Zacatecas, Día Uno – 18 June 2004

by Jim on 2014/06/18

[Jimbaux is alive, for you, awake.]

Two weeks after arriving at ITESM, a weekend trip to the historic mining and mountain city of Zacatecas, organized by the university’s international student program, approached.  You have seen so far that we had done some day trips or afternoon trips, like a visit to Parque Chipinque, a visit to MARCO, and a visit to Grutas de García, but this trip to Zacatecas would be big because it was far away and overnight, requiring much more of a commitment and much more of a sacrifice.

Preparing For The Trip

By the time I had paid the money for the trip and therefore committed myself to it a few days before departure, I basically had regretted signing up for it.  There were reasons for this regret beyond the mere monetary costs and the thought of the things that I could do in an around Monterrey that weekend instead of taking the trip.

First, of all of the friends whom I had made from the international program in my short time at ITESM, essentially none of them were going on the Zacatecas trip.  I was “friendly” with some of the people going on the trip, but, generally, as far as I could tell, they mostly were not really the kind of people with whom I could connect very well.  (There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and it doesn’t mean that they are bad people; we are not all meant to be – it does not make sense that all of us would be – friends.)  That did not stop me from trying, but maybe that was part of the problem, as I can, years later, so clearly see.  Also, however, friends or no friends, I really want to see and know new places; this factor was and remains key to thinking of the trip as a good use of my time and money despite the drawbacks.

Second, the perception that I would feel alone among the trip participants was reinforced when I went to a meeting held for the students going on the Zacatecas trip.  Not only were none of my friends at this meeting, but I was greatly dismayed by how some of my fellow students at the meeting reacted to being shown the places that we would visit.  We were shown a video of what we would see and do in Zacatecas.  We saw images of historic, geologic, and archeological sites that we would visit.  There was no audible or visible reaction from any of the students when and after being shown these images, but such reactions are not to be expected.  That is not a big deal, since there is no reason for or expectation of hooting and hollering at such scenes, and not doing that doesn’t mean that you are not excited to visit these places; this is only mentioned because of what came next.  The video included scenes of an old mine that we would visit.  At the bottom of the mine is a nightclub-bar-disco-dancefloor-whatever.  When scenes of this were shown, with people dancing on the dance floor, some of the people in the meeting let out some affirmative noise – i.e., hootin’ and hollerin’ – about how cool they thought this was!

What the hell?  That’s what excites you the most about this trip?  Sheesh.  That made me feel even more like I did not belong on the trip, but I did overall want to see an experience new places.  Well, most of these other students were still “college kids,” a few years younger than the two-years-out-of-college working professional that I was, but the reality is that many of them would have likely still reacted the same had they been older and probably still would react that way today (a claim based on how I witness, even now, years later, people older than I am acting the same way.)  I had, at the time, yet to fully understand the introversion-extroversion spectrum, accept that there is nothing wrong with me for not wanting to participate in that silliness, and just know that I was under no obligation of any form for not participating.

Anyway, I went on the trip; so, we shall focus, then, on the trip and the scenes from it, my scenes from it.  The plan was that the bus would depart campus at 23:00 on the night of Thursday 17 June.  This would put us into Zacatecas and into a hotel sometime not all that long before dawn, with the plan that we’d be able to sleep for a little while before starting our organized activities in the late morning.

I walked down the steep residential street from the house where I lived with my host family and found a taxi on the larger streets so that I could get to campus.  I did not want to leave my truck on campus for the weekend, even though it probably would have been very safe there.  While on campus on that evening, I got this picture.

The picture appears to be taken from the computer lab from which I was sending e-mails back home, e-mails that I have used to get details for this story as I type it a decade later.  At some point, the bus departure time was moved back to midnight.  Some kind of way, I got to be sitting next to Joel, a Mexican-Canadian whose mother was of Polish parentage, whom I did not know already because he was actually living in Monterrey and was taking one class to improve his Spanish (and, therefore, not part of the social scene of international students at ITESM), and we got to be friends.  Well, that was great!  Despite not having any of my so-far-made friends on the trip, I was making another one.  Especially since I naturally have trouble sleeping on a bus, it made the long midnight bus ride much more tolerable.


Going on the trip to Zacatecas would essentially double the number of Mexican states I had visited.  The number essentially became four: Taumalipas, Neuvo León, Coahuila, and Zacatecas (the city of Zacatecas is in the state of Zacatecas, and it is common for Mexican states to be named after their respective primate cities.)  Although we got off the bus for a snack somewhere presumably in Coahuila (but possibly northern Zacatecas), I would not really go to that state until later that summer.  Also, the bus ride on Mexican federal highway 54 took us through a very small part of the state of San Juis Potosí, but it really does not count.

I can’t remember what time we arrived in Zacatecas or what I did right when we go there other than put my stuff in our hotel room (I think that Joel and I shared a room, but I don’t really remember that either.)  What I do know is that, true to my style, as soon as the sun was up, I was out on my own, walking around, exploring, and photographing.

Yes!  At right is the famous cathedral, though the view of it here is hardly good.  Check out the Scotiabank branch location at left!

In Zacatecas’s notably small plaza, I found these young men playing fútbol early in the morning.

That was something interesting to behold.  I don’t think that there were any other visitors up and out on the streets this early; so, what we see here seems to be authentic and not meant to be a show.

Below is a memorial to the miners of Zacatecas.

The Spanish arrived in what is now Zacatecas as early as 1540, but the indigenous tribes of the area – whom the Spanish conquered – had been mining before the Spanish arrived.

This was the Santo Domingo Monastery, which I would visit with the group later in the day.

I made it back toward the hotel that I recall being in the middle of town.

After this, I went back to the room.  A few hours later, as the rest of the comrades got ready, we boarded the bus.

That is Carlos, the organizer of the trip, an employee of the ITESM international program.

We boarded the bus and went to the top Cerro de la Bufa, which has, among many other things, neat views of the city.

I would like to visit this place again.

I’m not certain, but I believe that the statue at right in the below picture is of Pancho Villa.

The Battle of Zacatecas during the Mexican Revolution was fought here.

Her name was Jenin, and she was from France and was of Cambodian parentage.

The man in the straw hat was our local guide.  My Spanish was not (yet) good enough – I’m one of those rare people who can speak another the language better than he can understand another person speaking that same language, which can be as problematic as it can be beneficial (since it skewers the idea of how skilled one is at the language) – to understand what he was saying; so, the significance of each thing being described to us was lost on me, even as I was able to occasionally get someone to translate for me.

Joel is wearing the white shirt, blue jeans, and white shoes in the above picture.  At the far left, standing next to Joel, is Eddie.

In the below picture, you can see the aqueduct going through the middle of the city.

That is Aileen from Texas at left.  The girl on the right was from Minnesota, and I think that her name was Caitlyn, or something like that; she was my first introduction to people of Scandinavian descent from that area, of which I would know much more four years later when I spent the summer in North Dakota (see the June 2013 and July 2013 archives of this site for pictures from that experience), mostly eastern North Dakota, meaning the part of North Dakota both close to Minnesota and which contains many people of Scandinavian origin too.  I had applied for that North Dakota seminar in 2004 and not received a part in it then, and this summer spent in Mexico was a second choice; I’m glad that I did it first!

In the above picture, the little open area to the right of the cathedral was where I had taken the pictures of the fútbol action earlier in the morning.  Below, you can see the aqueduct again.

I don’t recall the significance of this chapel atop the hill.

Eddie poses with some friends.  I forget the name of the girl on the left; the girl on the right was Kelly or Kelley from the Pittsburg area, and you’ll see her one more time in an upcoming post.

Here is a wider view showing more of the city.

That was interesting.  So was this.

Carlos gets something off of Tara’s shoe.

Sometime while we were up here, but I recall that it was as we just arrived, I saw a train off in the distance.  It probably was the first Ferromex train that I had ever seen (I may have seen a Ferromex train in Monterrey), but I apparently did not get any pictures of it.  Even if I would have gotten pictures, the train would have been so far away that it would have been hard to tell anything from the image.  The first Ferromex train that I ever photographed, therefore, was on New Year’s Day 2007 in Paredón, Coahuila.

Soon, we would ride El Teleférico down over the city.

The railroad mainline cuts across the photograph left-to-right in the below picture, about one third of the way up from the bottom of the frame.

Our cable car was arriving, and we were waiting on it.  This would be the second time in six days that I would ride a teleférico!

Here are some scenes taken from the car showing the car’s own shadow.

As I am from the land of ridge-hip-valley roofing, what I see here fascinates me indeed.

Back down on the ground and in the middle of town, we went by the old monastery.  Near the entrance, some kids were playing fútbol.  Some of the non-Mexican college kids joined them.  Note the rolling meet taking place between two teleféricos.

That is Adam at left in the above picture and Nuveen at the center in the below picture.

We then visited the monastery.

This place was really neat.

I wish that I knew more about this place.

This is the place that I visited alone shortly after dawn.

I think that this was the night that “we” went to the nightclub in the old mine.  No, I was not under any obligation to go there, nor was it even part of the official itinerary of the trip.  I am not quite sure why I even went – it may have been due to one or two women whom I was ‘chasing,’ but, most thankfully, I have since learned that if I have to go to a nightclub or dance floor, they are not worth the effort in the first place – but I went down there, paid the cover charge, couldn’t hear anything once I got down there, witnessed some of my comrades acting stupid (maybe I just don’t understand the whole thing), and then got pissed off and left after being there for only a few minutes.  Yes, it was a waste of time and money.  I have since learned not only to not do such things but to not waste any emotion on the people who do such things.  (That is a sign of the immaturity that I, too, had back then.)  In other words, I now know better than to let myself get sucked into unnecessary stuff that I don’t really want to do in the first place and that there isn’t anything remotely wrong with not wanting to do that stuff.  That that happened at all that night was basically my own fault, though I obviously could not see such at the time.

I should have just gone walk around the town by myself that night, and I may have done that briefly after I left the foolishness in the mine, but since I had slept very little the night before with our midnight bus ride and my insistence on getting dawn pictures in Zacatecas, I probably went back to the room and got some badly-needed sleep.  The next day would bring some interesting scenes.

Coincidentally, four years to the day later, I left New Orleans – where I had yet to move when these pictures were taken – to commence the Great Northward Pilgrimage to spend the summer of 2008 on the Northern Great Plains.  On that 2008 adventure, I would go farther north than I ever had been (which would be surpassed a year later), but on this day in Zacatecas, I was as far south as I ever had been, south of the Tropic of Cancer for the first time in my life.  The next day, we would go a little bit farther south.

Stay tuned.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Shine June 18, 2014 at 09:01

Fantastic pictures and Great coverage of a place that I will probably never see!


2 Charlie Kilbourne June 18, 2014 at 10:15

Photos are a real tribute to the camera/lens combo not to mention the photographer.



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