I knew only one thing about Zacatecas before I arrived, I was told that I would love it. I should have planned accordingly. Here’s the story of my time in the colonial city of Zacatecas.
The ride from Durango to Zacatecas was somewhat forgettable. I only remember thinking for the first time that I should download Spanish language audio classes and practice while riding.
Arriving into Zacatecas at noon I had planned to meet up in the centro with Cloe, the Couchsurfer I was going to stay with. Everything was normal so far, except the highway system was a bit bigger than usual and as soon as I exited I found my two wheels on cobblestone roads older than my country. The traffic quickly slowed and so I did what all the other motos do, use my small size to my advantage and ride around all this congestion. (Ok I am a bit bigger than the 125cc motos they drive down here but I can still get by).
The cobblestone roads took me past incredible old buildings built in the Spanish colonial style. Typically these restored historic areas are small and after a few blocks it turns back into either really nice and modern or dilapidated. Zacatecas was different. Each street I turned on was just as picturesque as the previous one.
Cloe was still working so I found a park and relaxed on the lawn enjoying a bag of papas. Papas are homemade potato chips with salsa and lime poured on them. Muy bien!
The park had a fountain and speakers playing a vibrant classical concerto. Couples on benches and laying on the lawn showed more PDA (public display of affection) than I’m used to. Kids ran around playing tag and their dogs joined in.
The past few days of riding had a lot of stretches of construction that had me riding off road in the dirt. My pants and shirt were no longer gray and white but now had drastically more earth tones. When I said to myself I need to get cleaned up and wash I meant have a shower and do laundry, God must have thought I just wanted to wash my riding gear in the rain because within a minute the sun was gone, dark clouds rolled in, and the rain came down. I raced to a gas station, which is the only place I thought would have a roof to protect me. I parked and waited. and waited. I’m not afraid to ride in the rain but I’d prefer not to, especially on busy city highways right at the start of heavy rain.
I stood under the roof as the rain came down horizontally, making the roof slightly pointless. While waiting I got to watch the happenings of a busy Pemex station. There were about 10 staff working the 8 pumps. They have quite the operation. Most of the cars pulling in where taxis. They’d fill up. If someone needed new windshield wipers they we’re replaced while the gas was pumped. Tires need air? No problemo. That can be done while filling up as well. Car over heating? Pop the hood and they fill the reserve tank with water. Cars were there for less than two minutes. The one thing I couldn’t figure out though was at at the end of the pump isle there was a single concrete tire ramp. The small taxis would reverse one wheel onto it and then park. they’d grab a fuel pump and start filling. But this is where it got strange. They would rock their car up and down. They did this repeatedly that it was clearly a thing. I could only think they were stirring up bad or low octane fuel with higher octane. Either way it was funny seeing these men shake their cars with all they had.
After a half hour I saw sunny skies in the distance. There was hope. A few minutes later the dark skies had moved on and the sun cast a warm light on the wet pavement. I rode a few minutes to Cloe’s house and she must have heard my motorcycle coming. When I turned onto the street I was greeted by a young Mexican woman with a smile bright enough to brighten any day. A hot pot of soup was waiting inside. I’d only been in Zacatecas for a few hours and I already loved it. I can’t recall the name of the soup but it was delicious and is made using a flower of a plant similar to a cactus that grows in the area. Not only a great cook, Cloe is an artist, designer, and aspiring theatrical makeup artist. With a love for theater and one of the biggest theater festivals going on in Zacatecas that week, we had a full night ahead of us.
The skies cleared just in time for the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Calle (The International Street Theater Festival) and so we drove into the historic city center. The streets and sidewalks were packed with people. Throughout the city streets theater groups performed musicals, plays, acrobatics, concerts, and comedies. I love the arts so just about any performance I’ll appreciate and enjoy. Exploring a city for the first time by touring around and seeing new performances around each corner certainly beats the typical walking tour.
After the performances we stopped by Las Quince Letras (The 15 Letters), one of the oldest cantinas, for a Mezcal tasting. Here they served it with tomato juice and lime juice.
Once the sun had set we drove up the mountain that overlooks the city and took in the view of Zacatecas at night. On top of the mountain, Cerro de la Buffa, there is a plaza and pathways to walk around and see the different sections of the city.
I knew going into this trip there would be moments where I would struggle with what I should do with my time. There’s so many places I want to get to, I can’t spend as much time as I want in everyplace. I was really enjoying Zacatecas but had planned the next 4 days to visit my friends family in Guadalajara and then get to Mexico City to see the band Muse in concert. This is really the first time on the trip that I wanted to stay longer in a city and I couldn’t without missing out on other things I was really excited about. As much as I wanted to stay I decided I would go on to Guadalajara. Did I make the right decision? Who knows. For my short time in Zacatecas, the people were right, I loved it. It’s a great city and I hope to get back and spend more time there someday. To others thinking about traveling through Mexico, I highly recommend Zacatecas as a place you could easily spend a week in and enjoy everyday.
I’ll end this blog with this music video from Leiden, the lead singer of the group Oniria that I saw perform in Zacatecas.