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Zacatecas (city)

'' Zacatecas is the name of a city and a state in Mexico. This article is about the city. For the state, see: State of Zacatecas.

Zacatecas is a city in Mexico, the capital of Zacatecas State. Its population as of 2002 was approximately 115,000.

It is built in a deep, narrow ravine, 2450m (8050 feet) above sea level, with narrow, crooked streets (callejones in Spanish) climbing the steep hillsides, and white, flat-roofed houses. The colonial center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and features elaborately decorated buildings, cobblestoned streets, and wrought-iron lanterns. The more modern outer suburbs are a mix of cinderblock shanties and gated communities for the wealthy.

Cathedral of Zacatecas

The city is centered on the Plaza de Armas, a small open square bordered by the cathedral and the governor's palace. Other small plazas and parks (jardines) dot the city, among them the Jardín de la Independencia and the tiny (200 sq. foot) Jardín de Juárez.

The cathedral is an elaborately carved red-stone structure, but its once richly decorated interior was looted during the civil wars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Churches abound, and many have recently been converted into art galleries or museums.

Zacatecas is home to the Autonomous University of Zacatecas (UAZ) and a branch of the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM).

Overlooking the city from an elevation of 500 ft. is the Cerro de la Bufa, a rocky outcropping crowned by a chapel and which is a popular spot for hiking and taking in the view of the city below.

Zacatecas was founded in 1546 and was built over a rich vein of silver discovered by Juan de Tolosa in the same year. This and other mines in the vicinity attracted a large population, and it soon became one of the chief mining centres of Mexico. Mining is now no longer as important a part of the local economy, and in fact the primary mine (the mina el edén) has been converted into a tourist attraction, including an underground disco in a large hollowed out cave. Indeed, the city of Zacatecas is a popular tourist destination for Mexicans, and many of the local businesses cater to them.

Tourists particularly visit Zacatecas during the September Feria nacional de Zacatecas and again in the spring during Holy Week.