Friday, November 19, 2010

Monarch Reserve trip report

Three of us made the drive to Angangueo today with the intent of seeing Monarch butterflies at Sierra Chincua. (It was about 148 miles from Patzcuaro's La Estacion area to Sierra Chincua.)

Everything worked fine, especially the new highway that's nearly finished between Maravatio and Irimbo. That is, until we arrived in downtown Ang .... there we ran into lots of soldiers and local police. My friends who are visiting from Seattle were a little taken aback by so many soldiers in combat gear and I, too, thought it a bit odd. At the top of the hill, we saw a military helicopter flying overhead and were stopped by three police/military patrols. And, the road into Sierra Chincua was barricaded. Now this was definitely leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling.

For whatever reason, the officials at the turnoff into the reserve let us proceed; however, at the gate where one normally pays an entrance fee, we were told we couldn't go further. Sensing our befuddlement, that's when someone probably broke all security rules: He told us President Calderone was participating in a special event and we couldn't enter the reserve until 1 PM. So we had to figure out something to do for nearly 3 hours. Thankfully today was market day in town, and we were sated with delicious freshly made blue corn tortillas filled with a combination of bifsteak, beans, cheese, and great salsa. (Are you reading this Don y Dona Las Cuevas?? would love them and at 7 pesos, the price couldn't be beat!)

At 12:45 we headed back to Sierra Chincua, where we had to wait at the entrance. Maybe 10 minutes later, the President's caravan of vehicles exited and we were allowed into the reserve. Well, lo and behold, the ratty structures of the past are gone, and today's event was the inauguration of several new buildings for little restaurants, trinket shops, new bathrooms with American standard toilets, and a huge salon for educational purposes.

We were unable to find Don Pancho, an elder of the ejido who has guided me to the butterflies in the past. Instead, we met Noe Valdez who agreed to leave the festivities to guide us to the nearest colony. Imagine my surprise to learn that he's participating in a certificate program to be a bird guide. Perfecto. Although Noe doesn't speak English, he spoke slow enough that I could understand nearly all of his Spanish. The weather was lovely - not cold or windy. Our walk to the colony took us through patches of green meadow and through oyamel-pine forest. The trail was well groomed and was a gentle climb, not the grunt I've done twice at Rosario. Be that as it may, our hearts were beating and we were somewhat out of breath. Brief stops along the way allowed us to rest. New interpretive signs provide important information about the butterflies, in Spanish and English.

When we arrived at the colony (30-40 minutes), we had an amazing experience. We were alone with trees full of butterflies. Noe showed my friends how to sex the butterflies. We were very close to the butterflies; they were flying all around and momentarily landing on us. Because no one else was in the vicinity, we could hear the butterflies' wing-flapping. This was truly a mystical time with Mother Nature.

While some individuals recommend that the best time to visit the reserve is in January or February when many more butterflies are present, I maintain that it's worthwhile to visit early in the season when hordes of visitors are not there. Soon the area will be roped off and whispering is mandated. It's dustier and hawkers are assertive. Visiting a Monarch butterfly sanctuary is a must-see thing to do. I just wanted everyone to have another perspective.

I definitely recommend Noe or Don Pancho as local guides. I doubt you could do better.

From the Yahoo group - Michoacan Net

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where Strange Roads Go Down

Just wondering if anyone has read this book by Mary and Fred del Villar. It's still available thru Amazon and others but could use a review.

An adventurous couple from New York City who have more imagination than money, decide to take a walking trip in Mexico from Lake Patzcuaro to the Pacific and back with only the help of two burros in 1951. They walk 750 miles round trip and enjoy meeting and staying with country people all along the way. For three months they endured sun, scorpions, floods, and hunger, but they also found warm friendship everywhere they went.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Playa Azul

Michoacan is not just the Colonial cities in the highlands or the indigenous arts and crafts of the Patzcuaro area. It also has a long, rugged and beautiful coast line. Playa Azul is in southern Michoacan just north of Lazaro Cardenas and down highway 37 from Uruapan.

This was my second time in Playa Azul and I'm a little more impressed than I was last summer. In the winter there are people there, more businesses are open and they keep the town clean. Last summer it looked abandoned. The beach is long and flat with no protection from the open ocean. We watched a number of fishing pangas struggling to get out over the waves. Had a nice sunset but can't recommend a beach restaurant since our dinner was very average. The food stands in the center of town are good for juice and coffee in the morning.

Main beach intersection

Sunset over hammocks

Fishing boat going out at sunset

Scene downtown Playa Azul

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Salvador Tera and sons wood sculpture

Most of the wood carvers around the Patzcuaro area focus on masks but years ago Salvador Tera broke the Tocuaro tradition and started his wood sculpture business and his sons are following in his footsteps. Without knowing the full family history I assume Salvador is related to Felipe Horta Tera, a famous mask maker and son of Juan Horta. Much of Salvador's work is church commission and I've heard he has a piece in the Vatican.

I visited the workshop when Jennifer Rose drove over from Morelia to give me a partial tour of towns and crafts people around the lake. We also visited Jaracuaro and the hat factory.

Family in the Workshop

Where they cut the big stuff

Religious icons

A carver carving a carver

Friday, May 14, 2010

Curanderos of Cucuchucho

Well actually beyond the town of Cucuchucho along the lake road to Tzintzuntzan. This is something you'd miss without a tour or had lived in the area for awhile. This project was originally government funded to continue the knowledge and practice of indigenous medicine and medical practice. They are now mostly on their own.

We went with a tour organized through CELEP, my favorite Spanish school in the Patzcuaro area. The site is a combination of garden (herbs) and small hospital with a man and his mother acting as the "curanderos". Her specialty is helping pregnant women with natural birth and he is closest to a chiropractor (spinal alignment) along with herbs and good healthy advice you'd hear anywhere. They have 5-6 beds in the hospital and a large herbal pharmacy. Interesting tour

Curandero in his garden

Class getting herb lessons

Herbs in the garden

Looking down on the hospital from garden

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Magical Patzcuaro, Mexico

Located in the highlands of Mexico, Patzcuaro is a traditional pueblo with a strong Purhépecha Indian presence. Come to visit or to live in this magical town in the heart of the Colonial Circle. By Tracy Novinger,  See

Thursday, January 14, 2010

El Cumpleaños de Pepita - 1957

(1957) 14m, unknown director. Meant to be shown to students learning Spanish, this film transcends the didactic, and provides a glimpse into the Mexico that has, in many places, all too quickly disappeared. Pepita and her uncle travel to Lake Pátzcuaro, get their pictures taken by an itinerant photographer, see wonderful dancers, and attend a birthday party. A sweet, wonderful film. (In Spanish)

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Patzcuaro is the ex-capital of Michoacan and before that was Tzintzuntzan, a small town nearby dating to the Purhépecha empire in the 1300's. The museum in Patzcuaro is finding ruins in it's back yard that predates history and they are believed to be earlier than the history of Tzintzuntzan. The Purhépecha were one of the indigenous tribes that were not conquered by the Aztecs

Patz/Uruapan Trip 2003
Monarch Butterfly Watch
CELEP Spanish School
Ruta Don Vasco
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