A Silver Mine and A Very Unique Nightclub.

A trip down Mina El Eden combines culture with a great night out. The retired mine in the city of Zacatecas is now a tourist attraction which runs educational tours and hosts one of the world’s most unique nightclubs.

Revellers arrive at El Malacate Discotheque via a small train which runs through the 600-metre La Esperanza Cavern inside the mine. La Esperanza translates as Hope in English and many who venture into these parts hope to find their own precious jewel. You might not meet the love of your life, but you’ll have a great story to tell.

History tells us that the original inhabitants of the region, the Zacateco people, knew of the mineral wealth beneath their feet but decided to keep it in the ground. The extraction of silver in the region of Zacatecas, in north central Mexico, began in the mid 16th century and transformed the city into one of the wealthiest and most important cities in the Spanish colonies.

El Eden produced millions of tonnes of silver ore but was closed in 1960 after flooding on various levels, and because the blasting from the mining operations were too dangerous for the inhabitants of the expanding city which was being built on top.

The current tourist attraction opened in 1975 and is one of the region’s most popular sites. It encompasses hanging rope bridges, stairs and models of workers.

A great amount of the silver mined in Zacatecas made its way to the Spanish royal family. Like all royal families, the Spanish crown grew wealthy and powerful off the work of others, especially indigenous people.

Special lighting areas highlight the methods used to extract the silver and the mine also hosts a demonstration of mining and a museum with a display of rocks and minerals.

Guests can hear stories of the adventures and misadventures of all of those who descended the seven levels of the mine, and a visit to this site provides tourists with the opportunity to wear a hard hat and a very fetching hair net.

The city itself is a World Heritage Site and rewards visitors with preserved colonial architecture and Baroque structures. Grabbing a seat on the balcony of a cafe or restaurant is a great way to admire the architecture and to watch the people go about their business.

The famous Mexican independence fighter, Pancho Villa, also marked his imprint upon the city. He captured the town in the Battle of Zacatecas during the Mexican Revolution in the 19th century.

Silver played a huge role in the development of Zacatecas and the state which bears the same name. The world’s largest silver mine, Penasquito, is in the state of Zacatecas and a Mexican slang word for money is ‘plata’, or silver.

Your journey does not end, however, once you finish exploring the underground mine. If you choose, you can continue on the funicular railway. This cable car will carry you high above the streets of Zacatecas from El Grillo Mountain to La Bufa, which is about 660 metres in total. The panoramic views are spectacular.

and you can leave a tip if you like…

Perhaps a donation of plata.

Skulls and Bones in La Quemada

Do you have a fascination with the dead? Do you find yourself contemplating your own mortality or possess a penchant for the macabre?

If so, you can indulge your morbid cravings at Zona Arqueologica La Quemada, an archaeological site in Zacatecas, central Mexico. On an elevated site outside of the city lies an excavation and display of many human skulls and bones.

La Quemada translates roughly as ‘burned or ‘the burned’, and refers to the burnt human remains which were discovered when the earth was moved during the construction of a hacienda on the site. It is also suspected that the settlement which occupied the site was eventually destroyed by fire.

Historical research indicates that the original inhabitants occupied the site between 350/400 AD to 1150 AD, and the site is regarded as the most important historical settlement in north central Mexico due to its architecture. Archaeological digs have discovered the grand columns from the former plaza, a field for playing a traditional form of football and a series of pyramids dominated by the pyramid Votiva, as well as sites for the worship of deities.

And the skulls?

Numerous historians believe the inhabitants engaged in human sacrifice. The Salon de las Columnas is thought to have been a large structure, of which only the columns remain, and historians theorise that this is where various forms of human sacrifice took place.

A short walk from the Salon de las Columnas leads to the Piramide de los Sacrificios, which clearly translates as the Pyramid of Sacrifices.

Detecting a theme here?

Evidence would suggest that human sacrifices were made on this site to please the deities. It does make one wonder how people were chosen for sacrifice.

Were locals persuaded that being sacrificed was an honour – perhaps in the same way that young men have historically been persuaded that giving their life in battle for their nation is an honour.

Were the sacrificed slaves or captives from other settlements or cities?

Did a caste system operate?

This is a source of conjecture and debate. What is more definite is the preserved remains of these people, which are on clear display to every visitor to La Quemada.

God bless my Taxi.

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We craned our necks for the source of the excitement. We could hear it but we couldn’t see it.

What was it?

Horns blaring, engines roaring, people shouting, music blaring, bells ringing.

From atop the hill we had a great vantage point over Zacatecas and its surrounds, yet we still couldn’t determine the source of the noise.

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Was it a protest, was it a celebration, a festival, a fiesta, a beauty contest, a football game…?

It’s often hard to tell in Mexico, as any event seems to be a perfect pretext to become boisterous. Any day, any time.

The origin of the pandemonium eventually revealed itself. A fleet of brightly decorated taxis rounded the bend and climbed the hill in a convoy of commotion. Vehicles were draped in streamers, covered in balloons and painted or wrapped in the national flag. Red, white and green dominated the scene as more and more taxis wound their way up the hill to the church.

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Why?

To be blessed, of course.

On this particular day, the taxis of Zacatecas were receiving their annual blessing from the priest and, through him, the almighty. They were asking for protection and, no doubt, many lucrative fairs for the next 12 months.

Patriotically-adorned taxis and motorised mayhem lined up outside the church and the noise eventually subsided as the drivers and their family and friends waited for the priest to bless every vehicle in turn.

While the event certainly surprised me, it was not entirely unexpected. Sure, I’d never seen taxis blessed in my own country, but I had noticed during my time travelling in Latin America that taxi drivers would bless themselves every time they drove past a house of worship.

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The procession of taxis had interrupted our quiet inspection of La Quemada archaeological ruins, so we decided to return to the city. With tired legs and the burden of history upon us, we realised the best way to return to the city safely, and saintly, was by taxi.

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