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 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,
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
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
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).
: 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
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
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.
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
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
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".
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.
: 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.
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
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
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
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).
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
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"
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 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.
the bus from the Central Antigua, blvd Lopez Matéos to reach
this village and the other ones in the surroundings.