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Patzcuaro Street - Mexico Before the Spanish conquest, Pátzcuaro was one of three principal centers of the local Purepecha Indians. Its early inhabitants believed Pátzcuaro to be the doorway to heaven where the gods ascended and descended. The Purepecha people first settled in Pátzcuaro in about 1324, led by Rey Curateme. The Spanish moved their local government to Pátzcuaro from Tzintzuntzan in 1540. The city was developed as a government and religious center until the government was moved to Valladolid, now named Morelia, in 1580. Patzcuaro Church - Mexico

Pátzcuaro, which means "city of stones" in the Purepecha language. Pátzcuaro was named a "Pueblo Mágico" in 2002. Village specialization in crafts still marks the region as one of the most culturally rich in Mexico. Also it is an enchanting artisan town with archaeological sites significant to the regional indigenous peoples.

Pátzcuaro is hidden high in the mountains of Michoacán at 2200 m (7130 feet) of elevation. It is veiled from the outside world by a curtain of high pine trees. To the north is Lake Pátzcuaro, one of Mexico's highest lakes. The butterfly fishermen, who dip their nets into the lake in search of whitefish, have become a trademark of Pátzcuaro.

Patzcuaro Archway - Mexico

On the east side of downtown is the beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Basilica of Our Lady of Health), the city's patron, built between 1546 and 1554. The Colegio de San Nicolas (College of Saint Nicolas), south from the basilica, was founded by Don Vasco in 1540 and now houses the Museum of Popular Arts and Archaeology, which has exhibits of carvings, pottery, weaving, and archaeological artifacts.

The Cathedral of Michoacán in Pátzcuaro was built by Don Vasco and was opened in 1546. Today it is the temple of the Jesuits. The Casa de los Once Patios (House of Eleven Patios) is the former monastery of Santa Catalina (Saint Catherine), founded by Dominican nuns in 1747. It is now a center for local artisans, and you can watch them work.

Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, known by locals as simply the Plaza Grande (Big Plaza), is Pátzcuaro's central square. Grass covers much of the plaza, and a statue of Vasco de Quiroga stands in its center. Many shops line the main plaza, selling all kinds of textiles, tablecloths, clothing, and more. Shops around town carry henequen rugs, lacquered trays, serapes, Indian masks, and wooden boxes. Pátzcuaro's lacquered trays are quite famous; the lacquer is supposedly made from the crushed bodies of purple insects, which provide the deep, rich finish and durability.

Patzcuaro Downtown - Mexico The Dance of the Viejitos (Old Men), one of the best and most widely known native dances of Mexico. The dancers wear wooden masks that depict smiling old men to show that, at least in Mexico, old age is not a time of listless despair, but rather a season to enjoy the fruits of life. Los Viejitos also perform for free in the Plaza Grande on many weekends.

Begins and ends in Mexico City.

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