At Pre-Hispanic time, Pátzcuaro, which means “the
world of darkness", was an important ritual center for the
Purepechas. This civilization resisted the Aztecs and, in 1522,
the first Spanish were rather well integrated. Unfortunately,
in 1529, the arrival of Nuño de Guzmán resulted
in a human disaster. He rushed in persecuting the Indians, forced
them into slavery and tortured them in such way that Mendoza,
viceroy of New Spain,
made him deported and jailed in Spain. The difficult job of regaining
the confidence of the Indians was given to Don Vasco de Quiroga.
This Spanish judge was ordained priest and nominated Bishop on
the same day.
soon as he arrived, Don Vasco de Quiroga moved the diocese from
Tzintzuntzan to Pátzcuaro, making Pátzcuaro the
capital of Michoacán (1539-1580). During the thirty years
he spent there, he founded schools, hospitals and churches. He
made people respect the Indians’ lifestyle. He developed,
in many villages, a useful craft and know-how taking the ancestral
traditions into account.
Thanks to the wonderful buildings made of clay and tiles, the
monuments and its lovely Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, Pátzcuaro
became one of the main tourist centers in Mexico.
Located at 2,140 m of altitude, with an average yearly temperature
from 9ºC to 23ºC, Pátzcuaro, surrounded with
pine forests, is one of the most typical villages in America.
It has 77,000 inhabitants. It is 53 km ( 33 miles ) from Morelia,
328 km from Mexico D.F. and 284
km from Guadalajara. Pátzcuaro
is a jewel of Spanish urbanism with a grid-plan city emphasizing
the historic plazas, the red and white houses, the stone buildings,
the dry brick constructions and the cobble paved streets.
The whole city shows evidence of the influence of the indigenous
cultures. It is the very place where André Breton, Léon
Trotski and Diego Rivera met in 1938 to write the manifesto "For
complete freedom of art". Nowadays, Pátzcuaro is really
worth the detour for its quality of life.
The outskirts of Pátzcuaro Lake and the islands are inhabited
by an indigenous community which keeps most of its customs and
traditions. The fishermen are world famous because of the butterfly
shape nets that they used to get a delicious white fish, the “pecito”,
an endangered species today.
Recommended visits : Plaza Vasco de Quiroga (Plaza Vasco
Close to the main plaza, this plaza is surrounded by colonial
buildings; it is said one of the most beautiful plazas in America
because of its size and the imposing mansions all around. There
are no high buildings and neither religious building, which is
unique in Mexico.
picture : plaza Vasco de Quiroga
Museo de Artes e Industrias Populares At the sixteenth century, this museum was the headquarters
of the San Nicolás College, founded by Don Vasco de Quiroga
to educate the future priests and teach the Indians how to read
This museum is unique: Among others things, it shows one of the
best collections of laquerware, masks and ceramics, truly traditional
jewels. There is also an unbelievable floor made of animal bones
and cut stones. The museum is located at the corner of Ensenanza
and Alcantarilla. It is open from 9 AM to 5 PM- Tue-Sun; MXN$37.
El Sagrario (the Shrine)
The construction of this sanctuary started in 1693 and ended exactly
two centuries later. During these years, diverse decorative ornaments
were added. This building housed the Shrine of Our Lady of Health
until 1924. Don’t miss the wonderful Churrigueresque altar
piece dating from the eighteenth century. The sanctuary is located
Lerin Street; it is open daily from 7 AM to 6 PM.
Left picture : El Sagrario
Templo y Collegio de la Compania de Jésus
(Church of the Company of Jesus) This building housed the members of the Company of Jesus,
when they arrived in the Michoacán diocese. Don Vasco de
Quiroga, who knew about their skills in education, is the one
who made them come. The construction dates from the seventeenth
century; the College is a building with a wide courtyard and ample
spaces that bring a quiet feeling. It was a cathedral until 1566.
The church clock is said to have been sent away from Spain because
it gave the wrong time to one of the kings of Spain. It is the
current seat of House of the Culture (Casa de la Cultura).
Basilica de Our lady of Health It is the most important religious biding in Pátzcuaro.
It is not located at the center of the city by the city hall as
in most of the other colonial cities. It was ordered to be built
on an old Pre-Hispanic ceremonial center by the first Bishop of
Michoacán, Don Vasco de Quiroga. It was, first, the Episcopal
headquarters until 1580 and then, the headquarters moved to Valladolid
(Morelia). It has
been a Basilica since 1924. The actual building is the result
of several reconstructions, following repeated fires. It s facade
is plain, with few decorative elements. Inside, you can see the
statue of the Virgin of Health, the region’s Patron Saint.
This statue, made of maize paste (pasta de cana), dates from the
sixteenth century; many pilgrims visit her to show her their devotion
while praying for the cure of their sick family or friends. The
remains of Don Vasco de Quiroga are buried there.
Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra (Plaza Gertrudis
Former Plaza de San Agustín, it is the second most important
plaza in Pátzcuaro. It is also known as Plaza Chica. It
is very busy because of the daily craft and typical food market
close by. There is a bronze sculpture to honor Doña Gertrudis
Bocanegra, heroine of Pátzcuaro during the Independence
Ex-convento de San Agustín
(Ex-convent of San Agustín)
At the northern side of the plaza, the Ex-convent of San Agustin,
built in 1576, houses the library: Biblioteca Gertrudis Bocanegra
(open 9 AM-6 PM, Mon-Fri and 10 AM-1 PM on Saturdays; free admission).
You can admire the famous mural of Juan O´Gorman, architect
and painter (1905-1982). It shows the key elements of the history
of Michoacán, such as the indigenous, the conquerors, the
priests and Don Vasco de Quiroga. The last cited tried to apply
the ideas of the book "Utopia", of Tómas Moro,
in the hospitals. The Caltzonzin Theater was built next door,
on the vestiges of the monastery.
El Santuario de Guadalupe (Sanctuary
This temple, with neo classical lines, was built in the early
nineteenth century. It shows noticeable sculptures of the virtues
(there were seven and are only four nowadays). These statues are
set on a pedestal on the tower façade. These virtues are
la Caridad (Charity), la Templanza (Temperance), la Fortaleza
(Strength) and la Fé (Faith).
El Calvario This is a chapel built by Fray Marcos Ramírez del
Prado in 1666. It was built over a "yácata" (pyramid)
containing the remains of Emperor Tariácuri. It is located
on the road to the "Mirador del Estribo".
El Humilladero (the place of humiliation) This is also known as the Christ’s Chapel. In 1553,
Don Vasco De Quiroga had a crucified Christ sculpted; the cross
and the body are made from a one piece of cut stone. The origin
of the name «humilladero» (place of humiliation) comes
from the exposition of this cross venerated by the travelers who
got in and out the city. The access to this old chapel is via
a nice road bordered with thick trees. (It is located at the eastern
part of the city).
El Hospitalito (The Little hospital)
According to the tradition, this was the oldest temple in Pátzcuaro.
The Franciscans used to found hospitals before convents. The façade,
dating from the sixteenth century, presents Renaissance signs.
Inside, there are altar pieces dating from the fifteenth century.
You can admire a beautiful golden carved wood baptismal font in
the main altar.
Left picture : an uphill street in
Templo de San Francisco (Temple of
This is a eclectic style temple; inside is a maize paste Christ,
dating from the sixteenth century and a oil painting representing
the two most important figures for this religious order: the Pope
and Saint Francis of Assisi. The gate of the cloister is one of
the most beautiful renaissance style works in the city.
Plazuela San Francisco This is a quiet and nice plaza with a fountain with a
round brink; in the middle of the plaza, you can see a bust of
Doña Margarita Maza de Juárez, wife of venerated
Don Benito Juárez.
You can see the Portal of Salazar on one side.
The pottery lovers should go to the pottery market on Friday morning
on this plaza (market of las Ollas).
Templo y Hospital de San Juan de Dios
(Temple and Hospital of San Juan of God)
It was founded in mid seventeenth century and renovated in 1841
with a neo-classical style. This temple shows arches and a cupola
on flying buttress. The most noticeable facade of the hospital
is of plain baroque type. They moved the paintings from the sacristy
of the Temple of San Agustín to this temple.
Casa de los Once Patios
The House with eleven patios, located Madrigal de Altas Torres,
is open daily, 10 AM-6 PM. It was once a convent for the Dominican
nuns of Santa Catharina. The building dates from 1742, when the
Dominican Nuns settled there. The ensemble of colonial buildings
gave the name to this house. Here are sold diverse local craft.
The place is interesting because you can see the artisans working,
especially the weavers making blankets or shawls or the people
making wooden or lacquer objects.
picture : casa de los once patios
Palacio de Huitzimengari (palace of Huitzimengari) This residence is on the main plaza; It was once the property
of Prince Antonio of Huitziméngari, son of the last purépecha
governor or "Cazonci" and godson of the first viceroy
of New Spain, Don Antonio de Mendoza. The façade is plain.
Inside, there is a nice flowered courtyard surrounded with archways
where the Indigenous artisans display their products.
The Museo de las Mascaras (Museum of masks),
located in the Ex-Jesuit College, at the corner of Alcantarilla
and Árcigariche streets, is rich with more than one hundred
traditional carved wooden masks from the whole Mexico.
It just moved from Morelia.
The museum is open 9 AM- 2 PM and 4 PM-7 PM, Monday-Friday and
9 AM-3 PM on weekends; free admission.
good hikers will like the hike, through the pine forest, to the
volcano «Cerro del Estribo» overlooking the
village and the lake. Start from Ponce de León Street,
pass El Calvario and take the 400 steps up. You can also reach
it by taxi (5 min opposed to 30 min walking !).
Left picture : mural in the casa de
los once patio
Map of PÁTZCUARO :
Pátzcuaro is famous for the funeral rituals that existed
far before the arrival of the Spanish. Indigenous and religious
people kept the floodlight and the décor of the tombs as
well as the food offerings that are like a kind of communion.
Here, the Day of
the Dead looks like a carnival where the death is not the
enemy of the Man but his game partner. The Mexicans get some fun
of it with irony, humor and sarcasms. During this Holiday, the
Purepechas Indians color
the village with the traditional armfuls of flowers (among them
These orange flowers, looking like zinnias, were the flowers of
the dead souls in Pre-Hispanic
The celebrations start on October 31st, on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga.
Not to be missed ! Make reservations for hotel ahead !
overall view of Pátzcuaro and its region
Preparation and celebration
of the Day of the Dead in a family in the region of Pátzcuaro
Comments in Spanish
picture : a street of Pátzcuaro
The Purépechas live
mainly on the plateaus and the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake.