Because we’re staying positive, we’ll skip the part about how we turned a 5 hour drive back to Mexico City into a 10 and a half hour debacle. After all, every vacation has some attendant anxiety or it wouldn’t be an adventure. Let’s concentrate instead on the marvels of the green mountains and valleys we romped through on our way to and from all those fantastic towns and what we learned and did along the way.
Jose Maria Morales was a Mexican Revolutionary hero. Drop the “es” from his last name, tack on the “ia” from his middle name, in honor of Our Lady, and you get Morelia, our next destination after Taxco. Hotell was Virrey de Mendoca, located right on the square and named after the first Viceroy of New Spain. The building is 16th/17th Century, but Mendoca never lived there. Lovely rooms, spectacular lobby. Lots of stone and wood. A Wedding Attire Models session in process our first night. Good eye candy. Plus it was only $73 a night. Would easily go for two or three times that in the states.
In Morelia, there is, naturally, a cathedral. On each side of the Cathedral is a statue. One is of Benito Juarez, the other of another major figure in the creation of the Constitution of 1857, which stripped the church of much of its power and treasure and established the principle that no institution should have greater power than the state–the supposed expression of the peoples’ will. The church thought these two revolutionaries were demons, but the government placed the statues there as emblems of the fact that the church is now surrounded by the power of the people. At least that’s what our guide, R-R-R-Raymundo said. I choose to believe it because it’s a great story.
On to Patzcuaro, and hour’s drive south and an accommodation at Hotel Casa Encantada that rivals the sugar plantation inn at San Gabriel de las palmas for elegance and charm, though the price is way lower. The owner, Victoria Ryan, is an American, a self-described hippie who lived all over and finally settled here. She’s an artist, so paintings and sculptures are all over the place in her most alluring garden. She turned us on to Jaime Balderas (www.patzcuaromagictours.com) who turned out to be the best guide we had the whole trip and who spun an historical tale that surpasses (in my mind) anything else we learned in other locations. You can find Casa Encantada Info on the website at www.hotelcasaencantada.com
A judge turned bishop named Quiroga took charge of the diocese of Michoacan in 1533. He was a man way ahead of his time. The indigenous folk were a feisty lot, who had long resisted takeover by the Aztecs, who had conquered most of the other tribes around. They didn’t take any more kindly to Cortez and his lot than they had to Montezuma. Qjuiroga chose pacification over weaponry, and established “hospital towns” modeled on Thomas More’s Utopia where Indians could become literate and learn a trade. He hated the Franciscans who were in charge of a lot of this because he said they were lazy and more interested in getting the Indians to work like slaves rather than saving their souls. Quiroga actually drew up and got royal approval for an Indian bill of rights of sort that demanded they be treated as humans rather than beasts. That they be paid for their work (in something other than pumpkin seeds), and that their children learn to read and write alongside their Spanish/creole/Mixto peers. All of this bought him the hatred of the establishment, of course, but the adoration of the Indios. The called him “Tata” (an affectionate name for “father”, maybe “Papa” would be an English equivalent..) and he is still venerated as a saint in some quarters, though Rome has never recognized him.
The town square is a unique piece which Quiroga established. All other Mexican plaza mayors involve roads from the four cardinal points leading to the plaza wherein stands the Cathedral. Quiroga saw that the Indians had their temple on a hillside above the town and that they used the area below as a community gathering place. He decided to leave it like that and put the Cathedral elsewhere. And so it was done.
The whole town is beautiful, set on a plateau at the base of the mountains and near a great lake. It’s at about 7000 feet, which is not unusual. We’ve been living at about that level the whole trip. Lots of good stuff to buy. Interesting stuff all around.
And it seems a good way to end this whole journey to wish salud and safe journeys to all of you. And, by the way, an article i wrote (about writing, so you may not be interested) is posted at https://www.carlrbrush.com/writer-working-speaks/
Vaya Con Dios, and to those driving down here, four words: Cuidado con Los Topes (Watch out for the speed bumps. They’re everywhere and quite visiousl)
P.S. Don’t pass up Santa Clara, a nearby “Copper Community,” a remnant of Quiroga’s Utopia plan. Copper works unmatched by anything else we saw. And we saw a lot. And muy barato.
Some random photos follow: