JANITZIO ISLAND AND PARICUTIN VOLCANO

Trip Start Jul 12, 2009
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Trip End Aug 18, 2010


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Flag of Mexico  , Michoacán,
Thursday, August 5, 2010

As it was lashing with rain when we arrived and for most of the evening we were unable to see this well-preserved colonial town until this morning. The buildings are in a distinctive white and reddish brown with the names of shops, pharmacies scribed in paint on the side of the entrance.  As with Morelia it is hardly touched by non-Mexican tourist and which is unbelievable.  The Bishop Vasco de Quiroga is idolised everywhere.  Apparently after invasion of the Spanish the indigenous were badly treated by a vicious conquistador called Nuno de Guzman.  He was eventually expelled and the Bishop was sent to assess and rectify the damage.  He worked with the local people and started schools and workshops so they were not dependent on the Spanish settlers.  A large statue of Quiroga stands in the middle of  main Plaza. 


Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra honours a local heroine who was a spy for the independence movement who was shot by the Spanish.  Another female idol is the Senora de la Salud (our lady of health) who sits on the alter.  Behind her are offerings pinned to a canopy along with messages of thanks and locks of hair and pictures of those who have been helped. 

We then made our way to Janitzio Island by boat.  This is apparently meant to be the place to be on the Day of the Dead where anyone who has a boat, canoe, dinghy, sails out on to the lake with their dead family's favourite food and sit in the candle light all night.  I suppose they munch on the food when they get peckish. 

Today we were going to visit the island and walk to the top where there is a 40m height statue of the independence hero Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon.  Edie, Lily and I walked to the top and peeked through his wrist to view the landscape.  All the way up to the statue are many shops selling some of the worst souvenirs.  We noted that at the entrance to the island from the dock there is a large sign saying ' no alcohol’ but within minutes you could buy the local sugar cane rum.  But instead of openly swigging it you could buy a tacky breast jug where you could have some of your drink decanted and mixed for you to enjoy on your ascent or descent.  

What we did see on this polluted lake were the fisherman who use these fabulous butterfly nets for whitebait.  These are then fried in various ways and sold with hot sauce or lime.  They looked and smelt delicious but the fact that they were pulled out of this foul water put us all off, including the guide.

The next day we drove for two hours to Paricutin volcano, which apparently rose literally overnight and within a year had reached an elevation of 410m!  It exploded and covered the local villages and all that remains is the heavy volcanic rock and protruding like two fangs are the towers of the Templo San Juan Parangaricutiro.  The altar also escaped being crushed and is today is still used as a shrine. 

What was amusing was that morning Fynn announced that he did not want to see any more churches or volcanoes.  Today he saw the two combined. 

En route to the Volcano after leaving Uruapan we were stopped by the police. There must have been about a hundred of them at the junction, checking all the vehicles passing through.  Apparently this area has a fairly aggressive cartel and there has been recent discovery of Coca plants.  You can understand how hard it is to find these farms as the mountains are densely coated in trees.  The advise to us was not to stop for anyone.  As if.
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