Uriangato, Guanajuato is Moroleon’s neighboring town and also believes itself to be a city. They are so close they share the Calle de Ropa (Clothing street) and have been involved in recent land disputes over the Moroleon/Uriangato border. However, the culture between the two is centuries apart. Moroleon is on its way to becoming an unimaginative merchandising metropolis while Uriangato still has bonfire festivities.
The name Uriangato (which to me sounds suspiciously like something that translates as cat pee) actually comes from the original Purepecha name of the settlement which was anapu-nani-hima-huriata-hari-jatzhicuni-anandini. This translates roughly as Lugar donde el sol se pone levantado (the place where the sunset occurs on top) and refers to the fact that the western surrounding hills do not allow the sun’s rays to reach the town center from the early afternoon on, causing it to look like sunset most of the day. Apparently, the conquering Spanish could not pronounce the name and dubbed the area Uriangato.
Back in the year 940 or so, the area was inhabited by the Chichimecas and Otomies under the general jurisdiction of the Purepechas of Yuriria. At the time of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Uriangato was considered a border area dividing the Chichimeca and Purepecha domains. In 1529, the area and its inhabitants were gifted to Juan de Tovar. In 1549, Fray Diego de Chávez founded la Congregación de Nativos (The Congregation of Natives), with the supposed goal of bettering the lives of the indigenous left in the area. On February 20, 1604, King Felipe the Third decreed that the area would henceforth be known as the town of San Miguel Uriangato.
During the Mexican Independence War, Uriangato’s only involvement was allowing Hidalgo and his troops to pass through on their way to Valladolid (Morelia) on November 14, 1810. There’s a monument in the town center marking that they too were part of the “Ruta de la Independencia.” (Road to Independence).
The animosity that still exists between Moroleon and Uriangato apparently began in the early 1830’s. There were some issues with vendors from Uriangato who wished to set up stalls in the area that is now known as Moroleon and were prohibited by locals. Neither city has forgotten.
In 1918, Uriangato was attacked by bandits under the leadership of J. Inés Chávez García. The town rallied and drove the bad guys away. Venustiano Carranza himself sent his congratulations to the town officials. The Aniversario de la Heroica Defensa de Uriangato (anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Uriangato) is commemorated on June 24.
1918 was also the year that the Spanish Influenza hit Uriangato. During the months of October and November of that year, 25 to 30 bodies were buried daily with an estimated total death toll of 1500 residents.
The town tradition of the Globos de Cantoya (hot air balloons) began in 1928 as part of the festivities honoring San Miguel the Archangel during La Octava Noche. I have not gone to see this particular aspect of the San Miguel tradition, not being a big fan of balloons and all, but the sawdust artistry of the tapetes (carpets) is really amazing. This is a relatively new tradition begun in 2009. The other major aspect of these celebration days are the candiles (bonfires). Nearly every household has a burning ocote fire in front of their home lit to guide San Miguel through the town. It’s an eerie experience. (See also Fogatas, tapetes, and San Miguel Arcangel ) The Fiesta de San Miguel Arcángel runs from September 19 to October 6 culminating in a procession over the tapetes with the image of San Miguel the archangel to and from La Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel.
The first rebozo (shawl) textile factories in Uriangato were opened in the 1960s leading to the eventual creation of 4 km of street vendor stalls that continues on into Moroleon. I find the whole shopping experience overwhelming. I mean really, 4 kilometers of clothing? However, this is a big draw for people from other areas who buy quantities of clothing and then resell it in their own stores.
During the Christmas season, which is observed from December 16 to December 30, Los Enanitos Toreros (midget bullfighters) never fail to make an appearance. Not something you are likely to see in Moroleon.
So if you like shopping, pageantry and midget bullfighters, you won’t want to miss stopping by Uriangato.