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Zacatecas, state and capital
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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A little bit of geography and history

aqueduc in ZacatecasThis region was first inhabited by the tribes related to the Chalchihuites and the Quemadas. The discovery of gold and silver ores on the sides of the "Cerro de la Bufa" led the Conquistadors to found a city. The haciendas in the area are surprising because of the dimensions of their patios : Here, in Zacatecas, in these huge paved courtyards, the precious metals from the neighboring mines were cleaned. They were washed down, then pummeled and mixed with sulfates, copper oxides and mercury in order to obtain a pure metal. The city is located in narrow gorges, dominated by "Cerro de la Bufa", "Mala Noche" and "'El Padre" Peaks. It is a nice example of colonial architecture, with houses packed together and steep stone stairs linking the small streets. Zacatecas means “the land where the zacate grass grows” in Náhuatl.

In 1993, the historic center of Zacatecas was inscribed on the UNESCO “Cultural World Heritage List“, distinction granted only to the sites of outstanding universal value. Click HERE to log onto the UNESCO website describing the exceptional value of Zacatecas. With its building made of pink stone, it is one of the nicest cities in Mexico.

Left picture : aqueduc in Zacatecas

Occidental Sierra Madre, in a vast semi-arid region favorable to farming because of the many rivers from the two Sierras. Zacatecas is surrounded by the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Durango, Nayarit, Nuevo León and Guanajuato. Zacatecas spreads on a 75.040 km² (29000 square miles) surface and has more than 1,368,000 inhabitants (2006). The Capital with the same name as the state had 123,000 inhabitants in 2007.

The state of Zacatecas is an important producer of farming raw material, livestock and minerals. The Zacatecas land grows beans, peppers, garlic, broccolis, vineyards, guavas, peaches and nopal tunero. Zacatecas is also a state with an important production of cattle. The Zacatecas mines mainly provide silver, lead, zinc, gold, copper and iron. In addition, it has important ores of no metal mineral for industrial use including onyx and quartz.

The city of Zacatecas is located 610 km (379 miles) from Mexico City, 190 km (118 miles) from San Luis Potosí and 318 km (198 miles) from Guadalajara. Its altitude is 2496 m (1189 feet); the climate is dry and warm with an average temperature of 16°C (61°F).

The original inhabitants of Zacatecas, the Zacatecos, strongly resisted the first Spanish groups which tried to occupy the area around 1540. The prosperity of the area (due to the mineral) made the Spanish stay.


Allow two days in Zacatecas and one day for the surroundings.

facade of the cathedral If you stroll in the historic center, enjoying the atmosphere, you will reach the Cathedral, whose facades were carefully elaborated. The construction started in 1612 and ended after 140 years of intermittent work.
The cathedral is the testimony of the prosperity of the Zacatecas mining industry during the seventeenth century and part of the eighteenth century. The south-east façade is of European baroque style and the northern one is of churrigueresque style. This last mentioned is ornate with thirteen niches housing the Christ, the twelve apostles and the four Fathers of the Church around the Choir window. On the sides, there are two beautiful baroque gates. On the upper part, the Holy Father is surrounded by eight musician angels. On Hidalgo avenue side (west), the pink stone façade stands between two towers. The details on this façade were worked with a rarely equaled care. You might be disappointed by the interior whose plainness contrasts with the outside. (Open daily 6 AM-1 PM & 4 -9 PM). If you like liturgical objects and religious ornaments, go to the Galeria Episcopal, an adjacent building south of the cathedral (open Tue-Sun 10 AM-6 PM, admission charge).

     Right picture : facade of the cathedral

The left gate represents a Calvary in a late plateresque style, while the right gate, consecrated to Our Lady of Rosary, is of baroque style.

If you leave the cathedral through the left gate, you are on Plaza de Armas, one of the nicest plazas in the city. It is the starting point of the callejoneadas at dusk (see details).

The majority of the important colonial constructions of the city date from the same time as the cathedral. In charge of the evangelization of this region, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Augustans and the Jesuits built many churches, convents and hospices. They built the churches Santo Domingo, San Augustin (converted into a museum) and San Francisco (whose former convent was converted into the Rafael Coronel Museum) and the old Jesuit College (housing the Museo Pedro Coronel). Among the civil buildings, note the Palace of the Bad Night, today converted into a Courthouse, the actual Municipal Palace, the Board of Education of the University and the House of the Countess. The Cauldron Theater (Calderón) dates from the nineteenth century while the former González Ortega market is a famous porfiriano building. The building that houses the Goitia Museum is an interesting example of academic architecture of the same time.

On the eastern corner of the plaza, the Palacio de Gobierno (open daily 9 AM-9 PM), a noble baroque colonial house, dates from the eighteenth century. The internal frescoes tell the history of the city. It became the headquarters of the executive power from 1834. Admire a mural by Antonio Rodriguez on the main stairway : it is a mix of painting and bas-reliefs. Inside, a central courtyard is surrounded by salons. The most important one is called "Reception Salon". This palace has a nice roof structure, colonial balconies and elegant oil lamps.

detail of the cathedral of Zacatecas
The Courthouse of the city, called Palacio de Mala Noche is on the western corner of the plaza. This is an old colonial house dating from the eighteenth century. It was built of local pink stone by a rich silver mines owner, Don Manuel Rétegui. Admire the internal courtyard framed with arches, sumptuous balconies and beautiful wooden doors (closed on weekends). It was named after an event of mining tradition that the owner had to go through. The event is told as a legend : the owner went broke while building this palace and considered suicide the night when the news arrived that a rich vein had been discovered in his mine.

Left picture : detail of the cathedral of Zacatecas


Walking up on the west side of the callejón de Veyna, on the left of the Courthouse, you reach Plaza Santo Domingo, dominated by Santo Domingo Church, built on the hillside (open 10 AM-4:30 PM, Mon-Sun).
This church was built by the Jesuits from 1746 to 1749. Then, the Dominicans expelled the Jesuits in 1767. This church contains eight retablos- magnificent golden wood altars. The most beautiful one is the one dedicated to the Virgin of Guadelupe. In the octagonal sacristy, you can admire eight excellent paintings on the walls: they are works by Francisco Martínez. Admire the baroque gate.


On the same plaza, the Museo Pedro Coronel (open 10 AM-4:30 PM, Fri-Wed, $20), displays a nice art collection in a former Jesuit seminary dating from the eighteenth century. The Zacatecas native Coronel Brothers, well-advised artists and collectors, collected, during their life, an unbelievable amount of paintings and objects from all over the world. There are works by Dali, Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Basarelli and Miró as well as masks and puppets dating from the nineteenth century, Pre-Hispanic potteries and a rich collection of 20 000 volumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, displayed in the Biblioteca "Elías Amador".

flower market in Zacatecas While you are steeped in the culture of Pedro Coronel Museum, go and visit the museum consecrated to his brother Rafael (take G.Codina Street, then go up Juan de Tolosa Street and Matamoros Avenue). The Rafael Coronel Museum (open 10 AM-4:30 PM, Tue-Thu, $20) is set in the former Convent of San Francisco. It displays interesting collections of Mexican popular art (5000 Mexican and foreign masks), a nice collection of puppets of the Rosette Aranda Company, an interesting exposition of Pre-Hispanic pots and potteries, terra cotta figurines from the colonial time and Mexican coins from different periods
(Pre-Hispanic, colonial and contemporary). You can also watch a set of drawings by Diego Rivera, Rafael Coronel’s father-in-law, as well as a set of ceramics dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. All these collections were given by Rafael Coronel (1949-1999). This former convent was the first convent built in 1567 under the leadership of the Franciscans.

     Right picture : flower market in Zacatecas

Walking down towards the historic center, you can visit the Museo Manuel Felguérez - (Temática: Arte Abstracto), located in calle Colón, at the crossing with Seminario (open 10 AM-4:30 PM, Wed-Mon, $20). This museum is housed in an edifice dating from the nineteenth century.
In 1997, the State Government decided of the renovation of this place to set the first phase of the museum. From 1999 to 2001, it was enlarged and reopened in August 2001.
While renovating the building, they tried to combine the former architecture with modern elements.
The result is an exceptionally original museum space. The Abstract Art Museum Manuel Felguérez is the creation of a visionary and generous man. It is also a tribute to this Zacatecas native artist who made his mark. He contributed to the evolution of the abstract art in Mexico.

Dome of “Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe", known as "Guadalupito" On your second day, you can go to the southern side of Plaza de Armas and visit several buildings : First, the Teatro Calderón (open daily 10 AM-9 PM, Hidalgo Avenue,# 501), built from 1891 to 1897. This majestic edifice is one of the most beautiful architectonic jewels in the city. It was successively a theater, a movie theater, a circus, a sport Center, a radio station. It found back its original vocation only in 1985, after the restoration. It has a neo-classical style from a French inspiration with a three level facade with ornate artistic allegories.

Left picture : Dome of “Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe", known as "Guadalupito"

This building is the meeting place of the young Zacatecanos late afternoon. They stay on the front steps and talk.

On the eastern side of the theater, there is the former market - Mercado González Ortega- This iron and glass building was built in 1890 and it housed the big covered market of Zacatecas. Since its renovation in 1982, it was converted into a modern mall with luxury shops (open daily 10 AM-9 PM).

Go to Plazuela Goitia on late evenings to watch the clowns and itinerant vendors.

At the west of the Theater, go to the Zacatecano Museum (open 10 AM-5 PM Wed-Mon, free entrance), Dr. Hierro #301 Altos.
It was inaugurated in 1995 in the Mint of Zacatecas (1810-1905). This small museum is interesting because of its exceptional collections about Huichol Art : more than 150 embroidered pieces, elaborated by this ethnic group, evoking the religious sense and its relation with the nature. This collection was given by a Belgium doctor who has lived in the community for several years. There is also a wonderful collection of popular altar pieces, from different religious centers and different times, given by Don Fernando Benítez.

One block away, there is the old church of San Augustin (open daily 10 AM-4:30 PM), built in 1617 and plundered at the nineteenth century. The Augustans arrived in Zacatecas in 1575. This church, very modest in 1590, was enhanced with beauty and contain during the following century. The once exuberant façade is today a white wall. There are still nice altars inside. The surrounding wall is a wonderful example of architecture : the churrigueresque side gate, representing the conversation of Saint Augustan, under the gaze of a human face sun and musician angels, lets imagine the initial splendor of the edifice. You can see some temporary shows displayed there.

Video on the city of Zacatecas

Don’t forget a rest-stop in Juárez Garden at the very end of the street. On the western side, there is the charming Mesón de Jobito hotel, set in a former vecindad (tenement house).

Close by, Enrique Estrada Park (Gonzáles Ortega & Manuel M.Ponce) offers a nice view on the aqueduct that serviced the city until the early twentieth century and the Alameda Park (Villalpando & av.Torreón) offers a quiet walk to one of the two entrances of the Mina El Edén. The visit of this mine is worth it because of the huge amounts of gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron (guided tours, daily, 11AM-6PM, $70) produced there during more than 350 years until 1975. You can feel a slight bit of apprehension while visiting this mine because of the humid and dark tunnels and the cord bridges. The working conditions were so difficult that the average life of a miner was 36 years.

At the west of Estrada Park, the Museo Goitia (open 10 AM-5 PM - Tue-Sun, $20) and its vast gardens are set in a simple edifice drawn and built by Spanish architect Maximal de la Pedraja. It was the official residence of the governors and then the "Village House" which welcomed visitors and students from 1948. Finally, in 1978, in agreement with the National Institute of Fine Arts, this place was converted into a museum. It displays a permanent and splendid selection of works by the most famous artists from Zacatecas. The collection presents 100 years of contemporary art production.
In this museum, you can admire more than 170 works by worldwide famous zacatecanos Masters such as : Julio Ruelas, Francisco Goitia, José Kuri Breña, Pedro Coronel, Manuel Felguérez and Rafael Coronel

Outside the city, you can ride the gondola (open daily 10 AM-4:30 PM, $28) that links the Cerro del Grillo to the Cerro de la Bufa ( see picture) . This rocky promontory overlooks the city at 2657 m (8717 feet) of altitude. The Gondola of the city of Zacatecas was built from October 1978 to May 1979. The ride time is 7 min over 650 m (2132 feet). The panoramic view is stunning. You can also drive or ride a bus to Cerro de la Bufa. (The buses "Ruta 7" start from avenue Hidalgo/Corner Juárez).

gondola which links the Cerro del Grillo to the Cerro de la Bufa
The Museo de la Toma de Zacatecas (open 10 AM-5 PM -Tue-Sun, $12) is on an esplanade just outside the gondola (Cerro de la Bufa). It was open in 1984 to commemorate the seventy years of the fight of 1914 ("The Storming of Zacatecas") which is recounted through a collection of photographs, weapons, newspapers and documents from this time. The museum also displays a set of photographs by Angela Ramos. The Sanctuario de la Virgen del Patrocinio, Patron Saint of the city is near by. It was built in the eighteenth century over the ruins of a chapel dating from the sixteenth century.

Left picture : gondola which links the Cerro del Grillo to the Cerro de la Bufa

The surroundings

Allow one day to visit these three places :

Guadalupe : This small village is one of the most beautiful ones in the area. It is located 7 km (4 miles) from Zacatecas City. The Franciscans came to Guadalupe to found their College in 1707. The church keeps the original carved wood stall in its chancel. Don’t miss the view down to the Capilla de Nápoles built in the nineteenth century. The convent, declared national Monument, was converted into the Museo de Guadalupe de Arte Virreinal (open 9 AM-6 PM Tue-Sun, $41). It displays a beautiful collection of colonial religious art, one of the most important ones in Mexico with the one in the museum of Tepotzolán. The museum has major works and huge compositions by great painters such as Juan Correa, Luis Juárez, Nicolás Ibarra, Cristobal de Villalpando, Felipe Santiago Gutierrez and Miguel Cabrera. You can admire the Virgin of Apocalypse by the last named. The library and its 10,000 volumes are worth the visit.

By the side of the Museum of Guadelupe, the Museo Regional de Historia (open daily 10 AM-4:30PM, free admission) was once part of the former convent.
Nowadays, the historic archives of Zacatecas, the offices of the Museum of Guadelupe, INAH and a collection of antic cars show the history and evolution of the land transport in Mexico. Look at the Mesquite wood cart that was used to carry the minerals, elegant coaches, a tramway used by Porfirio Díaz as his personal vehicle and even a limousine and an elegant convertible Cadillac.

Buses leave from López Mateos Avenue every 15 min to go there.

Arch to access the "Sanctuario de la Virgen del Patrocinio"      Right picture : Arch to access the "Sanctuario de la Virgen del Patrocinio"

Pre-hispanic vestiges
The archaeological site of the Quemada (The Burnt) and ruins of Chicomostoc were built in the tenth century by the Chichimecs. This important fortress is one of the rare ceremony centers. This Pre-Hispanic city, built on the hillside, was destroyed by the fire at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Even partially restored, these ruins reveal the narrow streets and the solid foundations of the houses and temples. There, you can see many edifices built on artificial terraces on the mountainside. The construction material is a mix of stone and mud. The most important edifices are : The Columns Salon (salón de las columnas) where 11 huge columns supported a roof where human sacrifices took place, The Ball game, The Votive Pyramid, the Palace and the District. In the upper part of the hill, called "The Citadel", one can admire the vestiges of a small pyramid and a platform, surrounded by an 800 m long, 3m wide and 5m high wall. The place was occupied and reached its peak from 800 to 1200 A.D. (classical period). There is a nice panoramic view from the "Citadel".
Due to the distance between the Burnt and the center of Central America, this archaeological zone was the object of different interpretations from the historians and archaeologists who tried to find the historic link between the different cultures.
This place is also supposed to be the legendary Chicomostoc, a Caxcan place, a teotihuacano enclave, a tarasco center, a bastion against the intruder chichimecs , a big Toltec mall or simply the result of an initiative of Indigenous groups located at the north of Grand de Santiago River.
On the premises, there is an interesting museum that illustrates and completes the information about the Quemada and other important archaeological zones of the State. We recommend the visit with a guided tour offered in travel agencies in Zacatecas. You also can go there by the local bus linking Zacatecas to Villanueva.

The archaeological site called ZONA ARQUEOLOGICA “LA QUEMADA” is located 53 km (33 miles) south of ZACATECAS, route # 54 - ZACATECAS-VILLANUEVA, (492) 922 5085 / 922 0403. It is open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily, entrance fees : $42 (free on Sundays). The museum of the site is open from 10 AM to 3:30 PM daily except on Mondays (entrance fees : $10).

The Mexican State submitted the Archaeological Site on the Tentative List of UNESCO (the Tentative List is an inventory of these properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination during the following years).

Jerez ("pueblo mágico")

Jerez is located 57 km (35 miles) from Zacatecas. This pretty little town was founded in the sixteenth century. It is the home town of poet Ramón López Velarde. Jerez conserves an atmosphere of Andalusian town with wrought iron balconies and sunny patios. The very famous Sunday market or tiangui brings together the farmers and stock breeders of the region. Look at the church La Soledad and its baroque facade, at the Museo Casa Ramón Velarde and the Hinojosa Theater. Note the Moorish style of the Edificio de la Torre. This village, with a dry and mild climate, is pleasant for a visitor looking for a quiet place.

cathédrale de ZacatecasTake the bus from the Central Antigua, blvd Lopez Matéos to reach this village and the other ones in the surroundings.

Map of the city : or

Map of the state :

The history of the state and its capital :





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