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Oaxaca (A Short History)

Oaxaca is a state located in the southwest of Mexico. Today, it is considered a stronghold for indigenous cultures. Over 16 different ethnolinguistic groups populate the state as the territory’s three mountain ranges offer prime areas for unique linguistic and ecological development.

The main indigenous cultures of past and current History are the Zapotec and Mixtec. Both were part of the strong Meso-American cultures on the continent. The Zapotec occupied the central valley of Oaxaca as a civilization from around 300 BC to 700 BC. The best-known remains of this civilization are on Monte Albán where we can find the nobility’s past homes and places of commerce. At the downfall of the civilization for economic problems, the Mixtec took over and occupied the site.

As well, Mitla is a well-known archeological site called “the city of the dead”. A type of end-of-life care home, the nobility’s elders came to stay and live peacefully until their death. This site is known as a Zapotec site, but some sources state that the Mixtec occupied it as well.


The Mixtec eventually conquered the Zapotec in the 13th century as they migrated from the southern parts of the territory of modern-day Guerrero and Puebla. By the 15th century, the Aztecs conquered the lands of Oaxaca and established trade with their northern cities like Tenochtitlán.

While the Spanish colonized the lands previously taken over by the Mixtec, the mountainous terrain inhibited a complete transformation and the then-current political system of independent city-states offered refuge for indigenous identities. Today, most inhabitants relate best to their village or community, contrary to their linguistic status. It is in part why Oaxaca boasts such multiculturalism and how its different art forms offer such vivid imagery.

If you still haven’t read my last post, take a look at https://abeeonthego.ca/2021/09/16/oaxacan-art/



The Mixtecs and Zapotecs: Two Enduring Cultures of Oaxaca

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