First, the delightful sound of bubbling water draws you in. Then the sun-dappled paths beg you to explore further. A stroll through the "Lic. Eduardo Ruiz National Park" is guaranteed to refresh, relax, and to delight all of your senses.
Since ancient times, the city of Uruapan has been considered one of the most-beautiful places in all of Michoacán. Chosen as a place of recreation by Purépecha emperors, the park is still widely enjoyed by Puréchas today as I observe families in native rebozos, huaraches, and sombreros joining me on the park trails. The sun-dappled paths lead to the Cupatitzio River, the source of the "singing waters".
The "modern" history of the park began when Toribicio Ruiz acquired the then much larger property, and in turn bequeathed the lands to his son, Lic. Eduardo Ruiz, for whom the park is named¹. Eduardo Ruiz then gave the lands to his daughter, Josephina, and the estate became known as "La Quinta Josephina" during that time. At the end of the 1930's, President Lázaro Cárdenas authorized the purchase of the lands from the remaining Ruiz family. On November 2, 1938, the land officially became a national park. Cárdenas then ordered the building of roads into the area, and the improvement of park facilities by adding fountains and dining areas so that this remote location could be enjoyed by many new visitors to the region. Hailing from Michoacán, President Cárdenas was instrumental in preserving this jewel of Michoacán for all of Mexico. Sadly, with the growth of Uruapan over the years, the once huge park was reduced to its current 19 hectares. But what a beautiful 19 hectares it is!
Every trail in the park meanders along the Cupatitzio River and its many moods. Quiet pools, rushing white water, tumbling water falls, and man-made fountains may be enjoyed from bridges that cross the river several times. The fountains and bridges are named, fittingly, with Purépecha names. Our hike will take us past Julhiata (the Sun); Teshkukua (the Rainbow); Nana Kutzi (the Moon); and Janikua Tzitziki (the Rain Flower). The lovely words seem to echo the sounds of the tumbling waters. The true meaning of Cupatitzio, (as in Cupatitzio River) is "to dive into water", but over generations the meaning has evolved into "the singing river".
Located at the beginning of the "tierra caliente" of Michoacán, Uruapan is the avocado capital of Mexico. Trees, plants and flowers found in the national park and in this region stand in stark contrast to the pine woods of Pátzcuaro, located only one hour away and 1,500 feet higher in elevation. In this botanical bounty of the national park you will discover humble food stands offering handmade tortillas, steaming corn, and delicious tacos (see the steaming corn above, center). What better place to enjoy a served picnic?
Many of the best victuals come directly from the park. The rainbow trout farm (located inside the park) provides the tastiest and freshest "trucha" in Mexico. Customers line up to buy expertly deboned filets daily. Pair the fresh trout with the locally grown macadamia nuts, and you will enjoy a meal fit for royalty (macadamia nuts are pictured above, right on the tree). The area also produces a hearty coffee which is prized by all Mexicans, La Lucha being the favorite brand. Cacao beans molded into chocolate tablets are also a product of the region. One could dine very well solely upon the local offerings and produce.
Around every turn is a view of the fresh, clear waters of Cupatitzio River, and hundreds of species of trees, flowers, and ferns. Each time I approach the riverside, the temperature pleasantly drops by ten to fifteen degrees.
At the end of the trail (the rear entrance of the park), a clear blue pool reflects the surrounding tropical foliage. This pool, named "Las Rodillas de los Diablos" (the Devil's Knees), is in fact the source water and spring from which the Cupatitzio River originates. Although the trail has ended, still more pleasures lie ahead.
Exiting the park just above The Devil's Knees, a wonderful restaurant beckons only steps away. At the Restaurante La Terraza de La Trucha, select a dining perch overlooking one of the park's spectacular water falls. Start with an avocado cocktail in honor of Uruapan's distinction of being the avocado capital of Mexico. This concoction is so delicious that you wouldn't dare add shrimp! Then move on to the "Trucha á la Macadamia" that I mentioned before. Simply sublime. Finish with a delicious cup of Uruapan coffee coupled with ice cream and macadamia nut cookies, of course.
After such an exquisite meal, the
park's easy trails are a perfect way to walk off the calories (that must
be my over-achiever, U.S. voice speaking to me
scary). Settling back
into Mexican-mode, I instead hail a cab and look forward to a relaxing
afternoon siesta, filled with dreams of the "river that sings".
All photos by Deb Hall, March 2004.
¹ All history of the Ruiz family, the President Lázaro Cárdenas connection to the park's founding, and the specific Purépecha names of the park's features were taken from, "National Park, Where the River Sings" by Carlos Elías Vega Tapia, México Desconocido, #298, December 2001.
Lic. Eduardo Luiz National Park
Restaurante La Terraza de la