The Undiscovered Treasures of Michoacan
By John K. Glaab, CIPS
Michoacan is a picturesque and culturally diverse, Mexican state. It has tall pine trees and mountains to the east and a Pacific coastline, parts of which are in appearance, similar to the Big Sur coast of California. Morelia, the state capital is known for its many cultural festivals. Among them International organ, cinema, music, cinema and mariachi festivals. It is also know for its magnificent 16th century architecture.
Michoacan and Oaxaca are probably the top two states producing artisans and diverse crafts. Patzcuaro has become a home for many artists from other parts of the world. Recently, I was a member of a group of journalists who toured several; communities near Patzcuaro. The purpose was to see properties and investment opportunities in the region. For me, it was much more. It was a chance to take a look at the areas rich culture.
The tour was organized by Liliana Gonzalez a Mexican attorney and real estate Broker.
On day one, we arrived at the Hostal Xandesti (the name is from the Purepechan language, and means Peaceful Place in Front of the Lake) The rustic hotel with modern facilities is a treasure. It is situated on the road to a major tourist lookout, El Estribo). There are four suites with kitchens, dining areas bedrooms and private baths. The hotel also has a two level apartment, a restaurant and a bar that looks out for ever. Also on the property are four Trojes. This is the Purepachan name for wooden buildings and thousands of these special dwellings can be seen as one travels through Michoacan. The property looks across a deep valley to the Island of Janitzio on Lake Patzcuaro. In the middle of the island is a monument to the Mexican patriot, Jose Maria Morelas. This structure is taller than the Statue of Liberty. Next, we set out for Rancho La Mesa for our afternoon meal. It is situated about six kilometers from Patzcuaro. In addition to the restaurant, the complex includes cabins and salons for meetings. On the grounds there are many pine, willow and oyamel trees. The latter is considered a sacred tree and the favourite for the Monarch butterflies that make their annual trek to Michoacan. The restaurant has an excellent view of the lake.
Day two we travelled to Lake Zirahuen. The lake is located barely 12 kilometers from Patzcuaro It is extremely deep and surrounded by towering pine trees. We took a launch to cross the lake and visit the Zirahuen Forest and Resort. In additional to eight rental A frame buildings there are also two large cottages. The main activities at the lake include hiking, bicycling and canoe and kayak paddling. Other than the authorized launches, motor boats are prohibited on the lake. Construction has started on a medium size convention center and a cobble stone road around the lake. Lunch on Day 2, was hosted the owner of a chalet Cerrito Colorado. It consisted of yummy cheese quesadillas and chicken mole with handmade tortillas. As we say in Spanish, ?muy rico.?
Overlooking Lake Zirahuen the two level chalet has a large fire place two bed rooms and two baths. The lot is 53,800 square feet and can park ten cars. It is for sale for $ 220,000. What a bargain.
We visited two single family residences, before stopping at a new retreat and meditation center. We were given a tour of the project, still under construction. It features the use of large ?gold? stones and wooden beams. Te retreat is deep in the woods and quite secluded. When finished, the project will feature individual cabins for retreat attendees.
Day Three. Highlights of day three included a visit to a new GREEN retirement community with all that green in a project signifies and a visit to village of Santa Clara del Cobre.
The project is billed as Green Retirement Community. It is being constructed with all of the normal ecological features, including storm water collection, grey water treatment and passive solar energy utilization. There will also be wide streets and walking and hiking trails.
Next stop was a cultural treat. We visited the well know Mexican sculptor Jim Metcalfe and his wife Ana Pellicer. One of Jim?s better known works was the creation for the torch for the Olympic Games held in Mexico in 1968. Jim has had exhibitions in far flung places such as Paris, London and at the Seattle world?s fair.
Metcalfe came to Santa Clara del Cobre in 1967 to investigate the early, pre Columbian techniques taught to the villagers by Michoacan?s first Bishop, Don Vasco de Quiroga. He is the person who taught the Indians in the pueblos on the shore of Lake Patzcuaro, many crafts. In fact recently a tourist attraction called, : The Don Vasco Route, has been created. It consists of eleven routes through which the tourist will get to know the towns and villages, where Don Vasco de Quiroga left his influence. In the XVIth Century, they crafted, El Cazo de Don Vasco. And other very simple works. El Cazo, is a copper pot still used for cooking on the central plateau. Ana Pellicer came to Metcalf as a student and later they would marry. The pair started a school La Casa del Artesano in 1973. They went on to teach the locals how to create more designs for a more sophisticated collector?s market. The techniques were passed on to apprentices who are now the town?s senior generation. Santa Clara is a must see village. A major work created by Ana is a seven foot tall, very detailed copper replica of the Statue of Liberty. In Santa Clara, you can even visit forges and see work in progress.
Day Four: It started with a visit to the Templo de Santiago in Tupatero. It was built in 1775. Indian artists painted the wooden ceiling with images from the life and death of Jesus. (A similar church in Zacan, Michoacan has a painted wooden ceiling. It is said the Spanish used the paintings to teach the catechism to the Tarascan Indians Leaving the village, we travelled to the first capital of the ancient Tarsacan Empire. This is Tzintzuntzan. There we toured the, ?ex Convento Franciscano.? This imposing stricture was built at the end of the XVIth Century and later fell into disrepair. It is being restored under the ?Adopt a Work? society. Two interesting notes are that a group of sixty young people are being taught how to work on the restoration of historically important buildings and the olive trees on the grounds. The trees came from Spain at a time when the Spanish prohibited the export of the trees. (The only other place in Mexico where I have seen olive trees is at the home of former President Rodriguez, near Ensenada in Baja Norte.)
The last property that we toured was Casa Espiritu Libre. (Free Spirit.) It is a delightful home with great vies of the lake. The owner hosted a luncheon with the Mayor of Tzintzuntzan as one of the guests. He and his aides explained the work that is improving the infrastructure of the village preparatory to applying for the status Pueblo Magico. This is classification awarded by the Mexican department of Tourism. The Pueblo Magico with which I am most familiar is the charming village of Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. During our discussion the Mayor stated that foreign investors would be welcomed into a friendly environment.
Well it was described as a real estate tour. For me, having lived in Michoacan for seventeen years, it was a cultural adventure, well worth the time. I encourage you to visit this part of our country.
John Glaab has been a member of NAR’s International Section for over a decade. He has earned the Certified International Property Specialist designation and is a founding member of AMPI Los Cabos. He spends half the year in La Paz, Baja California Sur and the other half in Uruapan, Michoacan. For further information, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org .