Old Town of Zacatecas (World Heritage)

According to neovideogames, Zacatecas is the most famous and richest of the Mexican silver cities and contributed a good deal to the Spanish wealth of the early modern period. The old town reflects the heyday of the city. The cathedral with its lavish late baroque style is outstanding. This Spanish style of churriguerism was very popular in Mexico at the end of the 18th century.

Zacatecas old town: facts

Official title: Old town of Zacatecas
Cultural monument: old mining town, whose name means “land where the zacate grass grows”, among others. the Eden Mine, the Cathedral, the Augustinian Church, the Church of Santo Domingo, the Palacio del Gobierno and the Palacio de la Mala Noche (“Palace of the Bad Night”)
Continent: America
Country: Mexico, Zacatecas
Location: Zacatecas, at the foot of the Cerro de la Bufa, northwest of Leên and Guanajuato
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: one of the most important silver cities in the New World with a colonial city design adapted to the mountain profile

Zacatecas old town: history

1546 Founding of the city by four conquistadores
1548 first silver finds
1550 Operation of 34 silver mines
1564 Discovery of silver deposits near Guanajuato and construction of a road connection between the two silver cities
1585 Award of the city arms by King Philip II of Spain
1707 Foundation of the Franciscan monastery
1747 Construction of the baroque mission church of Santo Domingo
1752 Consecration of the cathedral
1834 Construction of the Teatro Calderên
1888 Construction of the Mercado Gonzáles Ortega
1914 Theater of war during the Mexican Revolution, resulting in severe damage to the historical building fabric
1921 Closure of the aqueduct that carried water from El Cubo shaft to Plaza de la Independencia

Baroque silver

“The mines are undoubtedly the main source of great fortune,” said Alexander von Humboldt, the Berlin-born former mining assessor in the Prussian civil service and a busy natural scientist, during his trip to Mexico. Silver mining helped the mine owners of Mexico to immense wealth, profits of 200 to 300 million marks per year were – as the well-known German explorer calculated – by no means unusual. The mine owners owed the Spanish crown a fifth of the silver they produced and shipped from the port cities to Europe. The Spanish crown, whose coffers filled up quickly, rewarded the entrepreneurs who were so successful in New Spain with titles of nobility in return.

The owners, who became wealthy through the yields from the mines in the area, were only too happy to invest in residences of their rank in one of the most powerful silver cities in the New World, located at an altitude of 2500 meters and bordered on its north side by two hills. And around the Plaza de Armas, numerous magnificent palaces were built in the city, which was founded in the 16th century. On the east side of the plaza adorned with statues, also known as Plaza Hidalgo, rises the two-story Palacio del Gobierno made of reddish Cantera stone, which was once owned by the richest family in the city. The Counts of Santiago de la Laguna were the clients for the construction of this palace, which, thanks to its well-proportioned and simple facade, as well as the lavishly decorated, wrought iron balconies. Don Joseph, Count of Santiago, was considered a great benefactor who regularly supported the Church and the poor in the city. Every Sunday, with the great sympathy of the needy, he took the short walk to the cathedral, attended mass and then fed the poor.

A stone microcosm adorns the double-towered cathedral, which was essentially built in the 18th century: flowers and leaves, angels and saints, apostles and demons and figures from Indian mythology, tropical fruits as well as vines and tendrils cover every square centimeter of the main facade. Churriguerism is the name given to that bizarre style that draws on abundance and was named after the Madrid builder and sculptor José Benito Churriguera: a symbiosis of Baroque and Indian understanding of art. In contrast to the opulent exterior is the neoclassical church interior, the simplicity of which is presumably due to looting during the secularization of the 19th century and the Revolutionary Wars.

South of the cathedral is the Teatro Calderên, a theater whose current appearance dates back to the 19th century. Its interior reflects the formerly great wealth of the silver city through an overly elaborate decoration.

Dominican and Augustinian monks contributed to the beautification of the city in their own way: not far from Plaza Hildago rises the baroque church of Santo Domingo, in which there are ornately carved and gilded altarpieces that were decorated by Indian artisans in the Churrigueresque style. The church of San Agustín, whose restoration is in progress, is already showing its former splendor, such as the finest sculptural work of a side portal with St. Augustine.

There are numerous other colonial buildings in the historic center of the city. Some – such as the three-story »Posada de los Condes« with magnificent wrought-iron balconies – now accommodate stylish hotels. The best overview of the baroque splendor of Zacatecas is gained by taking the cable car from Cerro de Grillo to Cerro de la Bufa.

Old Town of Zacatecas