Thursday, May 24, 2007


No, you probably haven’t heard of this town. It does have a Wikipedia entry, however, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site, settled right in the center of Mexico, about 400 miles northwest of Mexico City. It’s also the site of the 7th joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society and the Sociedad Matemática Mexicana, running from Wednesday through Saturday of this week.

This is my first time to Mexico. And it’s beautiful. Zacatecas is in a valley, and it’s astonishingly clean. As you drive along the road surrounding the valley, you look out and see a wash of colors. About half of the buildings are standard brick color, but the rest are brightly painted blue, red, yellow, orange, so that the dominant impression is of jubilant pigmentation. The Cathedral is just outside our apartment, and although it’s not as grandiose as what one might encounter elsewhere, it sets a tone for churches all around the area: its dome and towers seem mimicked everywhere. There’s a cable car between two of the hills nearby, and we plan on trying it out at some point.

There is apparently some kind of festival going on around town. Bands—generally composed of trumpets of some variety, valve trombones, and a battery of percussion—wander the streets, with crowds of youths trailing behind, until they stop in some open place (in a local square, an arcade, or even just an intersection) and everyone dances. The attendees range from the clean-cut to the punk-ass, and they wear shotglass-sized clay cups on ribbons around their necks, from which they drink Mezcal when a supplier arrives. Occasionally the liquor rides in on a donkey.

Earlier this evening two bands, one clad in gray, the other in red, were dueling in the plaza next to the cathedral. I followed various bands around, hoping at some point to get up the nerve to ask for a dance partner (either in really broken Spanish, or maybe even in English, hoping they’d find it cute). As the evening continued, however, the proportion of peripheral males to females grew substantially, so I just watched. This is an awful time not to have Hannah here.

A concert stage is currently being set up in the plaza by the Cathedral, which is just outside our window. What are we in for tomorrow night?

The conference is going well. My particular crowd isn’t really represented here, but I’ve picked up some things in the conformal dynamics and differential geometry sessions. Meeting this city is well worth the trip.

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