If you’re looking for an inexpensive, charming place for a weekend gateway in Mexico, look no longer and book your flights to Zacatecas.
A town you instantly fall in love with because of its well preserved cobbled streets, lovely parks and squares; concerts, good museums, cute tortillerías and other shops selling locally-produced cheeses, tuna (the edible cactus flower) marmalades and other goodies, affordable but delicious restaurants (also meeting the needs of vegetarians)…
Inevitably resembling many of the Spanish cities, for the obvious reason, Zacatecas will surely make you come back for more.
From the first morning it just couldn’t be any better.
Even the unexpected rain (we thought we would finally escape the Mexico City’s rainy season bringing showers EVERY afternoon) didn’t spoil the trip. We found shelter in one of the museums,with a brilliant exposition of Mexican “murales” presented during the Expo in Japan, 1970.
“Mexico, people of the Sun at the encounter of Japan, country of Rising Sun and all the other nations of the world”
I learnt about the new generation of “muralistas” , also called “rupturistas” as they broke with the traditional mural standards established by painters like Diego Rivera (who was inspired by José Vasconcelos o Alfonso Reyes). Mexican muralism had an objective to promote the unification of the country torn by the Mexican Revolution. The murals always had more than just aesthetic function, presenting some political and social messages to the large illiterate at the time Mexican population.
The ones exhibited in Zacatecas were all related to social issues and the general theme of the Osaka Expo: “Progress and Harmony for Mankind”, as opposed to the destruction of those violent times in Asia (Vietnam War, USA bombings in Cambodia, tensions between China and Taiwan/ India and Pakistan). Japan was an important and symbolic actor as it proved that growth and rebuilding after the World War II was possible and it example could lead the other Asian nations.
As the pouring stopped, we headed to the town’s viewpoint up the hill.
It was lunchtime and we decided to rely on Tripadvisor and visit the town’s famous gorditas spot.
Gordita- another of the mexican antojitos , resembling the Venezuelan or Colombian arepas. Addictive, small piece of pasty, obviously calorie -dense as the name (gordita= chubby) indicates, did the job and filled me up for the rest of the afternoon. Stuffed with sliced poblano pepper and cream or mashed beans was my favourite, all for 15pesos each.
On the second day we continued with the museums and visited another one which had a Huichole exhibition.
Huicholi are the native indigenous Mexicans, living around the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco, Nayarit and Durango. The key element of their culture is peyote cactus, used for many of the religious rituals. It is also the central feature in the annual Huichol pilgrimage to Wirikuta, where Huichols search and collect peyotes (the only opportunity to get them a they only grow in wirikuta).
As you may suspect, peyote is not just an ordinary cactus (otherwise, why would they make so much fuss about it right?). It provokes hallucinations that are probably inspiring the Huichole people’s arts.
The use of peyote for any other purposes than religious practices is not allowed and if you’re to be found having peyote visions for fun you face 25 years in prison. However you can still get the handmade paste which is supposed to cure your sore muscles, headaches and so on.
I love it how the crafts are not just a part of museums’ exhibition. It is worn proudly by many mexicans and the artisan accessories made by indigenous are often inspiring other brands and new designs.
A visit to the local market is always a must.
This time it was the typical Zacatecan enchiladas we had for lunch. Have a look at this adorable place!
In many countries with Christian traditions the 15the of August is usually celebrated as the Asumption of Mary, in Poland where I come from people don’t work but go to church etc. In the Mexican state of Guerrero, the streets fill up with people dressed up as jaguars, all wearing those typical masks (above). It is one of my favourite elements of the Mexican popular culture. There are other traditional celebrations that involve handmade masks and the creativity of those who make them is just astonishing. There is a good exhibition in the Mexico City’s Museum of Popular Arts where you can learn more about the customs.
All in all, another trip that just makes me fall in love with Mexico even more. And there’s still so much more to discover!