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Cotija de la Paz

Cotija de la Paz is the municipal seat of the municipality of the same name.

Situated in the Mexican state of Michoacan, Cotija de la Paz is known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and picturesque landscapes. Let’s delve into its location, geography, things to see and do, as well as its history.

Cotija de la Paz is situated approximately 185 km northwest of the state capital, Morelia. It is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, offering stunning views and a pleasant climate.

The town is surrounded by rolling hills, lush vegetation, and agricultural fields that contribute to its serene and inviting ambiance.

Cotija de la Paz offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Its charming architecture and serene landscapes make it a unique destination for travelers interested in exploring the cultural richness of Mexico’s colonial towns.

Cotija municipality is the birthplace of several religious figures, including Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia and Father Marcial Maciel. The economy of the municipality is mostly based on agriculture and ranching.

Cotija cheese is named after the city. A salty and crumbly cheese that originated in the region. The cheese-making tradition has deep historical roots and is still an integral part of the local economy and culture.

Things to do in Cotija de la Paz

The historic center of Cotija, paved with pink quarry stone, reflects traditional aesthetics.

Efforts by various municipal governments and civil societies have preserved the colonial ambiance through architectural lighting, the maintenance of squares, and gardens, and underground electrification.

Main Plaza (Zócalo): The central plaza is a hub of activity and a great place to soak in the local culture. You can relax on benches, enjoy the shade of trees, and observe daily life as it unfolds.

Parroquia de San José: The town’s main church, Parroquia de San José, is a prominent landmark known for its colonial architecture and ornate details. It’s a great place to appreciate the religious and architectural heritage of the region.

Parish of Our Lady of Popolo: The construction of the Parish of Our Lady of Popolo n began in 1854. The parish is a grand edifice blending Baroque and Neoclassical styles. The tower of the parish holds five bells.

Constructed primarily of rock with hand-carved pink quarry stone moldings, the building features a towering 70-meter-tall tower, crafted entirely from pink quarry stone, housing a bell tower on its first level.

The standout feature of the parish is its dome, suspended solely on columns, crafted from black/brown quarry stone, and adorned with stained glass windows depicting religious motifs, reminiscent of the style found in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The underground tunnels: Legend holds that beneath the parish lie tunnels initially built as drainage. These tunnels were purportedly used to shelter the Catholic faithful during the Cristero War, connecting with other tunnels beneath the city center and main streets.

Access to these tunnels is believed to be beneath the parish’s baptismal font. Additionally, it’s speculated that the tunnels served as hiding places for gold and valuables from invaders.

Local Museum: Cotija has a museum where you can find artifacts and objects organized chronologically, from archaeological finds dating from pre-Columbian times, the golden age of Cotija, and the modern era.

Religious centers in Cotija de la Paz

  • Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Popolo
  • Templo San José
  • Templo San Felipe
  • Santuario de la Asunción
  • Santuario Guadalupano
  • Santuario Virgen Del Barrio
  • Templo La Rinconada
  • Templo San Rafael Guízar
  • Templo Sagrado Corazón
  • Salón del Reino de los Testigos de Jehová
  • Iglesia Cristiana
  • Iglesia Luz Del Mundo
  • Iglesia Monseñor Guízar y Valencia

Noteworthy is the colonial-era house of Rafael Guízar y Valencia, adding to the rich historical tapestry of the city.

Cultural Events: Depending on the time of year, you might have the chance to experience local festivals and events. These celebrations often involve traditional music, dance, and food, providing a glimpse into the area’s cultural traditions.

Exploring the Countryside: The surrounding countryside offers opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching. The scenic landscapes make for a peaceful and enjoyable experience.

History and Timeline

Cotija de la Paz is a town with a population of Spanish, Italian, and Southern French descent.

Cotija de la Paz has a rich historical background that dates back to pre-Hispanic times when it was inhabited by indigenous groups. The town gained significance during the colonial period as a mission center established by the Spanish.

Over the years, it became an important agricultural and trade hub.

Its Spanish founders came from Andalusia and Galicia, while those of French origin came from an area near Spain, occupied by the departments of Aveyron, Tarn, Perigord, Dordogne, and Eastern Pyrenees.

There are different versions regarding the exact date of the town’s foundation.

However, the priest José Romero Vargas dedicated several years of his life to historical research on his hometown. After several years of investigation, he determined that this was the most likely and truthful version of Cotija’s founding:

During the early years of Spanish rule, it was part of the encomienda of Tarecuato-Tepehuacán. In the last quarter of the 16th century, the viceroy authorized Spanish families to settle in the valley, forming a congregation within the jurisdiction of Tingüindín.

Between 1575 and 1576, at the site known as Cotixa, and very close to a clear stream later called El Río Claro, Don Melchor Manzo de Corona established his dwelling. With him also came his wife, Doña Juana Pérez, their children Melchor and Leonor, and some indigenous people, such as Juan Alonso, born in Tacatzcuaro.

From 1581 to 1595, eleven other Spanish settlers established themselves around this settlement. Some built their homes and persevered mainly in cattle farming. Over the years, attracted by the good climate and beauty of the area, other Spanish families settled.

By then, it was known as El Rincón de Cotixa, and Don Melchor Manzo’s estate was considered the head or center of the others. For this reason, a primitive chapel to Our Lady of Pópolo was built there, and a market was held on Sundays.

Even before 1730, the chapel of El Rincón de Cotija had a resident priest, but baptisms, weddings, and burials were not allowed, and it was necessary to go to the parish headquarters in Tinguidin.

It was not until November 1740 that this situation was remedied when the Bishop of Michoacán, Fr. Marcos Ramírez del Prado, decreed that the chapel and courtyard of El Rincón de Cotija be given ecclesiastical burial.

Between August 2 and 5, 1759, when it was decreed that from that date, El Rincón de Cotixa and Llano de Titiacoro would be forever united under a single name, with the official category of The Congregation of Cotija.

In 1790, Cotija de la Paz was reclassified as a city.

Several Sephardic Jewish families settled in Cotija, maintaining their distinct identity and not intermarrying with the rest of the population. Most people married within their ethnic group, using Hebrew names for their children baptized under Christian rites.

On October 12, 1810, a detachment was formed to fight for Independence. On November 12 and 13, 1813, insurgent leaders attacked the royalist forces of Captain Miguel de la Mora. On March 20, 1918, the forces of Inés Chávez García looted and set fire to the city.

In December 1920, the forces of General Lázaro Cárdenas passed through the town. On December 27, 1939, the presidential resolution forming the Ejido of Cotija and its annexes was signed.

Cotija also participated in the Cristero War (1926 to 1929), which was led by General Jesús Degollado Guízar.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Cotija was characterized by a deep religiosity, expressed in various pious traditions and the flourishing of priestly and religious vocations, with this locality being the birthplace of six bishops within the Catholic Church.

Holidays and traditions

  • January 5 and 6 – Religious festivals in La Esperanza and Los Santos Reyes.
  • 12th of January – Celebration of the Virgin in San Juanico.
  • February 5th – Celebration in honor of San Felipe de Jesús.
  • March, 19 – San José Festival.
  • June 24 – Celebration of the Virgin of El Barrio.
  • September 28-30 – Toast Fair.
  • October 12 – Celebration of the discovery of America at the Guadalupano Sanctuary.
  • November 22th – Santa Cecilia Festival in the main square by local musicians.
  • December 1-31 – Traditional festivals in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Cheese Fair, and Festival of the Absent Son.
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