Laguna de Cuitzeo has long been a favorite landscape of Mexico. Engulfed by vast coffee and cotton plantations along much of its shoreline, the area is temperate, vast and relatively flat, bordered by a ring of shadowy mountains – part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. The second largest lake in Mexico, shimmering Laguna de Cuitzeo encompasses an area in excess of 300 km² and spans areas well across the borders of Michoacán and Guanajuato. Saltier and more temperate than the elevated South, the West shores of Laguna de Cuitzeo have been a popular fishing spot for indigenous tribes. It is here too the Tarascans found land to be at its most fertile and well-shielded from the bitter winds of the mountains during the 6th Century, subsequently founding the sites of Tres Cerritos upon the lake shore. Augustinian monks later laid the foundations for present day Cuitzeo de Porvenir and left a haul of architectural treasures as their final legacy.
Located on the peaceful North West shore of Laguna de Cuitzeo, the Pueblos Magicos of the same name greatly resembles Patzcuaro from across the sparkling waters, however is little more than a village in size. Cuitzeo de Porvenir lies within the South-Central state of Michoacán, along the mountainous spine of mountains that extend into Guanajuato. The surrounding terrain is a stunning contrast of low-lying everglades, dense pine forests and sparse, rugged terrain, interspersed with huge plantations for coffee and cotton flower farming. Cuitzeo's other great industry is fishing and the town's location on the Western shore could not be more appropriate, since it is here the lobsters and charal can be found in their thousands. The quantitative supply of both fresh/ salt water fish and crustaceans has influenced Cuitzeo's repute for exceptional Mexican cuisine and fine dining.
The Augustinian monks of Cuitzeo are accredited with the town's breathtaking infrastructure, the development of which began in the mid-16th Century. Santa María Magdalena Cuitzeo Monastery is considered the finest surviving example of a Plateresque facade in the country – sculpted angels guard the North door, along with animals and cherubic statues. The complex houses an 18th Century library on the 2nd floor with over 1,100 archival pieces dating back to the 18th Century. Looking upward, many are surprised to behold an ornate painted ceiling inspired by visions of the Augustinian residents once habitant here. Adjacent to the cloisters sits the renovated refectory, which now houses the six-room Santa María Magdalena Print Museum. Massive oil paintings and Purepecha tapestries line the hallways, while each room depicts a slice of Cuitzeo's history through the eyes of its local artists.
Blessed by the historical legacies of over six cultures, Cuitzeo remains a harmonious town with ancient quarters that segue seamlessly together. Tres Cerritos – the ancient settlement of Cuitzeo's Tarascan civilization lies just a mile from the town, within an area now listed by the government as an architectural monument. A series of mounds, platforms and semi-ruinous adobes litter the ancient site – all facing the East, where the sun rises across the glittering lake. The Central Plaza remains an oft visited area for locals, whom believe the site to be of spiritual significance to the modern day town. Officially listed by SECTUR in 2006 as a Pueblos Magicos of significant importance to Mexico's heritage, Cuitzeo hopes to draw new generations to the beautiful retreat – sharing an aspect of Mexican culture rarely seen in the cities.
Attractions & Things to Do in Cuitzeo
Santa María Magdalena Print Museum – an illustrated history from a collective of local artists; the exhibitions of the Print Museum house works dating back to the days of the Tarascan Empire. Six rooms compile a melange of oil paintings, prints and sculptures – each conveying the spiritual or physical beauty of Cuitzeo. Open: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm.