When they hear the name Quiroga, Mexicans naturally think of carnitas!

The town of Quiroga lies in central Michoacán, about an hour's drive west of Morelia. Quiroga offers a couple of lovely plazas, some beautiful churches, and lots of shops selling a variety of goods, from clothing to homewares to traditional artisanal crafts.


But it is for the carnitas that Quiroga is most well-known. Carnitas (literally "little meats") are made by cooking all parts of a pig in its own fat. The resulting meat is tremendously juicy and rich, oozing with pork fat, and crunchy with chopped bits of crispy skin. Dropped into a freshly-made corn tortilla with a spicy salsa and perhaps some onion and cilantro, you have an incredibly delicious meal. Carnitas are loved all over Mexico, but Quiroga claims to be the birthplace of the dish, and proudly proclaims that their carnitas are the best in the country. The crowds gathered around the food stands in the city's main plaza certainly attest to this!

Photo by Cotidiano399


But Quiroga is more than just pork. There is the lovely Parish of San Diego de Alcalá, built in 1750. The painted ceiling offers a number of religious images, but to me, the most compelling are a series of panels depicting the story of Juan Diego and the Virgen Guadalupe.

Juan Diego

Juan Diego

Quiroga was named in honor of Don Vasco de Quiroga (1470–1565), the first bishop of Michoacán. He took great interest in restoring order to the Michoacán area which had been ravaged by rebellions and unrest. He employed a strategy of gathering indigenous populations into congregated hospital-towns called Republicas de Indios, organized after principles found in Thomas More's Utopia.

Vasco de Quiroga

The purpose of this policy was to teach the indigenous people a trade and to instruct them in Christian values and lifestyles. He established multiple such hospitals*: Santa Fé de México close to the town of Tacubaya in the Valley of Mexico, Santa Fe de la Laguna close to Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, and Santa Fe Del Rio close to La Piedad, Michoacán.

Because of his contribution to the protection of the indigenous people, Vasco de Quiroga's legacy is recognized in America and Spain, and even venerated in the Catholic Church.


* In this sense, these are not the typical hospitals that we first think of. Yes, they provided medical assistance, but these hospitals served more as community centers. Residents could bring their bread to be baked in communal ovens, learn new skills or crafts, receive education in the Catholic religion, etc. These hospitals were overseen by a different family each month: the family would live in the hospital and coordinate the various activities—and it was considered a great honor to serve in this position.