Friday, February 18, 2011

Tlalpujahua, Michoacán

On Sunday, February 13, we headed east to Tlalpujahua, to spend the night before visiting one of the Monarch Butterfly Reserves on the border between the states of Michoacán and México. We traveled with Georgia Conti, a master birder from a village near Pátzcuaro, and Klaus and Audra Willeke, visiting from California. Tlalpujahua is one of México's Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) and was described to us as a miniature version of Guanajuato, which is north of us and someplace we want to visit on our way home. It's a very charming town of hills and cobblestone streets and 3,700 residents in 2005.

Mark and Georgia in the market

Sunday was market day (it often is in small towns) so we were able to explore the sprawling market, with vegetables and fruits, sweets, crafts and other items. Every time we turned a corner we found more of the market.

The main industry in Tlalpujahua, employing  thousands of people according to Wikipedia, is Christmas ornaments, and there's a large store devoted almost entirely to glass ornaments and other necessities for decorating a tree.

Color-coordinated ornaments
 It was a slightly surreal experience to see variations of Santa Claus surrounded by elaborately-decorated artificial trees in a small Mexican town. The town is full of workshops making the ornaments. You can read more about Tlalpujahua and its history at this Wikipedia link. It's quite interesting to find that this little place was México's major producer of gold until a landslide buried the mine and part of the town in 1937, played an important part in the Independence movement, and is now a leading manufacturer of Christmas ornaments.

After wandering around the hilly streets that curve and twist to accommodate the terrain, we found ourselves at a pleasant Argentine restaurant where we had comida. I don't think there is a single straight street in the entire town, and hiking the hills would definitely keep you in shape.

Tlalpujahua street scene

Palm trees at 8,400 feet

Powdered mole
  One unusual specialty of the town is powdered mole, which can be reconstituted with either water or chicken broth. The proprietors were eager to let us taste the various kinds, but after the third or fourth they all started to taste the same--spicy. However we did leave with 3 different kinds, plus a mixture to sprinkle on fruit.

During Mass

The dome
 When we first arrived there was mass in the church, so we came back in between services to see the interior, which has a spectacular dome. Because of Tlalpujahua's importance in mining history, it has an elaborate interior befitting a town that produced so much wealth, and the exterior is intricately carved.

We stayed at Hotel Los Arcos, an immaculately-clean 3-star hotel up on one of the hills overlooking the town. After buying a bottle of wine and getting plastic glasses from the hotel, we settled in to Klaus and Audra's room with a dramatic view of church and the lights of town, and planned our trip to the reserve.

The next morning we breakfasted at the hotel and headed for the Sierra Chincua reserve.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Nancy & Mark - Love this intro to Tlalpujahua! The story of your visit and the photos are great! I'm now looking forward to seeing the town for myself someday soon. - Dara