A people that proudly preserves its rich culture and traditions, born of the fusion between two worlds. A people with its own history, intimately linked to the figure of don Vasco.
The Purépecha People
A veil of mystery surrounds the origin of the early settlers in ancient Michoacán. Purépecha refers to all the ethnic groups that arrived in Michoacán at different times. Under the leadership of the famous Tariácuri, they built one of the largest estates in ancient Mexico, capable of opposing even the fearsome Mexica.
The Purépecha were a sedentary people, who fished and worked the land. They grew maize, molded clay to make vessels, pots, jugs and jars, wove baskets from marsh sedge and used palm leaves to create mats and capes. They were intelligent and skilful builders. They cultivated the arts: music, dance and painting, producing exquisite handicrafts, especially with feather art. They employed the same sensitivity that today’s travelers will discover on the Don Vasco route.
The main Purépecha centers were located in Tzintzuntzan (the place of butterflies), where religious power was concentrated; Erongarícuaro (place with a beautiful view), where a military garrison was stationed to control water traffic and trade from the lake to the mountains, and Ihuatzio (place of coyotes), the military-administrative center. The 14th and 15th centuries were the time of the greatest splendor of the Purépecha people, since its territory comprised part of the current states of Jalisco, Colima and Guanajuato.
The Purépecha people are currently located in the north central region of the state, maintaining their language and many of the customs they have embraced over the years.
Customs and traditions
Very few Mexican indigenous peoples have as rich a variety of cultural expressions as the Purépecha people. The enormous living legacy of their traditions has earned them two mentions in UNESCO’s list of Intangible World Heritage: the pirekua, the cheerful, melodious indigenous musical form and the Day of the Dead.
Travelers will be deeply moved by the religiosity of the Purépecha people. In the festive calendar, Christian celebrations coexist with ancient rituals. If you happen to be in the area during the time of the Day of the Dead, you will find the cemeteries, lakes and squares adorned with flowers and colors, illuminated by thousands of candles and full of life, while families celebrate their ancestors in an attempt to keep them close although they may seem far away. This is the most widely known Purépecha tradition: the Day of the Dead, which is experienced intensely in the lake zone, albeit differently in each town, where tradition has become the local custom. Several customs are directly derived from traditional occupations and pre-Hispanic rituals. The lifestyles of the past have miraculously survived. Visitors to Pátzcuaro lake will see canoes, butterfly nets and copper hooks for fishing for silverside, trout and white fish.
Music and dance receive the visitor. As part of an ancient tradition, most of ceremonies and ritual dances have a specific time and place, such as the dance of the curpites in San Juan Parangaricutiro and the maringi dances in Charapan, normally performed on specific occasions or during certain celebrations. The Festival of the Purépecha Race, held in Zacán, is the best showcase for these traditions.
The musical genre of the Pirekua, declared Intangible World Heritage, was born of the combination of traditional Purépecha music and the liturgical music introduced during the Conquest. This ancient tradition has been maintained in towns such as Zacán, San Lorenzo, Nurío, Cherán, Angahuan and Pátzcuaro.
The maps drawn by the Purépecha are a marvelous chronicle of everyday life and this group's relationship with the earth, and the environment with human landscape.