Maybe you’ve partied underground before. But were you whisked through a dark and damp tunnel to do so? Unlikely.
To get to Bar Mina El Edén, you’ll have to take a four-minute train ride through a claustrophobia-inducing 1,770-foot-long underpass. Claiming to be the world’s only underground club and the second oldest in Mexico, the rattling train ride fulfills its promise of “another level” experience.
“It’s very small, like one of those toy trains you’d see in a shopping center for children,” says writer Lauren Cocking, who visited in 2015. The journey may be disturbing enough, but the history of Mexico’s second-oldest bar, located deep inside one of Zacatecas’ historic silver mines, holds an even more foreboding legacy.
These days the location, which is more than 1,049 feet underground, hosts a club that can accommodate up to 400 hyped-up, fist-pumping partygoers under the pulsating lights of the carved dome.
But for four centuries (the mine claims to be founded in 1586, but University of California San Diego professor Dana Velasco Murillo cautions that given the nature of mines, a full four-plus-century lifetime is rare), the same space was where thousands of workers – mostly natives – mined and ground silver for the Spanish empire’s wealth.
Officially closing in 1960, the mine opened for tourism in 1975, and three years later provided a unique space for getting drunk. The thinking behind opening a bar here? Unclear, and repeated attempts to contact the owner were unanswered.
When the mine was functioning, worker death was common – whether from scaffolding falls, explosions or rampant pulmonary disease. The Spanish empire excelled at many things, but recording deaths was not one of them. “The state was not interested in recording the injuries of mine workers,” explains Murillo, who’s also the author of Urban Indians in a Silver City: Zacatecas, Mexico, 1546-1810.
We’ll never know exactly how many entered and never left, but there’s at least one person whose spirit is said to still roam the twisty mine shafts and tunnels. The legend goes: One day a mine worker named Roque found a huge silver rock and hid it. When he came back to retrieve the find, it was gone. After cursing God, the mine and his work mates, rocks suddenly fell, burying him. But when people went to pull him out, “they only found a petrified face in one of the mine walls,” explains Alan, a coordinator and tour guide who preferred only his first name be used. Visitors should keep Roque in mind so his spirit “can be liberated,” Alan explains.
Or you can commemorate him by sipping a Piedra de Roque (around $4.50), a sharp vodka, tequila, rum and coconut drink named in his honor.
Not into saving just one poor miner’s soul? Ask for El Barretero, a sweet lemon and soda drink featuring local mezcal, whose name refers to the workers who toiled tirelessly here. Amaretto lovers can try El Socavón (the tunnel) and fondly recall the terrifying ride they had to take to sip their beverage, while whiskey enthusiasts might enjoy El Barreno (the drill). Those grateful to not be on the still-flooded fifth, sixth and seventh levels of the mine can count their blessings by sipping on El 4to Nivel (the fourth level), a light, sweet mixture of orange juice, Kahlua and Baileys.
With Zacatecas still considered an off-the-beaten-path destination for international visitors, this bar is a must-see for anyone visiting the colonial city. But on a slow night, you might end up staring at 1980s ballad-music videos with a couple of random guests, like Cocking did. “I spent one beer there,” she admits. “It’s a weird place.”
Go there: Bar Mina El Edén
Directions: Enter through La Esperanza tunnel on Calle Dovali Jaime in the historic district, near the Alameda de Zacatecas (map).
Hours: Thursday and Friday, 4 pm–10 pm, as a bar (make a reservation), and as a disco on Saturday, 10 pm–3 am.