The Paricutin Volcano is in Michoacán, Mexico, not far from the Tarascan Indian village that it’s named after. It’s in the Michoacán–Guanajuato volcanic field and is the youngest volcano of over 1,400 volcanic vents in North America and the volcanic belt in Mexico.
The story of the Paricutin Volcano is interesting because it was formed, erupted, and died in a relatively short period. It started in February of 1943 when a farmer named Dionisio Pulido and his wife saw the first eruption of the newly forming volcano as they were working in their cornfield, which was where Paricutin erupted. There were rumbling sounds, then steaming and loud noise before the first large crack opened up. Shortly after, lava starting coming out and reached a height of around six meters by midnight, just eight hours later.
Its early days saw the worst of the volcanic activity. Within the first week of its eruption, the volcano grew to five stories high, with lava going up to around fifty feet under the crater’s rim. In a month, ashes even landed in Mexico City, which is approximately 200 miles away. Its eruptions resulted in the nearby villagers who lived in Paricutin and San Juan Parangaricutiro to leave and move to safer land nearby. As unbelievable as it sounds, although the village of Paricutin was covered entirely, its church was spared.
The Paricutin Volcano reached a height of over a thousand feet around its first birthday and kept erupting and pouring lava around the adjacent 6,000+ acres of land. By spring of 1952, just nine years after they first began, the eruptions were over, and Paricutin had reached a height of 1,390 feet tall in its field, which makes it a little over 9,000 feet above sea level. Some earthquakes were felt until the fall of 1952, but it’s been quiet ever since then, and the volcano unlikely to ever erupt again. The lava and fragments of its eruptions cover around twenty square miles. The Paricutin is a cinder cone that is Monogenetic, which means it has a single point of eruption. Monogenetic cones remain quiet once they have finished with their eruptions, and if there are new eruptions in a monogenetic field, they will be in a new spot. This kind of eruption is known as a Strombolian eruption, which are low-level and sporadic.
Because the Paricutin Volcano came about with mankind to witness its birth, it has been named as one of the seven natural wonders.
Visiting the Paricutin Volcano
The trip to visit and see the Paricutin Volcano is twelve miles round trip to the top. It can be hiked, though it’s not for the faint of heart, because it’s a strenuous trek. Alternatively, the trip can be made on horseback, which is more accessible and still allows for a great experience. The sand and lava fields make for great hiking treks to experience more of the sights, and this can also be done either by foot or on horseback. There are plenty of things to see, including buried homes in the engulfed village, along with the church that survived. Summer temperatures are generally between the upper seventies and mid-eighties, and rainy season around the Paricutin Volcano is usually from May to September. Still, the volcano can be visited at any time.
Three people were killed after lightning strikes that the initial eruptions caused, but no one died due to the lava or suffocation. In 1947, the movie “Captain from Castile,” which was produced by 20th Century Fox, included shots of the volcano in its filming. Then in 1949, the Paricutin Volcano had some heavy activity, and almost a thousand people died as a result.