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Michoacán handcrafts and folk art is a Mexican regional tradition centered in the state of Michoacán, in central/western Mexico. Its origins traced back to the Purépecha Empire, and later to the efforts to organize and promote trades and crafts by Vasco de Quiroga in what is now the north and northeast of the state.
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The stunning landscapes combined with the architecture of its city center have long made Pátzcuaro one of the classic destinations in Michoacán, also considered a “Magical Town”. The Purépecha people are artisans and they will surprise you with their musical language and their handicrafts made of wood, iron, baskets, textiles, and pottery, which, especially on the Day of the Dead, are seen in all their glory.
It is a charming village with colorful markets, surrounded by green mountains with pines and spruces. You can admire its adobe houses built over the quiet streets while listening to Michoacana folk music. Its landscapes blend with the streets when they are filled with marigolds that grow along the quiet lake, which on November 1st is filled with the light from candles that residents light to remember their deceased loved ones, lighting up the entire island so that it can be seen from the other side. It’s a show you cannot miss.
The state has a wide variety of over thirty crafts, with the most important being the working of wood, ceramics, and textiles. A number are more particular to the state, such as the creation of religious images from corn stalk paste, and a type of mosaic made from dyed wheat straw on a waxed board. Though there is support for artisans in the way of contests, fairs, and collective trademarks for certain wares (to protect against imitations), Michoacán handcrafts lack access to markets, especially those catering to tourists.
The original inhabitants, the Purépecha Indians, were thought to have developed one of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies in western Mexico. Their achievements included unique T-shaped pyramids and tapestries made from hummingbird feathers. While they succeeded in fending off numerous invaders, including the mighty Aztecs, they were eventually conquered by Spanish rifles and the famously brutal Nuño de Guzmán in the 16th century.
The artisans with the highest social status were those who worked with metals and feathers, as well as those who worked with semi-precious stones. The reason for this was that these artisans produced goods used by the ruling classes as well as offerings to the gods. Michoacán was one of Mesoamerica’s major metalworking centers, mastering hammering, metal coating and metal casting by the time the Spanish arrived. Most metal works were in gold, but the Purépecha had developed some copper work. Most of the products were ornaments for the ruling classes but some utilitarian items such as needles, fishhooks and hole punches were made. Luxury goods made with fine feathers were particularly appreciated by Purépecha society.
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