Hell on Earth, Michoacán

The most boring place in México?

Dateline: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

It’s a miracle that I am still alive to write this post, and I thank the providence of God that He has allowed me to continue not only my journey, but my life. You see, I narrowly escaped the “HORRORS of PÁTZCUARO.” Though not nearly as infamous, Pátzcuaro shares many things in common with Ciudad Juarez, just over the river from El Paso, Texas. An arid, featureless landscape. Myriad abandoned buildings. An inhospitable Centro that’s all-but-abandoned at night. Broken families. Some of the ugliest plazas in Mexico. A local government owned and operated by by greedy, corporate chain-stores. And boring, mid-century architecture, all strung together by a horrid rat’s-nest of wires and cables, strung from crazily tilted telephone poles that seem to be everywhere. The terrain is flat, virtually desert, and dry without a speck of green to relieve the monotony as you can see from the view below entering Pátzcuaro. Many have compared it to the dunes of Saudi Arabia, something I cannot personally verify.

View of Lake Pátzcuaro from the Highway Entering the Town of Pátzcuaro

View of Lake Pátzcuaro from the Highway Entering the Town of Pátzcuaro

Architecturally speaking, there’s nothing to see. With no consistent themes, roof styles, paint colors, or anything that might create a harmonious whole, Pátzcuaro is a hodge-podge of unremarkable buildings that would be at home on a commercial strip in any mid-50’s American suburb.

This Modern, Climate-Controlled Church Could Just as Easily be in Plano, TX

This Modern, Climate-Controlled Mega-Church Could Just as Easily be in Plano, TX

As you can see, the architecture is bland, modern, and completely utilitarian, with absolutely nothing built before about 1955.

There's a lovely food court beyond this bland exterior

At least there’s a lovely food court beyond this dull exterior with Subway, McDonald’s, etc.

The modern mega-churches, such as the one below, have no tradition and no link to the past, though their climate-control systems are state-of-the-art.

Another boring mega-church, Pátzcuaro

Another boring mega-church, Pátzcuaro

Between the Costcos, Wal*Marts, Best Buys, Home Depots, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Sanborns, Waldo’s Mart, Suburbias, Montes de Piedad, and other US and Mexican chains, all the wide, traffic-choked boulevards in Pátzcuaro could be in any newer American suburb. If you want boring consumerism, just stay in the good, ole USA.

It's pretty clear that there's no unifying architectural theme here

It’s pretty clear that there’s no unifying architectural theme here

With a flat, dull terrain surrounding it, the aridity of Pátzcuaro also ensures that there are never clouds or mist that could create, say, a beautiful sunrise. Simply not gonna happen.

Sunrise in Pátzcuaro. The illuminated signs of the big chains are lovely, no?

Sunrise in Pátzcuaro. Why people find this place alluring, I’ll never know.

Of course most of the people in Pátzcuaro work in insurance, tax preparation, or real estate and would easily pass unnoticed in some place like Burlington, Vermont as they rush off to their next business meeting.

Though religious, most Pátzcuarenses look just like Gringos

Most Pátzcuarenses look, dress, and act just like Gringos.

Though avid devotees of their strip malls and chain stores, most Pátzcuarenses have no cultural outlet. There are no local crafts, artworks, dances, local music, or native festivals of any kind. Rumors of a big so-called “Day of the Dead” celebration are just that: rumors. Every November 2nd, residents stay home and balance their check books in preparation for the upcoming tax season. “Day of the Dead” just refers to the fact that there’s nothing interesting going on. In fact, Pátzcuaro’s November 2nd was recently voted “Most Boring Day of the Year in Mexico” by Chilango magazine.

This is actually a modern, protestant church-related event

This is a lame attempt to mimic Halloween. Notice the lack of candy?

Violent child-abuse is, sadly, a not uncommon sight in Pátzcuaro too.

Violent, public abuse sets kids in Pátzcuaro onto a life of crime as adults

Who wants to see violent, public child abuse?*

As you can see from the below, there’s scarcely any evidence of community, family, or even a moment free from work in Pátzcuaro. The plaza’s pretty grim, too, with no fountains, trees or flowers. That may work in DF where people need a place to hold endless protests and strikes, but it’s not working here.

Social Breakdown Right Before Our Eyes

Social Breakdown Right Before Our Eyes

Pátzcuaro, of course, lies in central Mexico’s volcanic mountain range, and the constant eruptions (duly noted in the papers every day) create ever-present risk to life and property. The city is ringed with volcanoes, any of which could spell near-instant doom.  A mere 67 years ago, a new volcano erupted in the town of Parícutin, Michoacan, a short 103 km away, and within weeks buried the entire village. Only the steeples of the church are now visible. Here in Pátzcuaro, the same could happen at any time, making Pátzcuaro into Mexico’s answer to Pompeii.  That’d be great if you’re an archaeologist in the year 3514, but not so much fun if you’re one of the contorted bodies under the solidified lava.

This baby could blow at any time leaving hapless residents covered by a pyroclastic flow

This baby could blow without warning, leaving hapless residents covered by a pyroclastic flow

So we’ve seen already a lot of the horrors of Pátzcuaro, but what’s the worst? It’s a tough choice to make, but it’s got to be the Plaza Grande at dusk. As night begins to fall, people flee this featureless, sterile, and unwelcoming public space for the comfort of their modern, concrete homes and their X-boxes, flat-screen TVs, and frozen dinners.

Any one of these people could assault you at any minute

Who’d want to hang out in this dull, ugly place?

At dusk, the chain stores close, and the city officially rolls up the sidewalk. People flee the historic center and it turns into a virtual wasteland, with no beauty, color, entertainment, or restaurants.  All the cafés are deserted and only highly suspicious characters are seen, if anyone is present at all.

The deserted evening streets of Pátzcuaro are nothing if not a little creepy

The deserted evening streets of Pátzcuaro are nothing if not a little creepy

Some of you may say, “But wait! Wasn’t Pátzcuaro declared a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government?” Oh, for heaven’s sake! That’s the biggest joke out there. You’ve read this far and you don’t realize that the local chamber of commerce simply bribed someone in DF to get the designation? How else do you think they lure rich tourists into Pátzcuaro to buy consumer electronics and other useless gadgets made in China?  Sheesh!!! If you fall for that one, well, I can’t help you.

God knows why I even went to Pátzcuaro. I really should know better. Heck, I’ve been there three times now, and if boredom could kill, I’d be dead by now. But maybe it was my breakup with Edgar that gave me an internally repressed death wish. Who knows? But I’ve survived miraculously, and if there’s one thing sure in this life it’s this. If you value your sanity, if you value your family, if you value spending your vacation time having fun in a beautiful, historical environment rich with tradition DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVEN CONSIDER visiting Pátzcuaro. Consider yourselves warned.

The genesis of this post lies with comments made by “Felipe Zapata” in my last post (I’m Just a Sweet Transvestite) where he seeks to discourage further Gringo migration to Pátzcuaro. Since Felipe’s a good friend, I thought I’d help his cause by telling the plain, unvarnished truth. Saludos.

* Just to be hyper-clear, these folks were horsing around. Notice how the boy is smiling?  And please, keep in mind, this post is a PARODY, mainly of the mainstream media in the USA, which typically doesn’t have a clue about Mexico. Pátzcuaro is a wonderful, peaceful place that’s well worth visiting. Sorry if you have misinterpreted the snide humor in this piece. No offense was intended to anyone.

Jump to the next post from this trip.