Hay Festival, Zacatecas: Day Four

Half the day was lost to a monster hangover, which was eventually seen off by the first hot shower in three days, a huge plate of mole and the most evil michelada I have ever come across.


The first event I got to was Jeanette Winterson at the Antiguo Templo, who described her route to becoming an author before delivering a moving and inspirational defence of the arts. I found her talk to be the most affecting of the weekend, and her openness and generosity of spirit (both in the talk and the questions which followed) was really refreshing. I was concentrating so fervently that I forgot to take any notes, which was a shame as she said some wonderful things. It was a very simple, impassioned and eloquent call to arms.

Jeanette Winterson

Next was a panel discussion in homage to Roberto Bolaño, one of my very favourite authors. Jorge Volpi chaired the conversation and was joined by Mónica Maristain and translator Heinrich Berenberg. A few interesting nuggets came up in conversation: that Bolaño loved the German language despite not understanding a word of it; that despite his fearsome reputation, he was quite soft-hearted; and, oddly, that he adored ‘Big Brother’. This was followed by a great documentary on Bolaño detailing his childhood in Chile and later life in Mexico, with some lovely archive footage and photos.

Bolaño Panel

In the end, after refuelling with some delicious chiles rellenos, I decided to go to the Bob Geldof concert. It was free, and I thought it was probably a bit churlish to avoid it on the grounds that I find him to be a self-righteous windbag. The concert took place outside the Antiguo Templo de San Agustin – the musical events had been moved there because the Plaza de Armas was occupied by protesting miners.

The miners protest opposite the Plaza de Armas

It was quite a strange gig. I didn’t have any real idea what sort of music Geldof and his band played (other than assuming they would play the few big hits from the Boomtown Rats’ back catalogue). It turned out to be a mixture of Irish folk, country rock, cod-reggae and one foray into Afrobeat. The latter two were particularly uncomfortable since they prompted Geldof to assume the ‘relevant’ accents, his usual singing voice being a fairly tuneless impersonation of Dylan. Despite the obvious shortcomings I did stick around, at least until they played “I don’t like Mondays”, which quite a few of the crowd seemed to know. Geldof really endeared himself to the locals with some ambitious Spanish, and the more stompy numbers induced some impressively co-ordinated dancing.

Setlist from the closing concert

So that wrapped up my four days in Zacatecas, a really great trip. The city is beautiful, in a fantastic location and felt very safe. The festival itself was a real treasure trove of interesting folk, most of whom were very willing to engage with their audiences. The only annoying thing was that where events were cancelled, there was no notice – not even a note on the wall. That didn’t really matter though, and I would thoroughly recommend both Zacatecas and the Hay spin-off idea.

Bob Geldof in concert, Zacatecas

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 5:02 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. In a completely typical coincidence, my attempt to take a photo of the rather poignant effigies of dead miners was hijacked by a couple engaging in the Mexican national sport of slurpy public snogging.

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