I believe I left off having just arrived in Zacatecas and gotten settled in my Airbnb at the end of the privada. Now, after a day and morning, I can report on what I’ve seen and done so far.
… though hard to find, is really nice. Very comfortable, with air conditioning, and all the amentities you’d expect.
It’s an easy 10 or 15 minute walk from here to the historic center, so that’s great, but the neighborhood right around the apartment is dreary and lacks ambience. There are a few convenience stores and taco stands and such, but mostly the area is dominated by a big hospital. There are no cafés or restaurants nearby, so after being out and about during the day, I would have to go out and about again to get dinner. As a result, I’ve had nice breakfasts the last two mornings, skipped lunch, had an afternoon snack, and either ate a bagel I packed or hit up a convenience store from some quick meals. If I come back, I would try to stay more in the heart of the historic center.
Today I’m taking an afternoon break to write this, so later I might venture out and find a nice place for dinner.
Yesterday in Zacatecas
I actually managed to see quite a bit of Zacatecas yesterday. This is a real city, unlike the smaller places I’ve been to so far. The historic center abounds with architectural gems. Parks, plazas, fountains, public sculptures and memorials are scattered throughout the center.
Zacatecas sits in a valley surrounded by hills. And walking around involves lots of small inclines in the center itself, though the terrain is largely flat.
The Cathedral dominates the skyline, such as it is. I think that is clear from the picture up top. As I was looking down from Cerro de la Bufa, where I took that picture, I realized the city has no tall buildings. None. The Cathedral is the tallest structure in the city.
Teleférico and Cerro de la Bufa
After coming back to the apartment for a short break, I set out again to see if they would let me take Taco on the Teleférico, Mexico’s oldest cable cars. Erected in 1979, they run from a small hill close to where I’m staying over to Cerro de la Bufa. I don’t know if it’s the tallest of the hills surrounding the city, but it’s up there.
They told me I couldn’t take Taco with me, but they let me tie her up on a balcony, where she had to wait for me to cross the city and return.
The views from the Teleférico and from the hill were very impressive. I spent a good hour or more up there, including a visit to the Museo de la Toma de Zacatecas.
Unfortunately, the exhibits in the museum were all in Spanish, so I didn’t learn a lot. I tried using Google translate with my camera, but got impatient. Instead I decided to read up a little on this decisive battle in the Mexican Revolution.
La Toma de Zacatecas
The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 and ended with the adoption of the Constitution of 1917. (The Mexican War of Independence, which ended Spanish rule in Mexico, took place about 100 years earlier.) I won’t go into detail about the Revolution, but you can read the excellent Wikipedia article if you’re interested. I’m amazed by how little I knew about this important historical event.
The Wikipedia article doesn’t even mention The Battle of Zacatecas, but a separate Wikipedia article suggests the decisive victory of the rebels led by Pancho Villa led to the overthrow of President Victoriano Huerta. Huerta was a despotic leader, and after US President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in March 1913, he refused to recognize Huerta’s government, lifted an arms embargo imposed by his predecessor, William Howard Taft, and began supplying arms to rebel forces. Over the next year, the rebels scored numerous victories.
On June 23, 1914, Pancho Villa led the rebels against the federal army. General Luis Medina Barrón installed federal troops on the various hills around Zacatecas, including Cerro de la Bufa, where Median Barrón himself was stationed. But rebel forces outnumbered the federal troops by 2 to 1, and when they attacked that morning, victory came quickly. By afternoon, the rebels had captured Cerro de la Bufa and the other hills. Many federal troops abandoned their gear and discarded their uniforms. Remaining troops attempted to retreat toward the east, but a fresh battalion of rebels awaited them.
In the end, about 6,000 to 7,000 federal soldiers perished, with many more wounded. Only a few hundred, including General Medina Barrón, escaped. Pancho Villa’s forces lost about 700 men.
Just three weeks after La Toma de Zacatecas (literally, the taking of Zacatecas), President Huerta fled into exile.
Although I didn’t learn all this from the museum exhibits, it was interesting to stand at the top of the hill, look down on the city, and get a sense of what happened there 107 years ago.
Taco was happy to see me when I returned on the Teleférico.
Mina el Edén
Walking back down the hill from the Teleférico, we passed the entrance to the Mina el Edén (El Edén Mine). I checked at the ticket office, and they said I could bring Taco in with me, so I bought a ticket.
Only four of us were on the tour. The guide spoke a little English and translated a few things, but once again I learned very little until I did my own research.
I found a fascinating article about the mine on the website of La Jornada Zacatecas. The article dates from June 17, 2014. Here’s an excerpt, as translated by Google and refined by me:
The El Edén mine in Zacatecas claimed 17 thousand innocent lives
In 380 years of productive life, the mine claimed the lives of more than 17 thousand people. The vast majority were slaves, forced indigenous people, blacks, and children. That is, the world of innocence and also the urgency of taking a crust to their homes.
Today converted into a tourist center, it is difficult not to associate the mine with the unbridled looting of the Spanish authorities in one of the richest veins in memory in the entire continent. Hundreds of millions of kilos of silver, gold, and many other minerals were extracted amidst terrible dangers. Landslides, falls in mass, accidental explosions, heart attacks, all were regular occurrences inside the mine. Outside, the average life of the miner was 4 years due to silicosis. These do not count in the cataclysm of the 17,590 lives lost in the entrails of the mine.
The mine was discovered in December 1588, 40 years after our city was founded. The first master or lord of mines was the Spanish despot and adventurer Juan de Martínez. Immediately upon seeing Zacatecan natives wearing and trading great jewels of gold and silver, he realized there was an immense source of weath that would make him an arch-millionaire like no one else in the world.
A great deal of precious metal and stone remain in the mine. But as the city grew, mining under homes and other buildings became impossible. The mine closed in 1960, and tours began running in 1975.
I realize I neglected to write about Guadalupe in my post about my itinerary for this trip. Guadalupe is a Pueblo Mágico just on the outskirts of Zacatecas. In fact, driving there didn’t feel like leaving one city and arriving in another. Guadalupe is clearly within this metropolitan area.
Guadalupe has been in the Pueblos Mágicos program since 2018. It was just a fifteen minute drive, though it took a little longer because the GPS directions weren’t clear at one point, and I ended up going the wrong direction. I don’t particularly blame Google maps. Mexican roads are very twisty and exits and turns are often poorly signed. It wasn’t the first time on this trip I went the wrong way and heard the little bell telling me my route was being recalculated.
To be honest, Guadalupe underwhelmed me. It has a tidy garden/plaza with lots of benches, but no trees tall enough to provide shade. A few very attractive colonial buildings sit opposite the plaza. And that’s it. I walked around a bit to see if there was anything else of interest, but if there was, I didn’t find it.
I did find a lovely spot for breakfast, though.
Two Moments of Adventure
- Shortly after arriving in Guadalupe, Taco and I encountered a young guy walking two good-sized Siberian huskies on leashes. When they saw Taco, he had to struggle to control them, and one of them slipped out of its collar and charged at Taco. In the melee I couldn’t tell if he was actually attacking her, but she started screaming or squealing in distress or fear or pain, I couldn’t tell which. I quickly scooped her up in my arms while they guy tried to get control of his dogs. He was very apologetic. Poor Taco peed a teensy bit on my shirt, but otherwise seemed unscathed.
- On the way back to my apartment, I was relying on GPS, and apparently my phone overheated and decided to shut down without warning. Fortunately, I recognized the exit off the highway, but then I had to pull over and wait for my phone to cool down enough to start again. From now on I will use the clip that mounts the phone in front of the air conditioning vent!