Fertile valleys make agriculture the principal economic activity. Sugarcane, coffee (of which Oaxaca is a leading national producer), tobacco, cereals, and tropical and semitropical fruits are grown; livestock is raised. Oaxaca's mineral deposits remain largely unexploited. The state's limited industrial activity centers around oil refining, beverage and paper manufacturing, and sugar and flour milling. Oaxaca is also known for its handicrafts, especially handwoven textiles, pottery, and leather goods. Despite the existence of several highways, inadequate communications remain the chief barrier to the state's industrialization.
There are famous archaeological sites at Mitla and Monte Albán. Indigenous peoples predominate here, as in few other states, with Mixtecs dominating in the highlands and Zapotecs elsewhere. Beach resorts are under development at Huatulco Bays and other locales along the southern coast, which should increase the already important contribution of tourism to the state's economy. Porfirio Díaz and Benito Juárez were born here.
According to Aztec tradition, Oaxaca was founded as Huasyacac in 1486, during the brief ascendancy of the Aztecs over the Mixtecs and Zapotecs; the present city was laid out by Spanish conquerors in 1529. Prominent in the Mexican revolution against Spain, the city also joined in the War of the Reform and in resistance to the French intervention. Both Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz were born in Oaxaca in the 1800s. During May-Nov., 2006, the city was torn by a bitter protest against Oaxaca state's governor by teachers, leftists, and others and a heavy-handed state response; in October, federal police intervened with force to restore order to the central city.
The Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca (Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca) , in Spanish phonemically /oa'xaka/, named for its largest city, is one of the 31 states of Mexico, located in the southern part of the country, west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Oaxaca borders the states of Guerrero to the west, Puebla to the northwest, Veracruz to the north, Chiapas to the east, and the Pacific Ocean in the south.
With an area of 36,820.2 km² (95,364 mi.²), Oaxaca is the fifth largest state in the Republic. According to the 2005 census it had a population of 3,506,821 people.
Notable Oaxacans include President Benito Juárez, born in the Oaxacan village of San Pablo Guelatao, as well as Rufino Tamayo, Porfirio Diaz, José Vasconcelos, Francisco Toledo, María Sabina, J. Alberto Canseco Díaz, Major League Baseball player Vinicio Castilla, chemical engineer Marco Rito-Palomares and many other writers, artists and politicians.
Among these civilizations' accomplishments were the domestication of many plants and animals including corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chiles, squash, pumpkin, and turkeys. Also available in the fertile region of Oaxaca were pineapples, avocados, zapotes, and maguey. In the south, the Pacific Ocean was an important food source. The civilizations built by these groups are reflected in important archaeological sites including Monte Albán, Mitla, Guiengola and Huijatzoo. Monte Albán was a great ceremonial center built on a flattened mountain top by the Zapotec people which reached its zenith between 600 and 900 AD The ancient Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle near the city of Oaxaca is one of the oldest human settlements in Mexico.
Throughout the Zapoteca era, local and regional trade flourished, and most important economic activities were agriculture, hunting, fishing and mining; silver and gold having been fashioned by artisans for hundreds of years. Commercial routes passed through Oaxaca to the Mayan lands of the north and south to Central and South America. Major ports were located in present-day Salina Cruz, Astata, Huatulco, Puerto Ángel and Pinotepa Nacional.
In the mid-fifteenth century, the central valley was conquered by the Aztecs, who forced the surrounding Mixtec and Zapotec kingdoms to pay tribute to the emperor in the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. The Aztec presence had the effect of increasing social and economic ties between Oaxaca and the Aztec heartland. Shortly after 1496, the Aztecs established a garrison in the center of the valley, around the Cerro del Fortín and down to the present Church of Carmen Alto where their temple was located. The Aztecs called their garrison Huāxyacac, meaning "place of guaje trees" in the Nahuatl language, named for the great number of the species (Leucaena esculenta) in the area. Under Spanish rule, Huāxyacac would become Oaxaca, and the pronunciation of the x would transition from "sh" [ʃ] to the modern Spanish "j" [h].
Transformation was swift in the central valley with the Spanish introducing new food and methods of cultivation. Cortes himself ordered the cultivation of wheat in the Valley of Etla and the construction of mills. The Spanish cultivated sugar cane and imported silkworms. Disease introduced by the arriving Spanish greatly diminished the native population of Oaxaca, as did the insatiable appetite for gold, which led more and more Oaxacans into the dangerous mines.
Over the 300 years of colonialism many aspects of life became Europeanized. Important government positions were filled with the Spanish and their descendants, and later by elite mestizos, persons of mixed European and indigenous ancestry.
APPO's occupation of Oaxaca ended on the night of November 25, 2006, when the Federal Preventative Police, or PFP, again went on the offensive, this time making many arrests and clearing away APPO's last encampment, or planton, in front of Santo Domingo church. More than twenty buildings suffered fire damage, although it remains unclear who set the fires. Within a few days, activists handed the radio station of Oaxaca's Autonomous University back to the University, relinquishing what had become APPO's most effective rallying center. Many of those arrested by the PFP were sent to distant prisons. Many of those have subsequently alleged that they were tortured while in custody. Governor Ruiz remains in office.
During the subsequent months, civic leaders, Oaxaca's business community, and especially Oaxaca's tourism sector,have tried to bring Oaxaca back to its previous level of economic functioning. Starting in January, 2007, APPO has staged a series of marches. To date (the end of April, 2007), these have been peaceful.
On July 16, 2007, a large group of APPO supporters claimed they were peacefully marching to the Guelaguetza Stadium when the group was stopped by a larger contingent of local, state, federal and army forces, all in riot gear. Unrest between the colliding groups resulted in tear gas being visible from over a mile away and burning city buses in the eastern road leading to the Stadium.
The municipalities are grouped into the following 8 regions:
The sixteen groups and the number of speakers of their language according to the 2005 census are:
Of these, 477,788 are non-Spanish monolingual.
Oaxaca's principal industry is tourism, with over of beaches, colonial architecture, archaeological treasures, crafts and folkart. The prominent colonial destination is the city of Oaxaca which contains the Santo Domingo Temple, the Government Palace, the Macedonio Alcala Theater, the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehispanic Art, and the House of Cortés.
Monte Alban is the dominant archaeological destination, having been the capital of the ancient Mixtec-Zapotec empire. Mitla, originally meaning "place of the dead" in Zapotec, is known for its unique ancient tile work.
Major festivals include the día de los muertos (day of the dead) and noche de los rabanos (night of the radishes). In Zapotec villages, families traditionally finance the large communally organized dances and feasts on patron saints' days through a system of making small loans over many years and then calling them in on an occasion when the family has volunteered to be the festival sponsor or mayordomo; this economic system is known in Zapotec as guelaguetza. This practice has given its name to the largest festival of dance and music in the state, the Guelaguetza, a major attraction for regional, national, and international tourists that is put on annually at a stadium built for the purpose overlooking the city of Oaxaca.
Transportation is provided by a many secondary roads and highways, and a toll-road that leads to Mexico City through Puebla and another that will lead from Oaxaca City to Huatulco. Major airports are found in Oaxaca City, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido and are served by the airlines Aeroméxico, Aerocaribe, Aerotucan, Aviacsa, and Mexicana.
Corn is the staple food but the preparation of corn dough varies wildly, from entomadas and empanadas to tamales and tortillas. Black beans are also a common ingredient, as is the pasilla oaxaquena chile which gives many dishes their distinct hot, smoky taste and red color.
Oaxaca is also well-known for its chocolate, which is made from ground cacao beans, and frequently includes almonds, cinnamon and many other ingredients.
Other entheogens in the region include: