Stately and serene, smart and sophisticated,
Festooned with silver from her many mines.
We descend into the depths of El Eden,
The richness of its minerals in stark contrast to the abject conditions of the workers.
So many lives lost in years gone by, many just children.
But no one thinks of them now.
Now, as then, the city is bustling and alive,
Well-heeled Zacatenos in tailored coats and suits,
Beautiful women in colourful, tight-fitting blouses and skirts,
High heels clacking down old cobble-stone streets,
Past ancient stone cathedrals, ornately carved
With angles, saints and gargoyles
Their soaring spires and bell-towers piercing cool blue skies.
Past massive old wooden doors so handsomely carved,
And fitted out with brass knockers – lions, hands, faces;
Through elegant plazas, punctuated with bronze statues of horses and heroes –
One of a mother holding two children by their hands,
It honours the responsibility of parenthood, the contribution made by all mothers.
Through parks and plazas graced by elegant palms and stone fountains,
A delight for small children, convenient baths for the pigeons.
The massive aqueduct that once brought water here to Zacatecas
Another living testiment to the intelligence and industry of the ancestors.
Through markets heaped with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats,
All so fresh and juicey and colourful, they call out to us to buy, to eat.
We squeeze through aisle-ways dripping with clothes, cheap Chinese toys,
Watch Zacatecans busily buying and selling, picking and choosing,
Enjoying the spending of money that newly lines their pockets.
We linger in museums rich with history and art,
Artifacts brought alive through skillful and innovative use of technology.
In one museum, thousands of masks evoke the many spirits
of the many peoples and cultures
That have lived here – restless spirits, good and evil, call out from open mouths,
Entreat us with their hollow eyes – remember us!
We hike up La Bufa to see a massive Pancho Villa astride his fiery mare,
Panting for the altitude, out of breath when finally we arrive at the top, and
Are almost blown away by fierce winds as we look down upon the city,
A jewel set within the narrow band of this barren desert valley.
Zacatecas: we love her not only for her physical attractions,
But for her inner beauty: the graciousness, warmth and generosity of her people,
We take our leave with photos and fond memories
– and promises of future visits.