Zacatecas; from above and below

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June 26th 2010
Published: January 21st 2011
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We started our morning sitting on a wall opposite the taxi collection point in the early morning sunlight, sharing our breakfast of bread and biscuits with the local pigeons. When the taxi pulled up we clambered in with a few other people and set off for the first point on our tour - the Cerra de la bufa. This is one of the most important symbols of the city and was the scene of the Battle of Zacatecas which occurred in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution. The rebel forces of Francisco Villa fought against the government forces of Victoriano Huerta for control of the city the taking of which would clear the way to Mexico City for the rebels. The rebels were eventually victorious and claimed the city.
We walked past a very impressive looking zip wire, so much bigger than the one I did in Mazamitla, but disappointingly it wasn't on the agenda of the day and we passed it by (much to the relief of other people in the group). We reached the summit of the hill, dominated by large statues of Panfilo Natera, Francisco Villa and Felipe Angeles from the Battle of Zacatecas. Our group shuffled into a ragged circle under a tree and the guide started giving a history lecture, in Spanish naturally. I went from almost understanding, catching about one word in 20 to not getting a thing as the constant barrage of Spanish words overloaded my brain and I gave up and busied myself with taking photos instead. Naturally it was at this point the guide decided to direct a question to me and the whole group looked at my panicked 'Who me?' expression as my friend jumped to my rescue to explain I wasn't Mexican and hadn't understood.
We strolled into the courtyard of the pretty little Chapel of the Virgen del Patrocinio. We sat along the benches and I continued to not-really-bother-to-listen to the spanish lecture, until we were free to explore.
We visited the tiny chapel which is really beautiful and then walked through the archway to an impressive viewpoint. A small patio ended in a small wall and a breathtaking view across the entire city. We walked round and back to the group meeting point where a small car-train was driving up to collect us all and take us on the teleferico. We drove slwly down the hill, getting glimpses of the view through the trees lining the road. We stopped shortly after beginning and filed into the building housing the start of the teleferico and joining the queue there. Our wait was broken by the exciting discovery of a machine which squishes pesos and stamps a picture of Zacatecas on one side. Perhaps these things are less common in Mexico for while I was content to wait in my place literally everyone went to squish a peso at the machine, some going back several times to choose each of the different designs. Ultimately even I ended up with one!
We soon reached the cable car and climbed in. “El Teleferico” was constructed in 1979 by the Swiss. It extends about 650 metres from Cerro de la Bufa to Cerro del Grillo, the two highest hills in Zacatecas. The 8 minute ride gave us plenty of time to gaze through the windows at the view and take ample photos. Reaching the other side we walked past a few shops and on to El Eden Mine.
We sat just inside the mine around tables as people bought snacks and drinks from the bar there. We were handed unflattering white hair nets on top of which we put hard hats as we were finally urged into the mine.
El Eden mine was closed in 1960 due to flooding in three of its seven levels and an encroaching city that made blasting too dangerous. The mine opened again in 1975 as a tourist attraction, following extensive renovations which added paved floors, special lighting, and displays recreating what it was like to work in the mine. I enjoyed the scenes of mine workers each atmospherically lit in different colours. The mine is the biggest I have ever been in. We explored a couple of levels and could look down to an underground lake lit in soft blue and green lights making it look quite eerie as we passed above it. The tour guide kept everyone interested with a fascinating lecture... again in fluid spanish so I was lost. Still it was fascinating to walk through the mine, the rock ceiling still glittering with unmined veins of silver and a tiny underground chapel which would have been used by the miners.
We reached the lower level of the mine where, bizarrely, a nightclub and bar has been built, enclosed in a small cavern with tons of rock above. We walked across an underground train track to a museum housed within the bottom of the mine. We walked through the dark museum, the specimins of rock and mineral and crystal glittering under little spotlights. **
As we left the museum we were told to wait for the next train and clambering in we shot off in complete darkness along the “La Esperanza” shaft until finally a patch of light grew bigger and brighter and we were left blinking in daylight again. We pulled off our hats and hairnets and were left free to wander through the shops mostly selling silver and other souvenirs. Upstairs however I found a huge collection of rocks and crstals for sale all sitting on mirrored shelves which was quite stunning as everything winked and shone in every colour of the rainbow. (The magpie in me was very impressed by all the glitter!)
Back in the town centre our tour ended in a shop where alcohol and chocolate was available for tasting, and of course buying. We opted to go in search of something more filling and found a cafe to have a late lunch in. After lunch we sat in the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, beside the pink sandstone cathedral, which unfortunately was undergoing rennovation and we were unable to view the interior.
We passed the rest of the afternoon in front of the hostel TV before setting out in the evening for some of the nighttime entertainment. We settled on the steps of a church and watched an open air concert, briefly interupted by a marching band who seemed keen to drown out the opposing sound.

Additional photos below
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23rd January 2011
Statue of Pancho Villa

Cool picture.

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