Zitácuaro, officially known as Heroica Zitácuaro, is a city in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The city is the administrative centre for the surrounding municipality of the same name, which lies at the extreme eastern side of Michoacán and borders on the adjacent state of México. The city reported a population of 78,821 in the 2005 census, while the municipality had a population of 136,491. The city is the fifth largest in the state, as is the municipality. The municipality has an area of 498 km² (192.3 sq mi).
An indigenous settlement was founded on the site of modern-day Zitácuaro, possibly as early as the 12th century by Otomis and Mazahuas (an Otomi ceremonial centre still stands in San Felipe de los Alzati, 9 km to the north of the municipal seat). In the mid-14th century, Tarascans led by Yquingari conquered the region.
At the time of the Spanish conquest, the area stood on the border between the lands of the Tarascan league and those of the Aztec empire. The locals are reported to have fought alongside the Aztecs, with whom they were allied, in the failed defence of Tenochtitlan. Following this defeat, Franciscan friars established a parish church with the name of San Juan Tzitácuaro, and a monastery was founded in the early 18th century.
The 1812 incident was the first burning of Zitácuaro. The second took place on 1 April 1855, at the hands of troops loyal to Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna during the Revolution of Ayutla, in response to the city's expressed support for Gen. Juan Álvarez. The city was burnt to the ground on a third occasion on 15 April 1865 by French Imperial troops in reprisal for the Republicans' victory at Tacámbaro some days earlier.
In recognition of the turbulent events of the previous half-century and the city's heroism, on 20 April 1868 President Benito Juárez issued a decree whereby San Juan Zitácuaro would henceforth be known by the name of "Heroica Zitácuaro".