La Michoacana Is The Mexican Ice Cream Chain With A Very Complicated History
Anyone who has had a popsicle in Mexico is probably familiar with the La Michoacana brand. It is as ubiquitous as Burger King is to hamburgers or Dunkin’ Donuts is to donuts. La Michoacana stores can be found anywhere — from the smallest villages to the largest cities in Mexico and among Mexican immigrant communities in the United States.
The signature product are their paletas, which come in like a billions flavors such as spicy pineapple, cheese, and mango with chili. Although, at first glance, all La Michoacana stores appear to be alike, important differences indicate that they do not belong to a single franchise. The name suggests a common origin in the state of Michoacán, which stretches from the Pacific to central Mexico.
The story of La Michoacana is an interesting one.
Although, not all of the estimated 8,000 to 15,000 locations are part of the same company, even though they look alike, they all have a common heritage.
In fact, nearly all of the La Michoacana paleterias have connections to the same small town in the Mexican state of Michoacan — Tocumbo.
Yup, even though there are nearly 15,000 unrelated La Michoacana shops, nearly all of them can trace their roots back to Tocumbo.
Tocumbo is a small town in the state of Michoacan that is well-known across Mexico for its amazing ice cream.
There are many stories out there about the possible origins of La Michoacana.
One version is that in the 1960s, an ice cream maker from Tocumbo, Michoacán, came to work in the United States, seeking a better life, later returning home where he used his savings to launch an ice cream and paleta-making business.
A second version suggests that in the 1930s or 40s, Agustín Andrade and Ignacio Alcazar, also natives of Tocumbo, moved to Mexico City, where they worked at a paletería, later launching their own store, La Michoacana. They were said to have brought this business model back to Michoacán, where it was copied by other enterprising ice-cream lovers!
Of course, in those days, nobody thought about copyrighting the name, and so now, regardless of the true origin of the name, even the smallest of Mexican towns have one or more “Paletería La Michoacana.”
Regardless of which story is true and which La Michoacana chain is the original one, we can all agree Mexican ice cream is the best.
If you’re an ice cream fan, Mexico is a destination you will love, with an ice paletería on pretty much every corner selling paletas. And these popsicles are legit – made with fresh fruit, sometimes blended with milk or cream (paletas de leche) and sometimes just with sugar (paletas de agua).
Like, if this isn’t my childhood right here.
When I was a kid, a paleta was a big deal. Summertime meant that the ice cream cart, bell tinkling, would make its way through the neighborhood where I lived. After a frantic plea to mi mama for money, she counted out coins and I raced to the corner where the rest of the kids were already gathered, waiting for the vendor to dig through his icy case for mango, limon, fresa, or the reviled banana.
Hot summer days made those frozen snacks melt quickly, down childish fingers and the side of the hand, down the wrist and almost to the elbow in sticky trails of blood red and pale green. Nips of the cold treat slid in a chilly track from tongue to stomach, giving a few moments relief from the heat and humidity.
And seriously, who doesn’t love Mexican flavors of ice cream?
From rich and creamy to sweet and spicy, Mexican ice cream flavors and paletas are known for their expansive flavors.
What are your favorites?
The non-brand chain of shops has even expanded into the US.
Currently, there are stores in Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, and all over California. But how many of these are linked to the original and how many aren’t?