- Oaxaca is the name of both a state in Mexico and that state's capital city. This article is about the city. For the state, see Oaxaca.
The city of Oaxaca (formally: Oaxaca de Juárez, in honor of 19th-century president and national hero Benito Juárez, who was born nearby) is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name.
It is located in the Valley of Oaxaca in the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains, at near the geographic center of the state, and at an altitude of about 1550 m (5000 ft). The area is known as the three "Valles Centrales" (Central Valleys) region and is surrounded by thick forests of pine and holm oak. The important Monte Albán archaeological site is close to the city. As of the 2005 census, the official population of the city was 258,008 people. Including its surrounding municipality, the total rises to 265,033. However, the Oaxaca metropolitan area, which includes seventeen different municipalities, had a population of 500,970 inhabitants. Oaxaca municipality has an area of 85.48 km² (33 sq mi).
It is nicknamed "la Verde Antequera" (the green Antequera) due to its prior name (Nueva Antequera) and the variety of structures built from a native green stone.
It is the home of the Guelaguetza native arts and dance festival and the Night of the Radishes celebration.
There had been Zapotec and Mixtec settlements in the general area of the modern city of Oaxaca for thousands of years, in connection with the important ancient centers of Monte Albán and Mitla. The area was conquered by the Aztecs in 1486 who named it Huaxyácac, which means "above the place of gourdes". The colonial city, however, dates from 1522, when Spanish settlers who had followed Hernán Cortés' conquistadores successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a grant of land. They had already founded a city in the neighbourhood, under the name of Nueva Antequera, on the basis of a charter from King Carlos V of Spain, but Cortés had sought to have the entire Valle de Oaxaca declared as part of his personal marquisate, and to have the settlers removed. The Queen's charter, however, secured the townspeople's rights.
Most of the important buildings are within this central area.
The 2006 Oaxaca protests constituted a major social action by teachers from May to late 2006. Several teachers and their supporters were shot dead. , including Indymedia journalist Bradley Roland Will on October 27, 2006 and Roberto López Hernández and Jorge Alberto Beltrán on October 29, 2006 when over 10,000 federal police and army intervened.
On July 16, 2007 protestors from APPO clashed with the police who used teargas to disperse the crowd resulting in scores injured.
As of the census of 2005, there were 258,008 people living in the city of Oaxaca, 265,033 in the municipality, and 500,970 in the metropolitan area.
At the center of the town is the Plaza de la Constitución
, commonly referred to as the Zócalo
. It was built by Alonso García Bravo around 1529 when he laid out the downtown of the modern city, modeling it after Spanish cities at the time. The plaza was planted with ash trees
in the 18th century, and the marble fountain was added at this time as well.
The plaza is surrounded by various portals. On the south side of the plaza are the Portales de Ex-Palacio de Gobierno, which was vacated by the government in 2005 and then reopened as a museum called "Museo del Palacio 'Espacio de Diversidad'" Other portals include the "Portal de Mercadores" on the eastern side, "Portal de Claverias" on the north side and the "Portal del Señor" on the west side.
Northwest of the Zócalo is the Alameda de León, a garden area.
The Andador Macedonio Alcalá is a street in the center of Oaxaca City that was closed to vehicular traffic some years ago. Now only pedestrians are permitted to pass by here. Along the street are notable public places such as the original building to house the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez. This building now only houses the law department. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) or MACO is located here as is the Plazuela (small plaza) Labastida and the Parroquia de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (Parish of the Precious Blood of Christ).
Earthquakes damaged or destroyed many of the earliest buildings in the city, so most of those that currently exist date from no earlier than the beginning of the 18th century.
Churches and religious buildings
- Catedral de Oaxaca, also referred to as The Cathedral of the Virgin of the Assumption, is the third to be built as the first two were destroyed by large earthquakes in the 16th and 18th centuries. Construction of this church began in 1702 and it was consecrated in 1733. Its facade is made of the quarried green stone commonly found in Oaxaca's buildings, and the interior is in Neoclassical style. The altar features a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption (Nuestra Señora de al Asunción) which was made in Italy during the Porfirio era.
- Church and former convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is located 4 blocks north of the Cathedral of Oaxaca. It was constructed between 1555 and 1666. It divides into two parts: the church and the former living/working areas of the nuns. The front of the church is Renaissance-style, in the central relief, Santo Domingo and San Hipólito are holding up the church. After La Reforma around 1860, the church was converted into a stable, which caused serious deterioration of the building. It was returned to devotional use at the end of the 19th century. The living and working areas were converted into barracks and officers´ quarters. In 1994, work began to convert this area as the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo.
- Church of San Augustín, completed in the summer of 1722.
- Church and former monastery of St John of God (Templo y Exconvento de San Juan de Dios), Oaxaca's oldest church still standing, completed in 1703.
- Church of San Felipe Neri
- Former convent (Ex convento) of San Catalina (now the Hotel Camino Real, but open for viewing)
- Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is located four blocks west of the Cathedral on Avenida Independencia. It is built at a site where supposedly an image of the Virgin Mary appeared inside a box. It is of Baroque style finished in 1690. Its front is made of a reddish stone sculpted to look like a folding screen. In the back of the church is the Museo de la Basilica de Nuestra Señora de La Soledad that exhibits the Virgin's dresses, offering and small painting done in her honor. The statue of the Virgin of Solitude, crowned with a 2 kg solid gold crown studded with diamonds – was the subject of a theft recently.
- Church of the Company of Jesus (Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús), located to the southwest of the Zócalo, was built in the 16th century with Baroque entrances. The towers were destroyed by a series of tremblors and never rebuilt. Inside the chapel is a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a prayer written in Spanish, English, Náhuatl as well as 12 other languages native to the state of Oaxaca, incluing 4 dialects of Zapotec.
- Governor's palace (Palacio de Gobierno), dating from 1884 though on the site of several earlier buildings serving the same purpose.
Museums and the arts
- Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo, occupying the former monastery buildings attached to Santo Domingo church, and beautifully restored in the 1990s to serve as a museum of Oaxacan life from pre-Columbian days to the present. Some important artefacts from Monte Albán are displayed here. In the center of the Centro Cultural, there is a courtyard with a fountain and a very large staircase. The passages along the courtyard have vaulted ceilings, cupolas and intricate corridors. Much of the Centro Cultural is occupied by the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (Museum of Oaxacan Cultures), whose entrance is the one pilgrims used to use to enter the church area of the complex. In Sala III is displayed the "Tesoro Mixteco", which is a collection of offering that were discovered by archeologist Alfonso Caso in Tomb 7 of Monte Álban. These offerings include hundreds of pieces of jewelry made of gold and silver. They make up the richest collection of gold and silversmithing of ancient Mexico. The museum also contains the Biblioteca Fray Francisco de Burgoa (Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library) which holds over 25,000 degrees that were conferred from the 15th to the 20th century from the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez in Oaxaca.
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, MACO), housed in the so-called Casa de Cortés. This is a beautiful colonial building, though as it dates from after the death of Hernán Cortés, it could never actually have served as his house.
- Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños(Museum of Oaxacan Paintors) is located north of the Alameda de León on Avenida Independencia in a former 18th century mansion. It is dedicated to local artists such as Rodolfo Morales whose work in on permanent display. The museum has also featured exhibitions by Felipe Morales, Rodolfo Nieto, Alejandro Santiago and Francisco Toledo.
- Rufino Tamayo Museum (Museo Arte Prehispánico de Rufino Tamayo) or Museo Rufino Tamayo, has an important collection of pre-hispanic art that the paintor himself collected. He donated the collection, as well as the house that is now the museum to his home state (Oaxaca) in 1974. The house is from the 18th century. The museum exhibits over 1150 pieces from different Mesoamerican periods, including Mayan steles, ceramic dogs from Colima and stone faces from the Gulf of Mexico coast. The purpose of the museum is to show the aesthetic as well as the cultural value of these works.
- Museo de la Soledad, next to the Church of la Soledad.
- Instituto de Artes Gráficos de Oaxaca
- Casa de Juárez, is a museum devoted to the life of Benito Juárez. He lived here from 1818 to 1828. It contains documents related to his presidency as well as furnishings designed to recreate the environment of that period. Its architecture is typical of homes built in this city in the 18th century and located on Garcia Vigil 609.
- Hemeroteca Publica de Oaxaca "Nestor Sánchez" (Nestor Sanchez Public Newspaper Library of Oaxaca) is located behind the ex-convent of Santo Domingo along with the Jardin Ethobotánico (Ethnobotanic Gardin) at the corner of Reforma and Constitución. These two occupy more than 2 hectares which used to be the gardens of the convent of Santa Domingo.
- Centro de Fotografía Álvarez Bravo
- Museo Philatélica de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum)
- Railway Museum of Southern Mexico, in the former mainline railway station
- Teatro Macedonio Alcalá, which as well as being a working theatre houses a collection of romantic art.
- Planetarium, on the Cerro del Fortín
- Mercado (Market) Benito Juárez is located one block south of the Zócalo on Flores Magón and Las Casas but it takes up the entire block to 20 de Noviembre and Aldama streets. It offers flowers, fruit, ices, fruit drinks, handcrafts, leather goods, hats and knives, among other things.
- Mercado (Market)20 de Noviembre is the official name, but this market is commonly known as the "Mercado de la Comida (food)" because of the food stands that dominate the place. It is recommended by México Desconocido magazine for Oaxacan regional dishes such as moles, tasajo, tlayudas, pan de yema (a type of egg bread), chapulines (fried grasshoppers in chile), Oaxaca cheese (known locally as "quesillo"), queso fresco (lit. "fresh cheese"), as well as very large cups of hot chocolate made locally that is often spiced with cinnamon and almonds.
- Crafts market (Mercado de Artesanías)
- Mercado de Abastos
- Los Arquitos (former aqueduct)
Parks and gardens
- Ethnobotanical Garden, surrounding the former monastery of Santo Domingo
- Parque Benito Juárez
- Cerro de Fortín, overlooking the highway that enters the city from Mexico City, and bearing in stone letters Benito Juárez's slogan, "El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz" (Respect for others' rights is peace)
- Parque Comunal de San Felipe, bordering the city and accessed via the suburb of San Felipe del Agua, and including the 3250-metre Cerro La Peña.
Food and Drink
The most notable aspect of Oaxacan cuisine is its variety of moles, a type of complex sauce. Their origins go back to the melding of Spanish and Arabic food in Spain. After the Conquest, New World ingredients such as chile mulato, 'miltomate' (a small whiteish wild tomato), tomatoes, peanuts, avocado leaves, and chocolate were incorporated. While moles can be found in many parts of Mexico, Oaxaca has the greatest variety including negro (black), colorado (red), coloradito (faint red), chichilo, verde (green), amarillo (yellow), and mancha manteles (lit. 'stainer of tablecloths'). They are sold in markets all over the city as a paste which is combined with water and simmered with a variety of meats.
Other notable foods sold in markets include bars of chocolate (primarily used for making hot chocolate), traditional breads, and chapulines (fried grasshoppers with chile). Street foods include tlayudas, which are large, slightly crispy corn tortillas piled high with ingredients such as grilled beef (called tasajo), cheese, tomatoes, avocados, onions etc. Local drinks include those made with water, sugar and a flavoring such as aguamiel (honey water), trocitos de melón (melon), horchata (rice), tuna batida (cactus fruit shake), and nuez (nuts) as well as local fruits such as chilacayota and guanábana. In nearby Tlacolula and Ejutla an indigenous drink called 'tejate' is still prepared and sold in the local market. Known here as the drink of the gods, it is prepared with corn, cacao, cacao flower and the seed of the mamey fruit. As for alcoholic beverages, this area prefers mezcal, which, like tequila is made from a species of agave but the flavor is very different.
As in other areas in Mexico, chocolate has had special importance here since long before the Conquest. Aside from being a foodstuff, it was also used as medicine and cacao seeds were used as money. The chocolate prepared in this city is well-known within Mexico, as it is distinguished by being flavored with cinnamon, almonds and sugar and is usually prepared with hot water or milk. It is usually served in large coffee cups with a local sweet roll. The best-known producer of this type of chocolate is Chocolate El Mayordomo, which recently has opened outlets in various parts of Mexico, esp. in Mexico City. In their main store in Oaxaca City, you can see them prepare the various types of chocolates they prepare including a chocolate pasta.
Notable people associated with Oaxaca include:
A significant barrier for the indigenous population, which constitutes a large proportion of the Oaxacan populous, is language. Most Oaxacans are native speakers of an indigenous language and do not speak Spanish, leading to problems in participating in the Spanish-speaking educational system as well a society as a whole. In an effort to reduce the educational gap between indigenous population and the Latino population is Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots (OSCGR) OSCGR works with indigenous children and their families in efforts ranging from the provision of basic health care and nutrition to the operation of a kindergarten and other educational services at their Center in Oaxaca City. The goal is to provide participating children access to public education and provide the tools for an increased standard of living in the future. The program is supported via donations from sponsors who support individual children.
In terms of institutions of higher education Oaxaca has several universities. Oaxaca is the site of the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca, which has buildings throughout the city centre. Additionally, the Universidad de Mesoamérica has locations in the city.
Oaxaca-Xoxocotlan airport (IATA
code OAX) is approximately 7 km south of the city centre. Most flights are to Mexico City
for onward connection, but there are also flights to Huatulco
, Tuxtla Gutierrez
. Continental Airlines
flights between Oaxaca and Houston
have also been initiated.
The city has separate first class and second class bus stations, offering services to most places within the state of Oaxaca, including the coastal resorts of Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, Puerto Ángel and Pinotepa Nacional, and also long-distance services to Puebla and Mexico City and other Mexican locations such as Veracruz. There are several bus lines which run in Oaxaca. The largest is TUSUG, a type of "cooperative" company. All of the drivers own their own buses and are aided by other drivers in purchasing new buses.
The major highways serving Oaxaca are Federal Highways 175 and 131, southwards to the Oaxacan coastal resorts; National Highways 190 and 125, southwest to Pinotepa Nacional; National Highways 190 and 130, to Mexico City; the autopista 150D/131D, offering a more rapid route to Mexico City; and National Highway 175 north to Veracruz, Veracruz.
A number of small towns surround the main city and are closely linked economically and culturally with the main city. Some of these towns are known for producting certain crafts that are identified with the three central valleys of Oaxaca. In these towns one can see the workshops and the crafts being produced in the traditional manner although most of these towns' products are sold in the main city. Santa María Atzompa produces glazed, glass-inlaid pottery of green, while San Antonio Arrazda and San Martín Tilcajete make a Oaxacan version of alebrijes, small painted wooden figures. San Bartolo Coyotepec is known for its black ceramics, and Teotitlan del Valle works with wool to make sarapes, or more commonly, throw rugs. These rugs are known for their intense colors, made traditionally with natural dyes, made from cempasúchil (yellow), cochineal (red) and indigo (blue). In addition, Oaxaca city and surrounding towns have market days, where one can visit the tianguis (open-air markets) set up for that day. There is one for each day of the week. Monday in Miahuatlan is for buying daily staples, and Tuesday, in Ayoquezco is noted for wood furniture. On Wednesday, people head to Etla and Zimatlán for dairy products, especially cheese. Thursday is reserved for the two largest tianguis in Ejutla and Zaachila. On Friday, in Coyotepec, Jalietza and Ocotlán cotton textiles, embroidered blouses, corn-husk flowers and glazed pottery from Atompa are sold. Saturday is reserved for the main city of Oaxaca, and to finish, on Sunday mezcal is sold in Tlacolula.
Municipality of Oaxaca
As municipal seat, Oaxaca city has governmental jurisdiction over the following communities:
Arbolada Ilusión, Camino a San Luis Beltrán, Camino Ancho, Casas del Sol, Colonia Buena Vista, El Bajío (Rancho Guadalupe Victoria), El Silencio, Entrada de el Silencio, Gloria Antonio Cruz, Guadalupe Victoria, Guadalupe Victoria Segunda Sección (La Mina), Lachigulera, Las Salinas (El Arco Grande), Loma Bonita, Lomas Panorámicas, Los Ángeles, Los Ángeles Uno, Miravalle, Paraje Caballetiyo, Paraje el Cerrito, Paraje el Pando, Paraje la Canoa, Paraje la Loma, Paraje la Mina, Paraje la Rabonera, Paraje Pio V (Ojito de Agua), Paraje Tierra Colorada, Pueblo Nuevo Parte Alta, Rancho el Chilar, Rancho los Girasoles, San Bernardo, Solidaridad, and Viguera