Mid-February, 2013 – After our very full day of hiking among the monarch butterflies in the mountains near Morelia, we drove with our friends Joe and Nancy to Pátzcuaro, one of Mexico’s “Magical Cities.” These cities have been designated by Mexico’s tourism board as being particularly charming and fun to visit, and we were not disappointed.
We found a cute place to stay outside of town, Hotel Chaluma, which is made up of a row of small cottages. But for just 350 pesos ($29 USD) per night, it didn’t come with any heat. There was a fireplace in our room, but no wood. The proprietor told us wood was available for sale from a neighbor, but we never managed to make contact with him. So we shivered in the brisk morning mountain air and laughed when we could see our breath.
There are finer places in town, and we peeked in the courtyard of one that had a very elegant ambiance.
You can also stay in more rustic hotels in the old historic buildings that are lined up in and around the town square.
We wandered into an old stone church that now houses a big public library. At the back of the room was a huge, colorful mural. There were images of ancient pyramids and Spanish soldiers in plated armor carrying spears on horseback. There were vivid images of priests and ancient indigenous manuscripts being burned in bonfires. People on their knees were enslaved in chains. We found out that this mural depicts the history of Mexico’s state of Michoacán.
There are several old stone churches around town, and peering down a street we were drawn to one at the far end.
As we approached, we saw lots of people milling around in front of the church, setting up blankets and tarps to sell produce and homemade food items.
It was Friday, and we discovered that Friday is market day when all the people from the surrounding villages and towns bring their goods to sell on the streets of Pátzcuaro.
We were fascinated by the hubbub. Everyone was busy, either hauling stuff into the market in handcarts or wheelbarrows, or shopping and filling their baskets with items to take home.
The air was festive and the place was hopping.
We have been to many a “mercado público,” or public market, in Mexico, but this one was different. Being inland and situated near farm country rather than near the touristy coast, the quality of the produce was fantastic and the prices were low.
All the fruits and veggies were plump and ripe and uninjured. Handwritten signs advertised 10 pesos for 2 kilos of avocados (about 36 cents a pound). Same price for oranges. Dried beans were 16 pesos a kilo (about 60 cents a pound).
This weekly market is known as the “Indian Market” because so many of the people bringing their wares to town are indigenous people from the rural countryside.
Some of the vendors laughed and pointed at us as we passed. We were the only gringos there.
The exotic air of this market was wonderful, and we couldn’t help but snap a zillion photos of the people around us. We heard snippets of conversation about “fotos” and “fotografos” (photographers), and some vendors made funny faces and posed or gave us a thumbs up. Our own foreign oddness seemed to add to the jovial chaos around us.
The women all wore colorful calf-length skirts, often decorated with lace, and frequently pleated thickly in the back. Most of them had shawls of one kind or another too (it was cold!).
Some shawls were a simple rectangular scarf or wrap, but others had a collar and were shaped to drape over the shoulders with a clasping system to keep it all together.
We wandered among the throng, admiring the beautiful veggies and fruits, and wondering what some of them were.
Lots of folks were selling homemade food items, including cooked tiny fish from the nearby lakes. There were hot sauces and diced fruits and veggies in plastic cups that looked like colorful frappuccinos.
One big box had dozens of tiny speckled eggs in it. We weren’t sure what kind of bird produced the eggs, or how the eggs were used. Ordinary chicken eggs were for sale too, and as is often the case at Mexican markets, you could buy the eggs individually in a plastic bag. So if you wanted only 7 eggs, that’s all you had to buy. Just be careful with that baggie on your way home!
At the far end of the market we found a lady selling gorgeous cactus flowers and irises. Each was unique in shape and color. They were similar to the “Christmas cactus” we see north of the border, but she had so many more varieties, and the flowers seemed much bigger.
Joe and Nancy bought two flowers with instructions from the vendor that if they put them in the ground in Ixtapa they would grow. No need for rooting them first in water. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, because those cactus flowers would make a spectacular addition to any garden.
There is more to see in Pátzcuaro, and there are intriguing other towns in the area, but our beloved sailboat Groovy was calling us home.
We had left the boat at anchor in Zihuatanejo for four days, and we needed to make sure our home hadn’t drifted out to sea.
We retraced our route back down to the seashore, passing the lovely serene lakes and golden hued bridges followed by the thick cactus stands along the desert.
This part of Mexico had enchanted us, and our only regret was that our trip inland had been so short. With any luck we’ll get back to this area again someday and be able to spend more time enjoying all it has to offer.
But for now, Groovy welcomed us home without any hint that we’d ever left, and we resumed our floating life in Zihuatanejo Bay.