Pátzcuaro is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico.
The high situated (2140m) village at the lake of the same name belongs to the heartland of the Purépecha, one of the most important indigenous population groups in western Mexico. They settled here long before the arrival of the Spanish, who first appeared in Michoacán in the form of Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, one of the cruellest “conquistadors”. De Guzmán was considered a butcher and had left Mexico City for Pátzcuaro to escape imprisonment by the colonial authorities. His successor was the bishop Don Vasco de Quiroga, who is still revered today. He made Pátzcuaro the capital of Michoacán and fought against the exploitation of the indigenous population in the serf system of the Encomienda.
He had the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud built away from the central plaza, unlike most colonial cities do. It houses a statue of the patron saint of Pátzcuaros made of corn straw paste. Today Quiroga’s statue watches over the square named after him, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Mexico. Equally attractive is Pátzcuaro’s Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra, named after a Pátzcuaro-born heroine of the independence struggle.
The Casa de los 11 Patios, the Templo y Ex-Convento Jesuita and the already mentioned Basilica Virgen de la Salud are considered jewels of colonial architecture.
Today, many of the old mansions whose arcades line Plaza Quiroga are home to hotels, restaurants and handicraft shops. The two-storey Palacio de Huitziméngari once belonged to Antonio Huitziméngari – son of the last Tarasque king and godson of the Spanish viceroy Antonio de Mendoza. Today it houses a cultural organisation of the Purépecha. If one follows the Calle Ponce de León to the west, one gets to the extinct volcano of the Cerro del Estribo (“Stirrup Hill”). From here you have a magnificent 360° panoramic view over Pàtzcuaro, the lake and the surrounding area.
One of the most popular excursions on Lake Pátzcuaro leads to the island of Janitzio, whose highest point is decorated with a monumental, walk-in statue of Morelos. Excursion boats and ferries run regularly from the Embarcadero jetty. Among the municipalities around the lake, Tócuaro and Erongarícuaro are particularly attractive. A little off the lake in the south of Pátzcuaro lies Santa Clara del Cobre, famous for its copper works. The prehispanic Tarasken – ruins of Tzintzuntzan and Ihuatzio with the step pyramids called Yacatas, are worth a visit.