Mexico

El Guani

Here you’ll find travel reports about El Guani. Discover travel destinations in Mexico of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

1 travelers at this place:

  • Day68

    Go for a walk through the town and be totally entertained by all the activities going on. It’s a happening day!

    Our street, as I have mentioned before is a very quiet street. We would never think that anything was going on, one short block away.
    It is only when we put our shoes on and walk to the top of the street that we realize that there is another world out there.

    We ventured out because Chris had a magazine that he wanted to return to the well-organized English book library on the second floor of a restaurant called Lupita’s. Earlier in the week, I had gone with Sherry to that restaurant to meet some expat women who eat lunch there every Tuesday. That’s when I discovered the library. It is great that it is so close to where we live.

    Well, the Plaza Chico had come to life with vans bringing people into town, people eating and children playing and music playing. It was probably only 11 in the morning but most people were dressed up nicely and preparing to go to church. We walked up the street to the old Basilica and could hardly talk as the old bells clanged away calling people to church. These bells clanged,,,they didn’t ring.

    All around the church vendors were set up selling food, clothing, hats, wooden masks and trinkets/souvenirs.

    After returning the magazine, we walked down to the Plaza Grande where it was actually quite peaceful. I think that the mass had started so most people were at church. Quiet music played in the square. Dancers danced the ‘Little Old Men Dance’ of Michoacan, a spoof on the way that the Spaniards danced in the old days. Musicians played their guitars, double bass, and violins quietly.

    We walked up to the butcher’s shop as earlier in the week, he had told us that on Sunday, he would have barbecued beef wrapped in nopal leaves - a speciality in this area. We bought enough for two people and a bit more. He included a salsa and a big bag of broth so that we could make a soup with the leftovers. It cost us in total about $6.00.

    Then we continued on. Church was getting out so the streets were filling up. We went by the market to get more avocadoes, apples, carrots, bananas, mandarins (they are in season), and tomatoes. Nothing is wrapped in plastic and we could pick each fruit or vegetable. Everything is weighed.

    On we went, back to Plaza Chica, to where we live. We noticed that on Sundays, cars get washed, men get their leather shoes and boots polished or colours changed, people shop, and kids play. It is very colourful with balloon and flower vendors, and people making cotton candy. There were at least a hundred vendors selling food and every plastic seat had a person eating. Buckets turned upside down became mini tables. Even though, we have enough food for the next 4 or 5 days, we just had to stop at a stand that sold seafood cocktails, Mexican style. Really, really delicious. We probably paid around $3 each for a really good lunch.

    We crossed the street, stopped in at a kiosk that sold hand-carved and painted masks, and in 2 minutes were back at our quiet house. How can that be?
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  • Day67

    Chris found a group that meets on Saturday and Wednesday mornings to hike in and around Patzcuaro. His first hike with this group started on the north side of the city and went up the Cerro Blanco. On the top of this hill he had a 360-degree view around Pátzcuaro. The lake and the city sit at the bottom of a valley ringed by mountains.

  • Day69

    I don’t feel that I can go on talking about our time in Patzcuaro without mentioning a Spanish judge, turned bishop, who was sent to New Spain in 1531 to restore order and humanity to this region. Almost every day, we see something in this town that reminds us of his ‘presence’, 500 years later.

    First, a little over-simplified background information follows ...

    The indigenous people of this area called themselves Purépechas. When the Spaniards came, they renamed them Tarascans. They were one of the major Pre-Columbian civilizations in Mesoamericas and were never conquered by the Aztecs.

    Then came the Spaniards. The conquistador, Nuno Beltran de Guzman, was put in charge of governing the country. Little did Spain know that he was a nasty man who became known for his acts of uncompromising cruelty towards the indigenous people in Michoacan, and their leaders. The stories about what he did to people are gruesome. He totally devastated the communities here.

    This is where Don Quiroga, our hero, came into the picture. He was sent to New Spain to help out the indigenous, and convert them to Christianity, and our villain, Guzman, was sent back to Spain to stand trial.

    In 1533, Don Quiroga, a Spanish aristocrat, was installed as the first bishop of the province of Michoacán. At that time, the province was much larger than the present-day state. He governed an area that covered over 27,000 square miles and 1.5 million people.

    Trained as a lawyer before joining the priesthood, he was in his early 60s when he reached this region. Most accounts put his age at 67 when he was named bishop of Michoacán, and by all accounts his time in Mexico was as much as a mild and fatherly leader as his predecessors' had been fierce and tyrannical.

    Having read "Utopia," Thomas More's 1516 imagined vision of a Christian socialist island paradise somewhere on the way from Europe to the Americas, Quiroga aimed to draw on those ideas to establish a model society on the banks of Lake Pátzcuaro.

    Can you imagine? He read the book and was headed to a place where he could try to create a Utopia! And he was our age! What a man.

    Quiroga's plan, which he implemented with outstanding success, was to create communities in the vicinity of Lake Pátzcuaro, the heart of the Purepechan country, where Indians would not only receive religious instruction, but also in arts and crafts and in the fundamentals of self-government. This was the land that had been so brutally ravaged by Nuño de Guzmán. Bit by bit, the Indians came to realize that the kindly man was there to help them.

    Each person worked for 6 hours a day and contributed on an equal basis to a common pot.

    Don Vasco oversaw the construction of three Spanish-style pueblos (towns), each of which included a hospital, as well as the great cathedral of Santa Ana in Morelia, numerous churches and schools, and founded the Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo (College of St. Nicholas the Bishop), the first college in all of the Americas.

    When he died, in 1565, Quiroga was just a few years short of being 100years old. Tata ("Father") Vasco, as he was known by the Indians, left an indelible mark. The skills he implanted among Indigenous people of the Pátzcuaro region have been passed down to their descendants, who are considered among the most skilled craftspersons in Mexico. Quiroga trained his pupils in a variety of disciplines and his method of specialization by community remains to this day. I.e. Paracho for guitars, Tzintzuntzán for pottery, Santa Clara for copper products and Nurío for woven woolen goods.

    He is buried in Patzcuaro and his remains are resting in the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Salud, Patzcuaro’s principal church.

    P.S. As we find more memories of Quiroga, we’ll add more photos.
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  • Day70

    On our daily walks, we have passed the open doors of this little museum in a 500 year old building. We had heard that it is a lovely little building with interesting displays showing the history of the types of industries that have kept people busy in this area. We visited it. The building holds other surprises too.

    Its construction dates back to 1540 and it is one of the most important buildings in the city of Pátzcuaro. Formerly it housed the San Nicolás Obispo College, founded by Bishop Quiroga in the 16th century. Ever since the building has had several uses, until 1942 when it became part of the National Institute of Anthropology and History Museum Network. A museographic restoration was carried out in 2010. The museum exhibits all sorts of artifacts manufactured by indigenous people, such as textiles, wood crafts and pottery.

    Originally built as a special school for novices and to teach the indigenous arts and basic sciences, this building was the first school that existed in the Americas. Filled with history, the museum houses a fantastic collection of works of art with special finishes such as lacquer (known locally as ''laca'' and ''maque'') and the varnished bowls called ''peribanes,'' which are true handicraft treasures. The floor of the museum is made of bones of cows and sandstone, which contribute to the mysteriousness of the building. The bones were good for scraping mud off boots before entering a house.

    When an elderly man realized that we understood Spanish and we were interested in the artifacts and history, he took it upon himself to give us a two hour tour of only half the little museum. The stories he told us were amazing. He told us we could come back for Part 2 of the tour at any time using the tickets we had. We will take him up on this deal, for sure!
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  • Day72

    Built on a hill atop a pre-Hispanic ceremonial site, this cathedral/pilgrimage site was intended to be the centerpiece of Vasco de Quiroga’s Utopia. Building began in 1540, but the church was not completed until the 19th century. Only the barrel-vaulted central nave is faithful to Quiroga’s original design.

    Quiroga’s tomb, the Mausoleo de Don Vasco, is in the side-chapel to the left of the main entrance. It is a massive structure and quite austere, but always full of worshippers.

    Behind the altar and up some stairs, there is a figure of the cathedral’s patron, Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health), which 16th-century Purépechans crafted with a paste made from the heart of cornstalks and certain orchids, and bound with tazingue, a natural glue.

    Soon after its dedication, people began to experience miraculous healings and pilgrims still arrive from all over Mexico to pray for miracles. Apparently, they crawl on their knees across the plaza, into the church and along its nave.

    Pinned to the image and at its feet are tiny tin votivas (votives) of hands, feet, legs, eyes and other body parts for which the faithful seek cures.
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  • Day60

    On Three Kings Day, Epiphany, Mexicans buy a large, round or oval-shaped cake filled with sweetened dried fruit. This Kings Cake symbolizes a crown. It is usually eaten with a hot chocolate drink. A small white figurine representing Baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake, symbolizing the hiding of Jesus from Herod. Whoever gets the slice with the figurine has to host a party with tamales on February 2nd or “Día de la Candelaria”.

    This tradition came to Mexico from Spain at the time of the early years of the viceroys (1535).

    We bought a very small cake but it had a baby inside!
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  • Day59

    We are happy! The house that we rented is a gem.

    It is located in the historical centre and on a very narrow and quiet street. Most houses in the Historic centre are painted the red and white colours that you see in the second photo. At the top of the street is the beautiful Chico Plaza with its library, theatre, stores, hotels and a huge daily fruit, vegetable, meat and clothing market. It buzzes with people strolling through its many little food and small items kiosks. More about that in another footprint.

    We are renting the house through a real estate company called Houses Patzcuaro.

    As you will notice, the inside of the house is painted in very traditional Mexican colours and is very colourful. The furniture is comfortable and we have everything that we need. There is filtered water so there is no need to buy bottles of drinking water and we have a water and dryer in our bedroom with two queen sized beds on the second floor. The patio off the kitchen is lovely with a BBQ and flowers. On top of that, we have a casita (2nd bedroom) with its own bathroom off of the patio. Since it get chilly in the evenings, the house has 3 gas fireplaces to take the chill off.

    The house is just perfect for us.
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  • Day56

    Elevation: 2200m/7200 feet
    Population - close to 60,000
    Founded in 1322
    Spanish established a settlement in 1538
    Temperature today is a high of 28C with no humidity and a low of 16C. Spring-like.
    Sunrise today: 7:22 a.m. Sunset today: 6:23 p.m.

    Patzcuaro - “Long before the Spanish arrived, the Purepecha Indians considered this place to be a doorway to heaven, a portal through which the gods descended to earth.”

    Patzcuaro is one of Mexico’s designated Magical Towns. It is a charming, low-key village with colorful markets, surrounded by green mountains with pines and spruces. We live in one of many red and white adobe houses on a very quiet street. The Plaza Chico is at the end of our street and the very big daily meat and fish, and fruit and vegetable market is two blocks away. No need to fill up our fridge once a week.

    We have only been here for a short time but we already feel,in a positive way, the sensory overload - the smells, the touch, feel, taste and sights of Mexican life. We absolutely love it.

    The smells in the market mingle together - the tacos, coffee, fresh fruit, fish, meat, freshly baked bread and French pastries.

    We just want to touch the hand woven fabrics, the wooden toys, the clay pots, the copper ware, and the flowers in the market. Everything has texture here.

    We walked through the Plaza Grande ( Plaza Don Vasco) and could hear quiet Christmas music playing. In one corner a small band was playing pirekuas (Purepecha folk music) and in another spot a band was playing music to accompany the traditional Dance of the Little Old Men. Church bells ring and dogs bark. But it is not just instrumental sounds that are heard. Kids are laughing and locals talking. Yet at the same time, in our patio, just a block away, we hear nothing. Silence. We don’t understand this but it is true. Maybe we’ll unravel this mystery soon.

    Regarding the sense of taste...the cuisine here is unparalleled. On every street corner and in between, little kiosks are set up with traditional Purepecha food like ucepos, corundas, tarascan soup, michi broth, chapatis, charanda and so many other foods that I will just have to write about them in another blog. Yes, we can buy hamburgers and fries and pizza too. This town has it all.

    The sights! Where do I start? To walk along the cobblestone streets, it is like eye candy. The streets are full of people and crafts, and even riders on horses. Baroque and Neo-classical churches are located in each of the squares, red and white adobe and tile houses line the streets, and flowers, fountains and big trees fill the plazas. There are also stands and stands of colourful handicrafts, tablecloths, traditional clothing and blankets.

    The centre of town is about 1 km from a picturesque, quiet lake, which on November 1st is filled with the light from candles that residents light to remember their deceased loved ones. Patzcuaro is the home of the Day of the Dead celebrations which happen every year at the end of October. The big island in the middle of the lake, Janitzio, is a magical place to visit during this time. When we lived in Zamora, in 1999/2000, we experienced this magical time of the year.

    Around the town are large mountains full of oak, spruce and pine trees. We have heard that there are fields of marigolds in the Fall.

    In the coming weeks, it won’t be hard to write ‘footprints’ about this happening little town.
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  • Day59

    January the 6th is a special day in Mexico. Known as 'El Dia de Reyes' (Three Kings Day), this holiday marks the height of the Christmas season. The date marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and celebrates the arrival of the three wise men who traveled from far away, with gifts for the baby Jesus. The children of Mexico look forward to this holiday as traditionally, gifts are exchanged on this date, not on Christmas day.

    On January 5th, Patzcuaro was filled with Mexican tourists, arriving in combi after combi, to buy gifts for their kids and to celebrate this day. Combis are the vans used for local transportation.

    Kids were given crowns and little flags to wave. After the evening church service, a parade wound its way through town and at midnight, fireworks were lit.

    We really enjoyed walking the streets and people watching today. It was all so colourful and happy.
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  • Day63

    At the top of our street and across the road from the Plaza Chico, there is a huge old building. It is probably the reason why we don’t hear any noise from the busy plaza, as it would block any sounds. Its façade looks like an ancient church, but upon entering, this place surprised us with something unexpected: a Public Library.

    The original building was constructed in 1576 as an Augustinian Convent. In 1850, the monks who lived in the convent were evicted and all religious activities ceased. In 1938, General Lázaro Cárdenas declared it the site for La Biblioteca Pública ( Public Library) Gertrudis Bocanegra.

    The library is interesting from an architectural standpoint, as well as for a beautiful mural that was painted by the noted artist, Juan O'Gorman, a disciple of Diego Rivera. It took him a year to paint and illustrates Michoacán’s history from pre-Hispanic times to the 1910 revolution.

    In it are depicted the arrival of the Spanish, Don Vasco’s evangelism work, and Mexico’s independence and revolution. This enormous work of art, measuring 14 meters high by 12.7 meters wide, dominates the entire northern wall – floor to ceiling – of the cavernous library.

    To the west of the library, the Teatro Emperador Caltzontzin was a convent until it was converted into a theater in 1936. Today it is an art-house/cinema.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

El Guani

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