Indigenous people of Oaxaca

The Indigenous people of Oaxaca are descendants of the inhabitants of what is now the state of Oaxaca, Mexico who were present before the Spanish invasion. Several cultures flourished in the ancient region of Oaxaca from as far back as 2000 BC, of whom the Zapotecs and Mixtecs were perhaps the most advanced, with complex social organization and sophisticated arts.[1]

According to the National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples (CDI) Oaxaca has the greatest percentage of indigenous people after Yucatán, at 48% of the population. There are 16 formally registered indigenous communities, some of which are culturally diverse themselves. Many of the people are socially marginalized, living in poverty.[2]

Indigenous people from all parts of Oaxaca participate wearing traditional clothes and artifacts in a celebration known as "Guelaguetza held every year by mid-July.

Speakers of each language

Oaxaca indigenous people
Primary areas occupied by the different indigenous people in Oaxaca

The 16 groups and the number of speakers of their language according to the 2005 census are:

Of these : 477,788 are non-Spanish monolingual.[3] The majority of people speak languages of the Oto-Manguean family, either the Popolocan-Zapotecan branch or the Amuzgo-Mixtecan branch.


British Museum Zapotec funerary urn 1
Zapotec funerary urn in the British Museum

The Oaxaca region is 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. The climate is temperate, cooler at higher altitudes and warmer by the coast and in the Papaloapan region, which is part of the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain. Oaxaca is the historic home of the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples among others, and contains more speakers of indigenous languages than any other Mexican state.[4]

Oaxaca ocho venado
Mixtec king and warlord Eight Deer Jaguar Claw (right) Meeting with Four Jaguar, in a depiction from the precolumbian Codex Zouche-Nuttall.

Excavations have shown that the region has had a settled population for at least 4,000 years. In the pre-Columbian period, the Zapotec developed an advanced civilization centered in Monte Alban in the central valley, which lasted between 300 BC and 700 AD. The state was expansionist, and extended its authority to the north, west, and southwest.[5]

Further to the west, Mixtec settlements have been dated back to 1500 BC, and the Mixtec also developed advanced city states such as Tilantongo and Tututepec. The Mixtec were known for their exceptional mastery of jewelry, in which gold and turquoise figure prominently. Around 1250 AD the Aztecs began pushing down from the North. Mixtec groups in turn invaded the Valley of Oaxaca and established the Cuilapan state. Shortly before the Spanish arrived, most of the west and central areas of Oaxaca had come under Aztec control.[6]

The Aztec empire disintegrated after the fall of their capital of Tenochtitlan to the Spanish in August 1521. The Spanish crown granted Oaxaca to the conquistador Hernán Cortés as his prize.[7] The Spanish introduced new food such as wheat and sugar cane and new methods of cultivation. Diseases introduced by the 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.

Benito Juarez Presidente
Benito Pablo Juárez, of Zapotec origin, was President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872

Over the 300 years of colonialism, many aspects of life became Europeanized. Important government positions were filled by the Spanish and their descendants, and later by elite mestizos, persons of mixed European and indigenous ancestry. However, Oaxaca remained largely an agriculture-based economy with little development throughout the colonial period, following Mexican independence in 1821 and following the revolution of 1910. By the 1980s and 1990s, Oaxaca was one of Mexico's poorest states. The state, and the indigenous people in particular, had some of the nation's highest rates of illiteracy, malnutrition, and infant mortality.[8]


The Oto-Manguean languages are a large family comprising several families of Native American languages, which has not been positively related to any other group of languages. The Oto-Manguean family has existed in southern Mexico at least since 4000 BCE and probably before. The highest number of speakers of these languages are found in Oaxaca where the two largest branches, the Zapotecan and Mixtecan languages, are spoken by almost 1.5 million people combined.[9]

Zapotecan group


The Zapotec people are concentrated in Oaxaca, but Zapotec communities exist in neighboring states as well. The present-day population is estimated at approximately 300,000 to 400,000 persons, many of whom are monolingual in one of the native Zapotec languages. In pre-Columbian times the Zapotec civilization was one of the highly developed cultures of Mesoamerica, which among other things included a system of writing.

There are four basic groups of Zapotecs: the istmeños, who live in the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec[10] the serranos, who live in the northern mountains of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, the southern Zapotecs, who live in the southern mountains of the Sierra Sur and the Central Valley Zapotecs, who live in and around the Valley of Oaxaca.


Niños chatinos
Chatino children

Chatino communities are located in the southeastern region of Oaxaca. Speakers of the Chatino language are numbered around 23,000 (Ethnologue surveys), but ethnic Chatinos may number many more. They call themselves Kitse Cha'tño and their language Cha'tña. Chatino populations are found in the following Oaxacan municipalities, mostly in the area around Juquila: Santos Reyes Nopala, San Juan Quiahije, San Miguel Panixtlahuaca, Santiago Yaitepec, Santa Cruz Zezontepec, San Juan Lachao, Santa María Temaxcaltepec, Santa Catarina Juquila and Tataltepec de Valdés.

The region that the Chatinos inhabit is rich in natural resources. Traditionally many Chatino people have been involved in agriculture which depends very much on the climate, so some Chatinos have had to emigrate to the corners of the district of Juquila to work on coffee plantations. Most Chatino communities have public services, and there are runways for airports in many municipalities. Federal bilingual schools, high schools, and telesecundarias (distance education programs for secondary and high school students) have been established.

The traditional authorities of this people are organized in a system based on civil and religious roles, in which advice from elders is treated as the greatest authority. They believe in the Holy Grandmother, the Holy Father Sun, the Holy Mother Earth, and the Holy Mother Moon. In addition, they worship the deities of water, wind, rain, the mountain, and fire.

Niños mazatecos
Primary student in Agua Iglesia, in the municipality of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón

Popolocan group


The Mazatec speak a closely related group of languages spoken in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca, and in some communities in the states of Puebla and Veracruz. The name Mazatec is an exonym and comes from Nahuatl, meaning "deer people". The Mazatec people refer to themselves in their own language(s) as Ha shuta Enima (or other variants), meaning approximately "workers of the mountains, humble people of custom".[11]

The Mazatec shamans are known for their ritual use of psilocybe mushrooms. Some shamans on occasion use other plants, such as Salvia divinorum and morning glory seeds. María Sabina was one of the best known of the Mazatec Shamans. Julieta Casimiro, a Mazatec Healer, has gained international recognition as a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers – a group of spiritual elders, medicine women and wisdom keepers since its founding in 2004.[12]


The Chocho people live in the Oaxaca communities of Santa María Nativitas, San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca and San Miguel Tulancingo in the Coixtlahuaca district of the Mixteca Region. Starting from around 1900, improved education in Spanish resulted in reduction of the number of Chocho speakers, who are now mostly elderly.[13] As of 1998, the Chocho language had 770 speakers.[14]

The terrain of the Chocho country is mountainous with low rainfall, hot summers and cold winters. Traditional houses have wood frames with walls made from the stem of the maguey plant, and roofs of palm or maguey leaves. The main source of cash comes from weaving palm-leaf hats, which is done in caves to prevent the leaves from drying out. The staple Chocho diet is maize supplemented with beans, chiles and fruits. They may eat goat meat on Sundays, and chicken or turkey during festivals.[15] Coixtlahuaca was a thriving Chocho and Ixtatec market until about 1900, but since then many people have had move away due to loss of topsoil to erosion.[13]


Ixcatec, also known as Xwja, is a language spoken by the people of the village of Santa María Ixcatlan in the north of the Cañada region of Oaxaca. The name Ixtepec means "people of cotton" in Nahuatl. The number of speakers was given to be 119 in the early 1980s, but according to the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, there were only 8 speakers of the language in 2008. The last speakers of the language are persons aged 70 years who can barely speak Spanish and cannot read or write, handicapping efforts to document and preserve the language.[16][17]


Popoloca woman

The name "Popoloco" is a Náhuatl word meaning "incomprehensible", and is applied to several unrelated people. The Popoluca of Oaxaca call themselves Homshuk, which means "God of Corn". In the 2000 census, only 61 Popoloco speakers were counted in Oaxaca.[18] The language is related to Mazatec and Chochotec.[19]

Amuzgo-Mixtecan group


The Mixtec inhabit Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla in a region known as La Mixteca. The Mixtecan languages form an important branch of the Otomanguean language family. The term Mixtec (Mixteco in Spanish) comes from the Nahuatl word Mixtecapan, or "place of the cloud-people."


Amuzgo is an Oto-Manguean language spoken in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero and Oaxaca by about 44,000 speakers.[20] The name Amuzgo is claimed to be a Nahuatl exonym but its meaning is shrouded in controversy; multiple proposals have been made, including [amoʃ-ko] 'moss-in'. A significant percentage of the Amuzgo speakers are monolingual; the remainder also speak Spanish.

Four variants of Amuzgo are officially recognized by the governmental agency, the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (INALI).[21]


The Cuicatec are closely related to the Mixtecs. They inhabit two towns: Teutila and Tepeuxila in western Oaxaca. According to the 2000 census, they number around 23,000, of whom an estimated 65% are speakers of the language.[22]


The Trique are an indigenous people of the western part of Oaxaca, centered in the municipalities of Juxtlahuaca, Tlaxiaco and Putla. They number around 23,000 according to the Ethnologue surveys. All Triqui peoples are known for their distinctive woven huipiles, baskets, and morrales (handbags).[23]

Triqui people live in a mountainous region, called "La mixteca baja", in the Southwest part of Oaxaca. The elevation within the Triqui region varies between 1,500 – 3,000 meters (4,921 – 9,843 feet). This high elevation permits low-lying cumulus clouds to envelop entire towns during the afternoons and evenings.

Like many other southern Mexicans, many Triqui men travel to Oaxaca City, Mexico City, or the United States as day laborers or migrant workers. As the average daily salary of a rural Oaxacan is less than $5 (U.S.) and La Mixteca is the poorest region of Oaxaca, migration and remittances sent back to Oaxaca confer economic benefits to both migrant Triquis and their families in Oaxaca.[24][25] Triqui women are more likely to remain in the Triqui region and do not travel as often as Triqui men do.


As of 1992, there were about 6,000 speakers of the Tacuate dialect of the Mixtec language, of whom less than 20% were monolingual.[26] Most of the people are engaged in subsistence agriculture, with some keeping cattle and goats, and with women producing textile crafts for a source of cash. Land tenure is usually communal. The Tacuate live in two municipalities in the Mixteca de la Costa area: Santa María Zacatepec in the Putla district and Santiago Ixtayutla in the Jamiltepec district.[27]


The Chinantecs live in Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico, especially in the districts of Cuicatlán, Ixtlán de Juárez, Tuxtepec and Choapan. Their language belongs to the Western Oto-Mangue group. The Ethnologue lists 14 different partially unintelligible varieties of Chinantec.[28]

Mixe–Zoque family

People who speak languages of the Mixe–Zoque family in Oaxaca are the Mixe and the Zoque. It has been speculated that they may be descendants of the Olmec people, who created the first Mesoamerican civilization around 1500 to 400 BC.[29]


San jose chinantequilla
San José Chinantequilla in the Mixe region

The Mixe inhabit the eastern highlands of Oaxaca. They speak the Mixe languages, and are more culturally conservative than other indigenous groups of the region, maintaining their language to this day. A population figure of 90,000 speakers of Mixe were estimated by SIL international in 1993. The Mixe name for themselves is ayüükj'ä'äy meaning "people who speak the mountain language"[30] The word "Mixe" itself is probably derived from the Nahuatl word for cloud: mixtli.


The Zoque of Oaxaca live primarily in the municipalities of Santa María Chimalapa and San Miguel Chimalapa in the Selva Zoque (Zoque forest), an area of 594,000 hectares of diverse and ecologically important forests in the Istmo de Tehuantepec region. Due to immigration of other groups, they now account for perhaps 34% of the population in this area. As of the year 2000, about 1,757 Zoque speakers lived in Santa María and 1,675 in San Miguel Chimalapa.[31]

In the pre-Hispanic period, the Zoque lived throughout Chiapas, and as far away as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and parts of the state of Tabasco. In 1494 they were invaded and defeated by the Aztecs, during the reign of Ahuizotl, and forced to pay tribute. The Spanish conquest of the Zoque lands commenced in 1523, under the leadership of Luis Marin. The Zoque were parceled out amongst the settlers, where they endured forced labor and were obliged to pay high tribute. Diseases, exploitation and the miserable conditions under which they lived contributed to a significant decrease in their numbers.

Other languages


The Huave people live on a peninsula reserved for them called the Zona Huave between the Gulf of Tehuantepec and the Pacific Ocean in the Istmo de Tehuantepec region. Terrain includes low forested hills, pastures and swamps. The towns are San Mateo de Mar, San Dionisio del Mar, San Francisco del Mar and Santa Maria del Mar. There are approximately 10,000 Huave speakers, most of whom fish or practice traditional agriculture. Recently a handicrafts union has been attempting to introduce traditional weavings as a commercial product.[32] The Huave language is a language isolate, unrelated to any other.[33] The most vibrant speech community is in San Mateo del Mar, whose people call themselves Ikoots, meaning "us" and refer to their language as ombeayiiüts, meaning "our language".[34]


Oaxacan Chontal, also called Tequistlatecan, consists of two related but mutually unintelligible languages, Huamelultec (Lowland Oaxaca Chontal), and Highland Oaxaca Chontal. There has been speculation that the languages may be part of the Hokan family of California, or perhaps the Jicaque family of Honduras.[35] The name "Chontal" comes from the Nahuatl, meaning "foreigner" or "foreign", and is also applied to an unrelated language of Tabasco. The Chontal may have lived in the Villa Alta region to the east up to around 300 AD, but moved westward under pressure from the Mixes and moved to their present location in the 15th century due to Zapotec aggression.[36]

Lowland Chontal is mostly spoken around San Pedro Huamelula and Santiago Astata in the Pacific coastal area of the western Tehuantepec District, which is in the west of the Istmo region. There may be about 200 fluent first-language speakers and another 750 semi-speakers, all older than 40. Lowland Chontal is considered an endangered language. The coastal lowlands cover about 870 km² made up of rugged foothills and mountain ridges 50–700 m above sea level. The climate is tropically hot and sub-humid with a dry season from October to May and a rainy season from June to September Some trees are suitable for lumber, but the region is becoming deforested. Mostly the people use slash-and-burn agriculture to cultivate maize.[35]

As of 1990, about 3,600 spoke highland or Sierra Chontal.[37] The speakers of this language live in the districts of Yautepec and Tehuantepec in the municipalities of San Carlos Yautepec, Santa María Ecatepec, Asunción Tlacolulita, San Miguel Tenango and Magdalena Tequisistlán. They practice subsistence agriculture growing corn, squash, beans and vegetables as well as fruit trees such soursop, mamey, sapodilla, avocado, guava and nanche. They also grow maguey mezcal, sugar, pepper and coffee. Livestock includes chickens, turkeys, pigs, goats and cattle. Hunting and fishing provide alternative food sources.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Felipe Solis (2000). National Museum of Anthropology. Monoclem Ediciones. p. 66ff. ISBN 968-6434-92-5.
  2. ^ ""Región Sur. Tomo 1 Oaxaca." Condiciones Socioeconómicas y Demográficas de la Población Indígena". National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  3. ^ Schmal, John P. (January 28, 2007). "Oaxaca: Land of Diversity". Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  4. ^ Schmal, John (2004). "The Hispanic Experience – Indigenous Identity in Mexico". Houston Institute for Culture. Retrieved May 24, 2007.
  5. ^ Charles S. Spencer (2003-09-23). "War and early state formation in Oaxaca, Mexico". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The National Academy of Sciences. 100 (20): 11185–7. doi:10.1073/pnas.2034992100. PMC 208728. PMID 14506292.
  6. ^ "Los Mixtecos". México Desconocido (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  7. ^ "Hernando Cortes". NNDB. Soylent Communications. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  8. ^ Mike Allbutt. "Oaxaca: The Southern Indigenous State". Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  9. ^ Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America (Oxford Studies in Anthropological Linguistics, 4). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  10. ^ e.g. see the documentary film Blossoms of Fire
  11. ^ CDI (2004–2007).
  12. ^ Schaefer, C, (2006) Grandmothers Council the World: wise women elders offer their vision for our planet. Trumpeter Books 978-1-59030-293-4 page 2
  13. ^ a b Bruce Whipperman (2008). Moon Oaxaca. Avalon Travel. pp. 238, 438. ISBN 1-59880-088-4.
  14. ^ "Chocholtec: A language of Mexico". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  15. ^ "Chocho". Countries and Their Cultures. Advameg. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  16. ^ Suárez, Jorge A. (1983). The Mesoamerican Indian Languages. Cambridge Languages Surveys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-22834-4. OCLC 8034800.
  17. ^ "Quedan ocho hablantes de "xwja" o "ixcateco" en comunidad oaxaqueña". Fundación Telefónica. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  18. ^ John P. Schmal (January 28, 2007). "Oaxaca: Land of Diversity". LatinoLA. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  19. ^ "Oto-Manguean, Popolocan, Chocho-Popolocan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  20. ^ 2005 census; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ Catálogo de las lenguas indígenas nacionales: Variantes lingüísticas de México con sus autodenominaciones y referencias geoestadísticas. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2013-07-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  22. ^ Website of the Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas,, accessed 28 July 2008.
  23. ^ Takahashi, Masako. Mexican Textiles: Spirit and Style. Chronicle Books. 2003.
  24. ^ Murphy, Arthur D., Stepick, Alex. Social Inequality in Oaxaca: A History of Resistance and Change. Temple University Press. 1991
  25. ^ Holmes, Seth M. An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States. PLoS Med 3(10): e448 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030448. 2006
  26. ^ "Mixtec, Santa María Zacatepec". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  27. ^ "Tacuate". Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  28. ^ "Chinantecan Family". Instituto Lingüístico de Verano. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
  29. ^ Wichmann, Søren; Dmitri Beliaev; Albert Davletshin (September 2008). "Posibles correlaciones lingüísticas y arqueológicas involucrando a los olmecas" (PDF). Proceedings of the Mesa Redonda Olmeca: Balance y Perspectivas, Museo Nacional de Antropología, México City, March 10–12, 2005. (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  30. ^ According to the Monography about the Mixes at the official website of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved July 21, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  31. ^ "Zoques de Oaxaca". Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  32. ^ "Huaves of Oaxaca". Mexican Textiles. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  33. ^ "Huavean". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  34. ^ "Huave". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  35. ^ a b "Chontal Language". DoBeS Archive. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  36. ^ a b "Chontales". Go Oaxaco. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  37. ^ "Chontal, Highland Oaxaca". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
Demographics of Oaxaca

see also Indigenous people of OaxacaThe state of Oaxaca, Mexico has a total population of about 3.5 million, with women outnumbering men by 150,000 and about 60% of the population under the age of 30. It is ranked tenth in population in the country. Fifty three percent of the population lives in rural areas. Most of the state’s population growth took place between 1980 and 1990. Life expectancy is 71.7 for men and 77.4 for women, just under the national average. Births far outpace deaths. In 2007, there were 122,579 birth and 19,439 deaths. Approximately 85% profess the Catholic faith.Demographically, Oaxaca stands out due to the high percentage of indigenous peoples. It is estimated that at least a third are speakers of indigenous languages (with 5% not able to speak Spanish), accounting for 53% of Mexico’s total indigenous population. The state straddles two Mesoamerican cultural areas. The first extends into the state from the Mayan lands of Chiapas, Yucatan and Guatemala. The northeast of the state is part of the cultures of the Valley of Mexico, with historical influence seen from ancient cities such as Teotihuacan, Tula and Tenochtitlan.

The main reason that indigenous languages and cultures have been able to survive here is the rugged terrain, which isolate communities. This also has the effect of dividing the state into small secluded communities, which have developed independently over time. There are 16 ethno linguistic groups recognized by the Instituto Nacional Indigenista who maintain their individual languages, customs and traditions well into the colonial period and to some extent to the present day. However, some studies put the number of cultures in the state as high as 4,000. This make Oaxaca the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s 31 states.

Most indigenous in the state are either Zapotec or Mixtec. The Triques, Amuszos and Cuicatecos are related to the Mixtecs and have similar languages, The Chochopopolocas and Ixcatecos are similar to the Mazatecos; the Zoques are related to the Mixes, and the Chatinos are related to the Zapotecs. Unrelated groups include the Chontals, Chinatecos, Huaves and Nahuas. As of 2005, a total of 1,091,502 people were counted as speaking an indigenous language.The largest indigenous group in the state are the Zapotecs at about 350,000 people or about 31% of the total indigenous population. The Zapotec have an extremely long history in the Central Valleys region and unlike other indigenous groups, do not have a migration story. For them, they have always been here. Zapotecs have always called themselves Be'ena'a, which means The People. Zapotec territory extends in and around the Central Valleys region of the state, around the capital city of Oaxaca. The Zapotec language has historically been and is still the most widely spoken in the state, with four dialects that correspond to the four subdivisions of these people: Central Valleys and Isthmus, the Sierra de Ixtlan, Villa Alta and Coapan. Zapotec communities can be found in 67 municipalities. The various Zapotec dialects account for 64 of the total 173 still surviving forms of Oto-Manguean.The second largest group are the Mixtecs at just over 240,000 people or 27% of the indigenous population. These people established themselves in the northwest of Oaxaca and far southern Puebla over 3,000 years ago, making them one of the oldest communities in the region. These same people put pressure on the Zapotec kingdoms until the Spanish conquered both peoples in the 16th century. Mixtec territory is divided into three sub regions. The Upper Mixteca covers 38 municipalities and is the most populated region. The Lower Mixteca includes 31 municipalities. The Coastal Mixtecs are a small group. Today, the Mixtecs call themselves Ñuu Savi, the people of the rain. The Mixtecan language family, as one of the largest and most diverse families in the Oto-Manguean group, includes three groups of languages: Mixtec, Cuicatec, and Trique.The Mazatecos number at about 165,000 or 15% of Oaxaca’s indigenous population. (perfil soc) These people occupy the northernmost area of the state, in the upper Sierra Madre Oriental mountains and the Papaloapan Basin. The Mazatecos call themselves Ha shuta enima, which means People of Custom. Some historians believe that the Mazatecos descend from the Nonoalca-Chichimecas, who migrated south from Tula early in the 12th century. While most live in Oaxaca, a significant number of Mazatecos also occupy Veracruz and Puebla.The Chinantecos account for about ten percent of Oaxaca’s indigenous people, numbering at about 104,000. They inhabit the Chinantla region of north central Oaxaca near the border of Veracruz. The Chinanteco language has as many as 14 different dialects and is part of the Oto-Manguean linguistic group. The Chinantecos presently inhabit an area in which archaeologists have located temples that were apparently used as ceremonial centers, and where prisoners were supposedly sacrificed during the most important celebrations of the year. Historians believe that those living in this region struggled to maintain their independence against sudden and numerous attacks by the Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Mixes and Aztecs. The latter, led by Moctezuma I, finally conquered the Chinantla region during the 15th century.The Mixe people account for another ten percent of the indigenous population at just over 103,000 people. The Mixe are an isolated group in the northeastern part of the state, close to the border of Veracruz. Their region includes 19 municipalities and 108 communities. The Mixes call themselves Ayuuk, which means The People. It is unknown where the Mixe migrated from, with some speculating from as far as Peru, but they arrived in waves from 1300 to 1533. They came into conflict with the Mixtecs and Zapotecs, but allied themselves with the Zapotecs against the Aztecs, then resisted the Spanish. The Mixe language has seven dialects and this group has more monolingual speakers than any other indigenous group.The Chatino people number at about 42,477 and live in southwestern Oaxaca. Their language has seven dialects and is part of the Oto-Manguean language group. It is believed that these were one of the first indigenous groups to inhabit what is now the state of Oaxaca. The Chatinos call themselves Kitse cha'tnio, which means Work of the Words. In ancient times, they were a military oriented group but the Mixtecs eventually defeated them some years before the arrival of the Spanish.The Trique people number at 18,292 and inhabit an area of 193 square miles (500 km2) in the southern Sierra Madre Mountains in the westernmost part of Oaxaca. After these people arrived to Oaxaca, they were subdued by the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. In the 15th century, Aztec armies defeated them, then demanding tribute.The Huave people number 15,324. and cover a large part of Oaxaca, mostly in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. While not definitively determined, they are considered to have come from Nicaragua or possibly Peru, arriving by sea. From the Isthmus area, the ancient Huave conquered a large expanse of Oaxacan territory, now called the Jalapa del Marques. In the 15th century, Aztec armies invaded both Huave and Zapotec lands, forcing both kingdoms to pay tribute. Weakened, the Huaves were pushed back towards the Isthmus by the Zapotecs, where their modern descendents are still found. Modern Huaves call themselves Mero ikooc, which means “the true us.”The Cuicatecos number at 12,128 and live in northwestern Oaxaca. Little is known about the history of these people because the Spanish destroyed many of the Mixtec and Zapotec maps and codices related to them. Archeological research speculates that they are descended from the Toltecs is arrived here after the fall of Tula in 1064. The fertile lands of the Cuicatlan River made this group a target for other groups, eventually forcing them to become a peripheral part of the Mixtecs. However, when the Aztecs arrived in 1456, the Cuicatecos formed an alliance with them.The Zoque, also called the Aiyuuk, are mostly located in Chiapas but a branch of them, numbering at about 10,000 lives in Oaxaca. Their language is closely related to the Mayan-Chique family. The Zoque call themselves O'deput, which means People of the Language. Many of their customs, social organizations, religion beliefs, and way of life were identical to those of the Mixe community, with whom they probably share a common origin in Central America.The Amuzgos number at 4,819 and inhabit the border region of southeastern Guerrero and southwestern Oaxaca. Only about 20% of the total Amuzgo population lives in the state of Oaxaca. The Amuzgos call themselves Tzjon non, which means People of the Textiles. The Aztecs partially conquered these people in the 15th century, but the Amuzgos rebelled and Aztec domination as never complete. The Amuzgos of Oaxaca primarily live in Putla and San Pedro Amuzgos.

The Chontales of Oaxaca (to distinguish them from other groups called “Chontal”) number at 4,610 and live in the far south of the state. Their language has two major dialects and is a member of the Hokan language family, with is more widely represented in the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico. The Chontales of Oaxaca refer to themselves as Slijuala xanuc, which means Inhabitants of the Mountains. The origins of these people have not been conclusively determined but some believe they originally came from Nicaragua, moving north due to warfare. There was a Kingdom of the Chontals in the 14th century, but the Zapotecs eventually defeated them.The Tacuates number 1,725 and occupy two of Oaxaca’s municipalities. They speak a variant of the Mixtec language. Their name probably comes from Nahuatl and means “land of the serpents.”The Chocho or Chocholtec number at 524 and live in the northern zone of the Upper Mixteca region, near the Puebla border. These people call themselves “Runixa ngiigua,” which means those who speak the language. The language belongs to the Oto-Manguean family. The lands was conquered by the Mixtecs in the mid 15th century, then soon after by the Aztecs. The area is rich in archeological sites.The Ixcatecos, which number 207, are found only in Santa María de Ixcatlán in the north of the state. This is one of the most arid, eroded and poorest regions of Mexico. The Ixcatecos once occupied seven other areas but these were probably abandoned due to the lack of water and agricultural failure. Their territory is inaccessible, which allowed them to remain independent until the Aztecs finally overwhelmed them just the before the Spanish Conquest.The Popolocas only number 61 and are scattered in various areas of Oaxaca. The name comes from Aztec, who used it to describe non Nahuatl languages, which were unintelligible to them. It came to mean “stranger” and “barbaric” and “unintelligent,” a use that the Spanish continued. The Popolucas call themselves Homshuk, which means God of Corn. Today, the Popoloca population is divided in three fractions speaking six primary dialects.There is also a small population of Nahuatl speaking peoples in the border area with Puebla. These are descendents of Aztec and other Nahua groups with invaded the area in the latter pre-Hispanic period.

Oaxacan cuisine

Oaxacan cuisine is a regional cuisine of Mexico, centered on the city of Oaxaca, the capital of the state of the same name located in southern Mexico. Oaxaca is one of Mexico's major gastronomic, historical, and gastro-historical centers whose cuisine is known internationally. Like the rest of Mexican cuisine, Oaxacan food is based on staples such as corn, beans and chile peppers, but there is a great variety of other ingredients and food preparations due to the influence of the state's varied geography and indigenous cultures. Corn and many beans were first cultivated in Oaxaca. Well known features of the cuisine include ingredients such as chocolate (often drunk in a hot preparation with spices and other flavorings), Oaxaca cheese, mezcal and grasshoppers (chapulines) with dishes such as tlayudas, Oaxacan style tamales and seven notable varieties of mole sauce. The cuisine has been praised and promoted by food experts such as Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless and is part of the state's appeal for tourists.

Psilocybe aztecorum

Psilocybe aztecorum is a species of psilocybin mushroom in the family Hymenogastraceae. Known from Arizona, Colorado, central Mexico, India and Costa Rica, the fungus grows on decomposing woody debris and is found in mountainous areas at elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 m (6,600 to 13,100 ft), typically in meadows or open, grassy conifer forests. The mushrooms have convex to bell-shaped caps 1.5–2 cm (0.6–0.8 in) in diameter, atop slender cylindrical stems that are up to 7.5 cm (3.0 in) long. The color of the caps changes with variations in hydration, ranging from dark chestnut brown to straw yellow or whitish when dry. The base of the stem is densely covered with conspicuous white rhizomorphs, a characteristic uncommon amongst Psilocybe species.

The species was first reported by French mycologist Roger Heim in 1956 as a variety of Psilocybe mexicana before he officially described it under its current name a year later. Named for its association with the Nahua people also called Aztecs, P. aztecorum may have been one of the sacred mushroom species, or teonanácatl (A Nahuatl word translated variously as "sacred mushroom" or "flesh of the gods"), reported in the codices of 16th-century Spanish chronicler Bernardino de Sahagún. The mushrooms are still used for spiritual ceremonies by Nahua Indians in the Popocatépetl region, although this traditional usage is waning. The variety P. aztecorum var. bonetii has smaller spores than the main variety, and is found at lower elevations with Montezuma pine (Pinus montezumae) and sacred fir (Abies religiosa). P. aztecorum may be distinguished from similar temperate species such as P. baeocystis and P. quebecensis by their ranges, and by differences in the morphology of microscopic structures like cystidia.


The Tacuate are an indigenous people of Mexico who live in the state of Oaxaca. The Tacuate language is one of the Mixtec languages; in 2010, there were 1,500 speakers.Most of the people are engaged in subsistence agriculture, with some keeping cattle and goats, and with women producing textile crafts for a source of cash.

Land tenure is usually communal.

The Tacuate live in two municipalities in the Mixteca de la Costa area: Santa María Zacatepec in the Putla district and Santiago Ixtayutla in the Jamiltepec district.


The Trique (Oaxaca pronunciation: [triki]) or Triqui (Spanish: [ˈtɾiki]) are an indigenous people of the western part of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, centered in the municipalities of Juxtlahuaca, Tlaxiaco and Putla. They number around 23,000 according to Ethnologue surveys. The Trique language is a Mixtecan language of Oto-Manguean genetic affiliation. Trique peoples are known for their distinctive woven huipiles, baskets, and morrales (handbags).Trique people live in a mountainous region, called "La Mixteca Baja", in the southwestern part of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The elevation within the Trique region varies between 1,500–3,000 m (4,900–9,800 ft). This high elevation permits low-lying cumulus clouds to envelop entire towns during the afternoons and evenings.

Like many other southern Mexicans, many Trique men travel to Oaxaca City, Mexico City, or the United States as day labourers or migrant workers. As the average daily salary of a rural Oaxacan is less than $5 (U.S.) and La Mixteca is the poorest region of Oaxaca, migration and remittances sent back to Oaxaca confer economic benefits to both migrant Triques and their families in Oaxaca. Trique women are more likely to remain in the Trique region and do not travel as often as Trique men do.

Zapotec peoples

The Zapotecs (Zoogocho Zapotec: Didxažoŋ) are an indigenous people of Mexico. The population is concentrated in the southern state of Oaxaca, but Zapotec communities also exist in neighboring states. The present-day population is estimated at approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 persons, many of whom are monolingual in one of the native Zapotec languages and dialects. In pre-Columbian times, the Zapotec civilization was one of the highly developed cultures of Mesoamerica, which, among other things, included a system of writing. Many people of Zapotec ancestry have emigrated to the United States over several decades, and they maintain their own social organizations in the Los Angeles and Central Valley areas of California.

There are four basic groups of Zapotecs: the istmeños, who live in the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the serranos, who live in the northern mountains of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, the southern Zapotecs, who live in the southern mountains of the Sierra Sur, and the Central Valley Zapotecs, who live in and around the Valley of Oaxaca.

Zoque people

The Zoque are an indigenous people of Mexico. They speak variants of the Zoque languages.

This group consists of 41,609 people, according to the 2000 census. They live mainly in the northerly sector of Chiapas state, principally in the municipios and towns of Amatán, Copainalá, Chapultenango, Francisco León, Ixhuatán, Ixtacomitán, Jitotol, Ocotepec, Ostuacán, Pantepec, Rayón, Totolapa, Tapilula, Tecpatán, Acala, Blanca rosa, and Ocozocoautla. They also live in the northern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the state of Oaxaca, including the Selva Zoque. Their language is also called Zoque, and has several branches and dialects. The Zoque are related to the Mixe.

In the pre-Hispanic period, the Zoque lived throughout Chiapas, and Isthmus of Tehuantepec and parts of the state of Tabasco. They are hypothesized to be the descendents of the Olmec. They had a good social and commercial relationship with the later Mexica, which contributed to the economic prosperity of their culture in Chiapas. In 1494 they were invaded and defeated by the Aztecs, during the reign of Ahuizotl, and forced to pay tribute.

The Spanish conquest of the Zoque lands commenced in 1523, under the leadership of Luis Marin. The Zoque were parceled out amongst the settlers, where they endured forced labor and were obliged to pay high tribute. Diseases, exploitation and the miserable conditions under which they lived contributed to a significant decrease in their numbers.

The situation of the Zoque did not improve with Mexican independence, since they continued to be exploited by the mestizos and criollos. It was not until 1922, when they were assigned ejidos (common lands), that their living conditions improved somewhat.

Oaxaca Indigenous peoples of Oaxaca
More than 100,000 people
20,000–100,000 people
1,000–20,000 people
Less than 1,000 people

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