Pronunciation: mee-CHO-ah-CAHN.

Origin of state name: Probably comes from the native word Mechoacan, which means "place of the fishermen."

Capital: Morelia (moh-REH-lee-ah).

Entered country: October 3, 1824.

Coat of Arms: The fish at the top of the state coat of arms refers to Michoacán as the "place of fishermen." The picture of a man on horseback represents Generalísimo José María Morelos y Pavón (1765–1815), for whom the capital city of Morelia was named. The three crowns symbolize the history of the region as part of the Purépecha empire. The buildings pictured are meant to represent industry and culture. Blue is used to depict the sky and water.

Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez's birthday (March 21); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).

Flag: There is no official state flag.

Time: 6 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

1 Location and Size

Michoacán is located in west-central Mexico. It has an area of 59,865 square kilometers (23,114 square miles), which is a little smaller than the US state of West Virginia. Michoacán is bordered on the north and west by the Mexican state of Jalisco; on the north by the Mexican state of Guanajuato; on the northeast by the Mexican state of Querétaro; on the east by the Mexican states of México and Guerrero; on the west by the Mexican state of Colima and the Pacific Ocean; and on the south by Guerrero and the Pacific Ocean. Michoacán has 113 municipalities. Its capital is Morelia.

Michoacán is formed in part by two large mountain ranges, the Transversal Volcanic Sierra and the Sierra Madre del Sur. There are more than eighty volcanoes in the state, including Pico de Tancítaro (3,842 meters/12,605 feet) and Patamban (3,750 meters/12,303 feet). Other important volcanoes include Paricutín volcano (2,775 meters/9,100 feet) and the twenty-six volcanic craters in its vicinity. There are fifty-five volcanic craters near Pico de Tancítaro.

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos This waterfall is found in Eduardo Ruiz National Park, named for historian Eduardo Ruiz. The park lies near Uruapan, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital, Morelia.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

This waterfall is found in Eduardo Ruiz National Park, named for historian Eduardo Ruiz. The park lies near Uruapan, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital, Morelia.

In the north, the land is generally flat; the Maravatío and Zamora valleys are located in this region.

Lake Chapala lies on the border with Jalisco. It is Mexico's largest lake. Lake Chapala has an area of about 1,686 square kilometers (651 square miles). Other lakes in the state include Cuitzeo, Pátzcuaro, and Zirahuén. The Río Lerma (Lerma River) rises in Mexico state and crosses Michoacán in the north. Other rivers flow into it, including the Angulo and Duero. The Balsas River runs along the border with Guerroro.

2 Climate

The climate varies widely from place to place depending on altitude and prevailing winds. The coast enjoys a tropical climate with an average temperature of about 28°c (82°f). The central region has a milder climate, with an average temperature of about 22°c (71°f). The high-altitude regions can experience freezing temperatures.

The average temperature in the state ranges from a minimum of 18°c (64°f) to a maximum of 28°c (83°f). The average precipitation ranges from a minimum of 64

centimeters (25 inches) to a maximum of 162 centimeters (64 inches).

3 Plants and Animals

The state has a wide variety of tree species, including forests of oak, cedar, and pine. Mango trees can be found in the eastern and western regions. Common animals include coyotes, skunks, armadillos, squirrels, and lynxes. Eagles and parrots are found in the tropical regions. Sharks, whales, and porpoises inhabit the waters of the coast. There are more species of whales and porpoises here than in any other part of the world. Marine life includes about nine hundred fish species and thirty-four species of marine mammals.

4 Environmental Protection

In the eastern region of the state, there are five protected areas that serve as the winter home for the monarch butterflies of North American. Each year, tens of millions of monarch butterflies migrate to the high-altitude fir forests from Canada and the United States. In 2001, the governments of the states of México and Michoacán began a program to expand the reserve areas from 39,540 acres to a total of 133,400 acres.

There are seven other national parks in Michoacán, including Lago de Cuemécaro located in Tenancicuaro.

In 2003, Michoacán received a federal grant to establish a system requiring industries to track pollutants.

5 Population, Ethnic Groups, Languages

In 2000, Michoacán had a total population of 3,985,667. Of the total, 1,911,078 were men and 2,074,589 were women. The population density was 68 people per square kilometer (176 people per square mile). In 2000, the capital, Morelia, had a population of 619,958. Almost all citizens speak Spanish as their first language. About 3.5 percent of the population speaks an indigenous (native) language as their first language.

6 Religions

According to the 2000 census, 83% of the population, or 3.3 million people, were Roman Catholic; nearly 2%, or 63,726 people, were Protestant. That year there were also 31,787 Jehovah's Witnesses and over 75,000 people who reported no religion.

7 Transportation

Uruapan Airport provides international flights to and from Michoacán. There are about 8,618 kilometers (3,353 miles) of roads in the state and 1,275 kilometers (792 miles) of railroads.

8 History

Olmec and Nahuatl groups inhabited the region since 200 B.C. Indigenous Quechua groups migrated to the region around 500 A.D. and eventually dominated the other groups. The Quechua established the capital city in Páztcuaro, one of the oldest indigenous cities built in Mexico. Later, another indigenous leader, Tariácuri, conquered new land. He founded the Purépecha empire. His descendants established

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos The aqueduct in the capital, Morelia, was built in 1785. It stretches for more than one mile (1.6 kilometers) through the city.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

The aqueduct in the capital, Morelia, was built in 1785. It stretches for more than one mile (1.6 kilometers) through the city.
the capital city in Tzintzuntzán and expanded the empire. They challenged the influence of the Aztec empire in central Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (Spanish conquerors of the Americas).

Emperor Zuuangua defeated an invading Aztec army led by Montezuma II (Moctezuma II; 1466–1520). He secured his empire and kept out Aztec rule. Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) arrived in the region in 1519. Zuuangua later rejected a plea to fight the Spanish conquistadors. He tried to remain neutral. But he died of smallpox, a disease brought by the Spaniards. Eventually, his empire was conquered by the Europeans.

In 1522, Spanish soldier Cristobal de Olid (1488–1524) peacefully conquered the Purépecha empire for the Spanish crown. The population was already decimated by diseases brought by the Spaniards. The military might of the conquistadors overpowered all indigenous resistance efforts. Spanish leader Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán summoned Purépecha emperor Tangáxoan to Mexico City for talks. But instead of talking, he kidnapped him. Beltrán de Guzmán asked for a large ransom of gold before he would set Tangáxoan free. Beltrán de Guzmán later

© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp  The picturesque town of Angangueo, the center of the area where monarch butterflies migrate each year.
© Robert Frerck/Woodfin Camp

The picturesque town of Angangueo, the center of the area where monarch butterflies migrate each year.
launched a conquest of Michoacán in 1530. It ended with the torture and execution of Tangáxoan and the Spanish occupation of the region.

In 1533 Vasco de Quiroga initiated the conversion of the indigenous communities to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. He was made bishop of Michoacán in 1538. The city of Morelia was founded in 1541.

Agricultural activity characterized much of the colonial period (period of Spanish rule). Frequent volcanic eruptions caused the deaths of thousands of indigenous people.

When the independence movement began in Mexico (about 1810), Mexican priest and revolutionary Miguel Hildago y Costilla (1753–1811) entered Morelia without much resistance. Royalists (those loyal to Spain) had abandoned the city a few days earlier. During Hidalgo's stay in Morelia, the newly appointed governor declared the end of slavery. The independence fighters were eventually defeated by Royalists in 1811 at a battle at Calderón Bridge, however, and true independence was not achieved until 1821.

Political instability characterized much of the 19th century, until Mexican general and later president Porfirio Díaz (1830–1915) brought peace to the country. He took control after the death of President Benito Juárez (1806–1872). Porfirio Díaz initiated a long period of liberal authoritarian rule known as "porfiriato." The revolution of 1910 brought an end to porfiriato. Michoacán became a central battleground for revolutionaries who wanted land reform. Several revolutionary leaders fought in Michoacán. Thousands of landless peasants joined armies and militias to win more rights and land for peasants.

The most important 20th-century Mexican president, Lázaro Cárdenas (1895–1970), was a native of Michoacán. Cárdenas was named president in 1934. He adopted land reforms and gave millions of peasants the right to farm on communal (shared) lands. Cárdenas also nationalized the oil companies. This provided the government with money for education, health care, and public services. Cárdenas also brought political stability and formed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Cárdenas is known as the father of present-day Mexico. He is revered as the man who brought stability to the country. His land distribution policies improved the standards of living for a majority of Mexicans.

9 State and Local Government

The state governor is elected every six years and cannot be immediately re-elected. In relative terms, the executive has enormous powers and attributions. The legislative assembly is comprised of a unicameral (single) chamber with forty deputies (twenty-four are elected from single member districts and sixteen are elected by proportional representation). Checks and balances and separation of powers provisions were not fully enforced until 2001, when the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) won the state gubernatorial race and no party won absolute majority in the state legislature.

The 113 municipal governments in Michoacán democratically elect their municipal presidents and council members every three years. Immediate re-election is not allowed. Municipal governments in more populated cities have more influence, resources, and leverage than governments in largely rural areas.

10 Political Parties

The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRI historically dominated Michoacán politics. The PRD has emerged as the strongest party in recent years. In 2002, the PRD's candidate, Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, was the first man to defeat a PRI candidate for governor. He is the grandson of Lázaro Cárdenas, the founder of the PRI and former president of Mexico, and the son of Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, the founder of the PRD. Lázaro Cárdenas Batel capitalized on the strength of the left in Michoacán and his family name recognition.

11 Judicial System

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice is the highest court in the state. Its seven members are elected for three-year terms and can be re-elected. Justices must retire when they reach the age of seventy. New appointments are made by the legislature from a three-person list submitted by the governor. Other judicial bodies are the electoral tribunal and local courts. Although judicial independence was nominally established in the state constitution, the excessive influence exerted by the PRI over local authorities in the past prevented the full autonomy of the state judicial system.

12 Economy

Finance and insurance companies account for the largest percentage of the economy (about 20%) in Michoacán. Service-based companies account for 18% of the economy, followed by agriculture, 17%; trade, 17%; manufacturing, 14%; transportation and communication, 8%; construction, 5%; and mining, 1%.

13 Industry

Handicrafts, oil, and iron and steel are the primary industries. The largest steel plant in Latin America is located in Michoacán.

14 Labor

Michoacán citizens have migrated in large numbers to work in the United States and elsewhere. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages increase 17%, from $2.09 an hour in 1999 to $2.46 an hour in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 an hour in 2000.)

15 Agriculture

Michoacán is the largest producer of avocados in the country. The state also ranks third in the nation for production of chickpeas and lemons, and fourth for production of sesame and sorghum. Sugarcane, corn, and wheat are important staples. Mangoes, strawberries, papaya, and limes are grown as well.

The breeding of livestock is important in Michoacán. Pork, beef, and poultry are the main meat products. The state is also known for its production of milk, eggs, honey, and beeswax.

16 Natural Resources

Michoacán is Mexico's third-largest timber producer.

Mining has played a significant role in the state's economy. About thirty-two cities have substantial deposits of iron ore. The iron and steelworks facility at Lázaro Cádenas processes large quantities of iron, zinc, and steel. Gold has been found in Angangueo and Churumuco. Copper is produced in Coalcomán and Tingambato.

The fishing industry provides mojarra (small silvery fish), carp, red snapper, turtles, and oysters.

17 Energy and Power

Almost all of the energy in Mexico is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). In February 2002, the CFE introduced new electric rates. For households that use less than 140 kilowatt hours per month, there was no rate increase. (This is about 75% of all households in Mexico, according to CFE).

18 Health

There are 43 general hospitals, 864 outpatient centers, and 89 surgical centers in Michoacán.

Most of the Mexican population is covered under a government health plan. The IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) covers the general population. The

© Woodfin Camp Fishers on Pátzcuaro Lake use butterfly-shaped nets.
© Woodfin Camp

Fishers on Pátzcuaro Lake use butterfly-shaped nets.
ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) covers state workers.

19 Housing

Only about one-half of the housing available in Michoacán is in good repair. About 19% is in need of significant upgrading. Many homes do not have running water or access to electricity.

20 Education

The system of public education was first started by President Benito Juárez in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students from ages six to sixteen. According to the 2000 census, there were approximately one million school-age students in the state. Many students elect to go to private schools. The thirty-one states of Mexico all have at least one state university. Both the El Colegio de Michoacán and the Universidad Michoacana are located in Michoacán. The oldest university on the American continent, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, was founded in 1540. (It was known as Colegio de San Nicolás Hidalgo at that time.)

© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp Janitzio Island lies in Pátzcuaro Lake. Its buildings have white walls and red-tiled roofs. A 40-meter (132-foot) monument of Mexican patriot José Morelos, sculpted from pink stone, stands on the island's highest point.
© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp

Janitzio Island lies in Pátzcuaro Lake. Its buildings have white walls and red-tiled roofs. A 40-meter (132-foot) monument of Mexican patriot José Morelos, sculpted from pink stone, stands on the island's highest point.

21 Arts

Michoacán has a contemporary dance company and a musical group called Ensamble de las Rosas. There is a symphony orchestra in Morelia. A children's chorus, Niños Cantores de Morelia, is also based in Morelia. There are also eighteen theaters and sixteen auditoriums. Most communities have local cultural centers.

22 Libraries and Museums

Michoacán has two hundred libraries. The capital, Morelia, has a mask museum and a museum of contemporary arts. The city of Aquila has a museum dedicated to sea turtles.

23 Media

The capital city, Morelia, has four daily newspapers: Diario de Morelia, El Sol de Morelia, La Extra, and La Voz de Michoacán. The city of Zamora publishes El Sol de Zamora.

24 Tourism, Travel, and Recreation

Morelia is a main tourist attraction. People living in Morelia enjoy spring-like temperatures

© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp Masks made from vegetables are seen during a festival in Uruapan.
© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp

Masks made from vegetables are seen during a festival in Uruapan.
year-round. There are communities of retired American and Canadian citizens in Morelia. These communities sponsor courses for those who wish to study Spanish. Morelia is a beautiful colonial city offering museums and shopping. One of the main attractions is the planetarium.

25 Sports

Morelia has a basketball team, the Zorros. It also has a soccer team, which plays in the 38,384-seat Morelos stadium. The 15,000-seat Plaza Monumental in Morelia is a bullfighting ring. There is a smaller ring, the Palacio del Arte, which holds four thousand people.

26 Famous People

José María Morelos y Pavón (1765–1815) was born in the city of Vallatoid, which has since been renamed Morelia in his honor. He was a priest and soldier who served as a popular revolutionary leader. Lázaro Cárdenas (1895–1970) was president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940 and became known as a champion for the working class. Alfonso García Robles (1911–1991) was a Mexican statesman. He received the Noble Peace Prize in 1982 for his work toward nuclear disarmament.

27 Bibliography


Andrade, Mary J. The Vigil of the Little Angels: Day of the Dead in Mexico. San Jose, CA: La Oferta Review, 2001.

DeAngelis, Gina. Mexico. Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2003.

Supples, Kevin. Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Web Sites

Mexico for Kids. http://www.elbalero.gob.mx/index_kids.html (accessed on June 15, 2004).

Surfing & Adventure Travel in Mexico: The State of Michoacán. http://www.surf-mexico.com/states/Michoacan/ (accessed June 17, 2004).

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