Monday, November 14, 2011
The Plunder of Zacatecas
The canyon lands melt away behind us as the landscape yawns into a wide open high plateau. Fluffy fat cows graze all around us and signs for lienzo charro appear painted on the walls of most towns we pass through. I delight in seeing young men in big hats practicing their rope work while riding horseback on the the grassy banks between the cattle fences and the side of the road. It is obviously mating season for certain insects as the road itself is full of the carnage of millions of giant smashed grasshoppers. On top of almost every pile of smashed sex-craved bugs more grasshoppers gather to copulate.
In Fresnillo, we hope to see some Day of the Dead celebrations, but upon leaving our hotel and making our way to the main drag, we are left speechless by a river of of parents dragging their costumed kiddies to every store in sight silently begging for treats. My feelings are so terribly confused. I love seeing kids dressed up, and, there is no argument, Mexicans know how to rock a wicked costume, but to know that commercialism and the pursuit of candy had pushed such a rich and healing celebration completely into the background is, well, troublesome. Given that this day is actually All Soul's Day and not All Hallow's Eve - this feels like little more than a greedy commercial opportunity at the expense of a much profounder tradition.
And so on we ride into the wind and ever higher into the wide open expanse that is the centre of Zacatecas. Halfway down the road we find a traffic jam. A transport truck has turned over and lost all of its cargo. The cab is completely flattened and dozens of people are mucking about the boxes and broken glass salvaging any full bottles of beer they can carry. The driver is okay. As we arrive, fully drained, in Sombrerete home to some of Mexico's richest deposits of mineral ores. I can't help but think of the parallels between the plundering halloween wannabes of the previous day, our beer looters from the afternoon, and the plundering of the original conquistadors marauding about the Americas in search of gold and silver and any other grabable loot.