02 June, 2012

Zacatecas and Rafael Coronel

Zacatecas was our first real stop for touring on our trip.  After blasting through Chihuahua and Durango we were ready for a break.  We stopped just outside of town at Hotel Hacienda del Bosque a cute little hotel and a fabulous RV Park... I mean, after days on the road a marble tiled bathroom is a tourist destination in itself!

January 14-17, 2012
We wasted no time heading for town.  The cobblestone streets and the Colonial style Architecture is everything you could dream about a colonial city.  There is an electric energy in the air, the hustle and bustle at the end of winter that drives you into spring.  The weather was warm for us...we had been freezing our butts off in Albuquerque, NM for two weeks so we welcomed the sunshine.  We planned on just staying one night but after our first afternoon in town we extended our stay for another three.

We hit all the tourist hot spots; the camera glued to our faces.  We took 700 pictures the first day alone!  We rode the tram to La Bufa, a natural "lean to" that sits high above the city, protecting the city from the heavy desert winds.  It is a gorgeous ride and I did not feel bad for being a silly tourist crammed into a little cart with a bunch of other tourists our cameras poking each other in the side and backs.  From the tram you can see the whole city.  We were able to plan out our whole trip and everything we wanted to see from the one little trip up to the bluff.  Once on top the killer views just kept coming.   A gorgeous sanctuary sits on top of the hill.  If churches are not your thing and you need more of a thrill there is also a zip line that you can ride from one end of the canyon and back again...we never did get a chance to go back and do it but we will do it next time!

We toured the Eden Mine, one of the best tours that we had on our whole trip!  The mine was closed down in the 60's but had been worked for years!  We traveled 18 stories underground and walked 3 km.  Boris was snapping pictures like crazy but it was too dark and none of them really came out :(  We "broke in" at the Quinta Real and got busted for taking pictures of the bull ring.  The Quinta Real is a fascinating chain of hotels in Mexico.  They buy up ancient properties and remodel and restore them to be luxury Hotels.  The Quinta Real in Zacatecas is my favorite as they have taken an old bull fighting ring and turned into the most gorgeous place to host a wedding reception.  If you have a chance to check out their website I would encourage it... point is we could not visit Zacatecas without seeing the hotel!

We snapped some great pictures of the ancient aquaducts that used to provide water to the city.  You can see pieces of them still attached to some of the buildings throughout the city.  But close to the Quinta Real you can see a nice long stretch of the aqueducts towering over the hotel and park.  We had Gorditas, a must do since they are a local specialty.  It was my first time eating a Gordita and I quite enjoyed them.  They were simple corn masa pockets filled with your choice of meats, beans or vegetables.  It was a very satisfying lunch with just enough carbs to get us through the rest of our tours.

We window shopped for souvenir even though there was no room in the RV to fit anything else.  A little old lady tried to sell me a poncho.  As I mentioned before we were relishing in the sun after freezing in New Mexico, but the locals were bundled up like....well like it was winter!  The little lady was so intent on selling me the wrap that she was dressing me right there in the street.  Boris got a few snapshots and they are rather comical.  I bought the poncho and still have yet to wear it!  The most amazing thing we did all week was to visit the Ex-Convent of San Francisco.  Built in the late 1500's the architecture took my breath away!  This is the kind of thing I came to Mexico to see.  Rolling gardens, arched ceilings, hand painted tiles and walls, carved stone...Quality craftsmanship!

The Ex-Convent of San Francisco houses a massive collection from Rafael Coronel, not just his art but art that he has collected over the years.  It took us two hours to simply walk the grounds, we were exhausted by the time we made it through the gardens and the masks alone.  It was fascinating to see the masks from all over the world, the different styles, techniques and materials used to make the masks.  I liked the ones that made you laugh, whimsical masks of old people or funny creatures.  Boris liked the masks of the Aztec warriors; Eagle   Warrior, Jaguar Warrior... 

It went on and on in a labyrinth decorated with masks on the walls, ceiling and floors.  From there you walked out onto a gorgeous veranda overlooking the main patio. 

The sky was so blue with little puffs of clouds here and there on the horizon.  It was hard to go back inside after that but I am glad that we did.  From there we saw Mayan and Aztec artifacts from pieces of art, toys and even dishes.  Then there was works from Diego Rivera, sketches and drafts.  There is also a collection of 19th century marionette puppets that is fascinating.  We were pretty wiped out after all of that touring.  We headed downtown for a little snack and then collapsed back at the hotel.

We had a few chances to see Rafael Coronel's artwork while we were in Zacatecas.  Not just at the Ex-convent but there was another church being restored that housed much of his work.  The church was exquisite and each detail was being completely restored.  We enjoyed peeking around the barriers to see the reconstruction as much as we enjoyed seeing all of the artwork.  I found it interesting that Rafael Coronel's work was displayed in churches as much of his art seems to be political AGAINST the church.  He paints of predominant figures in the church staged with the devil... it is interesting to try to look at the piece through the eyes of Coronel.  In one word: Irony.

I am so happy to have toured Zacatecas, a gorgeous city rich with culture...I am happy to have moved to Mexico.  After visiting Zacatecas we both had a feeling of relief and excitement for having made the correct choice.  Our future in Mexico looks bright!

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