Zacatecas is famous for being the site of an important battle in the Mexican Revolution 200 years ago. The day we arrived here may well have been my favorite day in all of Mexico. It started with a walk around La Bufa, a hill overlooking the city from which Pancho Villa directed the Battle of Zacatecas against the Spanish. We also bought some sweet panchos here, as Jenny and I had neglected to pack jackets.
Our next stop was in a converted bullfighting arena whose lower levels still felt like the same atmosphere they would have had when the stadium was built.
As we walked through the city to catch a cab, skeletons on stilts juggling fire competed with Satan screaming from a rooftop for our attention. Late for a show, we couldn’t stick around the streets and instead ran to the first taxi we saw.
The year 2010 is the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence and the 100th anniversary of the Revolution. To celebrate, the government put together a traveling video show that happened to be in Zacatecas the day we showed up. The only foreigners in attendance and with very little Spanish between Jenny and I, the show was still awesome. The show itself used so much music and video that even without Oscar’s translation it was pretty easy to understand. The finale was a popular song about Mexico that Oscar tried to teach us beforehand, and was one of those goosebump moments when you’re surrounded by a sea of people who are all singing passionately about something they love.
Saying that he had a surprise in store, Oscar put us in a taxi and we went back to near where our hotel was. As we hurry down the street, we intercept a parade of dancing Mexicans lead by a four-piece band. Oscar insists that we join in, and we stay with them for the next hour at least. The end of the road is a bright plaza at midnight. The national military dance competition is in town, and this is the after-party. After hours of watching dancers in Spanish costumes do thing that I would (and at one point, was forced to) embarrass myself in trying, the group from Corellia sitting beside us started singing a song to the same tune as one of Oscar and I’s fraternity songs. We joined in, only to be invited to perform for them on our own. After singing one of the most vulgar songs I know (“On Sunday morning they found her dead; yo ho, yo ho”), the three of us (kudos to Jenny for knowing the words) embarrassedly sat back down and watched the dancing until early in the morning. On the walk back, by sheer chance, we heard “Papa Americano” blaring from a bar near our hotel. We didn’t go in, but by the end of the trip this song had come to represent the time I spent in Mexico.
We spent the next day touring an old Silver Mine (with a dance club inside, hundreds of feet underground) and sitting through part of a Mass for local graduates, but I don’t know that any other day in the country had the epic quality of Day One in Zacatecas.