Purépecha people

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mexico (Michoacan, Guanajuato, & Jalisco)
United States (Primarily California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas & Illinois)
Purépecha, Spanish, English

Roman Catholicism

Purépecha religion

The Purépecha (endonym P'urhépecha [pʰuˈɽepet͡ʃa]; also called Tarasco (Spanish masculine), Tarasca (Spanish feminine) or Tarascan)[3] are an indigenous people centered in the northwestern region of the Mexican state of Michoacán, principally in the area of the cities of Cherán and Pátzcuaro.


Cheran, Michoacan and in pre-colonial times, the Purépecha Indians occupied most of the state of Michoacan, but they also occupied some of the lower valleys of both Guanajuato and Jalisco. Celaya, Acámbaro, and Yurirapúndaro were all in Purépecha territory.


The P'urhepecha state was one of the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica. Their capital city was Tzintzuntzan. P'urhepecha architecture is noted for step pyramids in the shape of the letter "T". Pre-Columbian P'urhépecha artisans made feather mosaics making extensive use of hummingbird feathers which were a highly regarded luxury good throughout the region. The P'urhépecha were never conquered by the Mexica Empire, despite several attempts by the Mexica to do so, including a fierce war in 1479. This was probably due to the P'urhépechas' knowledge of metal working, which was superior to that of the Mexica; these skills have persisted in their descendants and are still widely regarded today, in particular their coppersmithing. Even though they were enemies with the Mexica, the Mexica still traded with them, mainly for copper axes. After hearing of the Spanish conquest of the Mexica Empire and having the native population much diminished by an epidemic of smallpox, Tangaxuan II, pledged his allegiance as a vassal of the King of Spain without a fight in 1525. It is believed that the Spanish explorer Cristóbal de Olid, upon arriving in the Kingdom of the Purépecha in present-day Michoacán, probably explored some parts of Guanajuato in the early 1520s. A legend relates of a 16–17 year old Princess Erendira of the P'urhépecha, who led her people into a fierce war against the Spanish. Using stolen Spanish horses, her people learned to ride into battle. Then, in 1529–1530, the forces of Nuño de Guzmán entered Michoacán and some parts of Guanajuato with an army of 500 Spanish soldiers and more than 10,000 Indian warriors. In 1530 the Governor and President of the Primera Audiencia, Nuño de Guzmán, plundered the region and ordered the execution of Tangaxuan II, provoking a chaotic situation and widespread violence. In 1533 the Crown sent to Michoacan the experienced oidor (audiencia judge) and later bishop, Don Vasco de Quiroga, who managed to establish a lasting colonial order. The Spanish took it as their name, for reasons that have been attributed to different, mostly legendary, stories. The P'urhépecha area is subject to deforestation. [4]


Many traditions live on, including the "Jimbani Uexurhina" or new year that is celebrated on February 1. The celebration has traditional indigenous and Catholic elements. The community lights a fire called the chijpiri jimbani or "new fire" as part of a ceremony that honors the four elements. Mass is also celebrated in the P'urhépecha language. The P'urhépecha calendar, like that of the Mexica for the counting of days called "Xiuhpohualli," had 18 months of 20 days (veintenas) a year with 5 additional feast days. The new year used to be celebrated on the day that the constellation Orion appeared.


A bilingual Purepecha/Spanish school in the Purepecha community of Janitzio, Michoacán

The P'urhépecha language is spoken by nearly 200,000 people in Michoacán. Following Mexico's 2000 indigenous language law, indigenous languages, including Purepecha were granted equal official status as Spanish in the areas where they are spoken. Recently, educational instruction in the language has been introduced the local school systems. Additionally, many Purepecha communities offer classes and lessons of the language.

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