State: Michoacan, Mexico
Location: Western Michoacan / P'urepecha Plateau
Altitude: 1620 Meters / 5315 Feet
Founded: 1533 by Fray Juan de San Miguel
Economy: Agriculture includes coffee, grains, sugarcane, avocado and other fruits
Population: 264,439 (2010)
Name: Uruapani is the P'urepecha word for "Where Flowers Abound"
Founded in 1533 by Friar Juan de San Miguel, Uruapan is the second largest city in Michoacan, Mexico, and generates the second largest economy for the state. Located on the western perimeter of the P’urepecha Platuea, the city is surrounded by lush forests and fertile soil, allowing agriculture to thrive here. Known as the avocado capital, the region also produces macadamia nuts, bananas, mamey, limes, oranges, chicozapote, coffee, grains, sugarcane and other valuable crops.
The P’urepecha word Uruapani loosely translates as “where the flowers abound,” which one can truly appreciate when visiting the flourishing environment at Cupatitzieo National Forest, the second-most visited park in Mexico. Enjoy wandering the cobblestone pathways that wind along the rivers edge, while taking in the lush surroundings.
Historically, Uruapan has always been an important city due to her fertile lands and location. Conquered by the Spanish in 1522, construction began here in 1534. Uruapan is part of La Ruta de la Indendencia, and also played an important role as the capital of Michoacan during the French Intervention.
Due to the era of her construction, Uruapan’s historical centre features Plateresque and Moorish architectural influences. Organized into six historical neighbourhoods (San Pedro, San Miguel, San Maria Magdalena, San Francisco, San Juan Bautista and Santo Santiago), there are several colonial chapels and churches in the historical centre, including festivals that are specific to each neighbourhood. Interesting to note – according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Uruapan is home to the narrowest house in the world. The house measures 1.40 by 7.70 meters, and is located at 50-C Carrillo Puerto.
Uruapan has it’s own unique cuisine, influenced by various indigenous groups who resided here, as well as those who migrated from other parts of the state. One of our favourite traditions here are the uchepos, which are much like a tamale, only sweet. Other favourites include atole, a corn dish which is green due to being flavoured with anis. Other dishes that have an Uruapan twist include quesadillas with squash flowers, corundas, carnitas, churipo and plantains. Though macadamia nuts are native to Australia, they have become another culinary feature of Uruapan, in the form of brittle, cookies, oil, candies and nuts flavoured with garlic, soy sauce, salt and chili’s.
Uruapan is well known for wonderful and affordable furniture, as well as maque, which is a lacquer medium with indigenous roots. The lacquer is used to ornament decorative and functional objects, such as platters, boxes, gourds, hair brushes, jewellery and so-on. Historically, Uruapan was a producer of silk and cotton textiles, an industry that has shrunk, though still exists here. Papel Picado and masks can also be found in Uruapan, along with the modern sculptures and installations of Javier Marin and innovative photo art-installations by our friend and colleague Jesus Alexandre.
Little is known about the pre-colonial era here, due to the destruction of so many ancient cities and loss of history. The bordering region was inhabited by Nahua groups, but was dominated by the P’urepecha, The oldest document about the region is called the Lienzo de Jucatacato, discovered in the community of Jicalan. What little is known includes the conquering of the region in 1400 by rulers from Patzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan and Ihuatzio. When one of the last rulers fled to Uruapan from Patzcuaro in 1522, the Spanish arrived with conquering force, and within two years the Franciscans were in full conversion force.
Today, Uruapan is a bustling and beautiful city that remains proud of her beautiful historical centre and grand plaza, which is host to Mexico’s largest annual handicraft festival, held during Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), which precedes Semana Santa (Easter). This mesmerizing festival begins with a parade that features artisans from various villages, who dance their handicrafts and artisan products (including bread) through the streets in a spectacle of vibrant colour, good cheer and happy music.
Under-rated as a tourist destination, Uruapan is attractive for the traveller who seeks the shroud of a local culture, and who is eager to explore the many fascinating and undiscovered haunts that are located nearby – including Angahuan, Cheran, Ahuiran, Charapan, the Paricutin Volcano and Church of San Juan Parangaricutiro, and many other countless villages that dot the stunning P’urepecha Platueau.