Travelogue Spring Break 2011, Day 7, Good Friday: Zacatecas

I guess we had a busy day, because I’m having a really hard time choosing the photos to use. It felt like a very relaxed and wonderful day as we wandered around the city.

Danny was unfortunately sick with a fever and stayed behind today, sleeping nearly all day. Mara, Greg and I headed out to the Rafael Coronel (mask) museum. On the way, however, we happened by the Casa de Cultura. What a find! It’s very near our hotel, but somehow we hadn’t seen it before today.

In addition to incredible handmade stuff inside (which we bought our share of), they have TWO WEEKS of FREE art classes during Semana Santa! People can study wood or rock carving, chair caning, piñata/Judas making, huichól wax beadwork and yarn work, embroidery, weaving… you name it. It was wonderful! We had such a good time looking around and talking to people, and we signed up for classes on Monday.

From there we wandered across town to the mask museum. I am going to have to do a special “architecture of Zacatecas” blog or photo page, as there is just too much to cover here, such a wealth of beauty. On the way we passed the Templo de Santo Domingo which had been closed yesterday, so we peeked inside. They have gold altars down both side walls, plus a gorgeous main altar and organ.

The mask museum itself is housed in the former Convent of San Francisco. The building is incredible—ruins and gardens, nearly jungle-like, plus a lawn out front and very modern installations in the museum itself. So happy we went.

Rafael, like his brother Pedro, was an artist and collector. While Pedro seemed to collect paintings, Pedro collected masks. They are from all over Mexico, and it is astounding how many of them, and how wonderful, they are! They say it’s the largest collection of masks in the world.  We had such a good time looking through the collection, and we thoroughly enjoyed the site, too.

There were also quite a few musical instruments that were pretty remarkable. I do love folk art.

And they had masks that weren’t for the face, but rather to step into and dance with. They seemed a lot of fun.

Outside the main mask museum they had what may be a temporary exhibit, I’m not sure, but it was of incredibly real marionettes in various scenes.

From the museum we walked downhill around the corner to eat at a place Greg had found online: Los Dorados de Villa. Inside the place was chock-full of Mexican curio and history. Several of the walls are papered with old money/bills.

It was the cutest little house, and it had quite the “soup Nazi” at the door! She was actually wonderful, but I don’t envy her job! Very pushy people try to cut the line or pay her off to get ahead, but she held her ground. She took people to be seated in the order they arrived, or some had reservations.

The food was INCREDIBLE. The three of us had pozole, enchiladas doradas con lomo en crema de poblano, and encacahuatadas. OMG! TO DIE FOR! The encacahuatadas were a light chipotle cream sauce with peanut, very Thai, yet very Mexican. I could only eat two of the five in the bowl.

From there we headed back to the hotel to check on poor Danny, who honest to goodness had slept most of the day. On the way we were able to get into the cathedral (very modern compared to other churches in the city), and had the joy of strolling through this gorgeous city that is wall-to-wall party/festival this week. Everywhere you look is joy.

Danny was feeling better, so joined us for the Procession of Silence. That was also most incredible, held on Good Friday evening. I will devote a separate blog post to that.

Our 1st Carnaval Event

Greg and I were two of over 20,000 lucky people who showed up to the vacant lot in front of the aquarium to watch Verónica Castro crown my favorite banda, El Recodo, the “Kings of Joy” for Carnaval 2009. It was DEFINITELY a night to remember!

El Recodo played for over an hour, as did 11 other bands including Pedro Fernández, Banda El Limón, Huichol Musical, Banda Estrellas de Mazatlán, and the comedian Carlos Bardelli. The lighting on the stages was truly amazing, very high-tech and exciting, and the fireworks were remarkable.
The band is celebrating their 70th anniversary this year. The leader’s mother, Chuyita, who is the widow of the band’s founder (Cruz), and Cruz’s brother German, were both present at the ceremony.
One of the incredible things about this event is that it took place in what, up to that morning, had been a vacant dirt-covered lot. The city came in and plowed out a hill on the lot during the prior week, took out a small old amphitheatre, and the day before the event they installed a HUGE stage and one smaller one, along with 3-story high light mounts.
The lot was fenced off and you had to go through a long line of Federal Police, most people being frisked (we weren’t) before you could enter the party zone (huge lot, now transformed). The party zone was lined with snack booths of all sorts, from tacos to flan to carne asada. Strolling vendors sold hats, masks, noisemakers and toys. There were of course several Pacífico booths.
One of the interesting “side shows” was electric shock treatment. A man walks around with two hand-held diodes and a small generator. He gets a group of people together and asks you to hold hands. He gives a couple of people a diode, and he backs away. You get shocked, it hurts quite a bit, and the first person to let go pays 100 pesos for the privilege. Hmm… Greg lost 😦

Another interesting sideshow was the “eyelashes and beard” man, as you can see below.

Everyone talked to everyone as instant friends and shared the beer. It was an ideal start to our first Carnaval in Mazatlán.