Yuriria is pretty, and there is a restaurant with a one-armed waiter that serves delicious fresh-water fish soup. The market is also full of neat stuff to see, and the whole town has a different feel to it than Moroleon, so we enjoy it as a close-by getaway place.
The actual name is Yuririhapundaro although most people refer to it as simply Yuriria. It was founded the Chichimecas in 945 D.C.As with Cuitzeo, the name comes from the Purepecha language. It translates as The Place of the Bloody Lake. With such a name, it’s no surprise that Yuriria was built along the banks of a lake. It’s actually an extinct volcanic crater that is renewed through rainfall rather than an underground source.
Yuriria is also one of Guanajuato’s Pueblos Magicos, and on that official site, the bloody lake gets its name from the soil runoff, not from dead bodies. Well, as the idea of Pueblos Magicos is to get tourists to come, I suppose having tainted waters might put people off, so the run-off explanation is given out. However, Diego Basalenque made note, in 1644, that the oral tradition of the native people spoke of sacrifices that had been made in the center of the lake to the gods, leaving the red stain of their deaths behind in the waters.
A scientific explanation might resolve the issue of whether the sacrifices or the volcanic soil give the lake its reddish color. It may be that the coloration comes from the rapid reproduction of microscopic plants, like the chromatiaceae bacteria, that bloom under certain conditions. The plants subsequently poison the water for the fish. A whole lake of dead fish would cause the local population to perform sacrifices to appease the gods, beseeching them to allow the water to return to its normal color.
As the lake is not always bloody, the scientific explanation seems to make sense. Certainly, when we have visited, it’s been as blue as Lake Cuitzeo. Locals say that the two last bloody events occurred in 1985, before the devastating earthquake in Mexico City and in 1986, before the earthquake in San Francisco, California. Well, as I mentioned, the extinct volcanic crater is smack dab in the middle of the lake–things like shifting fault lines might cause such an occurrence.
After the lake, the most imposing structure in Yuriria is the Ex-convent of San Agustin. Construction was begun in 1550 by Fray Diego de Chavez y Alvarado, nephew of Don Pedro Alvarado, one of Hernan Cortes’ followers. Fray Diego is also given credit for the creation of the lake because he commissioned the construction of a canal that diverted the river waters to the crater in 1548. I’m not so sure he actually created the lake since the name of the area implies the village had been established by a bloody body of water long before the Spanish came (records indicate that the Tarascos, who conquered the area in 1350 D.C. made a note of the red tinted water phenomenon)…but you know how those Europeans like to take credit for everything.
All things considered, Yuriria is a pleasant stop on the road to little-known tourist attractions in Mexico.