Tuesday, August 09, 2011

not quite veronica lake

When I drove into Pátzcuaro Sunday a week ago, something reminded me of a lake town.

I am not certain what it was.  The coniferous trees?  The narrow lanes?  The fact that I knew there was a lake around somewhere?

Whatever it was, I had the same feeling at Arrowhead Lake, Lake Tahoe, and Lake Como.  Something that says: “This town makes a living off of its lake.”

That may have been true for Pátzcuaro at one point.  Its whitefish was part of its livelihood.  No longer.  It is possible to visit he town without ever realizing there is a huge body of water just over the hill.

Monday was my “introduce Steve to the lake day.”  I started with lunch. 

I drove up to Erongarícuaro to have pizza with two locals.  After lunch, they showed me around the village.  But Erongarícuaro takes advantage of its proximity to the lake less than Pátzcuaro.

As I drove south to Pátzcuaro, the lake would randomly appear on my left.  But it never offered any good photo shots.

One of my lunch partners told me that I might enjoy stopping at a Santa Muerte chapel on the way back to town.  The people who worship there essentially worship death in an attempt to appease its appearance.  It should come as no surprise that the drug families love the cult and the Catholic church hates it.

The “church” has the feel of new money.  Lots of new money.  Skewed intentions fueled with ready cash.  Taste ends up as the first victim.  I saw more grim reapers in one place than I have at any Halloween party (or political convention) -- one covered with large denomination American currency notes.  Maybe that is the modern equivalent of gold leaf.

But my favorite was the wagon-bound Catrina doll dressed as a bride with the slogan (in English, mind you): “Waiting for the perfect man.”  Not even the Marines demand as much. 

It is difficult to look at the image without Emily Dickinson coming to mind.  “Because I could not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me.”

By the time I returned to Pátzcuaro, I still had not seen a good vista of the lake.  So, I decided to drive out to one of the Purépecha ruins – Ihuatzio. 

Later this week I want to spend a day on site.  So, you will end up hearing a lot more about the place.  For now, I was satisfied to see it from the road, but within its context.

I took a quick drive into the modern village of Ihuatzio.  I am quickly learning that my Escape (as narrow as it is) is not built for these burro-oriented villages.  A quick stop earlier in the day at the former island of Jaracuaro proved that to me.

But I wanted to see the clock tower.  The dog near the top of the tower was recovered from the Purépecha site – and then incorporated into the church’s architecture.  A perfect example of corporate hostile takeovers.

My GPS told me the road ended at Ihuatzio.  It lied.  In fact, the road that skirts the lake between Ihuatzio and Tzintzuntzan is the best on that portion of the lake. 

Half way between the towns, I found a spot designed for photographers.  What looked like steps and a platform built for a chapel offered a full view of the mid-lake and each of the major islands.  Before too long, I need to take you to at least the major island -- Janitizio.  A place I once thought I wanted to live.

I got back to Pátzcuaro just in time for dinner.  And a perfect ending for the day it was.

Rincón Español is a new restaurant in town.  Offering Spanish food.  The owner and chef, Manuel Moreno, put together a paella for me that was easily the best meal I have had in months.  And that includes everywhere I ate in San Miguel.

The restaurant is located on Calle Lloreda – just a block and a half from Plaza Chica.

The residents of Pátzcuaro should not allow this gem to disappear.  If I lived here, I would eat there at least once a week.

And tomorrow?  I am not certain.  But you will soon find out.  I know I need to see more of that lake.


Felipe Zapata said...

Probably a good idea to keep in mind that the Santa Muerte chapel you visited is run by narcos.

On the plus side, however, that drive between Ihuatzio and Tzintzuntzan is one of the best, fairly hidden, secrets of these parts. It is stunningly beautiful especially near sundown. It doesn't rank with the Big Sur coast of California, but it's way up on the list for sure. The route was virtually impassable during the rainy season until about three or so years ago when it was totally paved. Now it's super nice.

tancho said...

And on that road is a nice little restaurant with great tacos and other dishes, we sometimes stop there on our drives.
If you noticed there are some pretty nice houses on the lake front down there and during nicer weather I have seen several speed boats with families jetting around while eating at that lookout.
Great pictures, go up on the road to ELEstribo, there is a nice restaurant up there that you can snap  a few shots also.

Irene said...

You seem to be really enjoying Pátzcuaro.  Your enthusiasm permeates your writing.  If you are interested, last year National Geographic had an article about the Santa Muerte cult.  It is interesting reading if you can find it online.

Steve Cotton said...

It was a pleasant surprise.  My GPS has a habit of telling me tales on siome of these roads.  I am glad I kept on driving.

Steve Cotton said...

I saw it.  Did you post on it?  It looked familiar.

When I drove past, I was not in an eating mood.  I have stuffed myself these past six weeks of traveling.

Steve Cotton said...

I missed several editions of National Geographic during my address changes last year.  I will see if I can track one down.

tancho said...

I posed on it and also Felipe did awhile ago. The only problem that the hours are erratic but the view is worth a couple of attempts to dine there. I think it took us 3 or 4 tries before we were able to make it.  If not this time maybe your next visit. Also there are a couple of neat place on the way to Uruapan that are worth seeing.

1st Mate said...

Steve - Speaking of the Grim Reaper, Day of the Dead is apparently a big event at Janitizia, the island in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro (http://proton.ucting.udg.mx/festivos/muertos/tradiciones/) so in a sense the Patzcuaro people still make their living from the lake, as vendors for decorations and goodies for the graves.

Steve Cotton said...

One if these days, I would like to be here for the dead celebrations.

Steve Cotton said...

Any suggestions?