They looked like toy soldiers from afar but up close it was no joke. Most people ignored them, but I was terrified. They stood silently at their posts but threatened with their eyes and the AR-15s they carried. Finally the glass slid, allowing me to walk through. I sighed in relief and scanned the crowed for a familiar face. She walked right by and didn’t seem to recognize when I called her name. Guess it’s been a while.
Christmas lights and poinsettias still hung across the streets. There was even a Santa sitting at a coffee shop, probably resting from last year’s festivities. Of course, there weren’t teddy bears suspended from windows but never the less it brought back memories of Alsace, France. Even the Christmas markets appeared to have been similar.We walked down the cobblestone chitter chattering away. At every corner, Ari’s Dad kept asking if I was sure I’d been there before.
“Si, pero fue hace mucho tiempo cuando estaba chiquita.”
For some reason he didn’t seem to believe. Maybe he was right, because in my recollections, the city of Zacatecas had indeed looked different. I remember it as being smaller, more crowded with lots of little shops. We always used to go shopping with Ari’s family. In one particular incident, we dragged our parents into a candy store only to be kicked out. The shop owner could not tolerate our toddler selves chasing each other with handfuls of candy from the bins he was selling.
“Te acuerdas de eso?”
But they shake their heads and neither of them seem remember. Ari’s Dad guides us into a theater where they are playing a documentary of Pancho Villa. Every once in a while, Ari leans over to whisper. She wants to make sure I understand everything about the history of her country. The quality of the film is actually very bad in comparison to the elaborate architecture of the building and the show that proceeds it.
We walked out to the Cathedral after. It’s Baroque style reminded me of the many churches my friends and I had visited throughout our European adventures. Unfortunately, we were too late and the doors were closed for the night. A burro accompanied by a group of musicians walked up. I wanted to plug my ears and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. Ari said that they used the burro to carry beer for anyone who might want to come out and dance to the music.
Finally, Ari’s Dad lead us into a small Café. We sat under the arches across from flower hanging balconies. The waitress just smiled and promptly brought Abuelita’s hot coco along with a slice of carrot cake.
“This is better than Starbucks! Do you know what Starbucks is?”
Of course they knew. And really, Starbucks couldn’t beat the homely environment in that Hacienda styled courtyard.
And thus began my adventures in Mexico.