There is an ongoing discussion about which term should be considered as the correct one. The P'urhépecha (and more recently some Spanish-speaking Mexicans) refer to themselves as "P'urhépecha". The name "Tarascan" (and its Spanish-language equivalent, "tarasco") comes from the word "tarascue" in their own language, which means indistinctly "father-in-law" or "brother-in-law". The Spanish took it as their name, for reasons that have been attributed to different, mostly legendary, stories. The Nahuatl name for the Tarascans was "Michhuàquê" ("those who have fish"), hence the name of the state of Michoacán.
Many traditions live on, including the Jimbani Uexurhina or new year that is celebrated on February 1. The celebration has traditional and Catholic elements. The community lights a fire called the chijpiri jimbani or "new fire" as part of a ceremony that honors the 4 elements. Mass is also celebrated in theP'urhépecha language, and this is the feast day of Jan Jerónimo Purechécuaro. The P'urhépecha calendar had 18 months of 20 days a year with 5 additional feast days. The new year used to be celebrated on the day that the constellation Orion appeared.
After hearing of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec 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. A legend relates of a 16–17 year old Princess Erendira of the P'urhépecha led her people into a fierce war against the Spanish. Using the stolen Spanish horses her people learned to ride into battle.
In 1530 the Governor and President of the Primera Audiencia, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, plundered the region and ordered the execution of Tangaxuan II, provoking a chaotic situation and widespread violence.