Saturday, February 20, 2010

Visit to Michoacan - Part 2

Our next adventure led us to three outlying villages - Quiroga, Tzintzuntzan and Santa Clara del Cobre. A brief history lesson is necessary here: prior to arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the Purhépecha tribe dominated much of Western Mexico, including Michoacan. They initially welcomed the Spanish. On a visit to Mexico City, in 1524, their king, Tangoxoán II was baptized with the Christian name of Francisco, and he subsequently requested that Spanish missionaries be sent to Michoacan. Unfortunately, King Carlos V of Spain, sent Nuño Guzmán de Beltran to govern the new territory, who turned out to be ruthless in his plundering of the Purhepecha empire. He sold the indigenous people into slavery, ransacked their temples searching for treasure, and kidnapped women. Eventually, Guzman tortured and killed King Tangoxoán.

Guzmán's cruelty had destroyed the relationship between the Spanish and the Purhépecha. In a short time, the grand and powerful Purhépecha nation had been completely devastated. Had it not been for the effort of one man whose ideals, good judgment and ability to put into practice the morals that he preached, it is possible that the Purhépechas would not have survived this catastrophe. This man was Don Vasco de Quiroga, who at the age of 60, arrived in Mexico in January 1531, with a mandate to repair both the moral and material damage that had been inflicted upon Michoacán by Guzmán. Quiroga was an idealist who embraced the concept of a utopian society, which he attempted to establish in Michoacan.

While there is controversy concerning Quiroga's role, there are tributes to him throughout the region, and he was known for educating the indigenous people in all the villages around Lake Patzcuaro. He taught the villagers of each area a different craft. These practices persist to this day, and the area is famous for artesanial variety and excellence.

The first town we visited was named for Quiroga, and enjoys a reputation for lacquered wooden products. The first thing we encountered as we sat in the town plaza was this group of children dancing:

The child on the right is wearing a "vieja" (old woman) mask, a mask that is featured in the popular "vieja y viejo" dance in Michoacan.
The lovely wooden tray we bought in Quiroga for only $100 pesos - about $7.50 USD.

From Quiroga, we moved a few miles on to Tzintzuntzan, which still retains its indigenous Nahuatl name, meaning "place of the hummingbirds." We were charmed by this lovely village, which offered a wide variety of attractive crafts at very reasonable prices.

An assortment of clay dishes in the Tzintzuntzan market

Useful pottery in the Tzintzuntzan market
A pair of attractive masks

While we were enjoying a delicious cup of coffee, a wedding procession came by. Yes, the bride wore GREEN.

Our last stop of the day was Santa Clara del Cobre, the town in Mexico that is famous for copper crafts. I got so excited here, that I failed to take very many pictures, so I've had to import a few from other sources. Note that ALL of the copper items here are hammered/shaped from a single sheet of copper. Here is a picture I took of the town square, which features a huge copper pot.

Notice the beautiful blue sky! Temps were in the mid-70s.

Incredibly beautiful images of the ubiquitous Virgin of Guadalupe

A sampling of copper selections

Our next stop deserves an entry of its own - the next day we were on our way to Patzcuaro, designated "pueblo magico" by the government and one of the most beautiful villages in Mexico. To be continued....

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