Tzintzuntzan, Capital of the Purepecha Empire

Tzintzuntzan, Capital of the Purepecha Empire

Lake Patzquaro and Michoacan Mexico

Tzintzuntzan, now a small town on the shores of Lake Patzquaro in Michoacan, Mexico. Home to several Masters of Ceramic arts, Tzintzuntzan was once the largest most important city in the Purepecha Empire that spanned the whole of Michoacán and parts of Jalisco and Guanajuato. At one time, 40,000 people lived in Tzintzuntzan. Only the Mexica empire surpassed the Purépecha empire in size and power in the 14th and 15th centuries, during its period of splendor.

This town in Tzintzuntzan Municipality located in the north of Michoacán state, 30 miles from the capital of Morelia and 10 miles from Pátzcuaro, located on the northeast shore of Lake Pátzcuaro.  It is best known as the former capital of the Tarascan state until it was conquered by the Spanish in the 1520s. Today, Tzintzuntzan is a small town with two major attractions, the archaeological site of Tzintzuntzan and the former monastery complex of San Francisco. The municipality contains another important archaeological site called Ihuatzio. It is also notable for its festivals, which include the Festival of Señor del Rescate, Day of the Dead celebrations and a cultural event related to New Year's

The name Tzintzuntzan comes from the Purépecha language, meaning "place of the hummingbirds". The Purépecha had a god named Tzintzuuquixu, meaning "hummingbird of the south", which, like the Mexica to Tenochtitlán, was involved in guiding the tribe to the Lake Pátzcuaro area. The municipality has a coat of arms which features images of Tarascan kings Tzintzincha, Chiguacua and Chiguangua. It also contains a section representing the Spanish conquest of the Tarascan state in the form of the last emperor Tzintzincha or Tanganxoán bowing before the Spanish Crown and cross, asking to be baptized.

The Purépecha were one of the tribes that arrived to the Pátzcuaro Lake area in the 12th century. From the 12th to the 14th century, the Purépecha came to dominate the region with their capital at Tzintzuntzan. In 1400, emperor Tariácuri divided it among his three descendants, Irepan, Hiquingare and Tanganxoán, with each receiving Pátzcuaro, Ihuatzio and Tzintzuntzan respectively. However, Tanganxoán managed to reunify the three, reabsorbing Ihuatzio and Pátzcuaro, returning Tzintzuntzan as the most powerful city in the lake region.

The pre-Hispanic city of Tzintzuntzan extended from Lake Pátzcuaro to the hills just to the east and had a population of between 25,000 and 30,000 when the Spanish arrived in the 1520s. The city lost most of its population after the Conquest, and what is now called the Tzintzuntzan archeological site is only the ceremonial center and is located one km east of the current center of the town. The site is located on a hill that overlooks the modern town and Lake Pátzcuaro. It is situated on a large artificial platform that was excavated into the side of the hill. The ceremonial center contains a large plaza and several buildings known to house priests and nobility, but the main attraction is the five yácatas or semi-circular pyramids that face out over the lake area. This ceremonial center was called Taríaran or "House of the Wind". On each of the yacatas was a temple made of wood, in which the most important rites of the Purépecha people and government took place, including burials, of which about sixty have been found. These are the best known Purépecha yacatas and are considered to be an icon of the region.

Angelica Morales Miguel Angel Molinero Huipe

Back to blog