Contributing editor Carla Hunt recently visited the city of
Zacatecas, located 90 minutes by air from Mexico City. Her report
ravelers who step out of the
traditional circle of colonial centers strung out between Mexico
City and Guadalajara will stumble upon a real find when they wander
north to Zacatecas.
Zacatecas is one of those places to explore on foot.
The main attraction on the plaza is the 18th century Cathedral
de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion.
With an ornate facade adorned with three tiers of sculpted
apostles, angels and floral motifs, the cathedral's exterior makes
the interior look plain by comparison.
Strict preservation laws govern the maintenance of the city's
colonial buildings, churches and convents -- built with the
regional peachy-pink sandstone -- while museums are endowed with
some of the country's best collections of colonial and modern
For a provincial outpost, Zacatecas has a surprising treasury of
excellent museums, two of which were founded by local artist
brothers Rafael and Pedro Coronel.
The Pedro Coronel Museum features an eclectic mix of works from
artists including Goya, Miro, Dali and Picasso as well as those by
Pedro Coronel himself.
But the ultimate museum in town -- long on my wish list of
places to see in Mexico -- is the Rafael Coronel Museum, tucked
among the courtyards of a former convent.
Pedro Coronel collected more than 10,000 ceremonial masks, many
inherited from his famous father-in-law, Mexican artist Diego
Rivera; about 4,000 of them, once used in various festivals
throughout Mexico, are displayed in the museum. There's also an
interesting exhibit of puppets here.
Another favorite of mine is the Museo Zacatecano, which occupies
a two-story hacienda that served as the city's mint in the 19th
The premises now are devoted to Huichol Indian art, featuring
exhibits of traditional beadwork, votive paintings and
For a look at the local contemporary art scene, clients can
visit the Francisco Goitia Museum.
Once a governor's palace, it now showcases the works of six
contemporary Zacatecan artists, including Goitia.
Visitors should find it worthwhile to travel by car six miles to
visit the 16th century Templo de Guadalupe, where one of Mexico's
finest collections of colonial-era paintings is housed in a
When clients plan for all this museum-hopping, it's really
important for them to note closing days, which for most museums are
Mondays; however, the Pedro Coronel Museum is closed on Thursdays
and the Rafael Coronel Museum on Wednesdays.
Among the unusual attractions at the edge of the city is the El
Eden silver mine, which operated for almost 400 years before
closing in 1960. The mine now houses a popular disco.
You can take a small train into the depths, then embark on a
guided walking tour (offered in Spanish only) through the shafts.
At night, the lights come up on El Malacate Disco.
A short walk away from the mine's entrance, the teleferico
(tram) glides up and across the city to the summit of La Bufa hill,
for both a bird's-eye view of the city and a chance to visit the
Toma de Zacatecas museum, which deals with the history of the
Mexican revolution, and the chapel honoring the city's patron
In addition to sightseeing, sitting beneath the arches of a
colonial aqueduct that runs above the park near the Quinta Real
Hotel and stopping for a coffee at the stylish Il San Patrizio
Caffe Espresso Bar near the cathedral plaza, shopping is another
major activity in Zacatecas.
It's not surprising that some of the best buys here are
one-of-a-kind silver jewelry.
Silver, discovered here in 1564, provided the wealth to develop
the treasury of colonial architecture found here; by the late 18th
century, Zacatecas commanded one-fifth of the world's total silver
There are many little silver shops along Avenida Hidalgo. This
area near the cathedral features one-stop shopping in the arcade of
the iron-frame Mercado Gonzalez Ortega, also a decent spot to stop
and have lunch.
Other values here include well-priced leatherwork and
Another good place to buy jewelry is the Centro Platero de
Zacatecas, a workshop and school for silversmiths.
Zacatecas stages many festivals during the year, such as the
International Folk Festival in September and the Fall Music
Festival in October.
This year Zacatecas also celebrates its 10th anniversary as a
Unesco World Heritage Site.
Zacatecas is a four-hour drive from Guanajuato, a 90-minute
flight from Mexico City and a 35-minute flight from Leon/Guanajuato
aboard Mexicana Airlines.
At the same time, a colonial circuit can begin or end in
Zacatecas, using Mexicana's nonstop flights from the U.S., which
operate four times weekly from Chicago and Los Angeles and three
times weekly from Oakland, Calif.
For more details on this article, see Hotel pick: Quinta Real.