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Angangueo Michoacan: Home of the Monarch Butterfly

  • Joel CZ 
  • 9 min read
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The Magical Town of Mineral de Angangueo Michoacan awaits you with its provincial flair of a European village.

Among other charming things, you can appreciate the monarch butterfly sanctuary and learn about the town’s mining past.

Angangueo (short for Mineral de Angangueo) is located on Michoacan’s east side, at an altitude of 2,480 meters above sea level.

This precious town sits among thick forests that once gave life to the mines that provided economic wealth in the old days.

But since the mines no longer operate, the locals have learned to make a living from ecological tourism, thanks to the blessing of the annual pilgrimage made by the monarch butterflies.

To take advantage of its ecological, mining, and architectural heritage for tourism, the town was incorporated into the system of Magical Towns.

Although misfortune struck in 2010 in the form of landslides and floods, the people of Angangueo Michoacan are recovering with the same tenacity exhibited when the gold and silver ran out.

How to get to Angangueo from Mexico City?

From Mexico City, the trip is 200 km west on highway A-7D. Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, is 153 km away, and Uruapan del Progreso, the second-largest city, is 256 km away.

The other closest major cities are Toluca, 123 km; Querétaro, 159 km; and Guanajuato, 279 km away.

More about the history of Angangueo Michoacan

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Source: Marco Ortiz-MOF / shutterstock.com

The first Spaniard in command to arrive in the territory was Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, in 1550.

The area became a mining enclave, although the actual “boom” came at the end of the 18th century, discovering the great gold and silver seams.

The city grew at the pace of extracting precious metals and reached its greatest flourishing between the 19th and 20th centuries.

The last mines were closed in the 1990s, and the town opened a new stage supported by the hundreds of ecological and environmental tourists that fill the city five months a year to admire its beautiful butterflies.

In Mineral de Angangueo it rains about 1,020 mm of water per year, which falls mainly between June and September.

With an altitude of almost 2,500 meters above sea level, Angangueo Michoacan enjoys a cool and stable climate, with an average annual temperature of 14° C and few variations between seasons.

The warmest months, if they can be called that, are those between April and September, when the temperature is between 14 and 15° C.

Winters are not too cold; December and February are usually between 10 and 11° C, although there may be an occasional frost close to 2° C.

Angangueo Michoacan, best things to do

As I said earlier, Angangueo was built on the wealth of its precious metals, which left beautiful architectural testimonies such as the Temple of the Immaculate Conception, the Church of San Simón Abad, the Parker House, and other splendid mansions.

Vestiges, painful memories, and legends still preserve the town’s mining past.

Between November and March, the Monarch Butterfly makes its home in the Mexican Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that bears its name and has its great sanctuaries in the Michoacan forests surrounding Mineral de Angangueo.

Where are the Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries?

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The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve – Source: Atosan / shutterstock.com

The Michoacan towns of Ocampo and Angangueo are the gateways to the natural sanctuaries of the beautiful and brave monarch butterfly.

This butterfly performs one of nature’s most amazing miracles, traveling from Canada to its refuges in El Rosario and Sierra de Chincua to spend the winter among the Michoacan rainforest, feeding on the nectar of the flowers.

The Monarch Butterflies’ journey to their natural temples in Michoacan is 4,000 kilometers long.

They move at a speed of up to 50 km per hour, traveling between 250 and 325 km daily.

Most of the males die during the journey, but the females manage to survive and lay their eggs in Mexico to perpetuate their life cycle.

They arrive in the country in November and return north in early spring.

What is the Temple of the Immaculate Conception like?

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Source: Marco Ortiz-MOF / shutterstock.com

This beautiful church of neo-Gothic lines located in the historic center was built at the end of the 19th century, during the town’s golden age due to the precious metals.

The temple stands out for its high bell tower, whose peak is a geographic reference of the town by the four cardinal points.

The interior is distinguished by the white Carrara marble altar and several images of saints brought from France, Norway, and the United States.

On one side of the temple, there is a historical mural.

The fresco was painted on the sidewalls of some buildings in Mineral de Angangueo, separated by a long and narrow alley near the Temple of the Immaculate Conception in the center of the town.

The mural is the work of the artist Jorge Téllez and represents in 6 beautiful segments the history of the Magical Town.

Located in front of the Temple of the Immaculate Conception, although not as tall, is the Parish of San Simón Abad, distinguished by its sober beauty.

This baroque-style temple with a neoclassical façade is called the “church of the poor” since it is almost always open.

The church was consecrated in honor of San Simón Abad, the 6th-century hermit monk, the patron saint of Angangueo, the holy fools, and the puppeteers.

What is the Parker House like?

Among the magnificent French-style mansions of Mineral de Angangueo, the Parker House stands out.

There is a small museum on the town’s history, mainly related to the mining past and culture of the area.

From the Parker House, a tunnel connects to the atrium of the Temple of the Immaculate Conception, which visitors can tour.

How did the mining history of Angangueo Michoacan begin?

Although the mineral wealth of Angangueo began to be exploited shortly after the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century, the first successful episode occurred around 1792.

This was when many mining workers and the merchants in charge of providing goods and services arrived.

The period of splendor due to the wealth of precious metals took place between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when the most outstanding civil and religious buildings were built.

Since the end of the 18th century, when the great silver veins of Mineral de Angangueo were discovered, the deposits were exploited by foreign companies from Germany, England, France, and the United States.

The Catingón Mine and Carmen Mine relics are preserved from this time.

The American Smelting and Refining Company maintained operations until 1953, when it closed after a tragedy in the Dolores Mine, where 25 miners died.

The silver exploitation passed into the state’s hands, ceasing in 1991. The Monument to the Miner is a testimony to the sacrifice of the people of Angangueo.

What are the main festivities of the town?

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Source: JHVEPhoto / shutterstock.com

The annual visit of hundreds of millions and up to a billion northern butterflies is no small thing.

Between the end of February and the beginning of March, the Monarch Butterfly Festival takes place in Mineral de Angangueo, combining ecology, folklore, and fun.

Faithful to its tradition, the town celebrates the Day of the Miner on May 3.

Every Monday, the traditional “tianguis” is held in the market, and the commemoration of the Day of the Cross, on May 3, is also very colorful.

The patron saint festivities in honor of San Simón Abad have their culminating day on October 28.

Taste the food!

In Angangueo, you can try great local dishes such as mole, barbacoa, carnitas, corundas and uchepos.

If you are in the mood for something richer, I recommend ordering a baked beef head.

To sweeten things up, the town handcrafts delicious piloncillo-based preserves.

Angangueo also honors the old and exquisite Michoacan tradition of ice cream.

The town has a few simple places to eat, such as Restaurante Los Arcos, on Calle Benito Juárez.

The most recommended restaurants are on the outskirts, some in the hotels, such as Plaza Don Gabino, which offers an adequate quality/price ratio.

Get souvenirs

Although the mines no longer produce the silver that gave the town its splendor, some artisans still have the skill of silversmithing, which they have extended to metalwork in general.

Many pieces allude to the town’s natural symbol, the Monarch Butterfly. Gorgeous textiles are also available.

Lodging

The tourist infrastructure of Mineral de Angangueo is in consolidation, and most visitors to the town stay in nearby hotels.

Among these are Hotel La Margarita, 2 km from Angangueo; Hotel Rancho San Cayetano, 22 km away; and Hotel Villa Monarca Inn, on the road between Zitacuaro and Morelia.

Other nearby options are Best Western Riviera Tuxpan and Plaza Don Gabino.

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