This article is from the March 2000 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Prozac in the Air

by jennifer j. rose

A short kilometer from Santa Clara de Cobre, on the way to Ario de Rosales, a bust of a young Lazaro Cardenas nods toward Zirahuen. “I’m sort of proud of this road, now that’s been improved,” I remarked to Hank, my travelling companion of the day. He shot me one of those incredulous “Are You Completely Crazy?” stares. Well, the road, paved with brick is a definite improvement over the cobblestone that used to lead the way. I know that the toll I paid fifteen years to that guy holding a rope across the road made a difference.

The road wends past rolling hills and neat little farms, punctuated by an imported sign intended for DeAnza Blvd. for about eight miles until the deep, clear azure lake comes into view, rimmed by tall pines. Horses swim along the shore, and cattle low.

Unless you’re in the mood to buy livestock feed or groceries, there’s not much to buy in this town, nor are there any museums.  That’s not the point of trekking to Zirahuen. The grail is sanity, peace and tranquility, reigning supreme among what has got to be the most blessed place on earth, called lugar de humaderas (place of smoke).

According to historian Eduardo Ruiz, Purepecha Emperor Siguangua ordered a rest house built near the lake, where according to the legend, the Princess of Zirahuen was transformed into moonlight by the sacred hummingbird who stole her soul. Her beloved, Cuitzeman, searched for her endlessly at night until the mother goddess Cuerauperi led him to the lake, where the Princess rose from the water, dragging him down here to rest forevermore in the lake’s dark depths. “Another Loch Ness monster,” chided pal Jeff. Yet another version of the legend has it that no woman has ever drowned in this lake, but the Princess continues to pull down men into its reaches.

The lake’s contrasts from deep blue to jade green hints at yet another yet-debunked fantasy: the lake’s deep inlets lead to the Pacific Ocean. No one has proved that it doesn’t.

A few blocks from the town’s desultory and main square, Cabańas Impulsora de Zirahuen, the major resort complex to date, where its lakeside restaurant serves up freshly caught pescado blanco (the famed Patzcuaro white fish), five cabins rent for between 375 and 1225 pesos a night, depending upon the season. This location leads to a private dock, along which local cooks prepare a variety of dishes ranging from squash-flower quesadillas to charales. A 15-minute boat trip leads to a weekend-only restaurant, Troje de Ala, featuring French-style food and a children’s playground. Four more cabins, equipped with kitchen facilities, are available across the lake, ranging from the rustic to grand turismo and renting for between 375 pesos during weekdays in the low season to 2150 during the high seasons of Semana Santa (Easter Week), Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and from December 16 to January 2. A children’s camp operates for several weeks during the summer for $3600 pesos per week. For reservations, e-mail or call (4) 314-3139 or fax (4) 315-0491.

Chalet Cerrito Colorado, at Km. 10 on the road between Santa Clara and Zirahuen, offers up accommodations, which looked, well accommodating, but we just couldn’t get much information from themĽnor from the night watchman., or (4) 314-4569.

On the road leading to Patzcuaro is Hotel Zirahuen, a motel offering up a Jacuzzi in every room, decorated in bright and clean hues. Rates range from $265 pesos for a standard all the way up to $1265 pesos for the presidential suite. Av. Vicente Guerreo S/N Esq. Erčndira. Tel (434) 227-05 and (434) 202-72.

Dugout canoes, no doubt much the same as those which plied the lake during Vasco de Quiroga’s days and before, traverse the lake, but jetskis have been espied along the distant shores of Agua Verde. Tales of development from a Club Med to a 200-room hotel, golf course and planned resort community rise and ebb, deterred by an anti-development attitude among the locals, unpersuaded by promises of employment. “Not exactly the most friendly burg in Mexico” seems to be the rejoinder when Zirahuen’s mentioned.  In a strange way, that attitude seems just fine with me, because Zirahuen is a state of mind which doesn’t require embellishment. The lake and exuberant forests hospitably speak for this piece of paradise.  

Fifteen km. away on the route to Uruapan, Patzcuaro seems overdeveloped in comparison to Zirahuen.