Zacatecas In the high desert the days are warm and the nights are cool this time of the year. The midday skies are the pure blue that seems so dramatic in Mexico against the soft edge of a roof or wrought iron as one looks up as far as one can see. In the night the stars twinkle above the lights near the cross at the mountain top or the beams bathing the cathedral’s arch.
Zacatecas is not like Guanajauto or San Miguel de Allende, both of which are amazing colonial cities north of Mexico City, in the sense of seeming to be a tourist town. In San Miguel one almost feels half the town is speaking English or something other than Spanish. In Guanajuato foreigners also seem to be speckled everywhere. Having arrived in Zacatecas, we could walk the inclines up and down through the pleasant streets without seeing the name brand stores and scarcely ever seeing anyone one who seemed to not be native to these teeming streets. It is hard to replace the special savor of the authentic in these times of industrial and global tourism.
Nothing is for show here.
We have been to midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Madrid, San Miguel, and Prague in recent years, so trudged out before midnight to stand in solidarity with the Zacatecans at the renowned Cathedral here. We were warned at the hotel that we might need to be there an hour early in order to get a seat.
Hardly! The door was locked as tight as one of the controversial megachurches in the US that were unironically canceling Christmas day services because they interfered with Christmas. The hotel staff on our return further postulated that the new Pope had cancelled the midnight mass before Christmas this year. We turned on TV to see him in fact presiding over the mass from the Vatican to what looked like a full house.
Christmas noon we poked out heads in and sat for a half-hour as well through the liturgy and sermon, which were still somehow familiar, regardless of the language. There was a good crowd of 600 or so with some folks standing, but a seat was not difficult to obtain.
Zacatecas was founded on hard work and is still fueled by the mines and the harshness of the desert. This is not a town standing on ceremony, but one that captivates, and refreshes, you fully once caught its high and dry embrace.
December 25, 2005