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 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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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.

place Vasco de QuirogaAs 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 de Quiroga (Plaza Vasco de Quiroga)
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.

     Right 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 and write.
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 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 Bocanegra)
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 war.

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 of Guadalupe)
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".
an uphill street in Pátzcuaro
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 Pátzcuaro

Templo de San Francisco (Temple of San Francisco)
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.

Pottery market
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 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.

     Right 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.

mural in the casa de los once patio
The 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




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 the cempasúchils). These orange flowers, looking like zinnias, were the flowers of the dead souls in Pre-Hispanic time.
The celebrations start on October 31st, on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga.

Not to be missed ! Make reservations for hotel ahead !

Nice 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

a street of Pátzcuaro

     Right picture : a street of Pátzcuaro

The Purépechas live mainly on the plateaus and the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake.

History of the state :

Map of the state :

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