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Zacatecas, a city and a state in north-central Mexico. The name comes from the Zacateco Indians, thought to have built fortifications during the classic period in what is today southern Zacatecas and Aguascalientes to defend central Mexico from the Chichimecs. The city of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios de Zacatecas was founded by Spaniards in 1548. With the discovery of silver at Fresnillo, Sombrerete, and other places, miners, soldiers, merchants, cattle ranchers, missionaries, and royal officials flocked to Zacatecas, which became an important mining region and a major center for expeditions that explored and settled northern New Spain. The province of Zacatecas was part of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia until it became the Intendancy of Zacatecas toward the end of the eighteenth century.

Hidalgo's revolt led large numbers of the wealthiest inhabitants, and even government officials, to abandon Zacatecas. When Hidalgo and his followers passed through Zacatecas in January 1811, after his defeat at Puente de Calderón, he attracted arms and supporters. Battles continued in various parts of Zacatecas throughout 1812 and 1813, and control of the city changed hands several times. With independence and the fall of Iturbide, Francisco García Salinas and Valentín Gómez Farías were elected as representatives to the national Congress. In October 1823 the local representatives declared the province the Free and Federated State of Zacatecas. Mining was revived, attracting English capital.

The state and its representatives were important national proponents of liberalism and federalism until the militia of Zacatecas was defeated by national armies under Anastasio Bustamante in 1832 and Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1835. Attacks by Apaches and Comanches increased in the 1840s and remained a serious problem for decades. Victoriano Zamora led the liberals supporting the Plan of Ayutla to power in Zacatecas, and Jesús González Ortega, leading Zacatecan troops, ended the War of the reform by defeating the conservatives at San Miguel Calpulalpán (1860). Although French forces occupied Zacatecas in 1864, armed resistance continued throughout the reign of Maximilian.

Trinidad García de la Cadena led an unsuccessful revolt against President Benito Juárez in 1869 and against President Porfirio Díaz in 1886. Despite the growth of mining, agriculture, and technological improvements, the Díaz regime was not popular in Zacatecas. Armed rebellion broke out there in December 1910 with the attempt to arrest supporters of Francisco Madero. In June 1914, insurgent forces led by Francisco Villa defeated federal forces holding Zacatecas and destroyed the last of Victoriano Huerta's army. Violent rebellions associated with the Cristero rebellion broke out in 1926 in various parts of the state.

The city of Zacatecas is the largest in the state, with a 2005 population of 122,889. Mining no longer plays a primary role in the local economy and the city has become a popular tourist destination due to its rich colonial architecture. UNESCO delcared the historic center of the city a World Heritage Site in 1993. Today, Zacatecas is one of the safest, yet poorest, states in Mexico.

See alsoChichimecs; Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel.


Elías Amador, Bosquejo histórico de Zacatecas (1943).

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: The Northward Advance of New Spain, 1550–1600 (1952).

Peter J. Bakewell, Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546–1700 (1971); Diccionario Porrúa de historia, biografía y geografía de México, 5th ed. (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Flores Olague, Jesús. Breve historia de Zacatecas. México: El Colegio de México, 1996.

García González, Francisco. Familia y sociedad en Zacatecas: La vida de un microcosmos minero novohispano, 1750–1830. México: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Historícos, 2000.

                                              D. F. Stevens