In 1943, the Paricutin Volcano made its unexpected and dramatic debut, springing from a cornfield in Western Mexico and frightening local farmers. Its eruptions would continue for nine years, engulfing nearby towns and displacing local communities.
Francisco Gomez, now an elder among Michoacan State’s indigenous Purepecha people, was 10-years-old at the time.
“The volcano would throw earth and lava into the air, and it would look like explosions in the sky,” Gomez explained. “The ash in the air spread, and the sky turned black for many days. Then it began to rain ash everywhere, and the lava flow moved slowly towards our town. I was a boy, and I couldn’t understand why my parents and grandparents cried.”
The towns consumed by the volcano’s activity now lie buried beneath nine meters of hardened lava. This natural disaster site has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from across the country to marvel at the landscape of a town engulfed by molten rock.
Many international tourists come seeking an alternative to Mexico’s beaches. They come to see the volcano ruins and get a taste of the local, indigenous culture that remains alive in the area.
“You’re actually stepping back in time 200 years,” American Tourist Tom O’Neill said. “People in this village, although they have some modern conveniences, live how they did 200 years ago, very little has changed with their culture. They speak their native language of Purepecha, so it’s a unique thing,”
Today, the ruins have become part of the evolving volcanic landscape, and what was once a tragedy for the local people, has turned into a source of income.