After Charlie and I finished our Peace Corps service on April 20th, we traveled to the Mexican state of Michoacán. Due to narco violence, we were not allowed to travel to this state as PC volunteers so we waited until our service was over to go. While we were there, we had no problems and saw no violence.
The capital city of Morelia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has retained its beautiful colonial historic center with stately mansions and wide boulevards. It was founded in 1541 and has one of the most majestic cathedrals in all of Mexico. One of the heroes of the Mexican Independence movement, José María Morelos, was born here; many monuments and museums have been created to honor his heroism. We enjoyed sitting in the main plaza, eating in sidewalk cafes and seeing the 17th century aqueduct (although the one in Querétaro is more majestic). Mexico’s last renowned muralist, Alfredo Zalce, lived in Michoacán and many of his greatest murals are located in various government buildings in Morelia. He never sought fame, so his name isn’t very well known.
Pátzcuaro, located about 30 miles southwest of Morelia, is a place I have wanted to visit for many years. It’s located on Lake Pátzcuaro and is surrounded by many small towns – each known for a different artisan skill. For example, Santa Clara de Cobre is known for its beautiful hand-beaten copper plates, sinks and vases, Tzintzuntzán for its green-glazed pottery and straw products, and Quiroga for its lacquer ware. I did buy some of these beautiful pieces, but not enough! On November 1 and 2 this area is inundated with tourists to see the elaborate Day of the Dead graveyard ceremonies.
Besides Lake Pátzcuaro, we also visited the smaller, and more pristine, Lake Zirahuén surrounded by pine trees and colored a deep blue, and several archeological sites, including the ruins of the ancient capital of the Purépecha kingdom outside the town of Tzintzuntzán. The state of Michoacán has many beautiful places.