Don Vasco de Quiroga: the Great Benefactor of the Purépechas

The work of Don Vasco de Quiroga five centuries ago still amazes visitors to Pátzcuaro.  He was the great benefactor of the Purépecha indigenous people. A renaissance man with innovative ideas, he delivered justice to indigenous peoples who had suffered abysmal abuses and humiliations.  He implemented a community development program, leaving a great cultural legacy, which can be traced by following “The Route of Don Vasco.”

Don Vasco de Quiroga Square in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán
Don Vasco de Quiroga Square in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

Pátzcuaro is one of the primary stops on Don Vasco's Route. The main square that bears his name is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Latin America; at the center of the square you will find a statue in his honor, which is located opposite our Hotel Mansion Iturbe.

You can use Pátzcuaro as the point of departure along the route, along which you can learn about the great work undertaken by this great humanist. You will be surprised by the different cultural manifestations such as folk art, music, dance, cuisine of Michoacán – with its endless range of flavors – as well as its architecture. Don Vasco de Quiroga was responsible for the construction of numerous temples, and the layout of villages and hospices; he designed the very City of Pátzcuaro that even today impacts the visitor by its beauty.

Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

We invite you to learn more about this great personage. Below we share more points to about the work of this great man:

Don Vasco de Quiroga, was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres in Spain in 1470. He arrived in Mexico in January 1531, as Listener of the Royal Court. Part of his assignment was to investigate abuses of Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán. His arrival marked a marked improvement in the lives of the indigenous residents of Michoacán.

Don Vasco de Quiroga
Don Vasco de Quiroga

Arriving in New Spain, he noticed the distressing situation of the indigenous peoples. In 1533, he was sent to the province of Michoacán on peacemaking trip. A series of disturbing events against indigenous people had recently taken place, including the murder of King Caltzontzin.

Don Vasco de Quiroga, trying understand and ameliorate the bleak picture he found, established several hospices, including in the towns of Santa Fe in Mexico and Santa Fe de la Laguna on the banks of Lake of Pátzcuaro.  He organized them under a set of rules and ordinances. His inspiration for this project was based on the theories of the English humanist Thomas Moro.

Don Vasco de Quiroga in Santa Fe de la Laguna
Don Vasco de Quiroga in Santa Fe de la Laguna

In these hospices, he built a model of coexistence where they practiced Christian charity. This included collective work, where the members could learn a craft, and could also rest their weary bones at the end of a hard day. Activities were based on values such as fraternity, equality, and social justice.

Don Vasco de Quiroga was a great humanist who exposed many of the Spaniards who committed abuses with the indigenous people, several of them encomenderos as Juan Infante in the lands of Uayameo, where today sits Santa Fe de la Laguna.

In 1538 Don Vasco de Quiroga was appointed Bishop of Michoacán, and in 1540 he moved the seat of the Michoacán bishopric from Tzintzuntzan to Pátzcuaro, which he thought was the ideal place for his model of coexistence among the indigenous people of different communities.

Don Vasco de Quiroga Mural at Casa de los Once Patios in Patzcuaro, Michoacán
Don Vasco de Quiroga Mural at Casa de los Once Patios in Patzcuaro, Michoacán

In Patzcuaro, he founded the Royal College of Bishop San Nicolas. It was the First Seminary of New Spain, where they prepared future priests to support the transition to the new cultural model. He defended the rights of indigenous peoples, from the Lake Region to the Purépecha plateau.

Former Royal College of Bishop San Nicolas, today the Museum
Former Royal College of Bishop San Nicolas, today the Museum

The influence of Don Vasco de Quiroga became a tradition among the indigenous peoples where the development of handicrafts, different trades, and agriculture was developed.  It was forged by admiration, affection, and knowledge of his works in favor of the indigenous community. Don Vasco de Quiroga became the beloved "Tata Vasco," which today is vibrant and essential part of the identity of the Purépecha.

Don Vasco de Quiroga Ofrenda in Pátzcuaro
Don Vasco de Quiroga Ofrenda in Pátzcuaro

This great benefactor of the Indians, our dear Tata Vasco, died in Uruapan during a pastoral visit at the age of 95, March 14, 1565.

Purepechan Music in honor of Don Vasco de Quiroga in Patzcuaro
Purepechan Music in honor of Don Vasco de Quiroga in Patzcuaro

On your next visit to our magical village, stroll through the streets of Pátzcuaro, where Tata Vasco’s work is palpable. Walk through the different communities and follow the Route of Don Vasco, where you can see the legacy of Don Vasco de Quiroga, through different arts and crafts that are still the way of life of the various indigenous communities.

Visit the craft workshops and traditional kitchens. Buy their handicrafts, which sustains the sacred traditions of the indigenous.  Part of their identity is reflected in each piece of folk art, and in so doing, you support different community projects to improve the local economy and continue the work of Don Vasco de Quiroga.

*Text and pictures property of Hotel Mansión Iturbe in Pátzcuaro.

We invite you to check more post in our blog, you will find information about Pátzcuaro and its surroundings that we hope will be helpful for your next visit to our colonial town in Mexico.

Here are some post that we suggest you:

La Relación de Michoacán – or “Chronicle of Michoacán” – is an exhaustive literary work about the Purépecha people and their history. 

Folk Art and Its Economic Importance to the Communities around Lake Patzcuaro

In the Sixteenth Century, Don Vasco de Quiroga took the Purépechas (indigenous) under his wing; the results of his work are evident even today. 

Hotel Mansión Iturbe
Portal Morelos 59

Plaza Vasco de Quiroga
61600 Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.


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