Michoacán formally Michoacán de Ocampo (from Nahuatl Michhuacān "place of the fishermen"), is one of the 31 constituent states of Mexico. It borders the states of Colima and Jalisco to the west, Guanajuato and Querétaro to the north, México to the east, Guerrero to the south-east, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Michoacán has an area of 59,864 km² (23,113.6 sq mi). It is the sixteenth largest state in Mexico, taking up 3% of the national territory. In a 2005 census the population was at 3,966,073 people. Its state capital is the city of Morelia (previously known as Valladolid), located between 2 main cities in Mexico, Mexico City and Guadalajara.
The Tarascans of Michoacán have always called themselves P'urhépecha. However, early in the 16th century, when the Spaniards arrived to what is known now as Mexico, they gave the Purhépecha a name from their own language. The name of these Indians, Tarascos, was derived from the native word tarascué, meaning 'brother-in-law'. According to Fray (Friar) Martín Coruña, it was a term the natives used derogatively for the Spaniards. The Spaniards mistakenly took it up to name them and now the Spanish word Tarasco (and its English equivalent, Tarascan) is commonly used today to describe the Indians who are really named P'urhépecha.
The P'urhépecha or Phorhé language is a language isolate which means that it has not been successfully related to any known language families. It has been compared to many other languages but no relation has been sufficiently well proven to attract a wide following among linguists. Even though it is spoken within the boundaries of Mesoamerica, P'urhépecha does not share many of the traits defining the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area, probably due to a long adherence to an isolationist policy.
By 1324 A.D., they had become the dominant force in western Mexico, with the founding of their first capital city Pátzcuaro, located 7,200 feet (2,200 m) above sea level along the shore of Lake Pátzcuaro (Mexico's highest lake). The name, Pátzcuaro, meaning "Place of Stones," was named for the foundations called "Petatzecua" by Indians who found them at the sites of ruined temples of an earlier civilization. Eventually, however, the Purhépecha transferred their capital to Tzintzuntzan ("Place of the Hummingbirds"), which is about 15 kilometers north of Pátzcuaro, on the northeastern shore of the lake. Tzintzuntzan would remain the Purhépecha capital until the Spaniards arrived in 1522.
Some of the cities and towns of Michoacán are Ixtlan de Los Hervores, Tendeparacua, Erongarícuaro, Cherán, Churintzio, Apatzingán, Huetamo, Santa Ana Maya, San Lucas, Ciudad Hidalgo, Ichán, Tangancicuaro, Jacona, Jiquilpan, La Piedad, Lázaro Cárdenas, Los Reyes, Paracho, Pátzcuaro, Aquila, El Triunfo, Coalcoman, Agulilla, Puruándiro, Sahuayo, Cotija, Uruapan, Zacapú, Zamora, Aguaverde, Copandaro, and Zitácuaro. A few of the state's pre-Columbian sites include the ruins of Tzintzuntzan, Ihautzio, Villa Venustiano Carranza a.k.a. San Pedro Caro, Tepalcatepec and Tingambato.
Like the majority of southern states in Mexico, Michoacán is known for its rich and varied culture, most notably for its unique pre-columbian and colonial architecture as well as its art and delicious cuisine.
The P'urhépecha were skilled weavers and became known for their feathered mosaics made from hummingbird plumage and precious stones. With time, these gifted people also became skilled craftsmen in metalworking, pottery, and lapidary work. In the Michoacán of this pre-Hispanic period gold, copper, salt, obsidian, cacao, cotton, cinnabar, seashells, fine feathers, wax and honey were abundant and quickly became highly prized products to the Spaniards.
Modern day, there are many cultural activities in Michoacán, especially in the major cities like Morelia, Patzcuaro, and Uruapan. Morelia, as the capital, has the highest number of museums, art galleries, film theaters and restaurants.
Other important economical activities in Michoacán include the energy industries, as well as tourism and art gatherings like expositions, ancient and contemporary theatrical shows and film festivals. Every year in the month of October Morelia hosts an international film festival, which is rapidly growing to become of the top festivals in the whole country and which features international film stars such as Gael Garcia, Diego Luna and Martha Higareda.
Yearly between about October and April tourism increases as more than a hundred million monarch butterflies migrate from Canada and north of the United States to the mountains in Michoacán, to spend the winter in Oyamel Forests. For decades, the communities of Angangueo, El Rosario, Zitácuaro, Ocampo, with help from the State government, have created complete sanctuaries to protect this species.
Another major attraction is the volcano Parícutin, one of the newest volcanoes in the world (although no longer the newest owing to the 1963 birth of Surtsey in Iceland, among others). Born on February 20th 1943, in a large territory between the towns of San Juan Parangaricutiro and Angahuan, it is considered by many as one of the natural wonders of the world of modern times.
The capital city is Morelia, often cited as 'the most beautiful city in Mexico', with its fabulous colonial architecture, the stunning 400-year old cathedral and its museums. The Museum of Masks, the Museum of Geology and Mineralogy, the Museum of Contemporary Art Alfredo Zalce and The Museum of Colonial Art are the most visited by tourists.
There are 113 Municipalities.
Reptiles include the spiney tailed iguana, Mexican beaded lizard, a species known as nolpiche is believed to be venomous by the local people but it is not, cnemidophorus, horrible spiny lizard, spiny lizard, Cope's largescale spiny lizard, bunchgrass lizard, rattlesnake, coral snake, ornate box turtle, new world sunbeam snake, trimorphodon and many others.