Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan: A Traveler’s Copper Haven
Santa Clara del Cobre is home to amazing artisans who have passed the techniques to turn any piece of copper into a real work of art from generation to generation.
To preserve and enhance this historical and artisanal heritage, the town was declared a Magical Town in 2010.
Famous for its fine handicrafts, it is a town with international recognition, full of artisans with knowledge and traditions even before the conquest.
Santa Clara del Cobre was founded in 1553, where the National Copper Fair is celebrated.
Its main square boasts a copper glow in its lanterns, benches, and kiosk. Stroll through its downtown artisan stores and marvel at the work of the master coppersmiths.
Where is Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan?
To get from Mexico City to the Pueblo Magico, you must drive 365 km west towards Toluca and Morelia on Mexico 15D.
The altitude of 2,244 meters above sea level favors Santa Clara del Cobre, with a temperate climate and an average annual temperature of 16° C.
In winter, it cools down to 12 or 13° C, while in summer, the temperature rises to 18 or 19° C. Extreme heat rarely exceeds 27° C, while the cold maximums are close to 4° C.
Rainfall occurs mainly between June and October.
How did the town come about?
The pre-Hispanic settlement paid tribute to the Purépecha lordship.
In 1553 the town was founded by the Augustinian friar Francisco de Villafuerte, Santa Clara de Los Cobres, after Saint Clare of Assisi and the local metalworking tradition.
The arrival of Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacan, boosted the construction and copper activity.
It reached the rank of a villa in 1858 when it was renamed Santa Clara de Portugal in honor of Bishop Cayetano de Portugal, although this name did not prosper.
Top attractions in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan
Santa Clara inhales and exhales copper. From the kiosk in the Main Square, the metal is the main protagonist.
The National Copper Museum and the artisans’ workshops are places to learn about the past and present of the millenary work of hammered copper, a legacy of the Purépechas since pre-Columbian times.
Santa Clara del Cobre is a town of typical houses and beautiful churches, among which the Templo de la Inmaculada Concepción and La Huatápera, and the Templo de Nuestra Señora del Sagrario stand out.
For nature lovers, I recommend a visit to Lake Zirahuén.
Visit the main square
The central plaza of Santa Clara del Cobre is presided over by a beautiful kiosk in the center, a gigantic copper dipper, the metal that symbolizes and gives life to the town.
The roof of the kiosk is also made of copper, and the sun’s rays create a beautiful effect on its surface.
The square is full of wrought iron benches shaded by trees, where it is a pleasure to sit and enjoy a snack, chat, or rest and watch the time pass without haste.
Picturesque gabled houses surround the square with tile roofs; of course, there is no shortage of handicraft stores and copper utensils.
National Copper Museum
The first copper working techniques in Santa Clara are of pre-Hispanic heritage.
The arrival of the Spaniards, led by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, boosted the exploitation and transformation of the metal with European know-how.
In the molding of copper in Santa Clara, the ancient Purepecha techniques have given origin to many beautiful pieces exposed in the National Museum of Copper.
In this museum, located on Morelos Avenue, on the corner of Pino Suarez, you can admire live copper work by accomplished artisans.
Admire the artisan workshops
The Purepecha, who began copper working in Santa Clara and other surrounding sites, hammered copper with stone tools.
The indigenous descendants of the 21st century have changed the method little, perhaps incorporating more durable tools for molding.
In many streets of Santa Clara del Cobre, some workshops follow the millenary working practices of skilled artisans who pass on their knowledge from generation to generation.
In these workshops, it is possible to acquire copper handicrafts at excellent prices, such as bells, bezotes, and earrings, as well as pieces of practical use, such as spoons and knives.
Enjoy the National Copper Fair at Santa Clara del Cobre
If Santa Clara del Cobre is full of copper objects throughout the year, the apotheosis of the metal takes place in mid-August, when the National Copper Fair takes place, whose main stages are the Main Square and the National Copper Museum.
All the town’s artisan workshops strive to produce the most striking decorative elements and pieces of practical use, to submit them to the judgment of the public, who take advantage of the excellent prices to buy ornamental pieces and objects for the kitchen.
National and international guests who work with hammered copper attend the fair, and Santa Clara’s artisans always excel in front of specialists worldwide.
Temple of the Immaculate Conception and La Huatápera
It is a religious complex formed by a church and a chapel called La Huatápera.
The temple has a simple design, and its construction began in the 17th century.
The tower of the temple of the Immaculate Conception is one of the main scenes of the well-known novel, taken to the movies “The Useless Life of Pito Perez” by the Michoacan writer Jose Ruben Romero.
The chapel La Huatápera is the oldest in the town. It was part of the XVI century of the Hospital de Indios built by Tata Vasco, the affectionate name of the first bishop of Michoacan, Vasco de Quiroga.
Templo de Nuestra Señora del Sagrario
The church of Our Lady of the Tabernacle was dedicated to St. Clare of Assisi, the 13th-century Italian nun who was the foremost follower of St. Francis.
It is highly venerated by the copper artisans of the town, who have enriched and ornamented the temple with chandeliers, milpas, and other decorative elements delicately worked with the metal.
The temple on one side of the Main Square also has a beautifully crafted Christ.
Explore Lake Zirahuén
According to a legend, the beautiful Purepecha princess Eréndira, daughter of King Tangaxoán, was kidnapped and hidden in a valley by a Spanish conquistador.
The princess cried so hard, begging to be returned to her people, that her tears filled the valley until they formed a lake.
Desperate to escape her kidnapper, Eréndira threw herself into the lake and became a mermaid.
This paradisiacal lake, surrounded by pines, arbutus, and oaks, presents a green tone in its clear water due to the reflection of the surrounding foliage.
It is ideal for a spiritual retreat in one of its simple cabins and walks along paths covered with bromeliads and other beautiful flowers.
Santa Clara del Cobre’s gastronomy
Strolling early morning through the streets of Santa Clara del Cobre has its rewards.
Like the smell of fresh bread and corundas in corn husks made in the local’s houses with recipes that date back to the Purépechas.
Baked lamb stuffed with vegetables and lamb barbecue is two other typical delicacies of the town.
I also recommend you try the Apache beef tostadas, chicken a la artesa, mole enchiladas, cooked carnitas and tortas de tostada.
Santa Clara del Cobre: Hotels and restaurants
Most visitors to Santa Clara del Cobre who come from far away stay in the nearby cities of Patzcuaro, Uruapan, and Morelia.
- In Patzcuaro, you will find the Hotel Misión San Manuel, a rustic mansion in front of the Main Square; the Hotel Los Escudos, Mansión del Patrón, and Mirador del Lago
- In Uruapan, the Hotel Plaza Uruapan is recommended
If you want to stay in Morelia, read my complete guide here.
If you want to taste authentic home-cooking food in Santa Clara del Cobre, you can go to the little market located in front of Main Square.
- La Lagunita restaurant, on 18 A Street, serves Mexican and seafood
- El Portal, on Matamoros 18, is a popular traditional food place in front of the plaza
I hope your visit to Santa Clara del Cobre will be a success and that this guide will be helpful to you. Stay safe and healthy. Vamonos!