It could be said that the Cerro de la Bufa Hill was the origin of the birth of Zacatecas. Important silver deposits were found in its base, which lead to the city being founded on September 8, 1546 by Juan de Tolosa, Diego de Ibarra, Cristóbal Oñate and Baltazar Temiño de Bañuelos.
By 1585, King Phillip II granted the title "City of Our Lady of Zacatecas," and three years later, he ennobled the city with a coat of arms. So, what once was a land of native groups between Zacatecos, Caxcanes, Huachichiles, Tecuexes, Irritilas and Tepehuanes, would then become one of the most brilliant developments of New Spain, as bright as the silver it contained.
This coveted natural resource, while developing a notable industry, brought with it various religious orders such as the Franciscans, Agustins, Dominicans, Jesuits, Juanins and the Our Lady of Mercy order, who when finding in Zacatecas a prominent community willing to receive the Christian faith, erected magnificent temples and sumptuous rich monasteries similar to the lavish mansions of the so called "silver aristocrats". The name of Zacatecas is derived from the Nahuatl words "zacatl" , meaning grass, and "co", meaning place.
It is the "place where grass is plentiful". The city is located at the bottom of a ravine that is formed by the hills named; La Virgen, Del Grillo, Del Padre, and De la Bufa, and is also known as "The City of quarry and a silver heart." During colonial times, Zacatecas distinguished itself as one of the most significant developments of the New Spain.
But its historical value was not limited only to those years of colonial splendor, but also to the heroic role it played in the triumph of the Northern Division over the Huertista army in the Taking of Zacatecas, a battle that defined the consummation of the Mexican Revolution under the command of the legendaries generals Pancho Villa and Felipe Angeles and Panfilo Natera.
The layout of the city is shaped to the earth, following the windings of the mountain and giving itself to the wildness of the environment with brilliant constructive engineering. It is thus that the hilly streets take on an undulating course in the city with great aesthetics, opening the way to undoubtedly charming places and corners.
Many of Zacatecas streets remain to this day peculiar by none other than their name, which may have perhaps lost the story of their namesake or the date of origin, but still describe a past in which legends, traditions and the culture that nourished the people of the time converge: Calle de la Mantequilla, Los Gallos, Las Merceditas, Calle del Santero, El Indio Triste, del Mono Prieto, the Tenorio and del Resbalon, are some of the unique names.
And the beauty of the city of Zacatecas is also a testament to the fact that in 1993 it received the distinction as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO, a recognition that honors the value of its majestic architecture.
The former Royal College and Seminary of San Luis de Gonzaga, established by The Company of Jesus in 1616, and what was one of the most renowned colleges of its time, opened its doors in 1983 as the Pedro Coronel Museum, displaying an impressive collection of universal art from Greece, Rome, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Africa, and beyond. It is truly a one of a kind museum in Latin America.
Just as impressive is the Rafael Coronel Museum located in the former Convento de San Francisco, a building which in itself is invaluable, and presently displays a collection of Mexican masks used in ritual dances and ceremonies held throughout the country. This exhibition is called "The Face of Mexico" and is considered to be the world’s largest collection consisting of 5,000 pieces.
Other major museums are
The Museo Virreinal de Guadelupe, which besides housing paintings from the colonial era also has some 16th century pieces, and an integrated invaluable10 thousand volume library
The Museo Zacatecano, located in the old Zacatecas Mint which displays a superb collection of fine Huichol embroidery, as well as votive offerings and popular 19th century altarpieces
The Museo Toma de Zacatecas, located at the foot of the Cerro (Hill) de la Bufa, which opened to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Taking of Zacatecas" battle.
This is a wonderful spot where you can also embark on an incredible cable car ride which offers unparalleled views from the Cerro del Grillo to the top of the Cerro de la Bufa, traveling 650 meters (710 yds) over houses and buildings at 85 meters high (279 ft), and shows Zacatecas in a truly delightful way.
And here we also find the Palacio de la Mala Noche that was erected for the miner Don Manuel de Rétegui by indigenous builders and artisans in the 18th century with quarry, stone and wrought iron, complete with splendid balconies and high ceilings. The building was formerly the seat of the local congress until 1985, and today it houses the offices of the State Judicial Power.
The Calderón Theatre and the wonderful Zacatecan temples of Santo Domingo, Fátima and the Cathedral stand as jewels that cross the threshold of time and preserve a thousand and one histories.
There is plenty to see in this city entrusted to the Virgen del Patrocinio, patron saint in vigilance that stands at the top of the hill which centuries ago gave life to this city.
Visit the brilliant city of Zacatecas!