Purépecha culture: Characteristics, origins and traditions

The Purépecha culture is one of the main pre-Columbian civilizations located in Mexico, especially in the state of Michoacán. Without having many documentary records, is known for her jobs in agriculture, hunting, fishmongering, and food gathering. In turn, they were experts in the area of ​​metallurgy and pioneers in the manufacture of ceramic-based funeral utensils and designs.

Also known as the Tarascan culture, It was one of the civilizations located in America most respected by the Spanish conquerorsBecause of its characteristics and traditions it was considered a superior culture to the others already discovered. The Europeans appointed the Purepecha allies against the Aztecs for the conquest of their territories.

Although its main location was in Michoacán, this civilization encompassed other large Mexican expanses, such as the states of Guanajuato and Guerrero. At present, small Purépecha tribes can still be found in these states and in Jalisco, the State of Mexico, the Federal District, Colima and Baja California, as well as in areas belonging to the United States.

Characteristics of the Purépecha Culture

It was a civilization that had a certain advantage compared to the rest of the cultures in terms of commercial relations and production. It was an advanced culture, where different activities such as agriculture, hunting, fishmongering, architecture, painting and goldsmithing were practiced. It was the first pre-Columbian culture to work with metal, wood, and fabrics.

Agriculture was the activity that provides the greatest benefits to the Purépecha culture. Blue, purple and white corn was sown, which was used for exchange for other products and a form of currency, as this food was the form of payment. They were also rich in pumpkin and bean crops, a crop that signified prosperity and profitable harvests throughout the year, not just specific seasons.

In the Purépecha culture, society was divided into different social classes, nobles, commoners and slaves.. The nobles in turn consisted of subdivisions called royalty, made up of the cazonci or irecha, who were the highest rulers of the culture, the superior nobility to which the priests and military leaders of the families belonged and the inferior, who were the merchants, artisans and farmers.

Purépecha culture: Characteristics, origins and traditions

The ideology in the Purépecha culture was polytheistic, that is to say, they venerated and valued various gods who represented the elements of nature. Curicaveri was the God of fire, the sun and war, while Cuerauáperi was the goddess of creation, Xaratanga was the goddess of the moon and the ocean. Within cultural beliefs, the idea was maintained that the universe was divided into three parts: heaven, earth and the underworld.

They were built ceremonial centers, as Ihuatzio “place of coyotes” according to the Tarascan language, which in addition to being a ceremonial center where they worshiped the gods with the construction of pyramids and some rituals were celebrated, it was also used as an astronomical observatory. This city was built on an artificially leveled plateau, which has roads and walls that surround the place.

There are great architectural creations built by the Purépecha culture, the most characteristic of which are the yácatas, walls of yácatas, walled roads or cuatris, platforms with rectangular bases where the yácatas were built, the footbridges known as the king’s roads and the viewpoints or astronomical observatories .

One factor that makes the Purépecha culture striking is its language. It consists of a dialect totally different from other civilizations that inhabited its surroundings at the time. This is known as the “Tarascan language” in relation to the nickname that the Spanish conquerors assigned to this civilization.

This culture was in constant war for the protection of the territory and production. Their fights were mainly against the Aztec Empire, of which they were victorious by not being invaded by them. Although they were losers against the Spanish conquerors, small groups of this civilization managed to survive and that is why the Purépecha culture remains alive today.


Not much information is recorded on this culture and that is why everything related to its origin and history are estimates by archaeologists and experts. Based on the handicrafts with metal objects and the language that the population possesses, it is presumed that the Purépecha culture remained in force between the years 1200 and 1600 AD.

This pre-Columbian civilization that inhabited a large area of ​​Mesoamerican territory had a capital called Tzintzuntzan, which means “place of the hummingbirds” in the language spoken by the Purépecha or Tarascan language, although the reason why this is granted is still unknown. Name.


Corn was not only used for commercial purposes, this food was present in different rituals or events. It was the only thing mothers could consume when giving birth to their children and was considered a gift for baptisms and a symbol of forgiveness. Corn could not be absent at the banquets of wakes and weddings that were celebrated within the community.

Religious ceremonies were held where they worshiped their gods and thanked them for the natural phenomena that occurred from time to time. For Curicaveri, human sacrifices were made, for Cuerauáperi, being the goddess of all creation and the mother of the other deities, rain, life and death were attributed.

During the burials of the relatives or those close to the people of the different communities, a ceremonial event was held to incinerate the deceased and bury him with his own clothing, personal belongings and in some cases the members of the servitude were included as part of the cult towards the beings that left.

This culture has been very influential in current Mexican traditions, such as the Danza de los Viejitos in honor of the gods and the Day of the Dead celebrations every November 2, which consists of worshiping loved ones who have died with visits to cemeteries and altars adorned with photos, flowers, candles and the favorite foods of the deceased.

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