By Feliciano Hernández, Hola America
The Tianguis Artesanal (Artisan Market) Domingo de Ramos returns with an attractive and expanded program of artistic and cultural events, after its interruption due to the pandemic. This collection of 1,500 artisan vendors selling original works and cultural artifacts runs from March 31 to April 16, between Holy Week and Easter celebrations and is expected to draw thousands of tourists from across Mexico and around the world. Eugenia León, one of the best voices in Mexico will kick off the re-opening with her popular hits for locals and tourists alike. “The purpose is to delight tourists and make them feel part of the traditions of the state,” say the organizers.
Not only is the Tianguis a treasure for art and unique Mexican cultural pieces, but there will also be daily live entertainment, food vendors, parades and contests. According to the organizers, “Artisans from 49 indigenous communities, belonging to the 4 ethnic groups of Michoacán (Purépecha, Náhuatl, Otomí and Mazahua) will participate in the event.” All this is seasoned with samples of regional gastronomy whose flavors, smells, ingredients, and culinary techniques are recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”.
This market has a rich historical tradition in Uruapan, dating back to the time of the conquests by the Spanish. It was later enriched with contributions from the four ethnic groups that had inhabited this beautiful region of Mexico since before the Spanish arrived. Uruapan (which in the Purépecha language means “place that always blooms,” or “place of trees that always bear fruit”) is surrounded by hills, forests and running water, which make up an exuberant National Park with rivers and refreshing waterfalls. This makes the municipality a must for ecotourism enthusiasts.
Uruapan is a small city of just over 356,000 inhabitants, according to an official 2020 census. It is located in the center of Michoacán, 415 kilometers west of Mexico City roughly a four or five hour commute on the highway.
The importance of the old Tianguis de Artesanos del Domingo de Ramos began to gain notoriety outside the region dating back to the middle of the last century, especially in the 1960s. Back then, it already welcomed tens of thousands of visitors. Now it is quickly becoming one of the most important festivals of its kind in Mexico and Latin America.
The organizers point out that the artisans come from all over Michoacán to participate. They exhibit and market more than a million pieces of different craft varieties, which have been enjoyed and valued for centuries. In this market, various artistic and cultural events display the richness of the traditions of Uruapan and Michoacán, that organizers say comes together, “under a festive and colorful atmosphere that is unique in its kind within Mexico.”
Artisan Parade: This colorful event marks the beginning of the festivities showcasing the 1,500 artisans and indigenous communities. The parade starts at the main access door to the Barranca del Cupatitzio National Park and goes through the main square to the center of the city.
Exhibition and Sale of Handicrafts: More than a million pieces of artisan crafts will be for sale during the 2 weeks of the tianguis. These items are made of local resources like wood, clay, copper, textiles, clay, ceramics, lacquer, feather art, musical instruments, and vegetable fibers, among others.
State Handicraft Contest: Artisans will enter their work in contests, which will award prizes based on stand out quality and details.
Traditional costume contest: Conventional regalia from indigenous peoples will showcase their designs in accordance with their traditions and festivities.
Purépecha cuisine. Sample a wide variety of traditional dishes which will delight the senses and the palate with their unique ingredients from the region and distinctive flavors representing the indigenous communities from the area.
Ritual parade of “Aguadoras“. Maidens, called Aguadoras come from the traditional neighborhoods of Uruapan and will parade the streets dressed in traditional Purépecha attire, carrying a vase on their heads or shoulders filled with holy water. It is a ritual they offer to God to have an abundance of vital liquid throughout the year.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The reputation of the Tianguis as a tourist destination is not by chance. It is the result of decades of work by the people of Uruapan, supported by state and federal authorities in Mexico. Its success is the result of centuries-old traditions that have been preserved by the tribes and have attracted visitors for centuries. This created a unique commercial potential in this central region of Michoacán, already heavily nestled in the depths of Mexican history. Historian Arturo Ávila explains, “Uruapan is an ancient population, which in pre-Hispanic times served as the residence of the Purépecha rulers, as well as a political and administrative center.” He points out that long before the arrival of the Europeans, Uruapan was a hub for the exchange and distribution of products. “It retained this function throughout the colonial era and the years of independent life.” However, in 2020 the pandemic halted the activities of the Tianguis and organizers spent the following years revising the festivities to bring it back to its glory days when the market was an indispensable cultural event drawing thousands to Uruapan. “Now, with the joy of once again hosting artisans and tourists,” says Ávila, “Uruapan opens its doors and hearts to visitors once again.”
We would like to thank Ignacio Campos, Uruapan Municipal President; Yuliana Gomez, Regidora de Cultura; and Rosa Elvira Nunez Angel, promoter abroad; for their support in the realization of this article.