Zacatecas City

City & Municipality
View of Zacatecas
View of Zacatecas
Interactive map
Zacatecas is located in Mexico
ZacatecasZacatecas is located in Mexico
Zacatecas/Official site
Official nameHistoric Centre of Zacatecas
CriteriaII, IV
Designated1993 (17th 676
State PartyMexico
RegionLatin America and the Caribbean

Zacatecas (Spanish pronunciation: [sakaˈtekas]) is a city and municipality in Mexico, and the capital and largest city of the state of Zacatecas. Located in north-central Mexico,[1] the city had its start as a Spanish mining camp in the mid-16th century. Native Americans had already known about the area's rich deposits of silver and other minerals. Due to the wealth that the mines provided, Zacatecas quickly became one of the most important cities in New Spain, with much of its silver enriching the Spanish crown. The area saw battles during the turbulent 19th century, but the next major event was the Battle of Zacatecas during the Mexican Revolution when Francisco Villa captured the town, an event still celebrated every anniversary. Today, the colonial part of the city is a World Heritage Site, due to the Baroque and other structures built during its mining days. Mining still remains an important industry.[2] The name Zacatecas is derived from the Zacateco people and has its roots in Nahuatl. The name means "people of the grasslands."[3]


Indigenous peoples

The first people to populate the area arrived approximately 10,000 years ago, when the climate was wetter and warmer, with different vegetation and wildlife. Eventually, the area came to be dominated by Chichimeca tribes such as the Caxcans, Guachichils, Guamares, Huichols, Zacatecos and others, with the Zacatecos being the most numerous in the area of the city today.[2][4] These peoples were mining silver and other metals in these hills long before the Europeans arrived,[5] making the area important in pre-Columbian times.[1]

Colonial period

The Spanish came to the Zacatecas area via Guadalajara. In 1540, Nuño de Guzmán traveled from Mexico City conquering what are now the states of Michoacán and Jalisco. One of Guzmán's lieutenants, Cristóbal de Oñate, conquered the area around what is now Guadalajara. Another, Pedro Almindes Chirinos Peralmindes, went to explore the lands to the north, taking Zacatecas with little trouble but not knowing of the riches underneath the soil. And the area initially was simply frontier. Other expeditions followed, including one by Juan de Tolosa in 1546, who brought back rock samples from Cerro de la Bufa, which were determined to contain high concentrations of silver and lead.[6] A mining camp was soon established at the foot of Cerro de la Bufa.[2] The Zacatecos initially fought the permanent presence of the Spanish, but the mining potential of the area strengthened the Europeans’ resolve and the natives were defeated in the 1540s.[7] Surveys of the other surrounding hills were undertaken by Tolosa, Diego de Ibarra, Baltasar Temiño de Bañuelos, Andrés de Villanueva and others.[2]

Avenida Hidalgo in the historic center

A military mining camp was formally established in 1548 and called Minas de Nuestra Señora de Remedios.[4][8] The first major vein of silver was found in 1548 in a mine called San Bernabé. This was followed by similar finds in mines called Albarrada de San Benito, Vetagrande, Pánuco and others. This brought a large number of people to Zacatecas, including craftsmen, merchants, clerics and adventurers.[4] In 1550, royalty found its way to Zacatecas in the person of Leonor Cortés Moctezuma, the illegitimate daughter of conquistador Hernán Cortés and Isabel Moctezuma, daughter of the Aztec emperor. Doña Leonor married Juan de Tolosa. The settlement grew over the space of a few years into one of the most important cities in New Spain and the most populous after Mexico City. The camp became a parish in 1550,[2] in 1585, then it was declared a city with the name of "Muy Noble y Leal Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de Zacatecas" (Very Noble and Loyal City of Our Lady of Zacatecas), receiving its coat of arms from Philip II of Spain at the same time.[2] The success of the mines led to the arrival of indigenous people and the importation of black slaves to work in them. The mining camp spread southwards along the course of the Arroyo de la Plata, which now lies underneath Hidalgo Avenue, the old town's main road. Tall buildings where constructed along here due to the lack of flat area on which to build. The first house was supposedly built in 1547, just before the fortress and metal foundry. Hospitals and hospices were built in the 1550s.[6]

Zacatecas was one of the richest states in Mexico. One of the most important mines from the colonial period is the El Edén mine. It began operations in 1586 in the Cerro de la Bufa. It principally produced gold and silver with most of its production occurring in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the opening of this mine is within the city limits and was closed to mining in 1960. It was reopened as a tourist attraction in 1975.[9] By the end of the 16th century, the city was the second most important, after Mexico City, and the income its mines produced for the Spanish Crown made it one of the most powerful in Europe.[1][8] Its importance was not only due to mining. Most of the monastic orders in New Spain eventually established monasteries, making Zacatecas an important center for evangelization. The Franciscans arrived in 1558, the Augustinians in 1576 and the Dominicans in 1604.[2] Many of the missionary expeditions to what are now California and Texas came from this city.[6]

Over the rest of the colonial period, the riches from the ground financed the building important religious and secular constructions. The peak of this construction occurred in the 18th century. One of these constructions is the Colegio de San Luis Gonzaga, which was established in 1796.[2]

Mexican War of Independence

Ignacio López Rayón led a group of Mexican rebels capturing the city of Zacatecas on April 15, 1811, early in the fight for Mexican independence from Spain. Víctor Rosales and José María Cos were leaders of Hidalgo's rebellion. Shortly after Independence, the Mexican government established the city of Zacatecas as the capital of the newly formed state of Zacatecas.

19th century

Interior de Zacatecas, lithograph, 1836

In the mid-1820s, institutions such as the first opera house, first teachers’ college, the state treasury, the state supreme court and other institutions were founded in the city when the first state constitution was signed. The first newspaper in the state started circulation herein 1825. The municipality was established in 1825.[2]

From the end of the War of Independence until nearly the end of the 19th century, liberals or federalists and conservatives, who favored centralized rule from Mexico City, battled for control of Zacatecas. In 1835, then-liberal Antonio López de Santa Anna defeated the troops of Francisco Garcia Salinas. During the Reform War, the city was taken by conservative general Miguel Miramón.[2]

The first railroad connecting Zacatecas with Guadalupe was completed in 1880. Connections with Mexico City and El Paso by rail were established in 1884.[2]

Mexican Revolution

During the Mexican Revolution, Zacatecas was the scene of the Battle of Zacatecas in 1914, pitting the rebel forces of Francisco Villa against the government forces of Victoriano Huerta.[2] Zacatecas was the last stronghold of the Huerta forces, which the División del Norte arrived on June 19, 1914 from Torreón.

Painting of the Toma de Zacatecas, Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City

Taking the city would clear the way for Villa to proceed to Mexico City. Villa's forces were under the direct command of General Felipe Ángeles, and Huerta forces were under the command of General Luis Medina Barrón. From the 19th to the 23rd, General Medina used a light beacon brought from the port city of Veracruz to light the hills at night looking for rebel positions. The battle began at 10:00 a.m. on the 23rd with rebel cannon fire. Over 22,000 rebel troops then approached the city from four directions, from the mountains known as Bufo, La Sierpe, Loreto and La Tierra Negra. The battle continued until about 5:00 that afternoon, when Huerta troops began to abandon their positions, and the División del Norte took the strategic hills of Bufo and El Grillo, entering the city. The rebels sacked the city and destroyed a number of buildings. Battle casualties were about 5,000 for Huerta's troops and about 3,000 for the rebels.[10] After the Mexican Revolution, the city of Zacatecas decided to revive the original seal granted to it by Philip II, and make it the seal of both the city and the state. It had been discarded after the War of Independence. The "Marcha Aréchiga" or "Marcha Zacatecas" written by Genaro Codina in the early 20th century, became the semi official anthem of the city and state.[2]

20th century

The old Instituto de Ciencias was refounded as the Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas in 1968, and an international airport was constructed in 1970.[2]

The anniversary of the city had been celebrated on the day of the Virgin of Zapopan, who was the patron until 1975. Since then the patron has been changed to the Virgin del Patrocinio, who is celebrated on the same day,.[11] The city center was named a World Heritage Site in 1993.[2] UNESCO's websites states the following as justification. "Founded in 1546 after the discovery of a rich silver lode, Zacatecas reached the height of its prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, the town has views of the area. There are also several old buildings, both religious and civil. The cathedral, built between 1730 and 1760, dominates downtown. It is notable for its harmonious design and the Baroque profusion of its façades, where European and indigenous decorative elements are found side by side."[12]

Old downtown bystreet in the city of Zacatecas

Zacatecas has had a number of earthquakes since the colonial period. The last occurred in 1995 and caused minor damage.[2]

21st century

In 2009, the city council approved the logotype of the new administration with includes the Virgin of Zacatecas image. However, since then it has been claimed that the new logo violates Article 5 of the Zacatecas constitution and Article 10 of a law called Bando de Policía y Buen Gobierno. Another objection is that the new seal contains the colors yellow and black, those of the political party of the municipal president[13] The city has grown to the point where houses now balance on the edge of a creek and over the mounds of waste from mines. This is possible due the lack of regulation and urban planning by authorities. Irregularities exist in 85% of the city's neighborhoods but the neighborhoods of Lázaro Cárdenas, Minera, CNOP, Lomas de la Pimienta, Benito Juárez, González Ortega have the largest number of them. Many of these buildings have structural and infrastructure problems such as flooding during rains and the damage this creates.[14]

Other Languages
العربية: زاكاتيكاس
Bân-lâm-gú: Zacatecas (chhī)
български: Сакатекас (град)
català: Zacatecas
eesti: Zacatecas
français: Zacatecas
galego: Zacatecas
한국어: 사카테카스
Bahasa Indonesia: Zacatecas, Zacatecas
Bahasa Melayu: Zacatecas, Zacatecas
Nederlands: Zacatecas (stad)
日本語: サカテカス
occitan: Zacatecas
português: Zacatecas (cidade)
Runa Simi: Zacatecas
Simple English: Zacatecas, Zacatecas
српски / srpski: Закатекас (град)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Zacatecas, Zacatecas
svenska: Zacatecas
Tiếng Việt: Zacatecas (thành phố)