Oaxaca, Mexico is one of the most diverse and vibrant states in the Mexican republic.
Named for Benito Juárez, a venerated president of the republic, Oaxaca is a land of contrasts. The state is located at the convergence of the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges, resulting in a rugged and mountainous terrain with a large temperate central valley with an average altitude of 1,500 meters (5,085 feet) above sea level.
Bordering the states of Guerrero to the west, Puebla to the northwest, Veracruz to the north, Chiapas to the east and the sprawling white, sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean to the south, Oaxaca is a state of contrasts both ecologically and culturally.
The Zapotec and later Mixtec indigenous cultures were the most prominent cultural forces in Oaxaca State until the Spanish conquest; aspects of all are visible in the culture, architecture and heritage in and around Oaxaca. More than 1 million speakers of approximately 16 basic ethno-linguistic groups make up 37 percent of the 3.5 million inhabitants of the state.
Today Oaxaca is made up of people of Spanish and Indigenous descent, the latter making up 16 different ethno-linguistic groupings with more speakers of indigenous languages than any other Mexican state.
This strong and diverse indigenous presence, coupled with the colonial influences of Oaxaca’s past is evidenced in the constant cultural celebrations and events that take place throughout the year in Oaxaca. Oaxaca’s cultural heritage is reflected in everything from its cuisine, art, and music to the daily life of its citizens.
Oaxaca has UNESCO World Heritage status; meaning it is considered to have “universal significance and value for humanity.” It is a place where culture and art are so much a part of life that it is easy to engage with life in Oaxaca. You will find that the city maintains an unselfconscious pride in its traditions and happily endeavors to make its visitors feel welcome.
The city square is called Plaza Principal or the Zócalo. Fronted on one side by an ornate cathedral, it is shaded by mature trees and on all sides surrounded by outdoor cafes. It is here that you can really enjoy the atmosphere of Oaxaca. Any given day you will be able to listen to music, see indigenous vendors selling handmade crafts, listen to the music of the marimbas, mariachis, buskers and organized concerts and simply watch as the people of Oaxaca go about their daily lives.