Monday, July 14, 2008

Zacatecas and a history lesson

The colonial town of Zacatecas has narrow streets, old world architecture and is painted with a palate not usually used back home in the United States. Buildings are yellow, green, blue. They have ornate carved stonework and the churches dominate the landscape of this very European-looking town. It was a wealthy town in the colonial days. Its money gained from the silver mines and the hard work of the Natives.

Some of the pilgrims on the Guadalupe journey said, "they look just like us," referring to the Mexicans that live in modern Zacatecas. Well as Monignor Jerome Martinez y Alire explained they are.

There was a wealthy man in Zacatecas named Cristobal Oñate. He was one of the founders of the Mexican (then Spanish) town of Zacatecas. He had a son. His son's name was Juan de Oñate. And of course if you studied your history in middle school you know that Juan de Oñate was the first governor of New Mexico. And he was cruel to the Natives.

The younger Oñate went to New Mexico for those things that drove early Spanish explorers: God, Gold, Glory.

He was disappointed in New Mexico, however, because there was no gold and no glory. There were many Natives to convert to Christianity but Oñate was cruel and eventually removed from his post by the Spanish Crown.

After the first winter many of the settlers Oñate took with him to the northern outpost returned to Zacatecas. But they were replaced. And many stayed. And they had families. And they are the ancestors of many contemporary Northern New Mexicans.

It was here that many of those early New Mexican's began their journey along the Camino Real.

A man sweeps in front of the Cathedral of Zacatecas before the Mass for Our Lady and the pilgrims.

The town of Zacatecas has narrow streets and old world architecture. The Cathedral can be seen at bottom center.

The streets are similar to streets in the old world with their ornate stone detail work.

The main street through town

A man sells toys as the Guadalupe pilgrim's bus waits nearby.

A narrow alley in Zacatecas

Heriserlo Diaz Flores, who maintains the massive bells in the tower over 100 feet above street level, peeks out of the bell tower to see the statue of Our Lady in front of the Cathedral.

Our Lady on the truck in front of the Cathedral of Zacatecas.

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