The Journey To Morelia, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio
I drove all the way from Puebla, Mexico, to get to the colonial-era city of Morelia (city), Michoacán (state), Mexico.
This was about 5-6 hours of non-stop high-way driving, and toll-booths (almost $50 USD in tolls)
Most Mexicans know of Michoacán as the most dangerous state in Mexico.
Luckily, I was there just long enough to only experience to rich colonial architecture of Morelia, the more peasant-like representation of Patzcuaro, and one of the strangest sights in the world; the Island-town called Janitzio.
Where is Morelia?
Rich Colonialism in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
I arrived in Morelia at night, and immediately checked into my hotel, and went to sleep.
Settlements in this area date back to the 600's CE, with some cultural influence from Teotihuacan.
By the 1100's, the Purepecha arrived in the area, followed by the Matlatzincas, but no major cities were built in the area.
Afraid of a city rivalry, ‘Vasco De Quiroga' went to spain to ensure his city of ‘Patzcuaro' would get the title of city, while ‘Nuevo Ciudad De Mechuacan' was forcefully renamed to ‘Guayangareo'.
Yet, by 1545, ‘Guayangareo' also gained city status, and was renamed to ‘Valladolid' after the hometown of Antonio de Mendoza.
Vasco De Quiroga maintained political and religious power of the state of Michoacan in his city of Patzcuaro, until his death in 1565. By 1580, all powers were transfered to Valladolid.
The 1600's saw the construction of most of the religious, residential, and palatial structures along with the aquaduct in Valladolid.
By 1809, the city was home to about 20,000 residents, including ‘Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon', whom was heavily involved in ideas of national indepence, a democracy, and abolishing slavery as seen in France and the USA.
By 1810, Morelos came with an army to Morelia to try to remove ‘royalist' forces (those aligned with keeping Mexico as a Spanish colony), but failed.
By 1821, Morelia was free from royalists with the victory of the Mexican Independence, and by 1828, it was renamed to ‘Morelia' in honor of Jose Maria Morelos.
Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico
Originally, Patzcuaro was the capital of the ‘Tarascan State' (pre-Colombian Michoacan) in 1320.
During this time, the area had 3 indigenous groups who were in a perpetual state of war.
By the 1520's, the Spanish sent ‘Cristobal de Olid' to the city, alied with the nobility, and forced the monarch ‘Emperor Tanganxoan II' to kneel.
By 1526, the Spanish empire sent Nuño de Guzmán to control Hernan Cortez. But as a result, Nuño de Guzmán came to Patzcuaro, and slaughtered the indigenous nobility, causing chaos.
After the Spanish government arrested Nuño de Guzmán, ‘Vasco De Quiroga' came and resolved the issues with the indigenous, ultimately, Patzcuaro the capital of Michoacan, but only until his death in 1565.
The city is now commemorated as a ‘Magical City' by the Mexican government due to its well-preserved colonial and indigenous feel.
The name ‘Patzcuaro' has several potential translations, including ‘place dyed in black', ‘place of foundations', ‘place of bullrushes (type of plant)'.
Janitzio, Michoacán, Mexico
There isn't much information about this island, other than the statue of General Morelos was built at the top in 1933.
For several hundred years now, the island is actively being used as a fishing village.
When I visited the island, I mostly saw tourists trinkets and souvenirs for sale, with very few cultural events or representations.
But as a note, this island is very popular during the ‘Day of the dead' festival in Mexico (October 31 to November 2nd).
Each year, thousands of Mexicans pay tribute to their dead relatives in the cemetery on the island, as well as lighting candles on boats in the lake.
Do I recommend doing this roadtrip? Absolutely!
While it is nice driving around long distances in Mexico (and probably any country), after a while, the hills and roads and sight of trucks and cars just becomes monotonous.
But for a few hours at a time, it's really beautiful.
Morelia, Patzcuaro, and Janitzio ALL offer an amazing view of Mexico that most foreign tourists will almost always pass up.
After our boat returned at the docks, I spent the rest of the night driving to the city of Ocotlan (towards Guadalajara), where I checked into my hotel, and passed out 🙂