The life of a "Nevense" (a native of Nieves, Zacs.) is difficult and villagers suffer great need. The new generations despise all kind of farm job. They choose to seek their livelihood in the American Union (USA), where they will have to do the same work they had detested at their own land. Perhaps, they will lose there their health and their living, far from their beloved relatives who would mourn by them.
Have you tasted some time the corn tortillas made by strong and glaring women by hand? Well, I have had the chance of tasting that kind of tortillas in Nieves Zacatecas. I'd wish to explain how the people from Nieves enjoyed when they elaborated their meals by hand.
At night, the Mexican women used to cook in water a mixture of corn -harvested by their husbands and many times by the same women- and lime (calcium carbonate).
The next day, in the early hours, those women used to carry the cooked corn (nixtamal) to the mill. After they had milled the corn, when they went back to home, the housewives chopped the firewood and carried it to their kitchens; then, they lighted a bonfire for elaborating -by hand- many delicious corn tortillas.
The housewives baked the bread with homemade wheat-flour into ovens of adobe and mud, under the fire of mesquite-firewood and on metallic sheets.
Those strong women milked their cows, and obtained eggs for the breakfast directly from the hen's nests.
Housewives of Nieves cooked the beans harvested by their own husbands; and all of this, cooked on a bonfire of mesquite firewood. They had a special device to light a bonfire that they named “brasero” (bowl for glowing coal or brazier).
Chili’s sauce (salsa de chile) could not fail on the table. The housewives bought the chili and all the necessary vegetables directly from the peasants' open markets.
On Sunday, the couple was prepared to go to the church “to hear mass”. The wife and her husband took a shower and wore dressy clothes. When parents were able, they carried with their younger children. When their children had grown, these did not want to accompany their parents to the church, except by the girls, who found on it a good opportunity to have a meeting with their boyfriends.
In effect, as girls left the church, they filled the plaza and used to walk around the plaza in one way (usually clockwise), while the boys were walking in the opposite way. Generally, they formed groups of two or more girls -who were going arm in arm- and some groups of two or more boys that were seeking for the girls. All it was laughter and jollification from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm because the heads of family did not permit their daughters to walk in the street beyond 9:00 at night. Believe me, when I experienced this provincial tradition, I wished to get rid of some 30 years of my life.
Nieves, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, was founded by Francisco de Ibarra on 1558. In 1963, its name was changed to "Francisco R. Murguía" by a constitutional mandate. It had to be done in this way because the original name of the village was religiously involved to an anecdote about the mythical apparitions of Santa Maria de las Nieves over a mountain settled at the Northwestern fields from the town, which is identified by the settlers as the "Caves Mount". Indeed, there are three shallow holes excavated on the rock at the top of the hill. Nobody knows the origin of the caves, but by their appearance, we think that the caves could be a human work. It is said that the statue of the virgin that rests inside the main temple was bequeathed personally by the virgin, who asked the villagers to defer her adoration and cult at a temple that should be built where she had indicated. The villagers say that, miraculously, the hill on where the apparition occurred was covered with snow. As said by the villagers, the miracle did consist in that it was a summer day.
Frontage of the temple of Santa Maria de las Nieves, which is about 147.64 feet in height to the highest point, its cupola (not visible in this photo).
Nieves is located at the Northwest of the state of Zacatecas (24° Lat. N/103° 01' Longitude) in a semi-deserted region. It is 6,614.17 ft upon Sea Level, and its weather tends to be dry and cold, with the minimum temperatures averaging 30.00 °F in winter and 75.20 °F as the typical higher temperatures in summer.
Panoramic of the area, where only grow plants that succeed in highly harsh environments, like Larrea trifoliata (Creosote Bush) o “gobernadora”, huizache, Fouquieria splendens or “ocotillo”, Condalia warnockii or “granjeno”, Celtis pallida or “charniz” (desert scythe), Atriplex canescens or “escobilla”, Prosopis velutina or “mesquite”, Chenopodium ambrosioides (wormseed) “epazote de zorrillo” and “gordolobo”. Many cactuses develop well in Nieves, for example, Opuntia spp. or “nopal”, Opuntia acanthocarpa “tasajillo”, Mammilaria grahamii or “biznaga”, “clavellina”, Lophophora williamsii or “peyote” and a variety of cactus, for example, “pitayas”.
On left, the Eastern wall of the main Church, built of stone and quarry in 1597 (?). On right, the Nieves’ plaza, which was remodeled by the local mayor, except by its famous deep-rooted quiosco (Newsstand). It is important to say that the villagers passionately opposed to the attempt of demolishing the old quiosco (perhaps by melancholy for that place where we met and kissed our first love).
Previous to its refashioning, the plaza was almost completely surrounded by large and strong Eucalyptus, which gratified to the people taking a break under their shades with a scented breeze. Some years ago, the plaza was remodeled, the only pine that is seen at the center of the garden has wilted (at the left of the image), and the eucalyptus were deliberately cut into pieces. At the background, at the right of the photo, we can see a Eucalyptus, one of two survivors of the criminal cutting. The cypress at the center was sown some 12 years ago. There were also an apricot tree and some pomegranate trees in the old garden, but all of them were chopped down by an ignorant mayor, who was short of respect towards nature. Now, Nieves has a dry, lifeless garden, as frozen as the heart of the mayor who "refashioned" that beyond doubt beautiful antique plaza.
This is a humble tribute to that small town where I was born and where I spent many valuable moments of my childhood. The wonderful people of Nieves helped me for being the man that I am, and I am deeply grateful to those modest villagers, all of them deceased, who constructed this life. When I returned to my town, many years ago, I found the same village I had abandoned 43 years ago…
WARNING: THIS PAGE CONTAINS HIGH-QUALITY PHOTOGRAPHS AND THEIR DOWNLOADING MAY BE VERY SLOW.
Above this lines, on left, a picture of an old chimney in a complex miner. The elders of the town say that it dates from 1810, when the province was plentiful on silver, gold, mercury and manganese. At the right, a beautiful first light in Nieves.
A wake up in a town as Nieves implies a series of emotions inspired by an intense fragrance and the countryside morning atmosphere. Besides the beautiful spectacle to see to leave to the star king, listen, far away and near songs of roosters, moos of mothers calling to their brood for taking the breakfast, brays, whinnies, the rhythmic coo-coo of wild doves, the howl of dogs and coyotes… What a revitalizing cock-crow!
Above: An abandoned mine complex, property of Quaterra and Western Copper, Lmt. The whole district covers a land area of almost 123 552.69 acres (31.07 square mi).
There are many vertical excavations, which are awfully deep. The entrances to the mines are 4.92 ft wide (in diameter), and the depth of mines varies between 492.13 ft and the 6,561.68 ft. Several accidents have occurred because the entrances to the mines do not have boundary markers or warning signals; besides, the holes are on a level with floor. Some are hidden by shrubs and/or piles of sand and ash. Unhappily, the persons that have tumbled in those deep wells have not been rescued because the city lacks of the necessary infrastructure for the rescue of people.There are no firemen in Nieves.
At the lower left on the photo, we distinguish a metallic structure known as "malacate" (a kind of very rustic elevator), which was used when the mine complex was operational, some 21 years ago (from present, 2005). Mr. Manuel Calderon died when he descended to the mine. People told us that Mr. Calderon get drunk before entering to the mine and that the gondola of the malacate rotated up to down and Don Manuel precipitated into the darkened mine. Some miners who saw the accident were able to descend on the gondola so recovering Mr. Calderon’s corpse. The villagers relate that the blow compressed the body of Don Manuel almost to a third of his original size (I think it is an exaggeration). The body remained stopped up on a wood support, at almost 393.70 ft in depth.
Nieves is an old town packed of traditions, old histories and legendary personages. The elderly talk about times when the old people were really valued; when only $1.00 (one Mexican peso) was enough money as to purchase all provisions for a month and it sufficed for diversions and dressing. The rich people of the town sent their children to study to other national states. There is a tale of a man (the village dwellers called him “Carito”) that drove crazy when he witnessed when his older brother killed one of his enemies.
THIS PAGE WAS CREATED BY THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE FROM NIEVES, WHOM LOVE THEIR CRADLE AND ARE CONSUMED FOR RETURNING TO THEIR CHILDHOOD, FOR PLAYING IN ITS STREETS, FOR CLIMBING OVER ITS HILLS, TO GO FOR A WALK BY ITS PLAZA ON SUNDAY AND, WHY NOT?, FOR FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN WITH THAT CHEERY AND CLEAN GOLDEN-HAIRED GIRL, WITH EYES BEJEWELED BY THE COLOR OF THE MAGUEY'S HONEY.
The “Via Dolorosa”"Chamuca"
The holy week, or holy days, is celebrated by a living representation of the Christ’s Passion, which main role is performed by a man surnamed Ovalle, who walks barefoot through several streets of the town, disguised as the icon of Christ. At the end of the celebrations, labeled as “Glorious Sunday”, the people gather at the plaza for burning up the "chamucos" (actually, chamucos are not burnt, but destroyed with dynamite or black powder).
The "chamuco" is a puppet made of cardboard and old clothes, which represents to someone that is admired or detested by the villagers. It epitomizes the devil (called “chamuco” by the village dwellers).There are two main chamucos, a chamuco of the rich villagers and the chamuco of the poor villagers. The year when we stayed at Nieves (2003), the chamuco of the poor villagers was "Camellia the Texan" (photo at right), while the chamuco of the rich people was a mannequin of George Walker Bush, . When a dummy represents to a woman, it is called "la chamuca".
Following to the "burning" of chamucos, the villagers play the game of "el palo encebado" (the "greased pole"). The "palo encebado" consists in a greased pole about 30 feet high which some men have to scale, generally, the audacious youngest people from the town. The climber has to reach the upper extreme of the greased pole; the winner is paid with all the goods hanging at the peak of the pole. The gifts are collected among the dwellers during the exhibition of the chamucos through the town streets.