Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tortas Malpaso - Zacatecas, Mexico

Of the five capital cities of the five Mexican states we planned to visit, Zacatecas, in Zacatecas State, was probably the one I was least excited about. Ironically, now that the trip is over, it is the city I would like most to go back to and spend more time. I absolutely loved it. 

The one stop we did have planned was Tortas Malpaso. 
Malpaso is a small town near Zacatecas with a ranch that makes chorizo that has become famous. They sold tortas (a Mexican sandwich) using a small, semi-sweet bun, buttered and with chorizo meat balls on it. A small business in Zacatecas now sells the same tortas with the same chorizo. 
The buns remind me of Hawaiian rolls and the three round chorizo meat balls are quite mild. I was disappointed with how mild the chorizo was and doused the bread with additional drippings from the chorizo which the proprietor provided us with and extremely hot pickled chiles which I loaded on to the torta. 

Overall, it was fun to try them, but I was not terribly impressed. I would like to have eaten the meat balls on their own without the bread. If I were to go there again, that is what I would do.

Zacatecas is known for silver. It was founded in 1546 after one of the world's richest silver veins was discovered there. It experienced a silver boom until the mid-1600s. Another boom in the early 18th century resulted in one-fifth of the world's production of silver coming from the Zacatecas mines. Even today, it accounts for 21% of Mexico's gold production and 53.2% of its silver production. The state of Zacatecas has two of the largest silver mines in the world and Mexico is the world's largest producer of silver, with 17% of global output.

The main square is called the Plaza de Armas with the most important buildings surrounding it. The State Government Palace was built in the early 1700s and has an interior with a courtyard surrounded by arches and a stairwell with a mural, painted in 1970, depicting the history of the state of Zacatecas. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
The Plaza de Armas with the cathedral on the right and the government building on the left. 
The arched courtyard.
The stairwell mural. 
The Cathedral Basilica of Zacatecas, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Zacatecas, is next to the Plaza de Armas. There were two buildings before it, the first built in 1568 and the second in 1625. During the second silver boom, a larger structure was desired and the current building was built, dedicated in 1752 and consecrated in 1841 when the facade and north tower were completed. It was elevated to a cathedral in 1862 and to a basilica in 1959. The exterior is made of pink stone and has an intricate facade which I did not get a photo of. The interior has large Doric columns and, most distinctive, an altar 17 feet high and ten feet wide gilded in 24 carat gold. It has niches with images of saints. The cross is made of bronze.
Doric arches and the gold altar.

Benches and floral arrangements. 
By far my favorite building in town houses the Pedro Coronel Museum. It is housed in a former Jesuit monastery and the Jesuit college of San Luis Gonzaga, which were part of the Santo Domingo church. The Jesuits were expelled, then it was occupied by the Franciscans for awhile, then the building became a military barracks, a prison, then a warehouse, before being restored in 1981. The museum has many works of Pedro Coronel, a Zacatecas painter, as well as works by Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagal, Degas and others. The best part of the museum, the part we spent most of our time in, was the Rafael Coronel Museum. Rafael, the brother of Pedro, and son-in-law of Diego Rivera, had a collection of 5,000 masks made of wood, leather and clay from many of Mexico's different cultures. I could have spent much more time than we had just perusing the mask collection. I loved them.
Part of the historical Santo Domingo Church. 

Priests wearing capirotes, long conical hats that are a symbol of penitence. 

A selection of the wonderful masks.

Last, the thing that really sealed my love for Zacatecas, was something we just stumbled into. It was La Morisma, held the last weekend in August each year. It commemorates the triumph of the Christians over the Muslims in Spain. They march the streets in the morning, then re-create the battle in the afternoon. I would love to go sometime and watch the whole thing. The pageantry was amazing. 
Marching in the street outside the Coronel Museum.


  1. I would go there just to see that mural in the government palace. I also really like that mask depicting a king with a crown.

  2. There is a guy in downtown Riverside that owns a burrito place called M Tacos and I was trying to tell him about the sausage sandwich place but I couldn't remember the name of the place.