Tlalpujahua (also known as Tlalpujah de Rayon) is a small town of about 3,600 residents (2023) in Michoacan. It is a historic gold mining town and an important site in the war for independence against Spain. The town is now famous for its handmade Christmas ornaments. Tlalpujahua is a designated Pueblo Magico.
Like a phoenix, Tlalpujahua is rising from the ashes. It had become a veritable ghost town in the early 1960s, with just 600 residents remaining after the government shut down the gold mines in 1959. The mines had operated since the 1890s, but suffered a setback in 1937 when a landslide destroyed parts of the mine and wiped out about 1/3 of the town, killing more than 400 residents. That's when the government stepped in and began operating the mines, though they did not invest in equipment or update facilities and by the late 1950s, had been run into the ground.
Around that time, a young local man named Joaquín Muñoz Orta went to Chicago where he found work as a factory laborer making Christmas tree ornaments. He learned quick and realized he could make a good business for himself doing similar work in Mexico. He moved to Mexico City and set up his own workshop. His business grew, and he eventually moved back to Tlalpujahua, his home town, where he established Adornos Navideños SA de CV. Today, his company employs more than 1,000 workers producing millions of hand-blown glass Christmas tree ornaments each year, mostly for export. Other local entrepreneurs have followed in his footsteps and today, more than 200 small workshops in Tlalpujahua produce a wide range of handcrafted Christmas ornaments.
Get in Edit
By bus Edit
Pegasso operates buses to Tlalpujahua departing from Mexico City's Observatorio bus terminal. If a direct bus to Tlalpujahua is not leaving soon, you can also take an El Caminante bus to Oro de Hidalgo. It is a 5- to 10-minute taxi ride from Oro to Tlalpujahua. The 2½ hour trip will cost about M$300.
- 1 Terminal de Autobuses (Bus station), Fray Manuel 3, Centro. Tiny waiting area, served by Pegasso buses to Mexico City (Observatorio).
Get around Edit
The town is small, compact, and easily navigated on foot. Having a car can be useful most of the time, but can be a serious liability during the town's Christmas season weekends when parking becomes non-existant. A taxi stand is located near the zocalo.
- 1 Mina Dos Estrellas, Dos Estrellas. 09:00 - 16:00. Fascinating tour of the old gold mines with lots of old mining equipment in place. Guided tours are in Spanish only. Photography not permitted. no fixed fee, but donations requested.
- 2 Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen, Parroquia de San Pedro y San Pablo), Pbro. Francisco Aguilera 1, Centro, ☏ . 17th-century baroque church with pink granite facade and a stunningly elaborate interior full of stained glass, statues, intricate architectural details and color everywhere. The detailed artistic sculpturing of the church walls was created in the late 19th and early 20th century by artist Joaquín Orta Menchaca. It features unusual vegetable and plant motifs. Even in a country full of spectacular churches, this one stands out. Hilltop location makes for excellent views of the town.
- 3 Museo Hermanos López Rayón (Rayon House), Torbellino 13, Centro. 10:00 - 16:00 (closed M). Small historical museum in the former house of the Lopez Rayon family, whose sons were local heroes during the Mexican war for Indepence from Spain. Many photographs and artifacts explaining who the Rayon brothers were and their role in the war, and how the town later developed its mining industry.
- 1 Rayon National Park (Cerro de Gallos, Parque Nacional Rayon). Small (25-hectare) historical park protecting the hilltop fortifications built by the Rayon brothers during the Mexican War for Independence in 1812. Established as a national park in 1952. Dense pine forest that is habitat for 98 kinds of birds, according to CONABIO, including 3 endemic species.
- 2 Fabrica de Esferas Fimave, Victoria 1, ☏ . Workshop where Christmas ornaments are made. Visitors welcome. See how decorations are designed and manufactured.
- Feria de la Esfera (Auditorio Municipal (and shops throughout town)). - Christmas comes to Tlalpujahua all year round, but from October until December, Christmas is the town's biggest event of the year. An estimated 400,000 visitors inundate the small town, particularly on weekends, drinking punch, eating tamales, and buying more Christmas ornaments than Santa could ever imagine. There is a Christmas village with Santa's Workshop and more. During this time traffic in town will rival Mexico City at rush hour and parking will be non-existant. Bring cash because most merchants don't take credit cards.
Christmas decorations. Lots of them. Many stores in town sell nothing else. Many shops are open only on weekends and cash is always preferred.
- 1 La Terraza, Allende 10-A, Centro Histórico. 10:00 - 19:00. Traditional Mexican cooking. Mole, enchiladas, etc. Nice views from 2nd floor terrace. M$200.
- 2 Del Carmen, H. Galeana 46, Centro, ☏ . Sa Su 08:00 - 22:00, W-F 18:00-22:00, closed M Tu. Nice place with coffee, hot chocolate and crepes for breakfast (weekends only). Dinner is lighter fare, like huaraches, etc.
- 3 El Porton, 5 de Mayo 23-Interior 1, Centro, ☏ . 09:00 - 18:00. Pizzas, sandwiches and other light fare.
- 4 1937 Cafeteria, La Paz 12, Centro, ☏ . 10:00 - 21:30. Interesting place with a variety of coffees and teas. 4 sizes of pizza with the usual toppings, plus some house specialties like pastor and shrimp.
- 1 Castrum Optimus Cervisia, Calle de la Cerveza Calle cerrada El Carmen, ☏ . F-Su 09:00 - 20:00, closed M-Th. Artesanal craft brewery offering a good range of ales as well as an interesting light-bodied mead. They have a saison flavored with cardamon and a light-bodied amber that's a great session beer at only 4.5% alcohol.
- 1 Hotel de la Parroquia Tlalpujahua, Cerrada del Fresno 15, Centro, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Attractive colonial hotel with clean, comfortable rooms. Rooms on 2nd floor are updated with king beds. On-site restaurant. Free on-site parking. M$800.
- 2 Hotel del Carmen, H. Galeana 46, Centro, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Cozy, comfortable hotel with lots of artwork. Rooms are a bit small, but clean. Convenient location, 1-block to zocalo. On-site restaurant with traditional Mexican cooking. M$800.
- 3 Hotel 10 de Abril, Cjon. de Refugio #8, Centro, ☏ . Small hotel with clean modern facilities. On-site restaurant and on-site parking.
Go next Edit
- Angangueo - see the world-famous Monarch butterfly reserve