Published: January 10th 2010January 2nd 2010
This volcano had its first eruption on February 20 1943. According to legend when a local farmer was ploughing his land the ground cracked open right where he was.
A volcano, a city park and "I see dead people"
In this entry I will write about the places I visited in and around Uruapan, those that didn't make it into the previous blog entry, and the places I visited in and around Guanajuato.
First I'd like to write about Vulcan Paricutin
. Vulcan Paricutin is a volcano, of course, with a rather interesting background. It's a very young volcano. It had its first eruption ever on February 20 1943. The eruption started in the middle of a fertile field. According to legend that particular day when a local farmer was ploughing his land the ground cracked open right where he was. At first there was only hot steam and gases coming out from the crack but later on lava started pouring out from the opening in the ground. That story sounds a little too good to be true, if you ask me, but supposedly it is true. If the story is true the poor farmer must have totally freaked out. I can almost hear him saying “I was ploughing the land and the gates to Hell opened right beneath me”.
What is true is that the lava from
Today the only sign of volcanic activity is a few steam vents, so called fumaroles, letting out hot gases and steam.
the erupting volcano eventually swallowed two villages that used to be located near the new volcano. Today all that is visible of these villages is a church building. The local church is an important building and is often built with very thick walls and good material. The church is build to stand for several hundreds of years and is often the strongest building in the village. In this case the lava flow was strong enough to tear down and bury the houses in the village but not quite strong enough to destroy the church. So today some of the walls of the church still stand half buried in black lava. It looks really strange. Take a look at the photos and you get what I mean.
When I visited the volcano I hired a guide to show me the way. It is quite necessary to go with a guide because the trail to the volcano goes through a vast lava field and is hard to follow unless you know the way. The guide told me that his grandfather lived near the volcano in the 40-ies and 50-ies. According to the grandfather from the end of February in 1943 and
Church in lava
The lava flow was strong enough to tear down and bury the houses in the village but not quite strong enough to destroy the church.
on the volcano spewed out so much ash that they did not see the sun in four years. The volcano finally stopped erupting in 1952 and has since then been quiet. Today the only sign of volcanic activity is a few steam vents, so called fumaroles, letting out hot gases and steam.
In Uruapan they have a very pleasant city park that I visited one afternoon. When I went there I thought that this was just another park. But the guidebook said that when you visit Uruapan you must not miss this park so I went there. After walking just a few minutes in the park I knew that the guidebook was right. This park, which locally is known by the name Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio, makes for very nice walks. I had originally planned to be in the park for one hour or so. I ended up walking around for four hours.
The park follows a natural gorge. The park is crisscrossed with paths and there are trees, bushes and flowers everywhere. Throughout the park there are also many waterfalls, dozens of fountains and more than a kilometre of small irrigation channels. All this water
Church in lava
Today some of the walls of the church still stand half buried in black lava
in combination with the greenery makes the park a very nice and relaxing place to visit.
Unfortunately it is difficult to catch the greatness of this park in photos. I have published two photos on the blog and they are the best I have. They do not by any means give justice to the park.
Not far from Uruapan is a town named Tingambato. In that town there is an archaeological site with a few restored walls and ruins. It is a small but very quiet and pleasant place to visit. The showpieces of the site are a low pyramid and a ball court. Ball courts are common in the archaeological sites from the Maya civilization. These sites can be found in the Yucatan Peninsula in the east of Mexico. This far west in the country they are much less common. But one of the few that are known is at the Tingambato site.
After Uruapan I went to the city Guanajuato
. Guanajuato is yet another colonial city. I found Guanajuato to be the nicest of the colonial cities I visited on this trip. The city is located in a valley and when the Spaniards
Snake on the trail
While walking to Vulcan Paricutin I saw this snake. It looks harmless to me. It's even kind of cute, isn't it?
built the city they had to make the roads follow the natural shape of the area. Therefore Guanajuato is like a huge maze of short roads, narrow alleys and meandering streets with switchbacks and dead ends. And jammed into everything, probably only to make traffic totally impossible in the city centre, there are also small plazas in every other block or so.
The city is absolutely wonderful to walk around in. You can walk around for days and still not see everything. You turn a corner and find a quiet plaza or a group of brightly painted colonial houses that you could not even dream was there. It almost felt like a magical city because I walked on a street one day and found a street that didn't see when I walked there the day before. It was just like a street had just appeared during the night.
The city was planned and built without taking into account the amount of traffic a modern city needs. Guanajuato is an historical city and in order to save the buildings from the bulldozers but still making way for new roads and modern day traffic they have built a network of
Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio
The park is crisscrossed with paths and there are trees and flowers everywhere. In the park there are also waterfalls, fountains and many small irrigation channels.
tunnels under the old city. So in the city centre most of the traffic goes underground leaving the streets at ground level with fewer cars than you expect in a city of this size.
Many of the houses in town are painted in bright colours making the city centre more colourful than the other colonial cities I visited on this trip. It is by any standards a very pretty town. The plazas that dotted the city centre actually reminded me a bit about Rome. But I think that is more a coincidence than anything else because there was very little else in Guanajuato that reminded me about Rome.
In Guanajuato they seem to have a special relationship to the literary figure Don Quixote. There is a museum in the city centre dedicated to the brave fighter of windmills and there is also a statue of the "hero" from La Mancha and his trusty companion Sancho Panza. What the connection between Miguel de Cervantes character and this town in central Mexico is I do not have the slightest idea. Maybe if I had decided to visit the museum I would know better. But that was not possible since
Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio
All this water in combination with the greenery makes the park a very relaxing place to visit.
I was visiting the city over New Year Holiday and the only day when I had time to visit the Don Quixote museum it was closed.
The climate in Guanajuato is relatively dry and the soil is rich in lime. This combination has a very interesting effect on dead bodies that are buried in the local cemetery - it causes the bodies to mummify. This was discovered in the 30-ies when the local authorities opened unattended graves in order to remove the remains for giving space for new graves. They expected to find some dry bones in the grave but instead they dug up a dried out human body. Today about 50 mummified bodies that have been dug up from the ground in similar ways are on display in a local museum.
I have fascination for things that are morbid and this museum definitely fall into that category. I have seen dead bodies, skeletons and mummies before but I found some of the mummies in this museum to be a bit too much even for me.
In one display case there were three bodies laid out that made me a bit ill at ease. The first
The showpiece of this archaeological site is the pyramid
had drowned and you could see discolouring of the skin caused by the lack of oxygen in the last minutes of the victim's life. The second had been stabbed to death. The knife wound was still visible and the victim's blood was all over the stomach. That was quite gruesome. The third one was the worst of all. They believe that she had been buried alive... I have decided not to show you any photo of those mummies. I don't want you to throw up in front of your computer.
In another display case they had the bodies of several small children on display. If I remember things right the bodies of dead children is not something that is entirely tragic in Mexico. I believe the Mexicans see them as "little angels" or something like that. In my culture a dead child is both tragic and sad and for that reason I have not put up any photo showing that part of the exhibition either.
I have put up a few photos of the other mummies though and hope you are OK with that.
There are more photos below