Zacatecas

A city with a face of stone and a heart of silver

Zacatecas is a city of enormous beauty and unabashed Mexican pride. This fabled silver city lies 4.5 hours north of Guanajuato and is a detour into history no visitor will regret. At 8,100 feet above sea level (making it Mexico’s second highest city), Zacatecas will quite literally take your breath away. The city’s stunning architecture includes many religious and civil buildings from the colonial era: the cathedral, clearly dominates the center of town.

Since its establishment as a mining camp in the 16th century, Zacatecas has long been valued for its rich deposits of silver and other minerals. On January 20th, 1548, the Spanish prospector, Juan de Tolosa, along with Diego de Ibarra, Cristobal de Oñate, and Baltasar Temiño de Bañuelos, officially founded the city.  One of the world’s largest silver mines, Fresnillo, is only around 30 miles from Zacatecas.

Also close by is the village of Plateros (which, incidentally, is Spanish for “silversmith”). Many make pilgrimages to Plateros at Christmas time to bring toys to the local patron saint, Santo Niño de Atocha, a symbol of Zacatecas and the protector of miners.

Some mines have been adapted for tours, including El Eden, part of the Zacatecas “From Earth to Sky” circuit. The tour offers a cable car ride to the legendary Cerro de La Bufa (Bufa Hill), where visitors can admire striking rock formations, mineral colors, and underground machinery. With a mix of curves and straight lines, the city center architecture is certainly distinctive. Its avenues are punctuated by alleys, each boasting its own legend. The Callejon del Indio Triste (Alley of the Sad Indian) tells the story of the obsessive love of Xolotl, Lord of Panuco, for Xuchitl, the last Chichemec Princess. Other notable Zacatecas alleys are Mantequilla (Butter), Gallos (Cockerels), Merceditas (Small Mercies), San Francisco (St. Francis), Santero (Faith Healer), Mono Prieto (Dark Monkey), Tenorio (Womanizer), and Resbalon (Slip). 

If you visit Zacatecas, you can’t miss the archaeological site of La Quemada and the picturesque town of Jerez, which are two cultural attractions of this great state of northern Mexico.

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