A view through the trees toward the kiosco of'Plaza de Armas. Like much of Zamora's architecture, the plaza was built during the 35-year dictatorship of Porfirio Dias, known as the Porfiriato. Construction began on the plaza in 1885 and it was completed in 1895. The City of Zamora lies in a lush valley only about a 2 hour drive east from our home in Ajijic. It could easily be visited as a day-trip, but you probably need at least 2-4 days to really appreciate the town and the area around it, . There are several ways to reach Zamora from Lake Chapala, but the easiest and quickest is go north on the Chapala-Guadalajara Carretera to the Ocotlán turnoff. Once at Ocotlán, head east on the 15D Autopista toward Morelia. Exit toward the south at Ecuandereo onto Highway 37. It's about a 30 minute drive from there to Zamora. The roads are excellent all the way. To view a Google map of the area, click here.
Tarascan Empire, which covered the area of what is now the State of Michoacan and parts of several surrounding states. The Purépecha called the valley Tziróndaro, which means "swamp place". The description fits, since the valley is a flat, well-watered alluvial plain surrounded by volcanic mountains.
Salitre War of 1480-1510, the Tziróndiro served as a good forward base for the Tarascan ruler Tangaxuan II. He sent an army across the Coast Range to seize the valuable salt beds near Sayula. The 30-year campaign failed and the Purépecha were ultimately expelled. Less than 10 years after this defeat, in 1519, the Spanish under Hernán Cortéz landed on the Gulf Coast. With their arrival, everything began to change. Epidemics of European diseases ravaged the Purépecha population, even before the Spanish physically arrived in Michoacan. In 1529, a conquistador named Nuño Beltran de Guzman invaded the Tarascan Empire, executed Tangaxuan II, and killed or enslaved a significant part of the population. Most of the survivors fled into the mountains. This left the Tzirondaro Valley largely depopulated
founded in 1574, the pattern was followed closely. In that year, Viceroy Martin Enrique de Almanza sent 40 Spanish families to settle in the Valle de Tziróndaro. The settlers came mainly from the city of Zamora in Spain, so they named the new pueblo after their home town. Spanish officials chose this valley for much the same reasons the Tarascans had. Although depopulated by epidemics and Guzman's depredations, its land was rich and it occupied a strategic position as a buffer against marauding Chichimecs.
War of Independence (1810-1821). In the late fall of 1810, the rebel army led by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla stopped briefly in Zamora to regroup, while on its way to capture Guadalajara. The people greeted Hidalgo with such enthusiasm that he granted them the much-coveted status of Villa (city), and gave them the name "Zamora the Illustrious." At this point the town's population was still only about 8000 people, the same level as in 1790, so perhaps the title contained a bit of hyperbole. However, Zamorans still remember the event with pride.
La Catedral de la Concepción Inmaculada
strawberries now dominate. The fertile valley abounds in the berries and they have an international market. More than half of all strawberries grown in Mexico originate in Michoacan, and Zamora is the center of this production. The Tziróndaro Valley devotes the most acreage, employs the most workers and produces the highest volume of strawberries in the State. The church in the painting is the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the new Cathedral. I will devote a later posting to this remarkable neo-gothic building, whose spires are the loftiest in Mexico.
first of these crucial Mexican victories occurred at Zamora. In 1867 the French departed and later that year Juarez defeated and executed Maximilian. This victory began a period of peace and stability that lasted until 1910, with only the occasional, easily-suppressed revolt.
El Mercado de Morelos
Mercado's architectural style is eclectic with a strong neo-classical influence. It was built using glass and steel, faced with cantera stone. The structure was the first in Zamora to be supported by a steel frame connected with rivets. Even though the Mercado is enclosed, the high, arched roof gives the building an expansive, open feeling. Like much of the architecture of the Porfiriato, it copied European styles of construction popular in late 19th and early 20th century. Porfirio Diaz' single minded pursuit of his goals resulted in rapid economic growth. However, nearly all of its benefits went to the people on the top: industrialists, merchants, hacienda owners, foreign corporations, and especially Diaz and his cronies. The standard of living of the vast majority of people either stagnated or dropped. Miners and other industrial workers struck to protest pitifully small wages and terrible working conditions. The strikes were brutally crushed. Peones in the countryside were reduced to debt-slavery through the haciendas' system of tiendas de raya (company stores). Those who tried to escape were usually captured by Diaz' vastly expanded rurales (rural police). Fugitive peones often faced severe beatings when they were returned to the haciendas. Diaz employed a sophisticated secret police apparatus to ferret out political dissent. Those causing trouble were offered the choice between silver or lead: accept a payoff to keep quiet or a take bullet. Along with all these methods, Diaz regularly rigged elections to maintain the illusion of democracy. After 35 years of tight control, the lid blew off the kettle and the explosion was shattering.
quinceañera is joyful, but also very formal and the girl's friends dress in vividly-colored and frilly gowns like those above to help her celebrate it. The chaos unleashed by the Revolution often left city leaders with little to celebrate. In 1913, the year the Mercado officially opened, Zamora was looted by the combatants. In 1914, Revolutionary troops confiscated the newly completed Episcopal Palace of the Diocese. Also in that year, construction was halted on the new Cathedral, and the property was taken over by the federal government. It was not recovered by the Church until 1988. Between 1901-1921, intermittent fighting in and around Zamora reduced its population to 13,863 inhabitants.
This completes Part 1 of my series on Zamora. Carole and I enjoyed visiting this often-overlooked little treasure and we encourage you to visit too. A quick tip: most of the best hotels and restaurants appear to be located in the narrow strip of the city that connects it to its sister-city of Jacona. We advise looking there for your accommodations if you plan to stay overnight. We hope you enjoyed this posting and, if so, you'll leave any comments or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim