The Tarascan are a Native American people centered in the MichoacŠn state of Mexico. Tarascan is also the name of their historic language. The Tarascan language was still spoken by somewhat less than 100,000 people at the end of the 20th century, mostly in small rural villages. The name Tarascan and the Spanish language equivalent Tarascos come from the Nahuatl name for the people; they refer to themselves as Purťpecha.
The Tarascans or Purťpecha were one of the Pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica. Their capital city was TzintzuntzŠn. Tarascan architecture is noted for step-pyramids in the shape of the letter "T". Pre-Columbian Tarascan artisans made feather mosaics making extensive use of hummingbird feathers which were a highly regarded luxury good throughout the region. The Tarascans were never conquered by the Aztec Empire, despite several attempts by the Aztecs to do so, including a fierce war in 1479.
After hearing of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and having the native population much diminished by an epidemic of smallpox, the last native Tarascan king, TangoxoŠn II, pledged himself as a vassal of the King of Spain without a fight in 1525. In 1530 rogue Conquistador NuŮo GuzmŠn de Beltran declared himself Tarascan Emperor at TzintzuntzŠn, ruling capriciously and cruelly until the area was returned to the administration of Mexico City in 1533.