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We cannot visit all the places mentioned here in one day. A good subset would be the city center with one museum, a ride in the Teleferico to the Cerro de la Bufa, and the Museum up there. But we can define the subset once we know how many and who will participate in a trip.
Zacatecas, capital of the state of the same name, is built in a ravine on the slopes of Cerro de la Bufa, a rock-crowned hill 8,748 feet high. Long a mining center, the settlement was taken by the Spaniards in 1548. In 1588, it was named "The Very Noble and Loyal City of Our Lady of the Zacatecas" because of the vast quantities of silver shipped from the region to Spain. Although now surrounded by agricultural and cattle-raising lands, Zacatecas continues to be a center of silver mining. The largest mine in the region is the 200-year-old El Bote, which is still in operation.
Elaborate old mansions, an aqueduct and stone steps connecting steeply inclined flagstone streets lend the city a medieval atmosphere, and also attest to the ostentatious wealth generated by the mines. In contrast to this air of antiquity are the modern buildings of the University of Zacatecas; a mining museum on Avenoda Lopez Mateos lies at the foot of the hillside campus.
Within a 12-block area best explored on foot are several colonial buildings, including the baroque Cathedral, Government Palace, Calderon Theater, Church of San Agustin, and Church of Santo Domingo. A tourism office is next to the Government Palace. The nearby public marketplace resembles a turn-of-the 20th-century shopping area.
The Patrocinio Chapel, erected in 1728 on the Cerro de la Bufa, offers an exceptional view of the town and its mountain setting. The crest of the Cerro de la Bufa can be reached by a paved road. Several shops sell state-made crafts. The Battle of Zacatecas Museum at the summit chronicles Pancho Villa's capture of the city in 1914.
CATHEDRAL, on the south side of the plaza, was begun in 1612 and completed in 1752. It is one of the ultimate expressions of the Mexican Churrigueresque style. Notable indeed is the exterior explosion of the extravagant ornamentation, carved out of pink sandstone. The elaborate carvings, gold and silver ornaments and valuable artwork recall the city's days as a wealthy Spanish mining center.
MINA EL EDEN First operated in the 16th century, the mine produced great quantities of silver, copper, and zinc during its most active period. A small powered train takes visitors through the mine's 1,950-foot-long tunnel entrance; a guided tour then travels through several other tunnels. Talks in Spanish tell of the gruesome living conditions of the original Indiam miners. Admission is charged.
MUSEO FRANCISCO GOITIA, across Sierra de ALica Park, is in the former Governor's Mansion. Works by Francisco Goitia (1882-1960) as well as sculptures and paintings by other contemporary Zacatecano artists are displayed.
MUSEO PEDRO CORONEL, on Plaza Santo Domingo near the main square, was originally a Jesuit monastery and later a jail. The museum now houses the outstanding collection of noted Zacatecan artist and sulptor Pedro Coronel. On display are works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall; Coronel's tomb abd an exhibit of his own sculpture and paintings; pre-Columbian pieces and colonial-era works by Zacatecan artists; Chinese, Indian, Greek and Egyptian art; and a fine collection of Mesoamerican and African masks. Admission is charged.
MUSEO RAFAEL CORONEL. The museum is housed in the Convento de San Francisico, a gracious 18th-century edifice with an exterior colored in tones of the mellowed pink. Lush flowering plants fill the gardens in the interior courtyard.
Inside is an amazing collection of several thousand masks, all donated by Rafael Coronel, younger brother of Pedro. They depict saints as well as grotesque-looking, devilish figures, conquistadores and bizarrely imaginative animals. Entirely handmade and decorated with everything from human hair to glitter, the masks are a remarable testament to Mexican artistic ingenuity. There also are impressive dioramas of puppets engaged in such activities as warfare, a bullfight and a wedding. Admission is charged.
TELEFERICO ZACATECAS Build by Swiss engineers, the tramway connects the hills Cerro de la Bufa and Cerro Grillo, spanning the northern section of Zacatecas. It overlooks the city from vaying heights and covers a distance of 2,100 feet. The two enclosed cars are capable of holding six passengers at a time. Parking is available on either end of the run. Admission is charged.
NEARBY DESTINATIONSCHICOMOSTOC RUINS, also known as La Quemada Ruins , lie on the hillside of a valley, about 56km (35 miles) southwest of Zacatecas. Only partially restored, this archeological site bears traces of narrow streets and the foundations of homes and temples of the Nahuatlac Indians, who settled the valley around 1170. Thought to be destroyed by fire, the city was already a ruin when the Spaniards discovered it in 1535.
Among the remaining structures are a restored pyramid, a palace with 11 standing columns, and the substantial surrounding walls that have led some archeologists to believe that Chicomostoc was build as a fortress. Since local transportation is unreliable, the ruins are much easier to reach if you have your own vehicle. From the highway it's an uphill, 30-minute walk to the site entrance, past desert scenery characterized by stands of nopal cactus; visitors should wear comfortable hiking shows abd bring water.
Text from "AAA Mexico Travelbook 1998"
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