Thursday, March 11, 2010

The place where everything blooms - Visiting Michoacan Part 4

The picture above shows the highway between Patzcuaro and the beautiful colonial city of Uruapan (ooh-roo-AH-pahn), a distance of about 52 kilometers. In Purepecha language, Uruapan means "where the hearts of plants bloom like the flowers and enjoy a perpetual spring." With a population of about 250,000 people, the town’s environs are lush, subtropical, and as its name suggests, wonderfully fertile. Predictably, it owes its wealth to agriculture, especially the production of avocados, for which Uruapan is proudly known as the ‘World Capital of the Avocado’. They are also renowned for production of macadamia nuts. But if you ask any Mexican about Uruapan, they will first tell you about the remarkable Cupatitzio Gorge National Park, a treasure that encompasses more than 1300 acres, right in the city of Uruapan. It is the only city in Mexico with a national park in its boundaries.

The view from our hotel balcony...and

...just down the street from us to the right, one of the many decorative plazas in Uruapan. Just behind this plaza is an old textile factory that has been converted to a huge and diverse market, where you can buy everything from straw hats to electronics to delicious antojitos, or snacks. And Uruapan is famous for its wood carving. The wooden carved figure below greeted us in the lobby of our hotel:

We walked from the hotel to the park (uphill all the way - huff, puff - at about 6,000 feet elevation, it was a challenge, but we made it.) At the entrance to the park, we were greeted by this magnificent mural:

Several springs join together here to form the Cupatitzio River. Streams rush alongside cement and dirt paths or are channeled into dozens of fountains. Large trees support clinging vines and shade tropical flowers. You can feed the fish at the trout farm, or eat them at the adjacent café.

As we were leaving the park, we encountered a parade celebrating Shrove Tuesday (the last day before the beginning of Lent).

As anyone reading this can probably conclude, Jerry and I were absolutely smitten with Uruapan and hope to return there soon for another, longer visit. All in all, our trip to Michoacan was a grand adventure. I took 328 pictures, and have shared just a few of them here - we highly recommend taking a closer look at this magical region of Mexico.