Tzintzuntzan: One of Mexico’s Most Traditional Holy Week Celebrations

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We love what is unique to a place—that which is different from the ordinary—and the incredibly pious, faith-filled, self-mutilating Holy Week traditions of Tzintzuntzan in Michoacán are some of the most remarkable in Mexico.

Tzintzuntzan is a Pueblo Mágico just north of Patzcuaro and south of Quiroga on the lake. Its name means “place of the hummingbirds” in Tarasco and P’urhépecha, and was pronounced “Huitzitzilan” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. It is the ancient capital of the P’urhépecha and the first capital of Michoacán—the heart of Tarasco. We absolutely loved getting to know a bit about these incredible people! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

There is a horrible and also encouraging history of cross-cultural impact here. The Spanish conquistador Nuño de Guzmán burned alive P’urhépecha chieftain Tangaxuan II, and then largely dismantled Tzintzuntzan in order to use the stones for the Fransiscan monastery of Santa Ana, modern-day Templo de San Francisco. Fortunately, Don Vasco de Quiroga followed in 1530, a Spanish bishop wise enough to teach each pueblo around the lake a handicraft—lacquerware, copper smithing, wood and rock carving, pottery, basketry, embroidery, furniture making… The P’urhépecha have kept alive and perfected these crafts, and that handiwork supports them to this day, to the delight of artisan-lovers worldwide. It’s difficult to visit this area and not leave with a car-full of artesanía, as we do; it’s all just so gorgeous.

Ask anyone in a small village in the lake region who are the richest people in town, and they will usually say, “the artisans.” One local man told us a story about a “junior,” a wealthy young man from the DF, who contemptuously called a local woman “India.” He said she stood tall, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “Look what you are wearing: mass-produced blue jeans and a shirt. My handmade apron is a piece of art worth 6000 pesos. My skirt is handcrafted and worth 4000. My blouse 2000. My earrings are hand-forged silver worth 5000. These works of art connect me to my ancestors, my heritage and my community.”

Vasco de Quiroga was bishop of the lake region. Frustrated that the P’urhépecha would not come to mass in Tzintzuntzan, he ordered construction of a chapel in each of the town’s twelve barrios. He commissioned artists to make a crucifix or Cristo for each chapel. They are made from pasta de caña, or cane paste. These 16th Century Cristos, all twelve of them, still exist, lovingly cared for by descendants of the same families for generations in each barrio. The Cristos are on display for community members throughout the year, but on Holy Thursday and Good Friday each year they take on a more public role.

Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week, the espias, or Roman Spies (clad in red hoods), set out looking for Christ, to arrest him. On Thursday find him they do, in twelve different homes around town. At each home, they are given food and drink by barrio members. All but two of the Cristos have been restored, and only one of them has dark skin—the Cristo in the Barrio de Santa Ana.

Holy Thursday is a day of preparation in Tzintzuntzan. Men clean grilletes, or shackles, for the Penitentes to wear the following day. They make and sell disciplinas: knotted lashes or whips covered in nails. They also string lights and put up tents.

Women put out candles and flowers, and cook for all of the others who are helping; this is most definitely a community-wide event. Every time you look around, an altar has appeared or been cleared, a tent has been put up or removed.

The patron saint of the town, El Señor del Santo Entierro, whose extremities are believed to grow, is usually seen in a glass showcase. During Holy Week, however, He lies in a bed, and pilgrims seek His blessing. A crown is held over each pilgrim’s head, in exchange for a small donation.

The normal Lavatoria de los Pies/washing of the feet Mass is said in the old Santa Ana Monastery, now the church in the parroquia complex. Here it is one of the most beautiful that I have witnessed in my 56 years. I noticed several P’urhépecha influences:

  1. A tall man dressed in a white dress and conical hat with peacock feathers, who road to Mass on a horse, processed into the church after the initial opening, and sat there throughout Mass. He is called “El Centinel.” According to the man in charge, he is based on P’urhépecha tradition. He represents the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with his spear to verify his death, a blind soldier who then regained his sight. In Tzintzuntzan after Mass a man blew a romanesque horn/bugle while the Sentinel processed out, and the Sentinel sat waiting for Jesus throughout the night outside the church.
  2. The incense burner was native-made, and really reminded me of the Aztec purification ceremonies we witness to this day. It was a palpable connection between indigenous history and modern liturgy.

Mass is followed by a reenactment of The Last Supper and Judas’ fateful kiss that led to Jesus’ arrest, a full-blown dramatic stage production with costumes and amplified sound, with the crowd organized by the red and white-clad espias.

Good Friday is the most remarkable in Tzintzuntzan, at least for me. In the morning, about 40 barefooted men in white hoods put on the grilletes (shackles) to shuffle around the Olive Garden, with the help of two Cyrenes each, collecting alms from the pilgrims who are gathered there. The shackles mean these men, called Penitentes, have to jump up and down stairs and stumble over the cobblestones, gaining blisters and bloody scrapes in the process.

In the afternoon, eleven of the twelve 400-year old Cristos (one is too delicate to transport) are relocated—a lengthy and very delicate process—to the “atrium” of the  Templo de San Francisco complex, an open-air park where olive trees planted by Don Vasco de Quiroga grow to this day. The Cristos are lined up from largest to smallest.

There is a reenactment of the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross, which in Tzintzuntzan is called La Judea.  Once that is finished, El Señor del Santo Entierro is crucified and processed through town with the other Cristos, to later be returned to the Temple for a vigil.

Then, about 9pm, nearly 400 Penitentes begin their own incredible journeys, continuing till Saturday morning. They are each motivated by a manda, a reason for which they commit to being Penitentes for at least three years—perhaps a relative is sick and they pray for a cure, perhaps they are in school or starting a new business or family and want to succeed. After three years, if their manda has been completed, their wish realized, they perform the corrida in reverse—a fourth year of thanks to the Señor del Santo Entierro. These men are so very committed, pious, and serious, it is a blessing to witness them. And so very many!

These evening Penitentes are different than the morning ones in a few respects. First, they are bare-chested. Second, their journeys are much more arduous. Third, they must move on their knees through the church. And fourth, they have a couple of choices to make. Their first choice regards which route will they follow. There are three routes:

  • Around the Olive Garden, which has about 14 stations (maybe half an hour)
  • Around the town, which has about 24 stations (about 50 minutes)
  • To Ojo de Agua, a nearby town, a route that includes about 30 stations (90 minutes to two hours)

The length of time each route takes depends on many factors: how long you pray at each station, whether the crowds let you through, and how fast you can move. Along each route, local families gather to watch, much as they would a parade. They sit in their chairs all night long, till 7:30 am when the Penitentes finish and come out of church to thank the community and God.

The second choice involves how you will make your journey: carrying a cross or wearing shackles. Crosses are very heavy, and cross-carriers are supposed to run at all times. They have one or two Cyrenes, friends to help them on their journey. The Cyrenes may not carry the crosses for the Penitente, but they hold the cross while the Penitente prays at each station, they wield flashlights and guide the hooded Penitente so he stays on track, and they help to part the crowds so the Penitente can get through. They can also clean the glass, rocks and splinters off the Penitente’s feet.

As if carrying the sharp-edged cross while running barefoot with a hood on, or walking hooded while in shackles, weren’t hard enough, each Penitente carries an eight-whipped disciplina full of nails. He is required to whip himself with the nailed lashes at each station, causing prodigious bleeding. Heavier or more muscled, less flexible Penitentes tended to have two bloody spots on their back, as the lashes didn’t reach the center. Teenagers and thinner men tended to have one deeper wound, in the center of their backs. Either way, I would not wish to have a manda and perform this penance anytime soon!

If you stumble or miss a station, or if your Cyrene helps you more than he should, you need to start your journey over from the beginning.

Holy Saturday includes the Easter fire or Fuego Nuevo at night, while Easter of course involves the Mass of the Resurrection.

Tzintzuntzan is about an eight hour journey from Mazatlán. We spent one night in Guadalajara, then a few nights in Uruapan, where on Palm Sunday they hold Latin America’s largest indigenous handicraft tianguis/fair. We stayed in a gorgeous cabin beside the river, and near there (in Parangaricutiro) we also hiked the ruins of a church buried in lava.

From Uruapan it is a three hour journey to Tzintzuntzan. From Tzintzuntzan, any of the villages around the lake are easily reachable, as are the islands in the lake or the state capital of Morelia.

There are cabañas in town, on the lake, or plenty of hotels in nearby Quiroga. Our AirBnB didn’t work out, and we ended up finding a hotel at the last minute. We were invited to stay in at least five different homes, so even if you travel without reservations, you should have no problems.

I like how very informal things are here; I hadn’t brought an Easter dress or shoes, and I fit in at Easter Mass just fine. Makeup isn’t that common, either. We found the people we encountered most welcoming, though perhaps more standoffish/shy at first than in Mazatlán. You definitely need to speak Spanish; many of the locals have trouble even with that, as they speak P’urhépecha natively and Spanish as a second language; English tends to be only spoken by those in Patzcuaro, who work with tourists, or who have lived north of the border. The beauty here is driving into any town and just discovering what it has to offer.

I trust you might visit and, if you do, enjoy your adventure!

Mexican Pompeii

DSC_0171©Today Greg and I visited the incredible ruins of a 17th Century church sticking up out of a lava flow! The sight reminds me of Pompeii, yet it’s just outside Uruapan, in the state of Michoacán, where we are for Semana Santa.

Paricutín Volcano completely destroyed two towns, but amazingly the original tower, altar, front and rear walls of the Templo San Juan Parangaricutiro still stand—with lava right up to them. You can see why villagers call it a miracle. Today, old San Juan Parangaricutiro is a pilgrimage site, and Greg and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know it. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

THE STORY
Construction of Templo San Juan Parangaricutiro began in 1618 under the direction of Friar Sebastián González. It was completed in 1720 but with only one tower; villagers were in the process of completing the second tower when the lava struck two centuries later.

Dionisio Pulido became the first person in history to be present during the formation of a volcano, on 20 February, 1943 when Paricutín erupted. He was working his field when he felt the earth rumble and heard a loud roar. Looking up, he saw plumes of smoke coming out of a crack in the earth and rocks flying through the air.

In the next 24 hours Paricutín would grow seven meters tall, within one week it was 50 meters high, and eventually it became an ash cone 600 meters tall. Its first lava flow began four months after the initial eruption, flowing at 20 meters per minute, and lasted four years.

Parangaricutiro is a Purepecha town six kilometers from Paricutín. The villagers hoped that Captazin Hill would block the lava from entering their town. Lázaro Cárdenas came to warn the villagers to leave, but they refused, saying that the lands they’d relocate to already had owners, and they would not be welcome. To his credit, Cárdenas camped outside Parangaricutiro for one year, ready to help evacuate the villagers, but not pushing them. By May 1944 the lava flow had traveled ten kilometers and made its way around Captazin Hill, entering Parangaricutiro from the other side. The villagers finally made the decision to leave their homes rather than die, and amidst tears and cries they departed on May 10th, led by Cárdenas and the “Señor de los Milagros” cross from their church’s altar. I am currently reading a book about Cárdenas, Tierra Roja, so this historical note was especially interesting.

The “Señor de los Milagros” cross is now in Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro church. Legend says that a traveling religious icon salesman brought three crucifixes to Parangaricutiro in the late 1500s. A villager—Nicolás Moricho—chose his favorite, but the salesman refused to let him pay for it. The visitor wouldn’t share his name, where he came from, or where he was headed, and he didn’t eat or drink anything during his stay. He left the village walking north, and when the villagers went after him he was nowhere to be found. Thus, villagers began to believe that the cross was brought to them by an angelic messenger or divine destiny. An Augustin friar heard the story and blessed the crucifix, proclaiming that it would bring miracles to the town; that is how it came to be known as the “Señor de los Milagros.” I can only imagine the hope those villagers put into that cross as they fled while lava destroyed their homes, and I can understand why they feel it’s a miracle the church survived.

Paricutín Volcano stayed active for nine years, 11 days, and 10 hours: six different lava flows eventually covered 25 square kilometers, and the main ash cone also remains. Fortunately no one was killed. 

HOW TO GET THERE
We conducted extensive research online, but details are very hard to find. I therefore hope the below will help you.

From Uruapan you need to drive to Angahuan. From there you can hire a guide (150-300 pesos, plus horse rental if you want one) or you can drive to the end of the road, following the signs to the volcano. You can park in one of two ecological parks that rent cabins (of course, you could stay there, too), including Centro Turistico de Angahuan. You can also rent horses and hire guides there. From the tourism centers, it is an easy 35 minute walk on a wide dirt road to the site of the church ruins. The walk is gorgeous; you walk amidst pine trees and cactus, and, finally, alongside fields of dried lava. Once you reach the ruins there are a few simple restaurants selling food and drink.

One of the restaurant owners is Jesús “Cachuy” Velázquez Gutiérrez, the son of two survivors of the volcano: Aniceto Velázquez Contreras and Paula Gutiérrez Aguilar. He told us you can access the ruins by car, but you have to drive way out of your way, covering about 24 km; the walk or horseback ride is much easier. He has a Facebook page for the church ruins, so you can also ask him questions before you visit.

From the restaurant area you can easily see the tower of the church amidst the lava. From that point, however, you have to climb over lava in order to get to the ruins. Be sure to take sturdy hiking boots, and wear a hat and sun screen. During our visit quite a few people started out to see the ruins and turned back. Greg and I spent about two hours climbing around the site and had a ball!

The walk back to your car is uphill so it’s much more difficult than the way out. Obviously the road was built for cars, but it is no longer accessible to 4-wheeled vehicles; rock barriers cross the road at various points, and benches have been installed in the center of the road at key intervals as well. We went at sunrise so I could get good photos. By 10:30 am there were busloads of visitors, most of whom entered on horseback, so lots of dust on the trail. Of course, we were here on Monday of Holy Week; normal weekdays probably have far fewer visitors. Early in the morning, even during Holy Week, Greg and I were the only ones there.

Some people continue past the ruins to the top of the volcano. We were told that it’s a 2-3 hour hike each way; we highly recommend a guide if you make this journey. Jesús “Cachuy” Velázquez Gutiérrez, owner of one of the small restaurants at the ruins, offered to take us to the top in his pickup truck. He said it would take one hour and cost 1,200 pesos, and he is willing to take a group up.

If you love adventure tourism, religious tourism, or you are just looking for something out of the ordinary, we definitely recommend this place!

Easter Procession in Santa Clara del Cobre

Santa Clara is about an hour’s drive south of Morelia, just south of Patzcuaro. We had intended to spend Easter Sunday here in the city, but after attending Mass at the cathedral, we felt small town life calling us (as usual). We wanted to see copper making, since I grew up with it in Arizona, so off we went.

What a charming small town! I absolutely fell in love with the young boys, ages 3-8 or so, who were dressed as typical Michoacán viejitos for the Easter procession. More on them later.

One of the two main churches in town is home to Jesus of the Resurrection, so Easter Sunday is, luckily for us, a big feast day. Later in this post you’ll see video footage of the very community-engaged, charming Easter procession.

We noticed a sign outside the church here that we found so interesting we just had to take a photo of it, left.

Also, I made a new girlfriend, who was more than happy to pose for a photo for me.

When we arrived in town, about 11:00 am, people were just putting the finishing touches on some decorations. Those included assembling beautiful red-and-white-arches in the center of the street, in front of each of the barrios of Santa Clara del Cobre.

When we asked what they were preparing for, we were told there was going to be a procession. Where? When? “Right here. Ahorita.” Well, we’ve lived here long enough to know that ahorita doesn’t mean “right now” in any gringo sense of that word. So, we knew we had time to check out the town.

The decorations also included crepe paper flowers and streamers in front of nearly every house in town. It was truly a community event, and involved all ages.

We saw a long line in front of the newer church, the one that’s in the plaza. We figured it had something to do with Easter.

Approaching, we saw the priest signing a booklet for the children in line. Well, that looked all too familiar! In asking, a mother told us that the children who want to receive First Communion this spring had to attend the 9 o’clock Mass on Easter, and they had to have the priest sign their booklets attesting to that fact. Gotta love legalism.

We figured the procession would start after the noon Mass, so we took a look through what appeared to be the old original church. It was gorgeous! Everything here in town was so well cared for.

There were quite a few braids of human hair pinned to the cloth behind the crucifix, along with quite a few small milagros.

Every building was occupied, every curb was maintained, there were sidewalks and people sweep them on a daily basis. It was terrific to see.

Beside the old church was what seemed to be a community center. There were obvious party preparations going on, and during the mid-day people kept streaming in with food, food and more food. And music too, of course.

Still no sign of a procession to begin ahorita, we walked through the copper fair that was going on in the main plaza. There we met Pito Pérez, reincarnated, selling DVDs of movies about his life.

Coming back to the other side of the plaza, we saw that the crowd was gathering to view the procession, so we took our place on a curb.

Once the fireworks launchers were in place, we knew it was time. They used really handy iron stands to launch 6-14 bottle rockets in a row. I think Mazatlán needs these!

The video above is about three minutes of the procession. It lasted a good 90 minutes or more. It involved so many people, as we’ve witnessed in so many other small Mexican towns during Semana Santa. It included a Santo statue from each of the barrios of the town, I believe, plus the town patron, the Jesus of the Resurrection. This is not a performance so much as a community-wide event, as are our beloved Carnavál parades in Mazatlán.

The most charming part of the parade, for me, were the children dressed up as typical Michoacán viejitos, or old people. Normally this is a folk dance, but this time they merely walked in the parade. By the end they were pretty hot and tired.

After the procession I saw a group of four boys sitting in the plaza. They were obviously the viejito boys, though they had removed their hats and masks, and several of them had even taken off their zarapes, because they were hot and tired. They looked so cute. I asked them if I could take their photo, so that of course ruined the spontaneity of the moment. But, marvelously, they called all their friends over, they all got completely re-costumed, and they gleefully posed for me to take their photo. I will post this blog to a few town sites, in hopes that the kids might see themselves. Thank you, niños!

Afterwards people seemed to go into the community center to eat, and to take home the leaves from the arches, and many of them also took home large sugar cane stalks. We hadn’t seen those till now, so I’m not exactly sure where they came from.

Thank you, Santa Clara del Cobre!!! We were very blessed to be able to share our Easter Sunday with you! We appreciate you including us in your festivities.

Lago de Patzcuaro/Lake Patzcuaro

We very much wanted to see the islands on Lake Patzucuaro, especially the ones that aren’t quite so popular, that are a little more local. Since yesterday we needed to go back to Capula to pick up our Catrina from Juan Carlos and his wife, we decided we’d drive from there along the eastern side of the lake, hope for a view, and try to find a boat launch that didn’t require us to go all the way back into the Semana Santa crowds of Patzcuaro. It sounded rational enough.

NOTE: the map above, which is very typical, shows the three Urandenes and Jarácuaro as islands. They are now landlocked. The four islands are Pacanda, Yunuén, Tecuena and Janitzio.
The trouble is, in researching on the internet, every site tells you that the only boat launch on the lake is in Patzcuaro. Very hard for me to believe that on that huge lake there would be only one boat launch, or that we wouldn’t be able to find someone with a boat who’d like an extra 500 pesos to take us on a tour, so off we went.

DRIVING THE EAST SIDE OF LAKE PATZCUARO

In Tzintzuntzan we drove toward the lake, then headed south along it. This was a road that was not on any of our maps; it was way closer to the lake than the eastern perimeter road. The views were great. At points south of there the road became very washboard-like. We began to lose faith. Worse, everyone we met said there was no way to get a boat out to the lake other than to go to the launch down in Patzcuaro. So hard to believe….

And then, suddenly, pavement appeared. The road was incredible! Smooth, easy; the views along this lakeside road are spectacular! It ran right along the lake, and did not appear on any of our maps nor on our GPS. But, it is most definitely there, and well worth the drive! We were told that the federal government had built the road, the northern portion of it had washed out, and despite the repeated pleas of the local residents to the government, no one has ever returned to repair it. It is passable; just the first 30 minutes of it on the northern end are not exactly easy riding.
 

UCAZANASTACUA

In Ucazanastacua we found a terrific restaurant (Huenan) overlooking the lake, run by a wonderful family who live in several houses down the hill on the lake itself. They had incredible views, fresh caldo de trucha (trout soup), caldo de camarón (shrimp soup), mojarra cooked any way you like it (crappie),  corundas (small tamales), a gorgeous rose garden, and some of the most intricately embroidered blouses I’ve seen.

Anyway, everyone we had asked said the only way to get a boat on the lake was to depart from Patzcuaro. We must have had 20 people tell us this. Then, finally, as we were eating lunch, the owner told us that 1-1/2 km south of his restaurant was a boat launch. He advised us to use it.

“You don’t want to go to Patzcuaro; it’s crowded there. You’ll wait in line and they’ll put you on a huge tour boat and rush you over to Janitzio. Take a boat from here. There will be no line, you can take your time and enjoy your day. Plus, the boat launch here benefits our local community. The drivers share the earnings.” Man after my heart! He said to me just what we had been thinking! Yeah!

Lo and behold, there was absolutely no wait, no crowds, and we could even rent a private boat and driver! Hooray!

If you, like us, are visiting Patzcuaro during a holiday (Semana Santa, Day of the Dead, etc), and you want to avoid crowds and help a local coop, definitely drive north to the embarcadero/boat launch in Ucazanastacua!

Our boatman was fantastic—Alfredo, the man of the big smile. I’d smile, too, if I had to shuttle these waters amidst this gorgeous scenery every day. We told Alfredo we wanted to cruise around the lake, seeing all the islands, but avoiding the crazy crowds. He told us how there originally were eight or more islands, depending how you counted, but that the lake waters had dropped over 3 1/2 meters, and now there are only four islands in Lake Patzcuaro.

 

Above you can see a short video taken from the boat.
PACANDA ISLAND

We first drove around Pacanda Island. It was gorgeous—lots of green, plenty of space.

We saw so many cranes! Pacanda was just gorgeous! And so peaceful!

I asked Alfredo about the teleférico/cable car that I’d heard about, that was supposed to connect the islands of Yunuén and Pacanda. He told us that while the comunitarios on Yunuén had wanted it, the comunitarioson Pacanda had refused; they didn’t want to have tourists visit. When he said this, I thought what a shame it was, because a scenic ride between islands would be so beautiful, and surely they could control the tourist influence, no? In a minute you’ll see how wrong I probably was.

YUNUEN ISLAND

Alfredo next let us off on Yunuén Island, which the comunitarios there have decided to develop slowly, in an eco-friendly fashion. This island was gorgeous as well. There were simple cabañasat the water’s edge, and a more deluxe yet simple development at the top of the hill.

Yes, this is what was possible. These people were developing eco-tourism in a way that was sustainable, pleasurable, that enabled them to keep a lifestyle and a pleasant place to live. Surely Pacanda could do this as well?

The view from the top of the island, overlooking the town and the lake, is spectacular.

The ladies on Yunuén love to embroider, and I absolutely fell in love with their aprons!

Unfortunately I was too cheap to pay the US$100 or so that I was asked to pay for this one. The handwork was so beautiful. This whole trip has amazed me, the intricate embroidery that we have seen!

The cabañas on top of the hill are gorgeous. One for two people rents for 500 pesos per night. The cabañas have baths and bedrooms but no kitchens. There is a shared kitchen, and a restaurant.

The gardener on the premises has a whole lot of fun, as you can see.

The staff, and the local people, were all very joyful, friendly and hospitable. I would love to come back here, either to stay up top or

in the cabañas down at the lake level.

Yunuén had a good feeling. You could even sense it in the tilework on the sinks!

The comunitarioshere seem to know the value of place, and they are, thank goodness, dedicated to protecting it.

JANITZIO ISLAND

After Yunuén, we rounded Janitzio. It is so gorgeous to look at from the lake; you’ve seen the photos. The large statue of Morelos at the top distinguishes it.

As you get closer, however, you notice just how overbuilt and crowded Janitzio is. There doesn’t appear to be much available space anywhere.

There were tour boats plying the waters back and forth from Patzcuaro to Janitzio, all of them filled with tourists during this  Semana Santa holiday.

Once arriving in Janitzio, it was a solid line of tourists walking up and down the hill, as if we were ants going to an anthill. It reminded me of the entrances to some of the major temples in Kyoto, though there when you arrive at the temple proper there is usually calm.

Solid tourist shops, from water’s edge to the top. Houses on top of one another with no room to breathe, no place that I could see to relax. THIS is surely why the people of Pacanda do not want development! Oh so clear! They don’t want their pristine island to turn into this!

At the top, the wait to climb the statue of Morelos was one hour, so while we stood in line for about 20 minutes, we then gave up and left.

The view from top of Janitzio was very nice.

Though I preferred the view from the winding trail up, if you could get out of the line of traffic, that is!

Though Janitzio was not my favorite island, there were two things I loved about it. One was the very cool boathouse, at the far end of the embarcadero, where the pangasput in.

By far my favorite part of Janitzio were the demonstrations by the butterfly-net fishermen.

Above is a short video of the fishermen using their nets. I am so very sad to know that the people in this area no longer really fish this way. Alfredo told us that the lake has been heavily over-fished, and nowadays fishermen don’t really make a living using those beautiful butterfly nets we see in photos. Rather, these days, they put on “exhibitions.” Luck was with us and we were able to see one of these demonstrations up close and personal. Thank goodness the tradition lives on, at least for the tourists!

  

It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the lake, and we felt extremely blessed. We found our “secret” boat launch, which I most highly recommend; we ate at the best place on the lake, I am sure (the caldo de trucha/trout soup ROCKED); it was sunny and clear; we had the lake’s happiest boat driver; and we got back to Morelia in daylight in plenty of time for the Procession of Silence.

We highly recommend that, if you travel to Morelia, you spend a couple of days on the lake if you can. Visit the many pueblos that line the lake; they each have a style of dress and unique handicrafts in which they specialize. It has been by far our favorite aspect of our time here. Morelia is GORGEOUS, but the Lacustre, the lake region, is a far too hidden treasure!

Addition on April 9: we drove around the west side of Lake Patzcuaro today. There is also a boat launch on this side of the lake, making at least a total three. At left is a photo of our GPS, showing that the road we were on used to be lakeside. You can definitely see that it no longer is.