Sunday, February 20, 2011

modern tzintzuntzan

When we left our Michoacán historical narrative, the evil Nuño de Guzmán was being led off stage in chains.  Leaving behind the decimated P'urhépecha society.

Actually, it was the opposite of decimated -- where only one in ten is killed.  Ninety per cent of the P'urhépecha were dead -- through disease, war, execution, or slavery.

Some of the "bad Spanish" tales have been exaggerated to serve political ends.  But not this one.  The P'urhépecha were in terrible shape.

The new bishop (a Jesuit lawyer), Vasco de Quiroga, was a perfect anti-Guzmán to turn the P'urhépecha into good colonial subjects. 

And let's not fool ourselves.  He was there as a colonial functionary.  Admittedly, to do good.  But he was not a liberator.

Don Vasco wanted to remake society on earth while saving people's souls.  He admired Thomas More's Utopia, and believed it could be the basis for restoring P'urhépecha society.  A society that would be peaceful, Spanish, and -- Catholic.

Each village under his care would have a specialized trade.  The villages would then trade with one another.  Creating a larger self-sufficient community.

Even today Don Vasco is revered by the P'urhépecha.  And the results of his experiment are still evident in Michoacán.

Don Vasco assisted the P'urhépecha in building a Spanish town on the ruins of old Tzintzuntzan.  That portion of modern Tzintzuntzan has changed little since then -- except for the hordes of tourists toting off chairs and chests.

Tzintzuntzan's specialty was (and is) carved woodwork.  I did not take any photographs of the woodwork shops.  Frankly, the pieces struck me as being rather pedestrian.  Especially, considering the town's reputation.

But there were some interesting (and colorful) woven reed pieces.  The type of thing you buy your mother-in-law to enjoy watching her figure out just what to do with it.

The only other attraction in town is a Franciscan monastery and church.  The grounds and the buildings are currently going through a major renovation.  And an honored site because it is where Don Vasco began his project.

I have often wondered why Mexico, as a Spanish-based culture, did not use olive oil in its cooking.  The obvious answer is because Mexico is a maize-based culture.

But Don Vasco tried to get the locals to switch to olive oil.  The church courtyard has an orchard of olive trees, the oldest planted by Don Vasco's hand (or at least at his command) almost five centuries ago.  Living proof that Mexico's history still impacts its daily life.

In the photograph, you can see one of the newer olive trees in front of the church.

Modern Tzintzuntzan is an interesting stop, but it was not enough to hold my interest for very long.

So, off we went to Pátzcuaro -- where my interest did not wane.


Don Cuevas said...

Steve, you might have mention that the name, "Tzintzuntzan", means "Lugar de colibries", or, "Place of hummingbirds" in English.

I'm confident that it's an onomatopoeic word as well. Listen to the hummingbirds as they tzin, tzun and tzan through the air.

Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

This term of yours, modern Tzintzuntzan, makes me chuckle.

Steve Cotton said...

I am not certain if I picked it out of the sarcasm or iroby bag, but I am glad you noticed. Hiding easter eggs in blogdom is often a futile task.

Kazual13 said...

Sounds like you're still going strong. Just wanted to let you know how much money you are saving me. Reading your blog I can travel vicariously from my chair here, get the idea. However I also just came back from an adventure in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Have you been to those parts? San Cristobal actually reminded me of 1990. I guess you had to be there. lol
Kep on trucking! Where are we going next, dad?

Steve Cotton said...

I am just back from Mexico City. I should report on that trip this week. But I have returned with a bit of stomach trouble that kept me in bed for a day. I am still not feeling completely recovered.

I have not been to Oaxaca, but it is on the list. Perhaps next year.

Steve Cotton said...

And often showed the same :displeasure" to one another. I am surprised that a bunch of backbiters like the conquistadores ever defeated anyone.

Steve Cotton said...

Wow! It looks Oriental to me. The rumors that the Chinese were trading with the west coast Indians drew Cortes to Manzanillo. I wonder if there is any link to the mural?

Don Cuevas said...

How do you attach a file in the Disqus comment system, Sparks?

Don Cuevas

sparks said...

I simply put a link to the foto .... including the http:// ... thinking people would follow the link. To my surprise

sparks said...

I've looked and asked about that mural but no answer. Would be interested in adding something about it on -

Kazual13 said...

I stumbled on a great street mall in D.F. called Regina St. It is about eight blocks south of the zocalo. Do you know it? Much less touristic than Motolina, another pedestrian mall. It also has a great restos and a hostel called Hosteleria Regina esquina de 15 de Septiembre. It is clean and even spiffy and cheap. I usually stay at the Isabel but it is getting tired and worn...and for the same price you can get a private double for $400 pesos.

Steve Cotton said...

I was wondering the same thing.

Steve Cotton said...

If you find out anything, let me know.

Have you read 1421? I need to run down a copy. It is not available for my Kindle.