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  • Day85

    Paricutin Field Trip

    January 31 in Mexico

    When I was 7 years old, my father, after reading incredible stories about Mexico in National Geographic and Life magazines, packed up our car and took my mom, my 4 year old brother, my aunt and me on a 3 week whirlwind trip to see Mexico. One of the places we visited was the volcano, Paricutin. Almost 40 years later, Chris and I and our Patzcuaro friend Jeremy, visited it again. Now 18 years later, we had an opportunity to go on a little trip to visit this wonder of the natural world, once more.

    A local chef, Tim McGrath, organized a little trip for 17 of us (including our friends Sherry and Jeremy) to see Paricutin, by travelling to the nearby town of Angahuan that survived the eruption. This location is known as the “Balcony of the Paricutin” and from its location on top of a mountain both the extinct volcano and its surrounding black lava fields can be seen along with the ruins of the church of San Juan. Locals thought that a miracle had happened - everything was destroyed except for the church. Chris, Jeremy and I took horses and rode to this church many years ago. I still remember us standing below the bell tower of the church and walking on the remains of the church walls, surrounded by black lava. The altar was decorated with leaves and flowers.

    Tim’s tour also included experiencing a traditional purepecha dinner prepared by an award winning cook called Juana Bravo Lázaro and then a visit to see how beautiful Michoacan rebozos, shawls, are woven on a backstrap loom.

    Some facts about Paricutin which is about a 1 1/2 drive away from Patzcuaro.

    Height: 1,353 foot (424m) above the valley. 9,186 feet ( 2,800m) above sea level.
    Area: Lava field covers 10 square miles (25 square km).
    Eruption: 1943 to 1952.
    Type of Volcano: A scoria (or cinder) cone.
    Discovered: Farmer Dionisio Pulido saw it emerge out of his cornfield on February 20th ,1943, at around 4 PM.
    Location: Near the destroyed town of Paricutin in the state of Michoacán, Mexico.
    Other: The youngest volcano in the Western Hemisphere.

    The following is part of an interesting article that I found on the internet about the volcano.

    “On February 20, 1943, Dionisio Pulido was working in his cornfield just outside the Tarascan Indian village of Paricutin, Mexico. He and his family had spent the day getting ready for the spring sowing by clearing the field of shrubbery, putting it in piles and burning it. At about four in the afternoon, Pulido left his wife and moved to a different field so that he could set fire to a new pile. When he arrived he noticed something strange: on top of a small hill in the field a huge crack, over six feet wide and 150 feet (47m) long, had appeared in the earth. At first Pulido wasn't concerned, the crack only looked like it was about a foot deep. As he was lighting the pile of branches, however, the sound of thunder rumbled across the field and the ground began to shake. Pulido turned to look back towards the crack and saw that the ground there had swelled up over six feet in height and fine gray ashes were pouring out of the hole. "Immediately more smoke began to rise with a hiss or whistle, loud and continuous; and there was a smell of sulfur," Pulido later told witnesses.

    Pulido became terrified by these events and tried to find his wife and sons, but couldn't. He tried to rescue his team of oxen, but they had disappeared also. Despairing that he would never see any of them again, he jumped on his horse and rode to town. There he was happy to find his family and friends waiting for him. "They were afraid that I was dead and that they would never see me again," said Pulido.

    What had appeared in Pulido's cornfield was a new volcano. The incident at Paricutin would be the first time scientists would be able to observe a volcano from birth through extinction. What they would learn through these events would help them understand the powerful forces deep in the earth that shape the surface of our planet.

    The residents of Paricutin thought they had been hearing the sound of normal thunder in the weeks that preceded the eruption, though they were puzzled by the lack of storm clouds in the sky. What was producing the sound, however, was the movement of magma deep inside the earth. Soon, however, residents also began feeling tremors in the ground, hinting of what was to come.

    After its startling appearance, the volcano grew rapidly. That first evening Celedonio Gutierrez, who witnessed the eruption from the town remembered, "…when night began to fall, we heard noises like the surge of the sea, and red flames of fire rose into the darkened sky, some rising 800 meters or more into the air, that burst like golden marigolds, and a rain like artificial fire fell to the ground."

    The volcano grew by ejecting both lapilli-sized fragments, which range from the diameter of a pea to that of a walnut, along with larger "bomb" fragments. The bombs are often still molten when they are thrown from the volcano and produce bright parabolic streaks in the sky as they fall to the ground. Because they are still soft while flying through the air, the bombs form into a streamlined, aerodynamic shape.

    As the bombs and lapilli build up around the base of the eruption, they form a steep cone shape often referred to as a scoria, or cinder cone. In a little more than 24 hours the cone of the Paricutin volcano had grown to over 165 feet (50m). Within six more days it had doubled that height.

    In March, about a month after the eruption started, William F. Foshag, a curator of minerals at the U.S. National Museum, arrived. Together with his Mexican counterpart, Dr. Jenaro González-Reyna, Foshag would spend the next several years documenting the life cycle of the volcano. Froshag was responsible for gathering many of the samples and photographs from Paricutin that are still used by scientists today while doing volcanic research.

    The sudden appearance of a new volcano caught the attention of the world. Newspaper and magazine reporters rushed to the area. Life Magazine featured a picture of Foshag with the volcano in the background. Pilots of airliners would point out the cone to fascinated passengers as they flew by it. Hollywood even got into the act by shooting a film, Captain from Castile, in the region and using the volcano as a dramatic backdrop.

    While the residents of Paricutin might have been happy about the work they got as extras in the movie, it was hardly compensation for the damage the volcano did. In June of 1943 lava started flowing toward the village which had to be evacuated. A few months later the lava also rolled over the nearby town of San Juan. Eventually all that was left of the settlements was the church towers which rose above a sea of lava. A frozen, rugged sea that by the time it has stopped flowing covered 10 square miles.

    Paricutin was very active in its first year, growing to four-fifths of its final 1,353 foot (424m) height. During the peak of its activity that year, ashes from the volcano drifted as far as 200 miles to the east and fell on Mexico City. With each following year, however, the volcano became less active until, after a final spectacular spasm, it finally went dormant in 1952. By then the damage had been done, however. In addition to the lava fields, there were also 20 square miles of volcanic sand deposited around Paricutin and almost all vegetation had been destroyed within a few miles of the crater. Hundreds of people had been resettled to other locations and had to find new livelihoods.

    Before leaving his home for the final time Pulido put a sign on his land. It read "This volcano is owned and operated by Dionisio Pulido." Paricutin might have taken his cornfield, but the farmer still retained his sense of humor.”

    The first time that I saw Paricutin, I remember the ground being black with no trees on it. The second time, we remember riding the horses on trails through the black lava fields with a few bushes. When we saw it this time, much of the area was covered in green trees and bushes. When volcanic lava and ash break down, it makes the land extremely fertile.
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  • Day71

    Wednesday Hike near Cuanajo

    January 17 in Mexico

    The group that Chris is hiking with, went to a high meadow near Cuanajo, a town known for its colourful wooden carvings and furniture.

    The hike was about 4.25 miles long, starting at 7,742 ft with an elevation gain of 904 ft. It took about 2 1/2 hours.

    Here’s what Chris said,

    “There were nine of us and two dogs. We took 2 cars and after 15 minutes, we parked beside the road and we were off. At our maximum height, the trail opened up to an open meadow. Someone had constructed a leanto shelter, probably a sheep herder to avoid the elements when necessary.

    The single line descent was especially pleasant. We observed many different coloured flowers.

    Thanks to Morris for both driving us and leading the hike. Appreciated...”
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  • Day74

    Iliana and her family felt that since they were in Patzcuaro, their visit to Michoacan wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the island of Janitzio in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro.

    On Sunday morning, after a quick breakfast of Mexican scrambled eggs (eggs, chorizo, onion, tomato and jalapeño) at our house, we drove 4 km to the main dock in Patzcuaro and took a colourful wooden boat across to the island.

    The trip took abut 20 minutes. The waterlilies (lirios) have become a bit of a nuisance and they totally block the entrance to the docks. The birds like them though. Egrets and herons walk on the plants searching for food.

    As we entered the lake from the docking area, we could see the island that we were heading for. Actually, what really catches one’s attention is the 40 metre stone statue on the top of the island of Jose Maria Morelos, with fist raised.

    Morelos was a Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary leader in the War of Independence, 1811. In his first 9 months as leader, he won 22 victories. But then after a series of defeats he was captured by the Spanish royalist military, tried by the Inquisition, defrocked as a cleric, and executed by civil authorities for treason in 1815. Morelos is a national hero in Mexico and is considered a very successful military leader despite the fact that he had never been in the military. The city of Morelia and the state of Morelos is named after him.

    The lake itself is fairly big, 50 km long and 33 km wide with several small islands. Janitizio is the largest island and home to an indigenous community that has conserved the authenticity of its Purepecha traditions. During the Day of the Dead celebrations, October 31 to November 2, the locals combine pagan rituals with religious ceremonies and it is a sight to behold. Chris and I were fortunate to experience this amazing celebration of joy and sadness in 1999.

    As we approached the island, the local fishermen put on a show to welcome tourists. They performed a demonstration of how their forefathers used to fish in wooden canoes using ‘butterfly’ nets. On the back of the 50 peso bill there is a drawing of these fishermen.

    We landed on the island and there, high above us was the statue. To get to the summit, we had to make quite a trek, up several steep, uneven stairs. It was worth it though. The views from the top were wonderful.

    Even though Chris and I were game to enter the stone statue and go up the spiralling internal staircase, we decided to save it for another time as Oscar’s mom wouldn’t have been able to handle the stairs, especially after the climb to the top of the hill. We did go inside though and were able to see the wonderful murals painted on the inside walls, showing scenes from the Mexican Revolution.

    The base of the Morelos statue is surrounded by a lovely plaza with drink stands, places to relax in the shade, a kids’ playground and a 360 degree panoramic view of the lake. We ate corn on the cob with mayonnaise, white crumbly cheese and salsa, had a cold beer and tried a sweet, thick pancake-like dessert.

    Then, we headed back down again, took the boat back to Patzcuaro, had a quick chicken soup dinner and Iliana, Oscar and his mom got in the car and drove the 4 hours back to Mexico City. They had had a wonderful time in this neck of the woods and we were thrilled that we had a chance to once again meet our Mexican ‘daughter’ after so many years.

    And ... we were really proud of ourselves. As Oscar and Iso know hardly any Spanish, Chris and I were put in the position where we had to listen and chat in Spanish for 2 days straight. We did it! Yay!

    But boy were we tired ...
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  • Day77

    A Heart-Pumping Climb

    January 23 in Mexico

    El Estribo Grande - the Big Stirrup.

    A week ago, our friend, Sherry, took me up in her car to a mirador 3.5 km west of Pátzcuaro. She felt that both Chris and I would love to hike to this spot and to see the wonderful views that it offered of Pátzcuaro, Lake Pátzcuaro, the island of Janitzio and the surrounding countryside. She was right.

    On Tuesday morning, we set out at 9 a.m. and walked to the base of El Estribo Grande, an extinct volcano.
    The road that we took was pretty dusty. It hasn’t rained here since October.

    Shorty after, we came to the steep cobblestone road lined with cypress trees that the city recently renovated. It took us right up to the mirador which is about 2,175 m above sea level. As you can imagine, we were huffing and puffing as we walked up. We did meet a few of Pátzcuaro’s more robust residents who were running or biking up this road.

    But it was all worth it in the end when we reached the viewing pavilion. The views were awesome. We just sat on a wall and took in the amazing scenery.

    Behind us was a set of stairs that led up to the true summit. We just had to walk up the 423
    stairs to the top. No railings and uneven stairs but it was a ‘high’ when we reached the top.

    Looking down the stairs was somewhat daunting. What goes up must come down...hmmm. The air was pretty thin up there and our hearts were beating pretty fast. Chris did stop to take our heart rates. (25 over 15 sec.)

    We do have a nifty app, Gaia, that showed our route and it showed that there was another way down on a trail that went around the volcanoes crater. We found the trail and followed it down. It was wonderful. At times, it was a dirt trail and at other times it was roughly-hewn stairs but all in all, quite enjoyable.

    At the bottom of the trail, the stairs ended abruptly about 2 meters above a dirt road. We had to do a little scrambling but then were able to walk to the cobblestone road we had come up on, which took us to the bottom of the volcano.

    We walked home, but stopped at Sherry’s place to rehydrate with a cold beer. I think that we walked close to 10 km. and would highly recommend this hike.
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  • Day76

    Purepecha Clothing

    January 22 in Mexico

    Many of the Indigenous women who are shopping or selling food in the market or food stands wear traditional Purepecha clothing. The men mostly wear jeans and a shirt, casual western clothing. Occasionally, we see fisherman in the traditional white outfit, but rarely.

    We have not taken a lot of photos of the people here, as it feels a little intrusive. But, I have found some photos and can describe what is worn here.

    As you will notice, the women wear a long skirt, that is made up of about 10 metres of a fabric that have been pleated. The front of the skirt is not pleated. A lady who I spoke to, said that the pleats are ironed in once a week when the skirt is washed. It surprises me that the pleats are always sharp and don’t flatten. I also asked to see the iron that they use but the lady told me that it was at home. The skirt is often made of satin and can be quite brightly coloured.

    We have seen two different kinds of blouses. One made of cotton and the other made of a brightly coloured polyester or nylon fabric.

    The pretty, cotton blouses are made of simple small rectangular panels sewn together and have either no sleeves or short sleeves. Sometimes, the neckline or the sleeves have a little drawstring in the hem. The blouses are decorated with amazing embroidery or cross stitch designs of flowers, birds, baskets or other elements of everyday life.

    Over the skirt, they wear a chintz delantel, or ornamental apron. It is worn as a fashion statement, not for protecting their skirt. It is made up of gathered or pleated horizontal panels narrowing at the waist and tied at the back with a connecting belt. Every village here has their own design. They use lace, metalllic thread, sequins, cross stitch, frilly borders and fleur-de-lis designs to decorate this apron.

    A long, rectangular piece of woven fabric is used as a shawl. This rebozo is an important part of a woman’s daily ensemble. It is used for protection against the sun, for keeping warm on cool days and for carrying children or items that they have purchased. Many of the ladies in this area wear a rebozo that is black with blue stripes but we have also seen lovely rebozos of many colours, that take 2 weeks or longer, to weave.

    They also wear a woven belt that is often embroidered with beautiful colourful flowers.

    The ladies usually have two long braids and earrings of various shapes.
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  • Day107

    Vision Campaign - VOSH, Ohio

    February 22 in Mexico

    “Looking for volunteers to help with a group of 19 optometrists and their support staff from VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) Ohio, during their vision campaign. February 19 thru 23rd. Monday through Friday. It will be held 2 days in Patzcuaro centro, 2 days in Tzurumutaro and 1 day in Sta. Clara. Needed are translators English/Spanish ... fairly simple translations / no complex medical terms ... and others who can help with set up, preparation of snacks, sandwiches, coffee, beverages on site for the Drs. and volunteers. Half day, full day, any location ... all are welcome. Pass on the word, please.”

    Our friend, Sherry, hooked us up with this wonderful organization and we all went together to two of the towns where the work was being done.

    For several years, we have taken reading glasses to several countries that we have visited. We have seen first hand the impact that a pair of glasses can have. The lack of good vision can translate into failing at school, jobs, health and personal lives. Those who cannot see very well often end up living in poverty and most people over 50 definitely need glasses for reading. Reading glasses or sunglasses are very easy to carry, even when travelling light and are highly appreciated. We have found that prescription glasses are usually too specific to hand out. Reading glasses of 100,150, 200, or 250 strength, are the best. The sun here is very bright. People who work outside in the full sun, really appreciate sunglasses.

    Our Spanish has got to the point where we could easily help out with the intake, getting information for the doctors before the clients went in to be tested. We saw little children, 3 or 4 years old, and every age up to very elderly, hard-of-hearing people. Some people had never had a pair of glasses, others were wearing broken glasses, others had very old glasses that didn’t help them at all anymore, many had diabetes or high blood pressure, and many kids couldn’t read what was on the blackboard or read a book. We have noticed that only educated or well-to-do people wear glasses.

    We heard that when the doctors were in Pátzcuaro for two days, they saw and gave glasses to over a 1,000 people. On Wednesday, we went to the small town of Tzurumutaro which is only a few miles outside of the city. It is an old village, originally a Purepecha village. The Spaniards came in and built a church there and tried with great difficulty to evangelize the natives there. I read that at the end of the 20th Century, it had become a pretty sad and decrepit town. Then ...

    In 2000, the Scouts International sent a team of 210 young men and women (18 - 25) to work for six consecutive days in Tzurumútaro. They were armed with shovels, axes, trowels, brooms, and paintbrushes, and they dug ditches, shoveled out the remains of old buildings and trash, shored up decrepit buildings, plastered and painted the town in the red and white colours that you see in the villages here. It was amazing what theis help did for this town - raised their self esteem and gave them a sense of pride. Since then, the people in the town have become known for their traditional foods, like mole, and their Day of the Dead and Carnival festivities.

    We found the people in Tzurumutaro to be wonderful people ... with lots of eye issues! Most of the men were farmers and most of the women were housewives. Very few had glasses but I would imagine that all 400+ needed them. I cannot imagine how they could do their jobs without being able to see!

    The VOSH organization were so organized. The clients went through a Disneyland type waiting line outside and then proceeded through ‘stations’ inside a large building. Actually people moved through very quickly and at the end, most were handed a pair of glasses, sunglasses and eye drops.
    They had a lot of standard glasses but also had a machine for making glasses with very specific prescriptions. Any people who needed very strong glasses or special glasses were measured and frames chosen. In about 2 months, special glasses will be sent to them from the U.S. we did meet some people who needed operations for eyes that were crossed or out to the sides. The VOSH group took their contact numbers and had people in Patzcuaro who were looking for doctors who could perform the operations. I am sure that donations would be used to help these people pay for the operations needed.

    As mentioned, this group does amazing volunteer work. They arrived in Patzcuaro on the weekend, worked for 5 days seeing well over 2,000 people and then went home on the next weekend to go back to their jobs in Ohio. It was a pleasure helping them out.

    I wish we had know about this earlier. We could have prepared a short and funny puppet show with Cri-Cri (Francisco Gabilondo Soler) music for the people who were waiting to be seen!
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  • Day137

    Blessing of the First Well

    March 24 in Mexico

    According to legend, Don Vasco de Quiroga struck his staff on the ground here and a spring miraculously appeared to supply water for the town.

    The indigenous people of the area gather here to bless the water.

    To get to the spring you would have to down down several steps and past a carved stone conch shell. A grate usually covers this hole in the ground.

  • Day139

    The week before we left Patzcuaro, we had lots of coffees, dinners and goodbyes with the many people who we had met in the town.

    Of course, we got together with the family who were the main reason we were even in Patzcuaro - Jeremy and Linley, their two sons, Carter and Alden, Jeremy’s mom, Sherry, and Linley’s mom, Beth. Our next door neighbours Bill and Doug who were staying in the Posada Del Angel met with us for a dinner in a hotel, Posada de la Basilica, that we had stayed in with Diane and Claude 28 years ago. Jean and Steve from Kingston met us at a yummy pizza place, Mancala, for pizza and a salad just before we left. We only had one photo with the two of them (a cute backside photo). Sorry guys!

    It was a mixed feeling week. We were happy to be heading home but sad to be leaving Patzcuaro.

    We left Patzcuaro before the Silent Procession was to take place but we saw several posters announcing that it was going to happen right before Easter and it was supposed to be a ‘profound and unforgettable’ experience.

    During the weekend of Semana Santa, a powerful silent procession of Cofriadas takes place in Patzcuaro. The Spanish term Cofradia means Brotherhood, comprised of con (from) and fradia (Friar). Roman Catholic Cofradia originated in southern Europe in the mid 1500's, around the same time that this region was being colonized. The Cofradia members cover their faces due to a sacred vow to demonstrate humbleness and offer charity anonymously. The Cofradia also walk barefoot to show special devotion and humility. Though tourists often gasp at the sight of the Cofradias and their pointed head coverings, they are no way affiliated with the KKK.
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  • Day140

    Margaret Ann's Joy Purse #3

    March 27 in Mexico

    This trip, I brought Margaret Ann's Joy purse #3 with me - a bright royal blue one. When I was trying to figure out what colour to bring this time, I decided to take the one that would match this year’s grey, blue and black travel clothing colour scheme.

    I won't go into many new details about the story, but I will copy and paste what I wrote on a previous trip re the "Joy" purse #1. This will give anyone who is new to the blog some background to this story.

    Every year In October, my brother, Hugh, and his wife, Jane, host a Thanksgiving luncheon followed by a walk in the woods for both of their families at their farm in Limehouse. We always have a lovely time and also have the opportunity to get caught up on news from the other side of our families.

    I especially loved walking and talking with Jane's mom as she always had interesting stories to share. One year, I asked her about the canvas purse that she had with her and she told me that it was the perfect travel purse. It had a strap that could be lengthened to crossover the body, had the perfect number of pockets, the zippers could be locked and it could be washed. (Later, I discovered that an ipad easily fit inside of it.) The label inside the purse had the word 'Joy' written on it.

    I went home and checked for it online and found out that the company that had made this purse had gone out of business. So, that was the end of the story for several years.

    Four years ago, Margaret Ann sadly passed away. She had been a very special woman who I always looked forward to seeing. She enthusiastically shared wonderful stories and had a wealth of knowledge.

    When visiting with my sister-in-law, I happened to ask her if she had seen the purse so that I could look at it more closely and Jane said that she could do better. She went down into the basement and came up with a huge bag. When she opened it, there were 8 Joy purses.

    Jane told me that her mom had really liked that bag so when she found out that they were going out of business, she bought one of every colour! Jane offered them to me.

    And so, ... I inherited eight purses. Eight!

    Well, I was not sure what I do with them so I bundled them up and put them in storage. But 3 years ago, a plan came to me, so I pulled them all out, gave them a good wash (they are washable), hung them on the line to dry and picked out a beige purse for Part One of my plan.

    The Plan

    Every time that we travel, I have looked for ' the perfect purse' to take with me. A cross body purse that can be easily packed away, a purse that can carry my glasses, sunglasses, water, snacks, possibly binoculars, a sweater, lipgloss, and a small wallet. Margaret Ann said that this bag was ‘the perfect purse’ so I was willing to give it a try.

    On each trip that I go on, from now on, I will take one of Margaret Ann's purses with me, use it during the trip and then find a person on the street that could use it. We have seen so many needy people on our trips who would love a bag, and the Joy bag could live up to its name.

    I mentioned my plan to my sister-in-law and she wrote back, “I love your idea about the purses… you have such great ideas! A little bit of my mom, spread around the world. Exactly what she would want. :)”.


    Joy Purse #1 - Destination Morocco

    Our trip to Morocco ended in Marrakesh and the time came to empty the purse and look for a recipient. We put a tshirt and a bit of change in the purse and Chris took to the streets to find someone. It was easy.

    Not far from our hotel, an old lady sitting on the sidewalk leaning against a wall. Chris didn't have to speak Arabic to get the idea across that he wanted to give the purse to her. She was thrilled and immediately hid it inside of her Djellaba.

    Taking the photo was a little trickier, but he did it. You can see a big of beige going inside her clothes. If only that purse could talk... I am sure that Margaret Anne will enjoy tracking it.

    Spreading a little Joy... fun!

    Joy Purse #2 - Destination - Leticia, Colombia on the Amazon River

    We spent 6 days in the Amazon in a little city called Leticia. Every day, we looked around trying to figure out who would appreciate having Margaret Ann's green 'Joy' purse. We had put my white long-sleeved blouse in it, some change and a large package of wet wipes in it.

    The poorest people seemed to be living right on the river in houses built on stilts over the water. In April/May, when the river is at its highest, the water would come right up to the underside of the houses. The houses have no bathrooms and the water in the river smells. Dead fish, plastic bottles and garbage float in the water near the shore.

    We walked down to this area and started looking for the perfect person to give the purse to. When we saw the little girl, we both knew that we should give it to her. She would be happy to take it home to her mom or grandmother. It made it easy for us to give it away.

    The little girl was thrilled when we offered it to her. No problem taking a photo of her walking away with the purse across her body. We felt that Margaret Ann was smiling.

    Joy Purse #3 - Destination - Patzcuaro, Mexico

    After living in Patzcuaro in Central Mexico for three months, we saw many Purepechan (Tarascan) people who would come into town on weekends and holidays to shop, or to see doctors. We saw many elderly people who could barely walk or had some pretty bad disabilities. But who would most benefit from a blue purse?

    On the day that we decided to give it away, we walked by the entrance to a doctor’s office and in the lineup was a lady holding a sick baby. She was the person we picked and what a great smile she had when she realized that we were giving it to her. I had filled it with some interesting things as well as a few pesos and tasty candies, so I am sure that she would have enjoyed unzipping it, especially as it was just before Easter.

    Margaret Ann, a bit of you is in the perfect home in Mexico!

    To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. – Mark Twain
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  • 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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You might also know this place by the following names:

Pátzcuaro, Patzcuaro

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