Zacatecas Travel Guide

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Although only a day's drive from the Texas border and famed in Mexico for its artistic and architectural treasures, Zacatecas is not well known abroad. A few wise Texans take off to dry, cool Zacatecas (over 8000 ft. altitude) for breaks from Houston or Austin's humid summer heat, but the city does not attract the number of foreign visitors that its beauty and interest merit. So much the better for the traveler who wishes to have a glimpse of modern Mexican life in a genuine Spanish colonial city with a long history, delightfully situated in a gorge between mountain peaks.

Silver attracted Spaniards to Zacatecas in the mid-1500s, and a century later the city was one of the wealthiest in New Spain. Mining flourished well into the 20th century, and continues in the area still. The inevitable result of this prosperity was that Zacatecas quickly became a city of political and religious importance, with the monumental architecture to go with that.

Zacatecas is a city for walking. In the older sections of town most of the cobbled streets are narrow, and somewhat steep, running as they do up, down, and around the hillside on which the city was founded. Down below in what is now the city center, the going is easier, but no less fascinating. Definitely worth a visit is the Catedral de Zacatecas, begun in 1707, and the Templo de Santo Domingo, known for its ornate Baroque interior. Other edifices large and small decorate the city, such as the Palacio de Gobierno and the Palacio de Justicia in Plaza de Armas.

Zacatecas has a full range of hotels and motels, and several very good restaurants serving both local specialities and international fare. The area is important in Mexico's slowly growing wine industry; reds from the Cacholá winery can be quite good, especially as an accompaniment to rich local dishes. A special treat for lodging is the Mesón de Jobito, a carefully restored 19th-century mansion offering large suites decorated in traditional Mexican colonial style, with large windows and balconies. Silverwork is the shopping must for those with money to spare. In addition to the specialist shops, there is the Centro Platero Zacatecano, a silversmithing school proud to sell students' creations.

Also within an hour of Zacatecas is Jerez, a quaint colonial town. A definite visit is warranted to see the cathedral and the plaza lined with old timers and children palying.

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