true paradise.
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    Of strong pre-Hispanic roots, Patzcuaro, standing at 2317 metres above sea level, was the last bastion of the native resistance in this part of Mexico. Before the advance of the western invaders, the Purepachas or Tarascos gathered together at their capital Tzintzuntzan, an imposing City with mixed floors known as yácatas, buildings that mix rectangular and circular areas on a same platform.

    In the midst of the resistance, the Spaniards sent Cristóbal de Olid to meet Tangaxuán II, the last Purepacha caltzonzin (ruler). The encounter ended with the inexplicable treachery of the indigenous leader, who in sign of surrender, knelt before the invader.

    After the ominous submission, the place of the meeting began to be despicably called The Humbler. There are those who believe that the Chapel of the Christ of the Humbler was built on the exact place where the Purepacha caltzonzin had betrayed its people.

    After defeating the indigenous resistance, the Spaniards settled in the Tarasca urban centres, levelling them on their desperate search for gold pieces. In 1526, the president of the high court, Nuño de Guzmán, submitted the natives to atrocious tortures and ordered the assassination of Tangaxuán II.

    With the arrival of bishop Vasco de Quiroga violence receded in Patzcuaro. On the 26th of July of 1539 it was named capital of Michoacán, though it would be replaced by Morelia in 1580. Due to this decision cores of civil and ecclesiastical authorities fled to the flourishing new capital; then the magnificent houses, temples and plazas that today are part of its colonial charm, were raised.

    Decades of splendour that led the bishop to undertake an ambitious project: the construction of the most important Cathedral in America on the remains of the temple of the goddess Cueráppari. He did not make it but the result was a beautiful Basilica, the Cathedral seat in Michoacán until 1950.

    The City of Patzcuaro extends along the banks of the homonymous Lake. There are nine islands in its dormant waters, inhabited by fishermen and skilful artisans who keep alive the habits of their ancestors, the Purepachas or Tarascos. One of the flashiest traditions is in the use of their butterfly nets, called so for their resemblance with the colourful lepidopteron.

    There are important archaeological zones in the surroundings of Patzcuaro Lake, such as the observatory in Ihuatzio (15 kilometres northeast of the City), the ceremonial centre in Tingambato (35 kilometres westbound), and the urban complex of Tzintzuntzan (at 7 kilometres).

    Due to its carved works, jewellery, hand embroidery, and figures made of corn cane, Patzcuaro is considered the Cultural and Handicraft Centre of the State. Another reason to visit the City is its semi-mild weather, with an annual average temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, and with precipitations between June and October.

    Now you know, if you want to find peace, share with friendly people, and relive part of Mexico's history, do not fail to visit this little corner in Michoacán, with mountains and forests, and a huge lake with inhabited islands as well.

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