There is so much that can be said about Pátzcuaro, its hard to know where to begin. The fact that we arrived the day before one of their largest festivals of the year--the December 8th festival of Nuestra Señora de la Salud--only served to complicate matters. The festival shares its name with the town's Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud which was essentially right across the street from the Posada where we stayed. The festivities actually continued all weekend long with fireworks processions and dances of all manners.

The Plaza de la Basilica wraps around the front and one side of the church and was the center of most of the weekends activities. The fireworks, most of which were just powerfully loud salutes shot high into the air, began with the roosters at dawn and continued till well past midnight each day.

We never were able to determine whether it is by law or custom that all of the buildings in the town's historic center maintained the same paint theme. The bottom four to five feet were painted a red, not unlike the Navajo red that many barns are painted in the US, and the upper portion is painted white. The signs indicating the name of each establishment also are uniform in that the first letter of every word is red while the rest of the word is black. The building in the background above looked not unlike the exterior of the Meson de San Antonio where we stayed. That was where the similarity ended in that the interior was in an elegant hacienda fashion.

The rooms in the hacienda wrapped around a beautiful courtyard, and a light breakfast was served each morning in a dining room furnished completely in handmade local furniture (below).

Amazing Purépecha pottery, made by indigenous artists from communities surrounding lake Pátzcuaro, decorate this antique sideboard off the dining room (above) and the communal kitchen that had Karen & I both drooling (below).

The exquisite furnishing doesn't end inside, and all around the courtyard were beautiful benches like this one, also hand carved by local artists. Below left is a closeup of one of the arms, and the photo at right is an outdoor linen dresser.

The handwork does not end with the furniture but even the doors to the rooms showed elegant detail, and each room had its own sitting area with a small hearth (below).

Hardly a spot on the courtyard walls were not covered with vases and the most beautiful plants. And no, we are not going to mention how much this place cost.

Other planters are made from masks

Other private residences are no less impressive. The one above is one of the few that can be seen from the street; most utilize the hacienda plan like our hotel that has the home surrounding a central courtyard.

Back at the Basilica things were heating up as the day wore on. The days activities included many different traditional dances, and the dancers above and below were getting ready for their big moment.

That's right, the horses dance too. I'm only sorry I can't load better quality video, but my host only allows max uploads of 5mb at a time. Click on the image above to watch them dance.

Giant puppets also performed a dance of their own.

Meanwhile, around the plaza stalls sold everything imaginable from full meals, to herbal remedies and to local sweets like the candied papaya shown at left. Nobody seemed to mind the swarms of sugar bees that competed for the dozens of different kinds of candied fruit and sweet nut brittles being sold. Maybe it was the scores of religious icons being sold in the next booth that protected everyone from stings.

Later in the afternoon a procession descended from the Plaza de la Basilica to what's known as the Plaza Chica. This plaza is adjacent to--and essentially part of--Pátzcuaros local market. We didn't stick around to determine what exactly was the purpose of this procession. This was mainly because on any given day both the market and the plaza are teeming with people, and with the addition of this group it was all but unbearable.

Early on the morning of the second day we were attracted by the sounds of a marching band. It turned out to be this funeral procession. It was interesting to us in that it was less an instance for mourning than it was for celebration. Also interesting is that all of the attendees follow the hearse on foot, only the deceased gets to ride. Once again, if you click on the image above, you can get a brief example of the music and procession.

Just wanted to put up one last image before leaving Pátcuaro's main page to show a little bit about the towns around Lake Patcuaro. This is obviously a place where we could just go on and on, and believe me I am nowhere close to running out of images. The one above is a craft that is practiced right here in town, while much of the pottery and exquisite carved work comes from Purépecha villages all around this region. The work being done above is known as lacas. Lacas are finely crafted plates and boxes made of wood, and laquered to a mirror like sheen and then handpainted--frequently with images of birds--and trimmed in 24 carat gold paint. As you can see it is a painstaking process, and smaller plates are typicaally done under a large magnifying glass.