Capital of the State of Zacatecas
Historic Centre of Zacatecas
Mining and religion
Location and site
In the center of northern Mexico, 700 km. away from Mexico City, the city of Zacatecas is situated in a narrow valley at the foot of the Cerro de la Bufa. It is located at more than 2,400 m. above sea level.
The configuration of the city adapts to the difficult topography of its site. Its compact plan opens up towards the south of the city, from which a road leading to the capital originates. The main street follows the course of the former river at the bottom of the valley. Steep streets, works of impressive terracing, and short, unexpected perspective views account for the originality of the ensemble.
The magnificent 18th-century Baroque cathedral dominates a landscape that brings together numerous religious institutions dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Large secular buildings, which are more recent, enrich the architectural landscape; these include the 1834 Calderón Theatre, the 1886 Gonzáles Market, and the early 20th-century governor’s residence.
Criterion (ii): Zacatecas was one of the principal centers 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 foundation of Zacatecas in 1546 was linked with the discovery of a rich silver lode on the site. In the same mountainous massif, three new silver deposits were found shortly afterward. In 1550, 34 silver mines were in operation, and the town of Zacatecas was developing in the valley.
- In 1554, deposits were discovered in Guanajuato. A road linking the capital city to the two mining centers, which were 275 km. apart, was constructed. Between them, Zacatecas and Guanajuato produced most of the silver that was exported from New Spain. Like those of the Andean town of Potosi, the deposits of Zacatecas and Guanajuato played a major role in launching the European economy.
- In 1558, when Zacatecas received King Phillip II of Spain, it attained the status of city and its own coat of arms.
- In the 16th and 17th centuries, Zacatecas enjoyed a mining boom and an initial period of domination over Guanjuato. Its economic power transformed the region; forts and villages were constructed and its agricultural potential was exploited. Zacatecas contributed to the settlement and the Christianisation of the north of the colony. Its prosperity continued despite an economic downturn when Guanajuato became more favored. The city is full of with rich monuments.
- In 1914, during the revolution, Zacatecas was a battle site. Numerous buildings were damaged. In the first half of the 20th century, the decline of the mines was accelerated.