ZACATECAS: (“people of the pasture”) a city made rich by silver mines, has magnificently preserved colonial architecture, picturesque brick streets ascending the hillsides, many good museums and other tourist attractions. Visitors are thoroughly captivated by the city’s unique architectural beauty. It is safe to say that this is one of Mexico’s most beautiful and best preserved colonial cities. You can see the town’s beauty from the hilltops that dominate the town, most notably from the Cerro de la Bufa. One of the town’s unique charms is the tambora, a musical walk up and down the streets and alleyways led by a tamborazo, a typical local band that fills the evening air with merriment. On June 23, 1914, the city was seized by Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa in one of the decisive battles of the Revolution. Today the people of Zacatacas are proud of having preserved and restored so many ancient architectural and artistic monuments. In 1993 UNESCO designated it a “Cultural Treasure of Humanity”.
JEREZ: (“Sherry”) is an undiscovered colonial gem. It was founded in the mid-sixteenth century to help protect the silver trading routes connecting the silver mines of Zacatecas with cities like Guadalajara, from attacks by the “Chichimeca” Indians. In time, the city became known as “The Athens of Zacatecas”, and today is a National Historic Monument. The famous Mexican poet Ramón López Velarde was born here in the early Part of the twentieth century. The main buildings were built in the eighteen hundreds including the elaborate "De La Torre" with its wonderful cedar doors, carved by Severo Revilla, an Indian child abandoned in Jerez after an aborted attack by the “natives”; the Teatro Hinojosa, one of Mexico’s finest theatres. If it looks familiar, perhaps it is because it is supposed to be an exact replica of the Ford Theatre in Washington D.C.
LA QUEMADA: (“The Burnt”) is a fascinating archeological site which grew into the largest pre-Columbian settlement known in southern Zacatecas. Its original name is unknown; it was christened La Quemada by the early Spaniards who found evidence of a great fire at the site. Occupied from about 200 – 300 AD, it population peaked after 500 AD, before the site was abandoned about 1000 AD. Today you can see Salon de las Columnas which is the largest structure built between 650 and 850 AD; Pyramide de Votiva which was the main temple; Jugo de Pelota (Ball Game or Court) is an “I” shaped 70 meter ball court. La Quemada, a walled city, is best described as a fortified ceremonial site.
DAY ONE:: Leaving Ajijic at 9:00 AM we travel to Aguascalientes where we have lunch. Prior to lunch we visit a “linen mall” with very good prices. In Aguascalientes lunch will be at Restaurante Mitla, a famous eating establishment founded in 1938. After lunch we tour the Government Palace which was built in 1665 by José Rincon Gallardo as a private home for his family. In 1842 it was converted to a hotel and in 1856 it became the Government Palace. Then on to Zacatacas where we check into our four star historic hotel in the center of the city. There will be free time to wander the streets and visit charming shops before we gather together for dinner.
DAY TWO: : Following breakfast at the hotel we begin our walking tour of Zacatacas. We visit the Museo Pedro Coronel, housed in a 17th century former Jesuit college. Pedro Coronel (1923-85) was an affluent Zacatecan artist who bequeathed to his hometown this collection of his own art and of artifacts from all over the world. Then a walk through the historic district, including the Palacio de Gobierno, Teatro Calderón and the Cathedral. Boarding our bus we visit the Museo Rafael Coronel, imaginatively housed in the ruins of the lovely 16th century ex-Convento de San Franciso. The museum contains Mexican folk art collected by the Zacatecan artist Rafael Coronel, brother of Pedro Coronel and son-in-law of Diego Rivera. The highlight is the colorful display of over 2000 masks used in traditional dances and rituals. Then on to Guadalupe, about 10 km east of Zacatecas, for lunch and then a visit to the Museo y Templo de Guadalupe. The museum is housed in a historic ex-monastery and has one of the finest collections of colonial art, with many works by Miguel Cabrera, Juan Correa, Antonio Torres and Cristóbal Villalpando. Next door is the Museo Regional de Zacatecas, a small collection of old carriages and cars. Our next stop is Cerro de la Bufa, the rock-topped hill which overlooks and dominates Zacatecas from the north-east. The Museo do la Toma de Zacatecas commemorates the 1914 battle fought on the slopes of la Bufa in which the revolutionary División del Norte, led by Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa and Felipe Ángeles, defeated the forces of President Victoriano Huerta. If you like you can go back to the city by the teleférico which lets you out a few blocks from the hotel. The rest of the day is free. We gather for dinner at which time Peter Ximenez, archeologist in charge of the project at La Quemada, will explain the archeological site we will visit the next day.
DAY THREE: : Following breakfast at the hotel we board our bus and travel to the town of Jerez. Here we see some fine 18th and 19th century buildings including the Parroquia de la Inmaculada Concepción, the Teatro Hinojosa and the home of the Mexican poet Ramón López Velarde. Then on to La Quemada for a visit of the museum and a tour of the ruins. Back on the bus for our trip back to Ajijic.
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