Two Purépecha words have been suggested as possible sources of the place name Zinapécuaro: tzinapo "obsidian" or tzinápecua "healing". The obsidian quarries near Ucareo about 15 miles away, include one of the largest known pre-
Hispanic quarries in Mesoamerica and have been exploited for thousands of years by various indigenous groups. Ucareo obsidian was distributed throughout central Mexico, and is being found as far away as Chichen Itza in the Northern Yucatan. Obsidian is a naturally formed volcanic glass that was an important part of the material culture of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Obsidian was a highly integrated part of daily and ritual life, and its widespread and varied use may be a significant contributor to Mexico's lack of metallurgy. With its glassy internal structure, obsidian that is relatively easy to work, as it breaks in very predictable and controlled ways. The blades created are the sharpest in the world, even today. This contributed to its prolific use throughout Mesoamerica. The blades and tools fracture easily, necessitating a constant supply of new tools, this contributed to the construction of a whole sector of the economy that was not likely to embrace metal tools.
In the Postclassic period the Zinapecuaro area was controlled by the Tarascans, who built a temple there to worship Cuerauáperi, the mother goddess of Purépecha mythology. Cuerauáperi is considered as the wife of the fire god Curicaueri . She represents the Moon and symbolizes the duality of life and death. He lived in Zinapécuaro and his four daughters: Red Cloud, White Cloud, Yellow Cloud and Black Cloud were sent to the four cardinal points. In the absence of their daughters, drought and hunger were present, for this reason Cuerauáperi was held responsible for these calamities by not sending their daughters to the corresponding regions.
The Spaniards invaded Mexico in 1519 and by 1521 had the capital under their control. In 1522, the Spaniards were invited to Michoacan and came looking for gold and silver.
Around 1530, a Spanish settlement was founded at Zinapécuaro by the conquistador Don Luis Montañez. Zinapécuaro was first incorporated on 15 March 1825 as a partido in the department of Oriente in Michoacán.
Modern Zinapécuaro's economy is largely dependent on foreign remittances and agriculture. Zinapecuaro is an agricultural zone, best known for Peaches, producing more than anywhere in Mexico.