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About Oaxaca and Mexico

The state of Oaxaca is both culturally and environmentally diverse with ecosystems ranging from riparian lowlands to dry highlands, deeply incised by canyons and arroyos. There are roughly sixteen indigenous groups scattered across the state, each with its own language and set of customs. However, the central valleys are part of a single ecosystem and are dominated by a single indigenous group, the Zapotec. Because the Central Valleys are geographically separable from the rest of the state and are home to a single ethnic/linguistic group, it is possible to examine their (the Zapotec) practices as a separate and very specific celebration of the Day of the Dead traditions.

The state of Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico; the fifth largest state in the country; posesses peaks such as Mount "Quiexoba", in Miahuatlán (at an altitude of 3750 meters), or the "Cloud of Flan", in Yautepec (at an altitude of 3720 meters); some of the deepest caves on earth (the "Nita" group in the mazateca region), virgin beaches in Huatulco, hidden jungles in Corralero, Chacahua National Park, Pastoria, the coastal lagoon of Manialtepec, and beautiful luminous valleys.

Nearly 3.5 million people live in this exotic and beautiful region, divided into 16 ethnic groups with more than 150 dialects who, with pride, maintain their traditions and lifestyles.

Another important aspect: Why do we call our identity and city Oaxaca? The word Oaxaca derives from the Nahoa word "Huaxyacac", which means "near or in the nose of the fruits of the trees". The central valleys, being the regions reached by the Aztecs, were copiously seeded with guaje trees. The guaje produces a fruit in the form of seed pods with odoriferous green seeds used as a condiment with many foods.

The city of Oaxaca has had a variety of names. The Zapotecs called the city "Luhulaa" or "place of the guaje trees". ("luhu" place and "laa" guaje), the Mixtecs "Ñunhundúa" or "land of the guajes" ("ñuhu" town or land and "ndua" guaje).

When the city was given it’s title in 1532, it was called "Antequera". Later, in 1686, the name was changed to Antequera de Oaxaca. In 1800, the name was changed again to Oajaca, Province of Administration of Oaxaca. From 1872, year of the death of Benito Juarez (also known as Benemerito de las Americas), the decree of the Local Congress of October 10th denominated the city "Oaxaca de Juarez". At the same time, the Congress established the following accords: the purchase by the government of the small plot of land where Benito Juarez was born in order to erect a modest monument, the construction of 2 schools: one for boys and one for girls, the establishment of a pension of 480 pesos annually for Doña Susana Juarez and that the properties of Benito Juarez’s heirs be exempt from the payment of taxes. The preceeding is included in the commemorative municipal publication of the 448th anniversary of the City of Oaxaca.

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