Uruapan is a city and municipality in the west-central part of the Mexican state of Michoacán. The city is the municipal seat of the municipality. The town and surroundings are world famous, in part because of the great quantity of avocado farming and packaging, exported in large parts to the United States and other countries.
Uruapan is one of the oldest cities in Mexico. Its main natural attraction is the Cupatitzio River (dubbed "the river that sings"), because along its flow are tourist attractions. The National Park Eduardo Ruiz is home of "La Rodilla del Diablo", the source of the river which courses through the city and out toward "La Tzaráracua" and "La Tzararacuita", waterfalls on the southern outskirts of the city, and flows into the Presa Infernillo and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Paricutín volcano emerged in the vicinity in 1943, scaring away much of the population. As of the 2005 census, the city of Uruapan's population was 238,975, while that of its municipality was 279,229. The municipality has an area of 954.17 km² (368.4 sq mi). The city and the municipality are both the second-largest in the state, behind only the state capital of Morelia.
Uruapan is served by Uruapan International Airport. Uruapan has a sister city: Culver City, the street where National Park is has that name (Culver City Street); also, the firefighters of Uruapan received a few years ago personal equipment and vehicles from Culver City and Kansas City Fire Department to do a better job.
The word Uruapan comes from the Purépecha word ulhupani, meaning "place of eternal formation and fertility of flower buds." Uruapan, "place where the god-prince of flowers is revered, was established before the arrival of the Spaniards and was an exuberant paradise and a peaceful chiefdom corresponding to the Purépecha King." Reséndiz 1991 said there are various interpretations of the meaning of Uruapan, for some meaning "water jug," for others it means "where the trees always give fruit." Others have determined it comes from the word urhuapani, meaning "blooming" or "sprouting." The place where everything flowers also translates to "where the hearts of plants bloom like the flowers and enjoy a perpetual spring."
Due to unknown causes, the city of Uruapan has lost an important part of its historical material, making it difficult to know its past. There are some gaps in the time periods between one era and another; for example, there is hardly any information about the entire period of conquest.
Despite the lack of facts regarding Uruapan's history, people attribute its foundation to a Fray Juan de San Miguel; however, it is recognized that P'urhépecha Indians had already settled in these lands many years before the arrival of the Spanish.
An ethnic group with its own language, the P'urhépecha managed to have some military and political control, but in no way were the first nor only peoples in this region. When Fray Juan de San Miguel arrived in Uruapan in 1531, he found the place forsaken, but realized the adjacent areas were already inhabited by small families of Indian tribes like the Otomí, the Aztecs and other Nahuas, the Chichimecas, and the Oaxaca Chontal.
Around 1400, the triumvirate of chiefs from Pátzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan and Ihuatzio conquered and annexed Uruapan. At the arrival of the Spaniards and before the proceeding conquest by the Tarascan kingdom, the last calzonci (king), Tanganxuan II, found refuge in 1522 in what is today known as Uruapan, when fleeing the conquistador Cristóbal de Olid, according to historian Fray Pablo Beaumont.
Uruapan was a pre-Hispanic town inhabited mainly by the P'urhépecha Indians. Archeologists have found plenty of remains which are yet to be studied, with the exception of the Canvass of Jucutacato, found in the community of Jicalán. It is the oldest document related to the study of Michoacán's history.
Considering Fray Juan de San Miguel's arrival in 1531, there then exists a difference of 11 years, which clearly shows there were settlers already in these lands, before the arrival of who is thought to be the founder of Uruapan. In the Canvass of Jucutacato, Uruapan is mentioned as a point where the pilgrimage of the Nonoalcas took place.
Fray Juan de San Miguel grouped and organized the people into barrios, which he founded under names of patron saints, each with their own chapel, choir, and school. These barrios were considered in autonomous communities, each with its own identity and customs. The founder of the town was especially interested in the inhabitants learning certain trades, among them craftwork.
The names of the barrios, clockwise from the northern part or Uruapan, are as follows: San Juan Bautista, San Miguel, San Francisco, La Magdalena, San Juan Evangelista, San Pedro y Santiago. In the downtown area, or center of town, there is the Barrio de la Trinidad and Los Riyitos in the Barrio de los Reyes.
Uruapan's city planning was subject to Spaniard urbanization norms, where streets flow from north to south and from east to west, and in the center of town are the government buildings and places of religious and social importance.
The chapels in the barrios were undoubtedly built under Spanish and Moorish influence. La Huatapera (hospital for Indians) is the architectural gemstone of greatest historical value for Uruapan, considered by some to be the first Hospital of América, although there are historical facts that contradict this point.