The State of Oaxaca
Oaxaca State is located in the south-east portion of Mexico. It is bounded in the north by Veracruz and Puebla, in the east by Chiapas, in the west by Guerrero and in the south by the Pacific Ocean.
The name of Oaxaca comes from the Nahuatl word Huayacac. Its roots are Huaxin (kind of acacia) and Yacalt (peak, edge, top), top of the acacias.
King Carlos V of Spain elevated Oaxaca to the rank of "City" in 1532.
Currently, it has 244,727 inhabitants and 3,224,270 people are living all over the state.
Its territorial extension of 59,125 miles (95,364 KM) comprises the 4.85% of the entire country. It has more than 3 million of inhabitants.
It is 1,550 meters over the sea level with a yearly average temperature of 29,3°C (maximum) and 12,5°C (minimum).
The weather varies a lot because of the irregular surface of the soil. It is hot and dry in the coastal area near the Pacific; humid and hot in the Pacific Coast; and it varies in the Sierra Madre, being mild in the rest of the State and cold in areas with an altitude higher than 2,000 meters above sea level.
Oaxaca de Juárez City, capital of the State, is located in the center of the central district of the State, among the north parallel of latitude 15°42' and 18°22' and the east longitude 3°42' and 16°14' in the Mexican meridian.
In general, Oaxaca has a mild weather during the year:
- Spring 25°C.
- Summer 22°C.
- Autumn 22°C.
- Winter 16°C.
A Bit of History
The pleasant subtropical climate and the tranquillity of the remote surroundings are what attract most of the travelers to the Oaxaca Valley. Ten thousand years ago, the first nomadic families chose to settle in Mitla for those same reasons and take shelter under large overhangs and in shallow caves.
The nomads collected food from the wild in baskets and nets, and then roasted it on an open wood fire. From time to time, families would gather on the banks of the Mitla River and hold a feast to celebrate the harvest with lots of eating, drinking and dancing.
Higher up at the foot of the valleys, agricultural terraces were discovered where corn and beans were cultivated. This sets the gradual change of life from nomadic to sedentary. Groups of families established here and built houses and made pottery. These were the first agricultural communities in Oaxaca and were located in Abasolo, Tomaltepec, in the Mogote.
These families, although few in number, fostered the Oaxaca valley paradise. Enormous trees, 30 meters high, wild herbs and orchids in a wide range of diversity once thrived here. Waters flowed in clear streams from the forested mountain cliffs. The wildlife of the forest was rich and varied.
Zapotecs established their own knowledge about nature by observing the seasons, the annual rainfall and temperature changes. Their calendar was mainly based upon the sun, but the wind, thunder and rain also constituted important elements for their observation.
With the aim to express their knowledge about the Universe and eager to have power, Zapotecs built pyramid platforms at specific places in the natural surroundings. The most ancient of these pyramid cloisters can be found in a small town outside of Oaxaca called El Mogote, which means The Hump. From this pyramid the visitors can see the mountains where, later on, Monte Albán City was built.
The Oaxaca Valley
The groups of pyramids and churches, along the route from Monte Albán to Mitla, deserve worldwide attention for their beautiful architecture. These are clear examples of how architecture and ecology can make a whole.
This is a Savine tree, classified taxonomically as mucionatum according to botanists. It is a must to visit the famous Tule Tree. It is an approximately 2000 year-old Moctezuma cypress emerging from the central yard of the church of the town. In the next town you can find Tlacochahuaya, which means "Place with humidity." There, Spanish monks built a church with an open lateral entrance. The interior is decorated with paintings which have flower motives.
The City of Oaxaca is a colonial city founded by the Spanish conquerors and is a magical place with its main square called Zócalo, many churches and good museums. The three most interesting churches are the Cathedral, the Soledad Church and the Santo Domingo Church.
Three museums worthy to be visited are the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History (Museo Regional de Antropologíae Historia, MACO), the Rufino Tamayo Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Oaxaca City is the capital of Oaxaca State. The UNESCO officially declared the colonial center of Oaxaca City part of the Cultural Heritage for Mankind. During the last four decades the population of Oaxaca grew four times having now 244,727 inhabitants. People from the countryside continue to immigrate to the City looking for a job.