New Year’s Holiday

We took a week vacation after spending Christmas in Querétaro.  Our destination was Zacatecas, a city about five hours by bus northwest of Querétaro, and the surrounding area.  Zacatecas was founded by the Spaniards in the 16th century as a mining town because of the rich deposits of silver found in the hills surrounding the city.  The center of town retains its colonial ambience with its period buildings made of the local pink limestone, baroque cathedral, and churches.  We stayed at a hotel not far from the center that was built around the old plaza de toros or bull ring.  The former bull pens now serve as shops and a bar on the ground level, and the hotel rooms and restaurant are arrayed in an elliptical pattern on a new second and third floor.

Most church property in Mexico was expropriated by the government at the end of the 19th century and converted to other uses.  In Zacatecas, as in other cities, many of the former churches and convents are now museums, schools, or government buildings.  The Rafael Colonel Museum in Zacatecas is housed in the former convent of San Francisco and contains a remarkable collection of masks from Mexico and the world.  Masks are used for religious, cultural, and social events in many countries and represent a rich source of folk art.
Another place of touristic interest in Zacatecas is the old Eden Mine.  As mentioned above, this area was an important source of precious metal that enriched the Spanish Empire for hundreds of years.  The mine closed for its original purpose about 40 years ago, but was renovated and reopened for visitors to see the facility and understand its history.  Working conditions were harsh for indigenous miners and their story is presented here.  But Mexicans can recognize the brutality of their past while still enjoying the present, and perhaps for that reason there is a popular bar and nightclub, called La Mina, inside the Eden Mine!

The weather was cool, with morning lows in the 40s, but got warmer as the day progressed.  There were also some days when wind gusts were quite strong.  There is a hill overlooking the city called the Cerro de la Bufa, which can be reached by road or cable car from another hill on the opposite side of town.  The day we had planned to make that trip was so windy that the cable car could not operate, so we took a taxi to the top of the hill.  There is a monument there that commemorates a famous battle of the Mexican Revolution in 1914 and a place to look down at the city below, but the wind was so fierce that we had to leave before very long.  We made up for the loss of that visit by enjoying a lunch of gorditas, which are thick tortillas that have been sliced open in the middle and filled with some kind of meat or vegetables.  You can see them being made in the photo above.

We left Zacatecas to spend a few days in the town of Jerez, which is located about an hour or so south by bus.  Jerez has been designated one of the Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Towns, by the Mexican tourist board.  These are small communities that have preserved their traditions and heritage and reflect a bit of the past.  Our hotel faced the main square of Jerez and the town band was there to entertain us and others late into the night with its drums and brass instruments.   Jerez has an elaborate main church that is especially beautiful at night due to its striking illumination.  There is also a theater that the tourist brochure claims is modeled after Fords Theater in Washington.  We’re not sure of that, but it is an impressive place for a small town. 
During our stay, we had a chance to visit some of the places nearby.  La Quemada is an archeological site that contains the vestiges of a people that lived there in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D.  We also hired a cab to see Los Cerros de los Cardos, the mountain range outside of town.  New Year’s Eve itself was relatively quiet, although Julie did make some friends at the local bar while sampling mescal, as you can in the photo above!
We hope you all have a happy and healthy 2010.

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3 Responses to “New Year’s Holiday”

  1. Dianne Suydam Says:

    Dear Juliet & Charles,

    Happy New Year to you and a belated Merry Christmas. Thank you for the blogs about your holidays and your new Mexician adventures. I thought about you during the holidays and it seems they were very interesting and exciting and I look forward to reading more. The people there are very fortunate to have you guys “retiring” in there country. Please keep in touch and continue to enjoy your new adventures. I want to be just like you guys when I grow up! Be safe!

    Best Regards,

    Dianne Suydam

    • bendgold Says:

      Thanks, Dianne, for your response. It’s nice to know that people are reading our blog. The temperatures were very cold here over the last week. With no central heating, we’ve been huddled around our space heater. Today is much better with temperatures going up to the 60s.

      Sorry I missed talking to you when I called the office before Christmas. I hope your holidays were not too hectic. This weekend we’re going to visit San Miguel de Allende, a small town only 1 hour away that’s attracted alot of foreigners because of its quaintness. Say hi to everyone for me. I do miss the gang!
      All the best for the New Year,

  2. chuotchiz Says:

    Hi Juliet,

    I’m Trang, a student from IIR Hanoi (Vietnam) who had a city tour with you in Hanoi 2-3 years ago. I’ve been reading this blog for a while and found that you and your husband are having great time in Mexico. Enjoy yourself as much as you can, Juliet, and I really look forward to reading your new experiences.

    Btw, our tradition new year celebration is coming shortly and I’d like to wish you and your husband all the best.


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