Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Oaxaca is the name of both a state in Mexico and that state's capital city. This article is about the state. For the city, see: Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
The Mexican state of Oaxaca is in the south west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Oaxaca borders the states of Guerrero to the west, Puebla to the north west, Veracruz to the north, and Chiapas to the east. To the south Oaxaca fronts the Pacific Ocean.
Oaxaca has an area of 95,364 km²; it is the fifth largest state in the Republic. In 2003 it had an estimated population of 3,597,700 people.
The state is located in the mountains and valleys of the Sierra Madre del Sur range.
During the three millennia prior to the arrival of the Aztecs in 1436, the most powerful and influential groups in what is today Oaxaca were the Zapotec, the Mixtec and the Mixe. The civilizations achieved by these groups is reflected in important archeological sites including Monte Albán, Mitla, Cerro de Minas, Guiengola and Huijatzoo.
The influences changed when the Aztecs settled around the Cerro del Fortín and down to the present Church of Carmen Alto where their temple was located. The name of the state comes from the Nahuatl designation they gave to the Central Valley around the capital – "Huaxyácac" or place of the guaje trees because of the great number of this species (Leucaena leucocephala)
As the Spanish who arrived less than a century later found this difficult to pronounce it evolved into the present name of Oaxaca, for the city and for the state. The settlement founded by the Spanish in 1521 as Segura de la Frontera, later known as Nueva Antequera, was officially raised to the category of a royal city in 1532 by decree of Emperor Carlos V with the name of Antequera de Guaxaca.
Oaxaca has a number of native crafts, including the production of alebrijes and black clay objects.
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