Tzintzuntzan - Place of Hummingbirds




quick facts

State:  Michoacan
Location:  West-Central Mexico
Altitude:  2050 Meters / 6,730 Feet
Founded:  1450 P'urepecha Empire / 
Economy: Tourism, Production
Seat Population:  3,252 (2005)
Name: Tzintzintzan is a P'urepecha word that means "Place of Hummingbirds."
Tzintzuntzan Archaeological Site - Yacat



Rising up from a high point overlooking the quiet village of Tzintzuntzan stands these ancient P'urhepecha ruins. Some say this was the second capital, after it was moved from Ihatzio, and some say this was always the capital of the powerful P'urhepecha Empire - an empire so powerful, they managed to not only resist defeat by the Mexica, but to also deeply assualt their invaders between 1450 and 1521.


Archaeologists agree the P'urhepecha were able to inflict heavy injury on Mexica invaders due to their metallurgy skills - something the Mexica did not possess. As the P'urhepecha were able to construct metal weapons, their warriors were better armed than those who came to attack. The P'urhepecha were so confident about their military advantages, when Mexica warriors were sent to warn about Cortes, the P'urhepecha killed the messengers and ignored the warning.

Nuno de Guzman arrived at Tzintzuntzan in 1529. Later deemed a war criminal, one of Guzman's first assaults involved burning King Tangaxuan II alive, before dismantling the ancient city. The Spanish looted the ancient city, carting off stones which were used to construct Roman Catholic Churches and buildings, the most famed of which is the 16th century Franciscan Monastery of Santa Ana.

Today, few remnants of the Empire remain - though it is still worth the time to explore what is here. The rounded construction of the Yacatas are unusual and mark the burial tombs of kings.



Construction of the Convent of Santa Ana began in 1570, by the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church under the Spanish architect Fray Pedro de Pila.  The architecture is baroque in style, and the grounds include two churches, open chapels, and some of the more intriguing evidence of iconic images that were utilized for immersion in Biblical teachings of Christ.


There are four sacred buildings to explore, including the Church of San Francisco, which features frescoes and Moorish panels. This was used exclusively by the Franciscan Monks. There are two open chapels, and the Church of La Soledad, which is of great importance to the locals. According to Mexican beliefs, the "Santo Entierro" (or wax sculpture of Christ in a glass casket) is very sacred, as the legs and arms are growing. There is an extension at the foot-end of the casket, as well as Mexican and American currency within. The locals come here to pray for their loved ones, most especially children who are sill or who have died. One will see many children's toys, clothes, photographs and notes left here as prayers for healing miracles.

Tzintzuntzan - Place of Hummingbirds