Monday, June 20, 2011

Bus to Zacatecas

Cathedral and Cerro de la Bufa
 in the background
    Bus to Zacatecas

      From Aguascalientes I took a bus from the central Camionera north to Zacatecas, another colonial city built during the peak of silver mining activity.  Zacatecas is about 70 miles north of Aguascalientes and takes about two hours to reach.  Two ruin sites and a church were of particular interest to me, one ruin site is built directly on the Tropic of Cancer, the northern limits of what is deemed the tropics.
      ETN buses run regular service many times daily for 145 pesos for the 2-hour trip.  This works out to be two pesos per mile for high-quality, first class service.
      Zacatecas churches are of interest because of the opulent interiors built when gold and silver mining made the city rich.  The churches were built of pink stone, often pink volcanic cantera  which gives the historic center of Zacatecas a sense of cohesiveness, no building more impressive that the baroque cathedral in the center of the historic district.
     The Cerro de la Bufa and several other hills surround the old section of the city which is built in a low area within the surrounding gold and silver mines.  These eighteenth century mines provided riches for the construction of many now preserved buildings.
      Nomadic people lived in the area 10,000 years ago and at around 2000 BC built more permanent settlements in what is now called Zacatecas after the Zacateco Indians who among others such as Nahuatl speaking Chicamecas lived in the area when the Spanish arrived.
Santo Domingo Church
     The local indigenous people had been mining the area for years but the Spanish took that over soon after they discovered silver on Cerro de la Bufa.   By 1550 the town that grew around the mining operation  was well established.

      In the 1960s the city built a cable car called El Teleferico that runs from Cerro El Grillo to Cerro de la Bufa.  At the top of the la Bufa hill a statue commemorates a 1914 victory by Pancho Villa during the 1910 Revolution.  El Grillo, the hill opposite, is the site of the Eden Mine, one of Zacateca's most successful operations.  The mine started producing silver in the 1580s and continued to operate until the 1960s. The mine now hosts tours
     Two entrances to the mine are open for tours and one offers a short train trip to the gem museum, and the start of a walking tour into two levels of the mine.
The La Bufa hill at the opposite side of the Teleferico ride offers a museum that chronicles the battles fought in the area during the 1910 Revolution and the 1926 Cristero War.  The top of La Bufa offers a great view of the city of Zacatecas and can be reached by road, by a walking trail, or by the cable car. There is a zipline ride available at the top of the hill La Bufa.

     The cathedral, Zacateca's most notable building was first built in 1657 on the base of an existing indigenous ruin, as was the custom of the Spanish colonizers.  A second building was built in 1612 and in 1729-1754 the building now on the site was constructed.
     Another notable church with carved and gilt alter pieces is the Temple of Santo Domingo  built in 1746.  The eight side altars are carved wood in Churrigueresque style covered with gold leaf.  The nearby Pedro Coronel Museum houses the artists work and his collection which includes work by Picaso, Degas, Dali and others.
     From Zacatecas, the Chihuahuenses Bus, a division of Estrella Blanca Bus, reaches  the 40 miles to Somberete where a local bus serves to the town of Chalchihuites.  From there, cabs reach the ruin of Alta Vista, an intriguing ruin claimed by researcers to be a solar observatory built directly of the Tropic of Cancer.

Alta Vista Ruin Next  

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