No. 4: Michoacán, Part I

September 17, 2008. Uruapan, Michoacán.

Uruapan group

It’s hard to believe that students have already been in Querétaro for one month this semester. Last Saturday, September 13, we enjoyed on our first big excursion together, to the beautiful state of Michoacán.

We departed early Saturday morning to our first destination: Morelia, the state capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mexican History professor accompanied us as our guide and explained the history of this charming colonial city (founded in 1541), asMorelia cathedral we strolled through its plazas and down the wide boulevards decorated for Mexico’s Independence Day. We visited the enormous cathedral, famous for its 200-foot baroque towers, and were delighted to witness a wedding march that afternoon. For our final “treat” we explored the Mercado de Dulces (Morelia is the candy capital of Mexico!), which also had a large selection of regional arts and crafts.Tzintzuntzan girls

After Morelia, we journeyed to Tzintzuntzan—“place of the hummingbirds”—where we learned about the Purépecha Indians as we explored the ruins of their ancient temples or yacatas. We also visited the remains of a 16th-century Franciscan monastery where Spanish friars attempted to convert the Indians to the Christian faith. We then strolled through the Tzintzuntzan market, which specializes in straw and ceramic crafts made by the Purépecha. Finally, after a short bus ride, we arrived in Pátzcuaro, where we were based for the next three days.

Sunday morning we journeyed 40 miles west and 2000 feet below Pátzcuaro to the subtropical town of Uruapan, a name Justin on horsederived from the Purépecha word for “place where the flowers bloom.” And bloom they did! We spent the morning wandering the paths of the National Park and enjoying its fountains, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Following a meal at the Mercado de Antojitos, featuring traditional Mexican cuisine, we headed to the spectacular waterfall at Tzaráracua, a highlight for many of the students. Most elected to make the two-kilometer journey down the hill on horseback Phil on zipline(many for the first time), though two brave souls arrived via zipline! Regardless of the method of transportation, the final destination was awe-inspiring: at this place the waters of the Cupatitzio River plunge 150 feet off a sheer cliff into a riverbed below. At this place, we all sensed God’s power and magnificence.

To visualize this experience, click on the slideshow below. And note, this all occurred in only the first two days of the trip! For the next two, click on Part 2 (No. 5) in the left-hand column.