It has peaks almost 10,000 feet (more
than 3,000 metres) high, caverns among the deepest in the world, virgin beaches, hidden jungles, and luminous valleys that
house populations where cultures of all people who once lived in its midst come together. Oaxaca is the most diverse
state in Mexico!
The City of Oaxaca offers
visitors great colonial architecture, including the Santo Domingo Temple, the Cathedral, the Government Palace, the Macedonio Alcala
Theater, the Lesser Basilica of Nuestra Senñora de la Soledad,
the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehispanic Art, and the House of Cortes. You can also
enjoy a variety of musical bands performing in the traditional "kiosco" and the "Alameda."
In the surrounding areas
of the capital city, visitors can explore several interesting towns, many of which contain important archaeological
sites. Throughout the entire state are markets selling crafts and objects of popular art which are a treasure for collectors.
the storied prehispanic capital of the Mixtec-Zapotec empire, is located 10 km from the city of Oaxaca. Another major
archaeological site is the ancient Zapotec center of Mitla, which in the Zapotec language originally
meant "place of the Dead." Mitla is famous for its unique ancient tile work. On the land now occupied by the state
of Oaxaca, prehispanic civilizations flourished and attained great splendor before the arrival of Columbus. Despite the conquest
and colonization by the Spanish, the Mixtec and the Zapotec Indians maintained their language, their culture, and their social
organization, the products of a unique indigenous civilization.
Oaxaca is considered one of
the richest states in Mexico, for its expressions of culture and history and for its mix of prehispanic treasures
and colonial patrimony, as well as for its music, dance, painting, traditions, and culinary arts. Oaxaca's scenery is
marked by nine spectacular bays along its Pacific coast, whose beach paradises contrast beautifully with the rivers, hillsides,
and valleys inland. But more than anything, Oaxaca is enriched by its charming people.
Oaxaca is located
only four and a half hours drive from Mexico City, via the new superhighway, which provides easy access to the highlands of
Mexico. The major tourist resort of Huatulco, on the state's southern coast, also boats an international airport.
Every year, thousands of
sea turtles arrive at its shores, not far from tourist centres, such as the Bays
of Huatulco (Bahías de Huatulco) or Puerto Escondido, where visitors from around the world enjoy the warm Pacific Ocean waters at luxurious
hotels. In Oaxaca there are two places declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, the Historical
Centre and the Monte Albán archaeological area. It
houses pre-Hispanic and colonial treasures unparalleled in Mesoamerica. It enjoys all features
of progress, communications, transportation, and health codes, especially in its capital city, without losing that air of
innocence, of a community anchored in thriving times so characteristic of Oaxaca. This is due, most of all, to the presence of its ethnic populations: sixteen indigenous groups who speak
more than 150 different dialects, preserve their legacy and way of life with pride and contribute cultural plurality and that
most greatest of treasures: its people.
Close to the City of Oaxaca,
the state capital, stands the oldest tree in the world: el Arbol de Tule, measuring 42 metres in diameter, and over 2,000 years old. This tree has witnessed a
great part of Oaxacan history. The Christian era was just
beginning for the Western world when a superlative cultural empire thrived in Monte Albán.
It was a city inhabited by wise men, warriors, astronomers, and farmers. This
cultural empire governed the destiny the people of the clouds, which later become known in Nahuatl, as the Zapotecs. Zapotecs believed that the world was ruled by a power without beginning or end, unknown, and all mighty.
The supreme deity, human beings, and nature formed an indivisible whole and their interaction
had to be most respectful, balanced, and grateful. Years and seasons were marked on a 365-day
solar calendar, while another, a ritual calendar of 260-days, marked life codes and the times when the world self-destructed
and renewed itself as if shaken by a purifying cosmic fire.
Tradition, ritual and magic
are expressed through the dances, medium used secularly to propitiate and dominate the will of mysterious powers, according
to a study performed by the researcher, Dr. Margarita Dalton. In each community, the elder’s council, town councils
and wise people have maintained and nurtured customs related with dances and music, which unavoidably accompany men and women
when they must act upon the powers of the universe to propitiate rain, good hunting or good harvests. When they celebrate
weddings, welcome the new-borns or bid farewell to a dead loved one. The dancers, says Dr. Dalton, do not dance for
their own or the audience’s enjoyment: his or her dances are prayers invoking the aid of the supreme powers, which they
consider dominate the world.
The dances, different in
each region and community, evoke strange and profound rhythms though usually accompanied by recognisable music,
born, maybe in Maid or in Durango, in Napoles or Zaragoza. The masks serve the dancer to take on the personality of
the bull, tiger, a European, or the devil. The customs are the owner’s pride and joy and the most colourful, brilliant
and distinctive note, not just of the dancers, but of all the indigenous communities and Oaxaca itself.
The traditional attires
are surprising and bewitching. Its designs, colours, and textures are a blend of colonial techniques, indigenous
symbols, and the captivating colours of the silks imported from the Orient. There are flamenco ruffles, bobbin lace,
grecas with the mysteries of Mitla, embroidered batiste, and linen patterned to the Spanish fashion of the XVII century. Each
stitch reveals an idea and a job. Colours are obtained from nature: reds from the grana cochinilla, an insect that lives
in the Nopal cactus that once boiled and triturated, provides up to sixteen shades of red; blue, born from the indigo plant
fermentation; black, from huizache; yellow, from rock moss; and purple, from a type of sea snail, who is captured, milked,
and once its essence is used, it is returned to the sea.
The most appropriate venue
to display and observe, teach and share, are the fiestas. In Oaxaca, they celebrate all of them: Christmas,
All Saints Day, Constitution Day, Workers Day, the Virgin Day (each town has its own Virgin), or
local saint, national Heroes, historical victories and defeats, Easter, and of course, the New Year. There are special
days to celebrate teachers, mailcarriers, physicians, and journalists. In addition, each neighbourhood has a community
celebration, and each family its respective births, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and sweet-fifteen parties.
The greatest celebration
in Oaxaca, the Guelaguetza, is the institutional form of reciprocity. The two first Mondays after July 16,
representatives from each community celebrate a fiesta whose name means mutual present or offering. It manifests signs
and codes from pre-Hispanic tradition, and adorns with music and dances the sharing of the harvest and activities of each
region: different types of pineapple, mango, sarapes, baskets, beverages, breads and coffee grains rain over the guests as
a symbol of their general disposition to share, exchange and survive together.