Mujer P’urhépecha!

Cultural Perspectives

Pirecuas, traditional songs of the P’urhépecha Indians, celebrate daily life, the beauty of flowers, and women. They are characterized by a deep sense of melancholy and are the work of the Pireris, their official composers. Pirecuas are sung, accompanied by native and Western musical instruments.

The city of Tzintzuntzán and Lake Pátzcuaro were the center of the Tarascan Empire from 1100 to 1522. P’urhépecha, still spoken by approximately 200,000 native inhabitants of Michoacán, has linguistic similarities to Quechua, the language of the Inca. Trade with this great South American empire may have influenced Tarascan pottery and metalworking techniques. Tarascan religion was dominated by Curicaueri, the god of fire, but celebrated many other deities, each with its own animal totems and calendar days.

According to Tarascan origin myths, Curicaueri and his brother gods founded settlements around Lake Pátzcuaro. The P’urhépecha believed they are his descendants. Here are a few Pirecua lyrics:

Mujer P’urhépecha (P’urhépecha Woman)

I am rebellion against forgetfulness, the face of poverty, and presence of outcasts. I am collective memory “another name for the morning.” I am P’urhépecha woman who has overcome many years of abandonment, lost in the silence of our lakes, the sadness of our houses when the man leaves. I’ve lived the melancholy of the pirecuas, the dance of our songs!

This traditional soup may have been the origin of our more familiar Sopa Azteca.

Sopa Tarasca
2 corn tortillas, sliced into strips about 2 inches long
Oil for deep-frying
2/3 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-1/4 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juice
2 tsp. or more chili ancho or cayenne chile powder
5 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
Grinding of black pepper
1 cup grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
4 chiles anchos, stems and seeds removed
1/4 cup sour cream
Sliced avocado
Green part of 1 spring onion, minced

Prepare the tortilla-strip garnish. Heat enough oil for deep-frying over high flame in a wok or heavy pot until a piece of tortilla foams instantly. Deep-fry the tortilla strips until crisp. Drain on paper towels and reserve. Simmer the chiles anchos for 15 minutes or lightly fry in strips. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. of the oil, and cook the onions and garlic until translucent, but not browned. Place cooked vegetables in a blender; add the tomatoes with their juice, chile powder, and puree. Place tomato/vegetable base in a pot; add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook at a medium simmer for 15 minutes. To serve, place 1/4 cup cheese into each of four bowls. Ladle in the soup. Top each bowl with sour cream, black pepper, tortilla and ancho strips (or add 1/2 chile ancho), avocado, and green onion.


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