According to my Michoacán guidebook, produced by the excellent Mexican publishers of the great Mexico travel magazine, Mexico Desconocido;  somewhere just east of Pajacuarán and north of Zamora lies two archaeological sites. But for reasons unknown they give no firm information of what they consist of or where exactly they are.

So yesterday I was bound and determined to catch a bus in that direction to see if I could find one or the other. How hard could that be?

The map in the guidebook was so indeterminate as to the precise (or even general) location that I consulted Google maps.


You can see Sahuayo – where I live – off to the west just south of the lake. And not to far to the northeast of Sahuayo you can see Pajacuarán and then directly east of there you can see the pueblo of Tecomatán.

And then southeast of Tecomatán you can see the moderately large city of Zamora.

But Google maps both conflicts with and more importantly lacked the granularity for me to zero in on the possibly mythical Highway 16 which, according to the guidebook, separates the two archeological sites.

So I consulted another map.


Now I’d like to call your attention to two very important details. First. Do you see the absolute abundance of detail that exists on this map that doesn’t exist on the Google map? And BTW – this level of detail corresponds with the geographical density of the villages that exist in this very small corner of northeast Michoacán.

That is very surprising isn’t it? Imagine all of those little villages so very real and yet are so far off the tourist trail that it is positively laughable. I’ve been here four and a half years and have explored maybe 10% of the area shown on these two maps. But that’s about to change.

Yesterday I made it as far as Tecomatán. A pretty little town bordered by an immense valley to the north and a scraggly mountain range to the south.

A view of town looking south with the central plaza off to right.

This photo of Tecomatán more or less mirrors the emptiness of the rest of the town. In fact the plaza had a grand total of just two people sitting in it.

The tidy well tended little plaza.

But some of the homes had the same mysterious quality that typifies Mexico. One never knows what garden of delights that lie on the private side of the public facing door.

Peeking in…
Zooming in to the garden that forms the central courtyard of this seemingly modest house

I am going to keep traveling – a day here, a day there – to try and unravel the mystery that is Mexico. And I don’t have to travel much further than my own backyard to see a version of Mexico that is unimaginable to so many of us.

Even the guidebooks don’t capture places like Tecomatán or Pajacuarán. Why? Because they think the tourists only want to visit the beaches, see a few famous ruins, and maybe do a little shopping; haggling with shopkeepers to save a few pesos on a pair of shoes or sandals. Shallow and scandalous. What’s a few pesos to a rich European or a rich American? They don’t know it but they embarrass both themselves and their country when they try to beat a poor Mexican out of a few cents or a measly couple of bucks.

As for me, shopping is mind-dullingly boring. And besides I already have everything I need. And without question, I’ve already visited every famous ruin in Mexico. And once is enough.

Now it’s time to see those parts of Mexico that corporate mapping giants like Google have disdainfully omitted as being unimportant.

For me, Pueblos like Tecomatán and Pajacuarán are the real Mexico.

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