28 May 2016

Alive Again in Pátzcuaro (With Photos)

Ah, historic Pátzcuaro! Promoted by the tourism secretariat as a Pueblo Mágico, it is a magical place, with a long history going back to the early 1300s, when the local indigenous people, the purépechas, founded it a couple hundred years before the Spaniards arrived in 1522.

While Jamie has known Pátzcuaro since 1969, the two of us first came here together in the spring of 1993. We had been traveling together as friends on a Big Mexican Adventure in an old Volkswagen van when we first came here. On that first visit, we met some people with whom we have remained good friends throughout the years; and despite Jamie announcing to me, one afternoon on an exploratory drive around the lake, that he was “done with women!” (at the tender age of forty-six), something about this place caused us to begin falling in love…

It was in Pátzcuaro, right on the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, that we set up our very first “magic stand,” the term Pedro, the drum maker, used because, he said, all you have to do is set up a stand, and the money will come – like magic! From that strange and funky endeavor, we went on to become jewelry artists and vendors of unique and marvelous things at festivals all around North America for the next fifteen years. In the early years, we came to Pátzcuaro on our way south to Costa Rica in the fall and then on our way north in the spring again. And after we quit driving all the way to Costa Rica, we came to Pátzcuaro for the winter on and off. Altogether, we probably spent about three years’ time here. However, it’s been a full decade since our last visit.

Now, we’re back, listening to the clanging of the church bells in the distance and the chirps and calls of little songbirds all around, the sounds of brass bands and, on weekends, of rock ’n’ roll cover bands or a loud, unbelievably obnoxious techno music wafting by, the boom and echo of the big-ass mortars, the train signaling its passing down by the lake, the rush of the wind through the treetops outside our front door… And yes, we can also hear the traffic on the main drag leading up to the heart of Pátzcuaro, when we’re sitting on our front patio in the evenings; but it really is much better than those mufflerless motorcycles and noisy four-wheelers that used to wiz past our house in La Paloma, and the noise from the road is not nearly as awful as it used to be here before they banned big trucks from going into the center of town – and besides, the view out over the lake framed by rows of deep blue volcanic mountains behind which we watch the sun set almost every evening from the little bench on our front patio just makes everything else A-OK. Somehow, Pátzcuaro manages to be at once noisy and tranquilo. It´s magic!

Since we are not far from the center of town, where the beautiful, bountiful market almost overwhelms the senses (the sharp smell of cilantro is like heaven!) and just about everything we need is available in the stores that are tucked away along the Spanish colonial red-and-white-walled streets, we’re OK with not having a car. We’re OK with having to figure out how to get the big bottles of drinking water up to our place up on the hill, a task that has become greatly complicated by having the gate at the entrance chained closed with a padlock, due to thefts and other problems at the apartments. We’re even OK with the cable company taking more than a week to come hook up our cable/internet. The food is delectable; our dollars go a lot further; our neighbors are mostly interesting Mexicans and artistic types; our kitchen is lovely and inviting; we have hummingbirds that come and feed from the bougainvillea, roses, and many other flowers in our back patio area and elsewhere around the house; and our souls are content in a land overflowing with a cacophony of colors, sounds, flavors, and smells of Mexico’s central highlands.

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