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The state of Zacatecas, located in the north-central portion of the Mexican Republic, is a land rich in cultural, religious, and historical significance. With a total of 75,539 square kilometers, Zacatecas is Mexico’s eighth largest state and occupies 3.9% of the total surface of the country. Politically, the state is divided into fifty-eight municipios and has a total of 5,064 localities, 86% of which correspond to the old haciendas.

With a population of 1,579,209 inhabitants in 2010, Zacatecas has only 1.3% of the national population and depends upon cattle-raising, agriculture, mining, communications, food processing, tourism, and transportation for its livelihood. Although Zacatecas’ economy contributes only 1.1% of Mexico’s national GDP, its mining constitutes 29.3% of the Zacatecas State GDP and is responsible for making Mexico the number one producer of silver in the world.

Pre-Columbian Zacatecas

The indigenous history of Zacatecas stretches so far into the past that we are unable to say exactly when people settled in the area. Even today, in many parts of Zacatecas, a hundred or more ancient ruins in the state give testimony to an ancient civilization that flourished in western Zacatecas along the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental between about 200 and 1250 A.D.

The largest pre-Columbian settlement in Zacatecas can be found in southwestern Zacatecas. In 1535, when the Spaniards discovered La Quemada, they commented on its wide streets and “imposing appearance.” The massive ruins at this fortified ceremonial site consist of extensive terraces and broad stone causeways, as well as gigantic pillars, 18 feet in height and 17 feet in circumference. First occupied between about 200 and 300 A.D., La Quemada’s population probably peaked after 500 A.D.

Eighteenth Century historians conjectured that this might have been the legendary Chicomostoc, the place where the Aztecs stayed nine years during their extended journey from Aztlán to Tenochtitlán (the site of present day Mexico City). Other interpretations of La Quemada have speculated that it may have been an enclave of Teotihuacan culture, a Toltec market site, or a Tarascan fort. Between 500 and 700 A.D., it is believed that La Quemada was a trade center for the collection and redistribution of raw materials (such as salt, minerals and shells). After 850 A.D., however, La Quemada went into decline, and by 900, the site was abandoned completely.

The archaeological site of Alta Vista, at Chalchihuites, is located 137 miles to the northwest of the City of Zacatecas and 102 miles southeast of the City of Durango. Located to the west of Sombrerete in the northwestern corner of the state, it is believed that the site was a cultural oasis that was occupied more or less continuously from 100 A.D. to 1400 A.D.

The archaeologist Manuel Gamio referred to Chalchihuites as a “culture of transition” between the Mesoamerican civilizations and the so-called Chichimeca hunters/gatherers who lived in the arid plateau of central Mexico. Chalchihuites and Le Quemada were both outposts of Mesoamerican settlement in an ecological and cultural frontier area. However, in this transition zone, climatic changes caused continual shifts in the available resource base, discouraging most attempts at creating permanent settlements.

The Spanish Contact

After the conquest of southern Mexico in 1521, Hernán Cortés sent several expeditions north to explore La Gran Chichimeca. Juan Alvarez Chico and Alonso de Avalos each led expeditions northward into the land we now call Zacatecas. By this time, the Aztec and Tlaxcalan nations had aligned themselves with the Spaniards and most explorations were undertaken jointly with Spanish soldiers and Indian warriors. These expeditions went north in the hopes of developing trade relations with the northern tribes and finding mineral wealth. Each expedition was accompanied by missionaries who did their part to Christianize the native peoples.

The Campaign of Nuño de Guzmán

In December 1529, Nuño de Guzmán, left Mexico City at the head of a force of five hundred Spaniards and 10,000 Indian soldiers. According to J. Lloyd Mecham, the author of Francisco de Ibarra and Nueva Vizcaya, “Guzmán was an able and even brilliant lawyer, a man of great energy and firmness, but insatiably ambitious, aggressive, wily, and cruel.”  

In a rapid and brutal campaign lasting from February to June, 1530, Guzmán traveled through Michoacán, Jalisco, and southern Zacatecas. The historian Peter Gerhard writes that “Guzmán’s strategy throughout was to terrorize the natives with often unprovoked killing, torture, and enslavement. The army left a path of corpses and destroyed houses and crops, impressing surviving males into service and leaving women and children to starve.”

Reports of Guzmán’s brutal treatment of the indigenous people got the attention of the authorities in Mexico City. In 1536, he was arrested, imprisoned and put on trial. Two years later, his trial was removed to Spain, where he would die in poverty and disgrace. But the actions of this man would stir up hatred and resentment that would haunt the Spaniards for the rest of the Sixteenth Century. In the meantime, the present-day areas of Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Aguascalientes were all lumped together as part of the Spanish administrative province, Nueva Galicia.

The First Guadalajara (Nochistlán)

One of the earliest encounters that the Zacatecas Indians had with the Europeans took place in 1530 when Juan de Oñate, a lieutenant of the conquistador Nuño de Guzmán, began construction of a small town near the site of present-day Nochistlán in southern Zacatecas. Oñate called this small village La Villa de Espíritu Santo de Guadalajara in honor of the Spanish city where Guzmán had been born.

However, from the beginning, the small settlement had come under Indian attack and in 1531, the Indians of nearby Teul massacred the local Spanish garrison as well as the reinforcements dispatched to subdue them. Recognizing that the neighborhood was not very receptive to its Spanish neighbors, Guzmán, in 1533, decided to move Guadalajara to another site, closer to the center of the province. The City of Guadalajara – today the second largest urban center of Mexico – would be founded at its present location farther south in 1542.

The Chichimecas

When the Spaniards started exploring Zacatecas in the 1520s and 1530s, they encountered several nomadic tribes occupying the area. The Aztecs had collectively referred to these Indians with the all-encompassing term, Chichimecas. The primary Chichimeca groups that occupied the present-day area of Zacatecas were the Zacatecos, Caxcanes, Tepehuanes and Guachichiles.

Although the Aztecs employed the term Chichimeca frequently, they acknowledged that they themselves were the descendants of Chichimeca Indians. Mr. Alfredo Moreno González, in his book Santa Maria de Los Lagos, explains that the word Chichimeca has been subject to various interpretations over the years. Some of these suggestions included “linaje de perros” (of dog lineage), “perros altaneros” (arrogant dogs), or “chupadores de sangre” (blood-suckers). With time, however, the Aztecs and other Indians came to fear and respect the Chichimeca Indians as brave and courageous defenders of their ancestral homelands.

The historian Philip Wayne Powell has written several books that dealt with the Chichimeca Indians and the Spanish encounter with these Indians. In his publication Soldiers Indians and Silver: North America’s First Frontier War, Mr. Powell noted that “Hernán Cortés, the Conqueror, defeated the Aztecs in a two-year campaign” but that his “stunning success created an illusion of European superiority over the Indian as a warrior.” Continuing with this line of thought, Mr. Powell observed that “this lightning-quick subjugation of such massive and complex peoples as the Tlaxcalan, Aztec, and Tarascan, proved to be but prelude to a far longer military struggle against the peculiar and terrifying prowess of Indian America’s more primitive warriors.”

The Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1541)

In the spring of 1540, the Indian population of western Mexico began a fierce rebellion against the Spanish rule. The indigenous tribes living along today’s Three-Fingers border region between Jalisco and Zacatecas led the way in fomenting the insurrection. In the hills near Teul and Nochistlán, the Indians attacked Spanish settlers and soldiers and destroyed churches.

By April of 1541, the Caxcanes of southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco were waging a full-scale revolt against all symbols of Spanish rule. Pedro de Alvarado, the conqueror of Guatemala, hastened to Guadalajara in June 1541 with a force of 400 men. Refusing to await reinforcements, Alvarado led a direct attack against the Juchipila Indians near Nochistlán. On June 24, several thousand Indians attacked the Spaniards with such ferocity that they were forced to retreat with heavy losses. In this retreat, Alvarado was crushed when he fell under a horse. He died in Guadalajara from his injuries on July 4, 1541.

It took the better part of two years to contain the Mixtón Rebellion. Antonio de Mendoza, who had become the first Viceroy of Nueva España in 1535, quickly assembled a force of 450 Spaniards and 30,000 Aztec and Tlaxcalan warriors. In a series of short sieges and assaults, Mendoza captured the native fortresses one by one. By December, 1541, the native resistance had been completely crushed. The Mixtón Rebellion had a profound effect upon the Spanish expansion into central and northern Mexico. The historian J. Lloyd Mecham wrote that “the uprising in Nueva Galicia not only checked advance in that direction, but even caused a temporary contraction of the frontiers.”

Silver is Discovered (1546)

However, in 1546, an event of great magnitude that would change the dynamics of the Zacatecas frontier took place. On September 8, a Basque nobleman, Juan de Tolosa, meeting with a small group of Indians near the site of the present-day city of Zacatecas, was taken to some nearby mineral outcroppings. Once it was determined that the mineral samples from this site were silver ore, a small mining settlement was very quickly established at Zacatecas, 8,148 feet above sea level.

Suddenly, the dream of quick wealth brought a multitude of prospectors, entrepreneurs, and laborers streaming into Zacatecas. Indians from southern Mexico, eager to earn the higher wages offered by miners, flooded into the region. In the next two decades, rich mineral-bearing deposits would also be discovered farther north in San Martín (1556), Chalchihuites (1556), Avino (1558), Sombrerete (1558), Fresnillo (1566), Mazapil (1568), and Nieves (1574). However, “the rather sudden intrusion of the Spaniards,” writes Allen R. Franz, the author of Huichol Ethnohistory: The View from Zacatecas, soon precipitated a reaction from these “hostile and intractable natives determined to keep the strangers out.”

The Zacatecos Indians

The Zacatecos Indians occupied much of what is now northern Zacatecas and northeastern Durango. Their lands bordered with those of the Tepehuanes on the west and the Guachichiles on the east. Mr. Powell writes that the Zacatecos were “brave and bellicose warriors and excellent marksmen.” They were greatly feared by the neighboring tribes, in particular the Caxcanes, whom they attacked constantly.

Although many of the Chichimeca Indians were nomadic, some of the Zacatecos Indians had dwellings of a more permanent character, inhabiting areas near the wooded sierras. They inhabited homes constructed of adobe or sun-dried bricks and stones. They slept on the floor of their one-room homes. A fireplace in the middle of the floor, surrounded by rocks, was used for cooking food. The Zacatecos Indians grew roots, herbs, maize, beans, and some wild fruits. They hunted rabbits, deer, birds, frogs, snakes, worms, and rats. Eventually, the Zacatecos would develop a fondness for the meat of the larger animals brought in to their territory by the Spaniards. During their raids on Spanish settlements, they frequently stole mules, horses, cattle, and other livestock, all of which became a part of their diet.

Peter Masten Dunne, the author of Pioneer Jesuits in Northern Mexico, writes that the Zacatecos were “a tall, well-proportioned, muscular people.” They had oval faces with “long black eyes wide apart, large mouth, thick lips and small flat noses.” The men wore breechcloth, while the women wore short petticoats of skins or woven maguey. Both sexes wore their hair long, usually to the waist. The Zacatecos married young, with most girls being married by the age of fifteen. Monogamy was their general practice. The Indians smeared their bodies with clay of various colors and painted them with the forms of reptiles. This paint helped shield them from the sun’s rays but also kept vermin off their skin.

The Guachichiles Indians

Of all the Chichimec tribes, the Guachichile Indians occupied the largest territory, from Saltillo in the north to some parts of Los Altos (Jalisco) and western Guanajuato in the south. Their territory extended westward close to the city of Zacatecas. The name Guachichil – given to them by the Aztecs – meant “head colored red.” They had been given this label, writes Mr. Dunne, because “they were distinguished by red feather headdresses, by painting themselves red (especially the hair), or by wearing head coverings (bonetillas) made of hides and painted red.” The archaeologist Paul Kirchhoff wrote that the following traits characterized the Guachichile Indians: “painting of the body; coloration of the hair; head gear; matrilocal residence; freedom of the married woman; special forms of cruelty to enemies.”

In the development of tribal alliances, the Guachichiles were considered the most advanced of the Chichimec tribes. They were a major catalyst in provoking the other tribes to resist the Spanish settlement and exploitation of Indian lands. “Their strategic position in relation to Spanish mines and highways,” wrote Mr. Powell, “made them especially effective in raiding and in escape from Spanish reprisal.” The Spanish frontiersmen and contemporary writers referred to the Guachichiles “as being the most ferocious, the most valiant, and the most elusive” of all their indigenous adversaries. In addition, the Christian missionaries found their language difficult to learn because of its “many sharply variant dialects.” As a result, the conversion of these natives to Christianity did not come easy.

The Caxcanes Indians

The Caxcanes Indians occupied southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco. Occupying territory to the west of the Guamares and Tecuexes and south of the Zacatecos Indians, they were a partly nomadic people whose principal religious and population centers were in Teul, Tlaltenango, Juchipila, and Teocaltiche. After their defeat in the Mixtón Rebellion, the Caxcanes began serving as auxiliaries to the northward Spanish advance. Now, as allies of the Spaniards, they came under occasional attack by the Zacatecos Indians.

The Chichimeca War (1550-1590)

Mr. Powell writes that rush to establish new settlements and pave new roads through Zacatecas, “left in its wake a long stretch of unsettled and unexplored territory…” As these settlements and the mineral output of the mines grew in numbers, “the needs to transport to and from it became a vital concern of miners, merchants, and government.” To function properly, the Zacatecas silver mines “required well-defined and easily traveled routes.” These routes brought in badly-needed supplies and equipment from distant towns and also delivered the silver to smelters and royal counting houses in the south.

Prof. Powell wrote that these highways “became the tangible, most frequently visible evidence of the white man’s permanent intrusion” into their land. As the natives learned about the usefulness of the goods being transported (silver, food, and clothing), “they quickly appreciated the vulnerability of this highway movement to any attack they might launch.”

In time, the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians, in whose territory most of the silver mines could be found, started to resist the intrusion by assaulting the travelers and merchants using the roads. And thus began La Guerra de los Chichimecas (The War of the Chichimecas), which eventually became the longest and most expensive conflict between Spaniards and the indigenous peoples of New Spain in the history of the colony.

The attacks against the silver caravans usually took place in a narrow pass, in rocky terrain, at the mouth of a ravine, or in a place with sufficient forestation to conceal their approach. They usually ambushed their victims at dawn or dusk and struck with great speed. Prof. Powell wrote that “surprise, nudity, body paint, shouting, and rapid shooting were all aimed at terrifying the intended victims and their animals. There is ample evidence that they usually succeeded in this.” The Spaniards’ superiority in arms was not effective when they were taken by surprise.

In hand-to-hand combat, the Chichimeca warriors gained a reputation for courage and ferocity. Even when the Chichimeca warrior was attacked in his hideout or stronghold, Prof. Powell writes, “He usually put up vigorous resistance, especially if unable to escape the onslaught. In such cases, he fought – with arrows, clubs, or even rocks! Even the women might take up the fight, using the weapons of fallen braves. The warriors did not readily surrender and were known to fight on with great strength even after receiving mortal wounds.”

The intensity of the attacks increased with each year. Then, in 1554, the worst disaster of all occurred when a train of sixty wagons with an armed escort was attacked by the Chichimecas in the Ojuelos Pass. In addition to inflicting great loss of life, the Chichimecas carried off more than 30,000 pesos worth of clothing, silver, and other valuables. By the late 1580s, thousands had died and a general depopulation of the Zacatecas mining camps became a matter of concern for the Spanish authorities.

The Turning of the Tide (1585)

If there was any single date that represented a turning of the tide in the Chichimec War, it would be October 18, 1585. On this day, Alonso Manrique de Zuñiga, the Marqués de Villamanrique, became the seventh viceroy of Mexico. Mr. Powell writes that “to this great viceroy must go the major share of credit for planning and largely effecting the end” of the war and “the development of basic policies to guarantee a sound pacification of the northern frontier.” Villamanrique evaluated the deteriorating situation, consulted expert advice, and reversed the practices of the past.

The Viceroy learned that many Spanish soldiers had begun raiding peaceful Indians for the purpose of enslavement. Infuriated by this practice, the Marqués prohibited further enslavement of all captured Indians and freed or placed under religious care those who had already been captured. He also appointed Don Antonio de Monroy to conduct investigations into this conduct and punish the Spaniards involved in the slave trade.

Villamanrique also launched a full-scale peace offensive. He opened negotiations with the principal Chichimeca leaders, and, according to Mr. Powell, made to them promises of food, clothing, lands, religious administration, and agricultural implements to attract them to peaceful settlement. As it turns out, the olive branch proved to be more persuasive than the sword, and on November 25, 1589, the Viceroy was able to report to the King that the state of war had ended.

Peace by Persuasion

The policy of peace by persuasion was continued under the next Viceroy, Luis de Velasco. He sent Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries into the former war zone and spent more money on food and agricultural tools for the Chichimecas. He also recruited some 400 families of Tlaxcalans from the south and settled them in eight towns of the war zone. Velasco’s successor, the Conde de Monterrey, completed Velasco’s work by establishing a language school at Zacatecas to teach missionaries the various Chichimeca dialects. Through this effort, the conversion of the Chichimeca Indians to Christianity would be streamlined.

The most important component of the “peace by purchase” policy involved the shipment and distribution of food, clothing, and agricultural implements to strategically located depots. The clothing shipped, according to Mr. Powell, included coarse woolen cloth, coarse blankets, woven petticoats, shirts, hats and capes. The agricultural implements included plows, hoes, axes, hatchets, leather saddles, and slaughtering knives. “However,” writes Mr. Powell, “the most fundamental contribution to the pacification process at century’s end was the vast quantity of food, mostly maize and beef.” Another important element of the pacification was the maintenance of freedom. Many of the Indians had been granted exemption from forced service and tribute and had thus retained their independence of action.

Missionary Efforts

As the Chichimeca War ended and the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians settled down to work for their former enemies, the nomadic tribes of Zacatecas disappeared. In the meantime, Catholic missionaries had begun a vigorous campaign to win the hearts and souls of the native people of Zacatecas. By 1596, fourteen monasteries dotted the present-day area of Zacatecas. The peace offensive and missionary efforts were so successful that within a few years, the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians had settled down to peaceful living within the small settlements that now dotted the Zacatecas landscape.

Zacatecas Becomes Fully Mexican

Working in the fields and mines alongside the Aztec, Tlaxcalan, Otomí and Tarascan Indians who had also settled in Zacatecas, the Chichimeca Indians were very rapidly assimilated into the more dominant cultures. Absorbed into the Spanish and Indian groups that had invaded their lands half-a-century earlier, the Guachichiles and Zacatecas Indians disappeared as distinguishable cultural entities. And thus, Mr. Powell concludes, “the sixteenth-century land of war thus became fully Mexican in its mixture.”

Although most Zacatecanos and Mexican Americans can look to the indigenous peoples of Zacatecas as their ancestors, there is virtually nothing left of the old cultures. The languages they spoke, the religions they adhered to, the cultures they practiced are today unknown. Professor Julian Nava, in his videotape production about Zacatecas, explains that there are many architectural monuments left by ancient inhabitants of the area, and few have been studied so far.

The Huicholes and Tepehuanes who occupied portions of far western Zacatecas have survived to this day, but most of them now live in the neighboring states of Durango, Chihuahua, Nayarit and Jalisco. In the 1930 census, only 27 persons in Zacatecas were tallied as persons over the age of five who spoke an indigenous language. This number increased to 284 in 1950 and to 1,000 in the 1970 census.

In the 2000 census, a mere 1,837 persons in Zacatecas spoke indigenous languages, with the main languages spoken being the Tepehuán (358 persons), Huichol (330 persons), Náhuatl (330), Otomí (119), Mazahua (101), and Purépecha (80). The majority of these speakers of Indian languages are transplants from other states.

Prosperity for the City of Zacatecas (1719-1805)

Starting in the Seventeenth Century, the prosperity of Zacatecas corresponded with the vagaries of its silver industry. In her recent publication, Urban Indians in a Silver City: Zacatecas, Mexico, 1546-1810, Dana Velasco Murillo writes that the mining town of Zacatecas underwent “a particularly protracted and spectacular boom in silver production” from 1719 to the early 1730s. During this period, Zacatecas mines generated 25% of Mexico’s total silver production, and, as a result, the City of Zacatecas reached its population apex of 40,000 in 1732.

The period of prosperity from 1690 to 1752 was followed by a period of economic depression in which the value of silver dropped, and the population of the ciudad dropped to 22,495 by 1790. However, in 1768, the silver industry started to rally and the next period of expansion lasted until 1810.

A census tally in 1803 revealed the ethnic composition of the City of Zacatecas: 42% Spanish and mestizo extraction; 27% Indian; and 31% Black and mulato. A mestizo is a person of mixed Spanish and Indian heritage, while a mulato is a person of mixed Spanish and African ancestry. By 1805, the population of the city had increased to 33,000, not quite reaching its peak from 1732.

By 1803, Mexico’s mines were producing more than 67% of all silver in the Americas and Zacatecas was the third most prosperous mining site in New Spain. The revenues from this production were central to Spain’s colonial economy and helped the Kingdom of Spain to compete against the kingdoms of France and England on the world stage. But this would soon end, as Mexico sought independence from Spain.

Independence and Conflict (1810-1835)

In September 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo raised the standard of revolt in nearby Guanajuato. For several months, Father Hidalgo’s rebel forces occupied Zacatecas and other areas of Mexico. However, eventually Royalist forces routed the insurgents and captured Father Hidalgo, who was executed on July 31, 1811 by a firing squad. The war for independence continued for ten more years before the Spanish Empire was finally forced to give up its prized colony at the Treaty of Cordoba on August 24, 1821.

Two years later, on July 12, 1823, Zacatecas declared itself an independent state within the Mexican Republic. In the years to follow, many of the Mexican states, including Zacatecas, would seek provincial self-government and political autonomy from Mexico City. However, the self-determination that Zacatecas sought for itself came into direct conflict with the Federal government.

In the early years of the independent republic, two factions dominated Mexican politics. The Conservatives, backed by the large landowners, the Catholic Church and the federal army, favored the old system that had dominated colonial Mexico for three centuries. The Liberals, however, challenged the old order. In 1832, Federal forces under President Anastacio Bustamante, representing Conservative interests, defeated rebellious Zacatecas forces under the command of General Esteban Moctezuma in the Battle of Gallinero.

Santa Anna Attacks Zacatecas (1835)

In 1835, Zacatecas once again revolted against the national government. But, on May 11, 1835, the Zacatecas militia, under the command of Francisco García, was defeated at the Battle of Guadalupe by the Federal forces of General Santa Anna. Soon after this victory, Santa Anna’s forces ransacked the city of Zacatecas and the rich silver mines at Fresnillo.

In addition to seizing large quantities of Zacatecas silver, Santa Anna punished Zacatecas by separating Aguascalientes from Zacatecas and making it into an independent territory. Aguascalientes would achieve the status of state in 1857. The loss of Aguascalientes and its rich agricultural terrain would be a severe blow to the economy and the spirit of Zacatecas. Soon after his victory over the Zacatecas forces, General Santa Ana moved north to deal with another rebellious province called Tejas.  Santa Ana’s attempt to subdue the rebellious Texicans/Tejanos would meet with failure after an initial victory at the Alamo in San Antonio.

The War of the Reform (1858-1861)

The War of the Reform, lasting from 1858 to 1861, pitted the Conservatives against the Liberals one more time. Once again, Zacatecas became a battleground and its capital was occupied alternatively by both sides. Finally, in 1859, the Liberal leader Jesus Gonzalez Ortega seized control of the government in Zacatecas. However, the Catholic Church, which strongly endorsed Conservative ideals, found itself in direct opposition with the state government. When, on June 16, 1859, Governor González Ortega decreed a penal law against the Conservative elements in Zacatecas, causing many Catholic priests to flee the state.

The French invasion of Mexico in 1862 was just another extension of the conflict between the Conservatives and Liberals. Invited by the Conservative faction to invade Mexico, the French forces, against great resistance, were able to make their way to Mexico City and occupy the capital. In 1864, the French forces occupied Zacatecas as well. However, the occupation of Zacatecas lasted only two years and by 1867, the French were expelled from all of Mexico.

Transportation Revolution

In the 1880s, a transportation revolution brought the railroad to Zacatecas. By the end of the decade, in fact, Zacatecas was linked by rail with several northern cities, including Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican Central Railway, which ran from Mexico City through Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Chihuahua, became a major catalyst for the massive immigration from Zacatecas to the United States during the Twentieth Century. At the same time, the silver industry, which had declined dramatically during and after the Independence War, started to rebound. By 1877-1878, silver alone accounted for 60 percent of the value of all Mexican exports.

The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920)

During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Zacatecas, with its central location in the Republic, was unable to escape the devastation of war. In June 1914, the City of Zacatecas was the center of national attention when the city was taken by Pancho Villa and his Dorados in the famous battle known as La Toma de Zacatecas (The Taking of Zacatecas). The City of Zacatecas, now a town of 30,000, witnessed the largest and bloodiest battle that took place in the fighting against General Victoriano Huerta. When the battle ended, some 7,000 soldiers lay dead. In addition, 5,000 combatants were wounded and a large number of civilians were injured or killed.

The Zacatecas Economy Today

From 1546 to the present day, Zacatecas has depended upon silver mining for its livelihood. Today, the more than 15 mining districts in Zacatecas yield silver, lead, zinc, gold, phosphorite, wollastonite, fluorite and barium. In fact, thanks of Zacatecas, Mexico is the largest producer of silver in the world today, contributing 17 percent of the world’s total output.

In fact, Fresnillo Plc. (Public limited company), which owns silver mines throughout Mexico, is the largest producer of silver in the world and its Saucito mine, located 8 km southwest of its Fresnillo mine, is the largest silver producing mine in the world. The Fresnillo mine is number six in world production.

As of 2016, mining contributes 29.8% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Zacatecas. But of Zacatecas’ 628,000 workers, more than one-quarter (173,368 – or 25.3%) are employed by the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries.

The Zacatecas of the present day offers a view into the past for the American tourist. The City of Zacatecas, in particular, has retained some of its colonial flavor and is a favored tourist destination for many Americans, seeking to gain some insight into their ancestral homeland.

Copyright © 2019 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.


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