Mexico Travel Journal Winter 2017 p22

Tzintzuntzán: musical, magical name for the former Tarascan capital on the shores of Lake Pátzcuaro.  Tzintzuntzán means “place of the hummingbirds.”

Outside the biblioteca in Pátzcuaro, we boarded the colectivo to Tzintzuntzán, which takes passengers to villages around the Lake.  We were able to use our broken Spanish to visit with a mother and her charming daughter along the way, who gave us the lowdown on the archeological ruins.

Before the Spanish conquest, the village of Tzintzuntzán was the capital city of Tarasca, on the shores of Lake Pátzcuaro, with a population of 30,000.  Tarasca was strong, able to repell repeated Aztec attacks.  In 1520, the Tarascans could not fend off the Spanish. Today Tzintzuntzán is a sleepy village that boasts an important archeological site.  Called Taríaran, “House of the Wind,” it is located above the town on a large platform excavated into the side of the hill, overlooking the lake. The ceremonial center contains a large plaza, several buildings which housed priests and nobility, and five yácatas. These semi-circular pyramids were wooden temples where important rites were performed.  As I sketched, I noticed architectural slits in the stonework, much like at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, which make the whole site function as a large stone astronomical calendar.

In my sketch, I included a bit of the village landscape, the lake, and the volcano, all important elements in the history of Taríaran.

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