Zacatecas is Mexico’s second-highest city. Its elevation gives it fantastic views across the land that unfolds beneath, and the location dictated the narrow, winding streets around which the city grew. At the center is the city’s true jewel, the cathedral—one of the finest examples of the Spanish-Mexican Baroque (Churrigueresque) style of architecture.
Zacatecas developed on the strength of the silver found in its area. It was officially settled by the Spanish around 1546, after which a huge vein of silver was uncovered and several mines soon opened, including the famous El Eden Mine, which was productive until the middle of the twentieth century. The city flourished, and grand colonial buildings, elaborate houses, churches, and civic structures were erected. Zacatecas has retained much of its historic charm, and the softly colored stone buildings, ornate ironwork, and winding cobbled streets contribute to its appeal.
Standing on the Plaza Hidalgo, the cathedral architecturally dominates the town. The original building was started around 1612, on the site of a former church, but it was completely rebuilt from around 1707 to appear as it does today. The cathedral has three facades, of which the main one is the most decorative and richly ornate, and has carved images of Christ and the apostles and God surrounded by angels making music. To add to its magnificence, the building was constructed with pink cantera stone, which changes color from pink to golden ocher as the bright Mexican sun streams across it.
In recognition of its harmonious design and the Baroque profusion of its facades, where European and indigenous decorative elements are found side by side, the city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, and it is one of the essential places to visit in Mexico.