My second stop in Mexico was Zacatecas, an old mining town. After spending a week in Monterrey it was nice to be in a small city again. Well, smaller. 130,000 people live there. It must’ve been the ancient houses that made it seem small. Old, colorful houses clinging to the hills, cobblestone roads and alleys, small parks and plazas. I felt at home immediately. It’s also over 8000 feet up in the mountains. Denver brags about being 5280 feet up. The weather was a little cooler and much drier.
Here’s the view from the roof of my $6 hostel (can you see the gondola in the distance?):
This is the kind of place that I can stay for awhile! The hostel was pretty empty though, except for Ben, a guy from England. He was also doing a round the world trip, and had been traveling already for 13 months. It was exciting to talk to someone who’s doing exactly what I’m going to be doing.
Zacatecas has a pretty fascinating history. The Spanish conquered the city in in 1540. 1540! Less than 50 years after Columbus hit land. The Spanish enslaved the indigenous people and in less than ten years were mining silver and gold and shipping it all back to Spain. I went to La Mina El Edén (Paradise Mine) and had a tour guide all to myself. I actually ended up learning a lot about mining in general. We descended over 300 meters (1000~ feet) and walked through several levels. The bottom few levels were flooded, which was amazing to see too. Amazingly, there’s a night club at the bottom of the mine. You can go there on the weekends and get drunk in a mine a thousand feet underground:
The best views of the city are from Cerro de la Bufa. There’s a gondola that goes from the mine to la Bufa too, so you can see the city from above. At the top of la Bufa is also a museum about the history of the city. Not recommended if you don’t speak Spanish, but otherwise it was a great museum with lots of information.
The cathedral was quite pretty and of course had a nice plaza next to it. I chilled out there often, reading and eating.
What I loved about Zacatecas was that it felt like a small, traditional town that hasn’t been overrun with tourism. You typically don’t see gringos, which would probably explain why so many people stare at me and ask to take photos with me. Despite the fact that there isn’t much tourism here, there are still so many cool things going on in the streets. The kind of things that I would normally think they only do them for tourists because that’s what tourists think happens there. But no, apparently it’s just normal for mariachi bands to walk through the streets playing music.
And no big deal for this to happen:
Spot a gringo and I’ll give you a peso. Apparently this traditional stuff really is Mexican.
Before a football (soccer) game a bunch of people were parading through the streets. A group had one of the biggest flags I’ve ever seen in my life, and they actually walked around these tiny streets with it, lifting it over cars and people.
At one point I was sitting in the plaza by the cathedral just people watching. A group of boys were playing a game of football (soccer). Another group were doing tricks on BMX bikes. People all around were talking, laughing, and having a great time. Everyone seemed happy. It was infectious and I felt so happy to be in Zacatecas with no worries or preoccupations. It was a great moment that really reminded me of why I’m doing what I’m doing!
Penned on May 8, 2015 by Kevin Sweet.