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We have spent the last week in Zacatecas, a small city in the middle of the high Mexican desert. The city itself was founded in the 16th Century as a silver and other precious metal mining town and quickly grew on the wealth of the Silver Barons, and no doubt on the poverty of the indigenous miners who would die at a rate of up to 5 a day. They have now left a legacy of a beautiful, old inner city with numerous churches, cathedrals and other colonial buildings on either side of stone-paved narrow roads.

One of the main reasons we came here was to see the Easter celebrations, or Semana Santa. Unbeknown to us the government also put on a major cultural festival here this week which has been free and has had some wonderful musicians, street theatre, painters and so on as well as some dubious workshops including taxidermy for children (no, you do not stuff children, they stuff animals)!

Mexico Zacatecas at night small city Mexican desert 16th Century mining beautiful old inner city churches cathedrals colonial buildings

Last night was Good Friday and the largest of the street parades for Semana Santa took place. For over an hour the procession came down the street carrying various statues of Christ on the cross and the crucifixion. People with hoods walked silently on either side, to the rhythm of drums. The hoods are worn as a sign of penitence to God, and to make all people anonymous. The Klan took their hoods later in the Southern States.

Mexico Zacatecas Holy Week Semana Santa street processions parades night scene

The city also has several excellent museums. The best of which is the Museo Zacatecano, a lovely old building with many superb works of art including many Picassos, rooms of Mayan, Olmec and Toltec pottery and masks - many of them in excellent condition and really beautiful work.

We have been having a bit of a bad period with the food. After some early success (despite the "nachos gringos") further North the food here has been a bit hit and miss. We have generally tried to eat in popular local eateries and have had some truly average dishes. However, we have found four good locations that have excellent tacos - much smaller than you would have in New Zealand at about 6 cm long with all sorts of good (but fatty) fillings. Charcoal-roasted chicken with tortilla, salad and various salsas and rolls with chorizo, egg, avocado and tomato are delicious. In the mornings we sit on the roof of the hotel overlooking the city and have tropical fruits, yoghurt and cereal. No upset stomachs yet despite trying everything from everywhere.

Mexico markets local herbs spices medicinal plants

Driving here has been largely disappointing. Every other developing country with a large population I have ever been to has an unwritten rule that you must go as fast as the vehicle will allow at all times. Road markings are there only to indicate to others that you may use both sides of the road, and respect for life is strictly for others. Early indications were good. As we arrived from Texas a petrol station in Juarez, our first Mexican city, had attendants in pit-crew overalls waving chequered flags in front of motorists pulling up to the pump with all the enthusiasm of a matador on his first day on the job. Traffic lights here have two red lights! Surprisingly not. Drivers here are patient, courteous, slow and struggle to find the horn. They are more like the drivers of California who seem to have mistakenly had a Botox injection in their left foot and it is stuck on the brake.