Founded in 1546 after the discovery of a rich silver lode, Zacatecas reached the height of its prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, the town has breathtaking views along with many historic buildings, both religious and civil.
The Historic Center of Zacatecas, located in the south-central part of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, between the Bufa and Grillo hills, was founded in 1546 after the discovery of a rich silver lode, Zacatecas reached the height of its prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, the town has many historic buildings, both religious and civil.
Along with Guanajuato, Zacatecas is among the most important mining towns of New Spain. It was a major center of silver production, and also of colonization, evangelization and cultural expansion. The townscape of the ancient center is molded to the topography of the steep valley in which it is situated and is of outstanding beauty.
The Historic Center of Zacatecas has almost completely preserved of the urban design in the sixteenth century, taken as a basis for further development in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The peculiar and representative architecture of the 18th and 19th century make the city a clear hierarchy among the major work by volume and modest buildings.
The historic area comprises 15 religious complexes, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, among them the convents of San Juan de Dios, San Francisco, San Augustín and Santo Domingo.
The cathedral (1730-1760) is a highly decorated Baroque structure with exceptional facades and other features that reflect the absorption of indigenous ideas and techniques into Roman Catholic iconography. The Jesuit church of Santo Domingo has a quiet beauty which contrasts with the Baroque flamboyance of the college alongside it. Its massive dome and towers provide a counterpoint to the nearby cathedral. It now houses a new Fine Art Museum.
Important secular buildings include the 18th-century Mala Noche Palace, the Calderón Theater of 1834, the iron-framed Gonzalez Market of 1886, and the pink stone Governor's Residence. Quarters, named after trades or local topography, contain fine examples of humbler urban architecture from the 17th century onward.
The Historic Center of Zacatecas is a typical model of urbanization based on the irregular topography of a narrow glen. Today, the city of Zacatecas retains a wealth documentary that illustrates a significant stage in the history of Mexico and humanity as well, as monumental architectural styles that blend together, achieving an exceptional value.