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Quiroga, Michoacan

This rather nondescript but still pleasant town near the north shore of Lake Patzcuaro has served as a marketplace for surrounding towns and villages for more than 500 years. Spanish Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, for whom the town is named, arrived in the early 16th century and assigned different industries to area villages, many of which practiced these same crafts in one form or another. The idea was to avoid competition among these villages and assure a reasonable livelihood for their inhabitants. Then called Cocupao (“Meeting Place” in the Purépecha language) this market town occupied a privileged crossroads for points to the north, east, and south---and continues to serve its original function.

Products sold here---some produced by local artisans and others brought in---are mainly things made of vegetable fiber, carved wood, leather, textiles, and pottery. There are stacks of factory-made soup bowls and coffee mugs for sale alongside green-glazed chips-and-salsa platters made by hand in Tzintzuntzan. Unless you look like a real greenhorn, merchants will offer fair prices (often times marked) and hard bargaining is not necessary.

You might shop for a caso, a typical two-handled casserole pot from Santa Clara del Cobre. (This copper cookware is a great conductor of heat and the metal does not absorb flavors which might later influence a future recipe.) Keep an eye peeled for Quiroga’s classic peribanas, round wooden trays painted with brightly colored fruits, flowers, and other motifs.

Some of the stalls along both sides of the main drag sell simplistic, old-fashioned wooden toys. I can’t help but wonder who purchases them in this age of iPads and X-Boxes. Other small outdoor stalls offer wooden chairs and stools, decoupage angels and Elvises, and junky little toy guitars and doll houses. There are nice huaraches---some classic styles built upon tire treads and more modern women’s sandals---at good prices. Calle Berrizabol has larger indoor stores selling wholesale merchandise. A nice family on the same street sells sterling silver jewelry from Taxco; price is determined by weight.

Also for sale are modern and traditional clothing, fresh-off-the-griddle blue corn tortillas, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The stands on one end of the main plaza (look for the blue and red umbrellas) are famous for their excellent carnitas.

There are several historic churches downtown in the midst of the market stalls, but nothing terribly exciting. Venture a block or two away from the main road and you’ll find pharmacies and tiny auto parts stores. Some streets are lined in brightly painted homes, while others favor the traditional white-and-red color scheme.

For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Quiroga Travel Guide.

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