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Published: January 23rd 2011
We started our day sightseeing at the Rafael Coronel Museum. We walked the already familiar route from the hostel and along the central road until we reached the ruins. We found the tiny ticket office and I bizarrely had to give up my handbag and camera bag before gaining entry to the monastary complex. The Rafael Coronel Museum occupies the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco, built in 1567, which was the first Franciscan convent in the province of Zacatecas. The construction was authorized by Pedro de Ayala, Bishop of Nueva Galicia (Guadalajara). The Templo, or church part of the convent, burned down 80 years after the convent was built but was quickly rebuilt in 1648. The Franciscan Convento was closed in 1856, along with many other religious facilities around the country. The complex was neglected and with the departure of the Fransicans local people used stones and timbers for construction elsewhere and the building fell into further ruin. The Ex-Convento deteriorated for almost a century until in 1953, an effort began to restore the old structure before it completely fell apart. However, it wasn't until 1987 that reconstruction began in earnest, and the building was preserved.
We spent a
pleasant morning in the monastary. The warm stone sits graceful arches overhead and where ceilings once were the walls are now crowned in dark clematis and the clear sky above. We passed from empty corridors to crumbling courtyards, every corner presenting us with more aged walls embraced with flowering plants and shadowed by leaning trees. A couple of rooms still bear their ceilings and act as museum exhibits displaying a few items, while the walls themselves still retain some of their colours and patterns.
We wandered into a courtyard and climbed then uneven steps to rest awhile on the sun warmed grass. It was a pretty spot with dark pink flowers in bloom all around us. We paused in our exploration to visit the on-site museum. One of Zacatecas' famous artists, Rafael Coronel, offered his collection of masks and other objects which are now the focus of the museum.
We wandered past an unbelievable array of masks. Big masks, small masks, clay masks, wooden masks, animals, demons, people, masks with feathers, masks with hair, room after room after room. It is truly an incredible display. I didn't realise the museum was so extensive, or just how many masks there were.
We discovered a second part of the museum housing models and toys and beautiful puppets on strings. Each display case held puppets, often depicting a full scene of a bull fight, a battle or a village dance.
We returned to wandering the ruins outside a while longer before moving on. We walked to the Fatima Church again to see it in daylight although the bizarrely orange hue of its stones made me decide it was far prettier by moonlight.
We walked on and were stopped along the street by a woman calling from her doorway. Walking over I was very bemused to find ourselves ushered inside and led upstairs. It turned out the woman needed help with her disabled mother and we were doing our good deed for the day. Or rather the stronger of us was, I was left sitting on the upper landing on a sagging sofa looking into a large living room complete with hanging chandelier and fully decorated christmas tree (in June!).
We walked on to discover the Francisco Goitia Museum, housed in the old governor's mansion and a pretty park opposite. Gaining entry to the museum first we walked through the rooms displaying works of
the artist Goitia as well as some more contemporary pieces. Goitia was born in 1882 in Fresnillo in the state of Zacatecas. He was a realist painter and the museum now holds a significant number of his painters. I partularly liked his paintings of traditional Mexican life as well as some beautiful images of churches and streets in Italy and Spain.
Back outside we walked over to the park, a pretty place where man made river beds meander through foliage and twist beneath little bridges... all of which would be prettier if all the river beds had water running in them. We walked to the far end and a platform ended in a large pond with active water fountains and classical music played through speakers. It was a nice place to stop and relax, not that our sightseeing had been particularly strenuous!
We walked back past the santo domingo church which also contains a museum but decided we should first have lunch. Creatures of habit we returned to the same cafe as the day before and after eating returned to the hostel where the car was parked and drove to a spot near Plaza Santo Domingo. The beautiful church was
typically partially covered in scaffolding and closed to the public... but at least the museum was open.
The Templo de Santo Domingo was built by the Order of the Jesuits from 1746 to 1749, and was blessed and consecrated on May 24, 1750. It was later abandoned in 1767 after the expulsion of the Jesuits, to then be occupied along with the monastery in 1785 by the Dominican Order who converted the church into the second most important of the city, after the Cathedral of Zacatecas.
Beside the church is a historic building which was once the Royal College and Seminary of San Luis Gonzaga. Founded in 1616 by the Society of Jesuits, it subsequently passed into the hands of the Dominicans in 1785, in which it took the name of College of the Immaculate Conception. Today, this building is now home to the Museo Pedro Coronel, which was where we spent the last of our time in Zacatecas. The first we room we entered was an impressive library and beyond that was an extensive collection of art, a personal collection donated by local artist Pedro Coronel and inclding works by Dali, Picasso, Miro, Chagall, Braque, Hogarth and Vasarely. The
museum also displays numerous artifacts from pre-Hispanic Mexico, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Africa, China, Japan, India and Oceania.
Unfortunately we were not allowed cameras inside but it was interesting to walk the (rather uneven floored) rooms from exhibit to exhibit, stopping to rest our feet whenever we spied a window seat which incidently gave us some nice views across the rooftops of Zacatecas. We eventually returned to the car and left Zacatecas. En route back to Sahuayo we stopped in San Miguel de Alto for some fresh air and a drink in the plaza until a few lightning streaks across the sky warned us to return to the car. The rest of the drive was very peaceful, driving along smooth roads amidst green hills under a overcast sky streaked with incredible forked lightning until by nightfall we had eventually reached Sahuayo.
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