Historic Centre of Zacatecas
- The Historic Centre of Zacatecas is a well-preserved Spanish colonial town based on mining industry. Many of its streets are steep or at different levels due to the mountainous setting.Zacatecas was founded 1548, two years after the nearby discovery of silver. This and other mines in the vicinity attracted a large population, and it soon became one of the chief mining centres of Mexico. Silver from Zacatecas and from Potosí in Bolivia was coined as pieces of eight and transported around the world by the Spanish treasure fleets and the Manila galleons.Its heyday was from the 16th to the 17th century, after that it was overtaken by Guanajuato.
- Today, the city center is a World Heritage Site, due to the Baroque and other structures built during its mining heyday and mining still remains an important industry. The name Zacatecas is derived from the Zacateco people and has its roots in Nahuatl. The name literally means “people of the grasslands.“
MAP of the site – Map
The Historic Centre of Zacatecas has almost completely preserved of the urban design in the sixteenth century, taken as a basis for further development in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The peculiar and representative architecture of the 18th and 19th century make the city a clear hierarchy among the major work by volume and modest buildings.
The historic area comprises 15 religious complexes, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, among them the convents of San Juan de Dios, San Francisco, San Augustín and Santo Domingo. The cathedral (1730-60) is a highly decorated Baroque structure with exceptional facades and other features that reflect the absorption of indigenous ideas and techniques into Roman Catholic iconography. The Jesuit church of Santo Domingo has a quiet beauty which contrasts with the Baroque flamboyance of the college alongside it. Its massive dome and towers provide a counterpoint to the nearby cathedral. It now houses a new Fine Art Museum.
Important secular buildings include the 18th-century Mala Noche Palace, the Calderón Theatre of 1834, the iron-framed Gonzalez Market of 1886, and the pink stone Governor’s Residence. Quarters, named after trades or local topography, contain fine examples of humbler urban architecture from the 17th century onwards.
The Historic Centre of Zacatecas is a typical model of urbanization based on the irregular topography of a narrow glen. Today, the city of Zacatecas retains a wealth documentary that illustrates a significant stage in the history of Mexico and humanity as well, as monumental architectural styles that blend together, achieving an exceptional value.
Criterion (ii) : Zacatecas was one of the principal centres of silver mining from the early Spanish period until the 20th century and its architecture and layout reflect its economic importance and the resultant cultural flourishing which influenced developments in these fields in central and North America.
Criterion (iv) : Zacatecas is an outstanding example of a European colonial settlement that is perfectly adapted to the constraints imposed by the topography of a metalliferous mountain range.
The inscribed property has an area of 110 ha. In general, the morphology of the urban trace of the historical centre has not significantly changed. The property includes all the component to illustrate the variety and diversity of its buildings and physical components of its natural environment that convey its Outstanding Universal Value. Some sectors are vulnerable given the inadequate control of development, particularly in regard to new construction which alters the landscape settings and erodes the physical fabric of the property. The protection and management of the property must address these conditions holistically to ensure the conservation of historic buildings, of the original urban structure and of the cultural and historical memory.
The original street pattern of the town has been preserved intact and, because of the economic decline over much of the 20th century, there have been very few modern interventions among the buildings. Development has been controlled to a certain extent and restoration work has followed high standards and bee closely supervised by the Federal, State and Municipal bodies.
Today, the Historic Centre of Zacatecas currently stands out for its magnificent architectural buildings as well as the trace of its streets and squares.
Protection and management requirements
The public and religious buildings are in Federal Government ownership; of the remainder some belong to the State of Zacatecas or to the municipality of Zacatecas and others are in private ownership. The main protection comes from the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological, Historic and Artistic Zones of 1972. The Historic Zone of Zacatecas is under the control of the State Government by Law no 60 (1987), Law on the Protection and Conservation of Monuments and Typical States of Zacatecas, which comes into force in 1965 and in 2007 published the Partial Program Rules of the Historic Centre of Zacatecas.
The conservation, supervision and management systems for most of the components are adequate and the supervisory role of INAH, together with the Junta de Monumentos and the Ayuntamiento (Federal, State and Local Authorities) is appropriate. They cooperate together in a Management Plan for this site.
Zacatecas Baroque Treasures
The city’s silver wealth helped build some of Mexico’s most beautiful churches, temples and convents. The historic center of Zacatecas was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 on the basis of its outstanding cultural properties. What you’ll notice from the first is its harmonious design and, on a closer look, the profusion of baroque façades on which you’ll find European and indigenous decorative elements side by side. The mining boom turned Zacatecas into one of New Spain’s major cities; it has since been honored with the official title “City of Our Lady of Zacatecas”. Zacatecas’ silver wealth contributed to the building of some of Mexico’s most impressive colonial churches, temples and convents.
Santo Domingo, located next to the Pedro Coronel Museum, dates back to 1746. Its noble baroque exterior is set between twin bell towers capped with stunning blue and white tiles. Nearby you’ll find San Agustin, a recently restored church dating back to 1617. Its façade is a masterwork of stone ornamentation. The Cathedral, unrivalled centerpiece of Zacatecas, is one of Mexico’s most inspiring colonial treasures. It was built between 1707 and 1752, with the exception of its massive bell towers (completed in 1785 and 1904 respectively). The building is made of soft pink “cantera” stone, and is one of the world’s finest examples of stone masonry. The Cathedral has three façades, the most stunning being the main façade with its massive tiered columns and ornate carvings. It took nine years to complete and is considered to be the finest example of a style known as “Mexican Baroque.” In contrast, the vast interior is somber and unadorned.
The long rectangular Plaza de Armas (Principal Plaza) is the city’s cosy 18th -century main square, sitting just next to the Cathedral. To the north you’ll find the former residence of the state’s governors, a suitably stately neoclassical two-storey building. Occupying the eastern side of the square is the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), originally built as a private residence in 1727. Its white exterior is handsomely trimmed with soft pink stone and ornamental wrought iron balconies. Look out for the vibrant multi-dimensional mural by artist Antonio Pintor Rodriguez depicting the state’s long history. Directly across the street you’ll find two buildings: the Emporio Zacatecas (Zacatecas Emporium) and the curiously named Palacio de la Mala Noche (Palace of the Bad Night). You’ll know the Palacio, a former 18th-century residence, by its stark white façade and stone-carved balconies and window ledges. Across from the Cathedral you can admire the Mercado Gonzalez Ortega, a former market housed in a graceful building of black iron columns, built in 1889. Today it houses a handful of modern shops and boutiques, including a wine store selling locally-produced brands. Acueducto Del Cubo, a former aqueduct bringing water to the city, was built in the late 18th century; today, its thirty-nine thick, rose-colored arches still grace the city’s southern entrance.
One of the city’s finest 19th-century treasures, the Teatro Calderon (Calderon Theater), is an unmissable, elegant three-storey building. Its exterior is French and typical of the art nouveau style. The interior is a sumptuous combination of hardwoods, bronze statues and thick red carpet.
- The state’s coat of arms depicts the arrival of the Spaniards, who founded the city, surrounded by weapons belonging to the native inhabitants. Above the figures flies a banner with a message that translates as “Work conquers all.”
- Original inhabitants of the region were given the name Zacatecas (or “people who live on the edge of the field”) by their neighbors.
- At 2,469 meters (8,100 feet) above sea level, Zacatecas is Mexico’s second-highest city.
- Zacatecas was founded in 1546 after the discovery of one of the world’s richest silver veins. By the early 18th century, Zacatecas was producing one-fifth of the world’s silver.
- Zacatecas host the International Folklore Festival every August. The festival features dance and costumes from all over the world.
- Francisco “Pancho” Villa, nicknamed the “Mexican Robin Hood,” was a bandit revolutionary during the Mexican Revolution. In 1914, Zacatecas played host to one of the revolution’s greatest battles when Villa’s troops defeated an army of 12,000 soldiers under General Victoriano Huerta.
- Although much of the Zacatecas region is desert, agriculture provides the state’s primary income. Zacatecas farmers are Mexico’s foremost producers of beans, chili peppers and cactus leaves and also grow significant guava, grape and peach crops.
- During the Holy Week, citizens celebrate Feria de Cultura Internacional (International Culture Festival) with a week-long fiesta that features music, food, street performances, dancing and parties.
The Cathedral of Zacatecas in the capital city is regarded as one of Mexico’s best examples of the Spanish Baroque style of architecture called churrigueresque. Built in the early 18th century with wealth acquired from the area’s lucrative silver mines, the cathedral’s interior was originally embellished with silver and gold leaf. Unfortunately, little of the interior’s beauty remains, but this architectural masterpiece still attracts many visitors.
The Colonial Center in the city of Zacatecas contains many notable structures, including the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) with its magnificent stone façade. The Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), the Residencia de Gobernadores (Governor’s Residence) and Palacio de la Mala Noche (Palace of the Bad Night) are also located in the Center.
The Mercado González Ortega, once Zacatecas’ main marketplace, has been renovated into a modern, bustling shopping center that contains several restaurants.
Mina El Edén
Mina El Edén, an important landmark in Zacatecas’ history, is a major area attraction. Once a thriving silver mine with seven levels, the facilities have been redesigned so that visitors can take a train inside for guided tours. Visitors are able to experience firsthand the conditions miners endured to harvest gold, silver, iron, copper and zinc.
Zacatecas is home to several important museums, such as the Museo Rafael Coronel, which contains the largest display of traditional masks in Mexico (over 2,000).
Museo Francisco Goitia exhibits the works of six major Zacatecas artists, including Francisco Goitia, who has been called the most Mexican of Mexican artists.
Zacatecas’ Museo de Pedro Colonel is considered to be one of the best Mexican art museums outside of Mexico City. It is named in honor of Pedro Colonel, an affluent Zacatecas-born artist whose extensive and diverse collection of art is on display. The museum also contains works from as far away as Africa and New Guinea.