You can imagine my excitement, then, when I finally arrived in Zacatecas two weeks ago. Not only did I get to catch up with Matt (with whom I hadn't spoken in years), but I also had a unique opportunity to see a foreign city through the eyes of an American who lives there.
Matt and his roommate, Aaron, joined me at the hotel for breakfast, and then we were off to see the rest of the city before that evening's performance!
|At the ruins of Convento de San Francisco, built in 1567.|
|One of my favorite things about Mexico is the variety of colors used to paint buildings.|
|The intersection of said colors on some wall.|
|Templo de Santo Domingo.|
|Riding the gondola to the top of La Bufa, the mountain by Zacatecas.|
|From the gondola. On the right is a giant church; just in front of the church is Plaza de Armas, where we performed later that night (the stage is under the white tent).|
|With Kiana on top of La Bufa, overlooking Zacatecas.|
|Seeing dogs on rooftops is quite common.|
|Matt lucked into finding a two-story house in Zacatecas, complete with a balcony overlooking the city. It's just as awesome as it sounds!|
|From Matt's roof (La Bufa is in the distance).|
|With Matt, on his roof!|
|Being one of the few gringos (white guys) who lives in the area, it seemed Matt knew every other person we passed on the street. The owners of this tortilla shop, whom Matt knew, gave us fresh, hot tortillas right out of the tortilla machine!|
One of the best things about spending time with Matt and Aaron was gaining their insight and perspective on what life is actually like for a foreigner living in Mexico. While I don't want to misrepresent anything they said, I found speaking with them, for the most part, to re-affirm some of my personal opinions about various things. For example:
1) Central America is a lot safer than we, as Americans, perceive. Yes, atrocious acts of violence happen, just like they do anywhere. But, they're not commonly targeted at foreigners. As long as you're a smart traveler, odds are very much on your side. [If you think to yourself, "Is it safe to walk down this dark, sketchy alley at 3 a.m.?" and your gut tells you no, then just don't do it. If you wouldn't do it in the US, don't do it abroad.]
And, more importantly:
2) Even if you're in a country where you can't speak the language, being a foreigner doesn't make you any less of a human; all people are, first and foremost, human. Don't ever presume that not sharing a language prevents you from connecting with or learning from someone else.
After many hours walking around the city and getting a pretty intense sun burn (I forgot to bring sunscreen, and they don't exactly sell it in non-tourist Mexico), we went to the main square, Plaza de Armas, for sound check and our performance. Not only was the setting incredible (as you'll see below), but there was also this swanky tent set up for the night's headliner, José Feliciano, who is perhaps most well-known (especially outside of Latin America) as the singer of everybody's favorite dual-language Christmas folk anthem, "Feliz Navidad."
|Charlie enjoying Feliciano's lounge...before we realized that we weren't supposed to be in it.|
|The view from the stage. Catedral de Zacatecas, built in 1568, in the background.|
|Snipers on the roof of the cathedral during sound check.|
|Fireworks after Feliciano wrapped up the night's performances, closing the festival.|
|Barrage with José Feliciano!|
Also, a huge thank you to Matt and Aaron for showing us such a great time around the city!
[Before I finish, Matt's family is an incredibly talented bunch of musicians, so the teacher in me can't resist giving his family's Rolland Fiddle Camp a quick plug. If you're looking for a week-long fiddle camp this summer, or know someone who is, check it out!]