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(or Tarascans; self-designation, Purépecha), an Indian people in Mexico.
The Tarasco live in the state of Michoacán, mainly on the islands of Lake Pátzcuaro and in the areas around the lake, and in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Guerrero. They number approximately 50,000 (1970, estimate). Their unique language forms a separate family; most also speak Spanish.
In the early 16th century an independent early-state union, whose principal city was Tzintzuntzán, existed among the Tarasco. During the colonial period, groups of Spanish-speaking mestizos settled on the native lands of the Tarasco; however, the Tarasco preserved a considerable part of their ethnic territory along with the unique quality of their culture.
The main occupation of the Tarasco is farming (corn, vegetables, and fruits) and, among those living in the lake regions, fishing. Handicrafts are well developed; entire villages specialize in making mats, fishing nets, and pottery for the market.
The official religion of the Tarasco is Catholicism, although elements of pre-Christian beliefs have been retained.