Getting Around Traffic Blockades During Easter Weekend at Lake Patzcuaro!
Our small group tour began with driving down highway 51 towards Salvatierra, the oldest city in the state of Guanajuato. This was not on our agenda, as we had wanted to take the faster cuota highway through Salamanca, but no matter, it was an adventure!! The slower paced route provided a beautiful green lush countryside, with agricultural fields, small stands dotting the roadside with colorful ripe fruits and vegetables, and all manner of rural wares for sale. We were told by the road signs that we were in the midst of the Ex-Convent Route, a meandering course of former convents surrounded by mountains and lakes. The shift from our dry high desert landscape in San Miguel de Allende into this green area was a sight for sore eyes. This route extended driving time, but we felt that we had entered a Mexican area seldom visited by tourists.
As we passed Morelia and neared Patzcuaro, we noticed a line-up of flashy black cars moving slowly ahead of us. Little did we know that it was the Governor of Michoacan’s entourage entering the town for an “evento” with the Mayor of Patzcuaro to celebrate Semana Santa! We shortly learned from our friend and owner of our hotel, La Casa Encantada, that we would be unable to enter the city center as the newly-elected mayor had decided to shut out all incoming traffic. Luckily, the knowledgeable hotel manager was able to talk us through the surrounding police barricades to the hotel utilizing now indispensable cell phone. We finally learned we needed a special “official” ticket to take the van in and out of Centro, and were provided with one.
None of us were surprised at the lack of notice or organization, since we all live in Mexico and these occurrences are common, but we wondered how we’d get to Tzintzuntzan and Santa Clara del Cobre and back the following two days of our stay. The main difficulties were handled by our ace driver, who each day had to park the van five blocks from our hotel and talk his way there and back waving his “official” ticket (provided by our hotel manager) each way.
Patzcuaro was extraordinarily calm with fewer crowds and of course, no traffic! The obedient bureaucratic police officers made sure to that! The market in the main square, however, was filled with Master Artisan goods, offering us many choices of clothing, ceramics, wooden objects, and much more. This gave everyone a sense of opportunity and visual wonder.
The second day was another astonishing adventure. Our knowledgeable local guide took us into the heart of Tzintzuntzan (a neighboring lakeside village) early in the morning before the mobs arrived at noon. We walked a block to the Ex Convento of San Francisco. Our guide wanted us to be sure to witness the Penitents (all men) coming out of a special chapel with chained ankles and wrists, naked but for a white hood and loin cloth. Each was led by two men to avoid falls. The penitents volunteer to walk all over town begging for money to pay the church for their sins. Some of these men have been doing this yearly for much of their lives. Meanwhile, women were in the church praying and arranging flowers for the statue of a reclining Jesus.
After seeing three of these lost souls file out, we leaned toward leaving and visiting two of the master ceramicists in town. Along the way, we saw locals cooking up delicious smelling traditional fish soup on makeshift stoves. We were all delighted to meet the Master Ceramicists and to have an opportunity to purchase pieces by them. By the time we headed to our van the market and the grounds of the Ex-Convento were completely packed. Our guide then took us to a stone carver’s tranquil garden where we ate sandwiches (prepared for us with the help of our hotel owner friend) and rested our feet. The visit to the pre-Colombian Tarascan Las Yacatas Archeological site and museum was next on the agenda. It was very windy, but we didn’t mind, as the wind blew the smoke from the nearby forest fire away from us. The site with its rounded pyramids is surprisingly large, taking a bit of time to see in its entirety, while presenting expansive views of the town and lake below.
By the time we drove back to Patzcuaro, it was again tricky to enter into town. Luckily, our local guide, who lives in Patzcuaro, masterfully directed a back route back into town.
We all wanted to see the Procession of Christ that evening, so we high-tailed it uphill to the Basilica at 7:00 pm to see each church group lining up with their statue for their position in the procession. Then dinner time! Patzcuaro is a small town and is not yet a culinary hot spot. Good restaurants are few and far between. However, we managed to eat well each day thanks to the help and reservations made by our hotel owner and friend. Our comfortable and beautiful hotel offered plentiful breakfasts, keeping us content until traditional comida time at 2:00 in the afternoon.
The following morning, we headed out of town on the newly renovated highway to Santa Clara del Cobre. The drive was easy and only took us 20 minutes to arrive in town. We were hustled into a parking spot in front of a recommended well established coppersmith’s where we were given a masterful demonstration of how they make their creations. The group was impressed with the beautiful high-end work in this shop and the one across the street. The National Museum of Copper, one block and away, and next to the town square was an easy walk. The Museum is excellent and has displays of both antique pieces and new winning pieces!
Returning for lunch in Patzcuaro was another master class in patience. The drive back took 20 minutes, but heavy traffic took another 40 minutes to plug our way into our parking space. Our tired and hungry bunch found good places for lunch, then headed off for more exploring of churches, museums, artisan ware and (traditional Purepecha) “Viejitos” dancing in town.
That evening we stood just outside our hotel (one block form the main square) while the Procession of Silence walked past us, and after reflection on the procession, we headed up the hill with our hotel owner friend for a lively farewell dinner.
Easter Sunday in Patzcuaro was calm, and with all the streets continuing to be blocked, we were able to depart easily. Our driver by this time had become a pro and knew all the police officers on a first-name basis. We drove back to San Miguel de Allende, a satisfied group accompanied with our boxes and bags of Master Artisan purchases, hundreds of photos, and good frame of mind!
All photos by: Colleen Besman.
For more information about our Easter Weekend in Patzcuaro Tour, please give us a call on +52 (415) 100 2798 / 52 (415) 101 9175 or visit Travelian’s website: