Home Expat Blogs Pátzcuaro, the Colonial Highlands Jewel of Mexico  

Pátzcuaro, the Colonial Highlands Jewel of Mexico  

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Main Plaza in Pátzcuaro, Mexico
Credit: Victoria Ryan

Bienvenidos to my new blog Pátzcuaro Then & Now, a deeply personal look at life in Pátzcuaro, the colonial highlands jewel of Mexico located on the southern tip of beautiful Lake Pátzcuaro in Michoacán.

When guests stay at my Hotel Casa Encantada, they ask me how I came to live here. Without hesitation I reply: “It was my destiny!”

Plaza Grande Pátzcuaro, Mexico
Credit: Victoria Ryan

I stumbled into Pátzcuaro in the winter of 1992. It was raining hard, which was unusual for that time of year. But even in that heavy rain, I fell under a spell the moment I set foot on the Plaza Grande.  I had no way of knowing I would be living here nearly thirty years later.

Pátzcuaro was the crown jewel of the Purhépecha Empire, which encompassed the Tarascan state in pre-Columbian Mexico. It roughly covered the geographic area of Michoacán and parts of Jalisco and Guanajuato. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico it was the second-largest state in Mesoamerica.

Three important religious and ceremonial centers were Pátzcuaro, Ihuatzio and Tzintuntzan. Today, there are many pre-Hispanic ruins and temples in the Lake Pátzcuaro region. Some of the ruins are traditional pyramids, but there are some that are completely different in form and construction. These are called Yácatas. They are similar to those found in Peru. It is believed that the Purhépecha came up from Peru many centuries ago. They are not related to other indigenous groups in Mexico.

So, on that rainy day in Pátzcuaro, I stepped out of the car into my life.   I rented a tiny but funky apartment the following year and then, for a number of years, I came down only in the winter. Each year I stayed a little longer. In those days you could count the expat population of Patzcuaro on your two hands. It was very Bohemian, very artistic. I felt right at home.  I heated with wood in my little adobe apartment and wore layers until around 11 each morning when the winter sun warmed the air up enough to go outside.  Until about 4 in the afternoon it was warmer outside than the inside of my place.  I loved buying the wood that was carried to Pátzcuaro on the back of a burro.  I literally spent hours in the Mercado, fascinated especially by the Indigenous women who brought in their goods daily, like zucchini and zucchini flowers (calabaza y flor de calabacita).  I still love the seasonal foods: mango, mandarina, and in June, the wild mushrooms.

I loved exploring the state of Michoacán every week with a tour guide. During my travels I met many very talented artesanos. I am still friends with some of these wonderful people. I saw things and places that are still off the beaten path.

I believe Michoacán is an undiscovered Oaxaca. We have more Grand Master artesanos than you can imagine. Tucked away in small pueblos are women who weave such fine rebosos that they seem like they are made of silk. And, we have low-and-high-fire potters that are world class. That’s just a sample of the abundance of handcrafts you can find here.

Well, that’s a first taste of Pátzcuaro Then. I’ll be back next time with a look at Pátzcuaro Now. Hope you will come.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Wonderful article! Patzcuaro is truly a magical place! I fell in love with it 50 years ago. Of all the States in Mexico, Michoacán is my favorite! It has held a place in my heart since then. I love to read & learn the history of a place.
    I look forward to your next writing. Thanks, Victoria❣️

  2. What a beautiful website, Victoria. A fantastic adventure building and decorating Casa Encantada. Next time we’re in Patzcuaro, we’ll stay with you.

  3. Victoria, I am delighted to see your blog on Patzcuaro as I am “moving in” on December 1 after many years of researching the area and dreaming of living there. I am looking forward to learning many new things about the area. Thank you for sharing your love for Patzcuaro.

  4. Thanks for this, Victoria. It sounds like a lovely place. I am researching Mexican cities for a potential move from the US when the pandemic settles down, and I especially appreciate learning about cities that are less talked about than Ajijic and San Miguel de Allende. I’ll add this to the list to learn about!

  5. Thank you Victoria for the well written article and for starting this blog. I will enjoy reading it until I can come visit you and your wonderful town again!

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