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In the state of Oaxaca, at least half the population still speaks an indigenous dialect. This large population establishes, not only one of their main distinctive features, but its identity and its most outstanding wealth. Thanks to this, Mexico still possesses the possibility of preserving one of the largest, untouched indigenous cultures in the Mesoamerican world.
The great diversity of indigenous groups, their variety of tongues they speak, and the great number of archaeological sites that exist, allow us to feel that it is the only environment in the world that has witnessed the uninterrupted development of human life for more than 10,000 years.
Sixteen different indigenous groups have been formally registered in the Indigenous Communities for the State of Oaxaca, all perfectly well defined through dialect, customs, food habits, rituals, cosmogony, etc. There are also Afromixtecas, a mixture of African slaves brought to Mexico during the Spanish conquest, and the Mixteca Indians who come from Costa Chica, Oaxaca.
Oaxaca's territory is rugged, and its abrupt topography has kept the State and towns in isolation for a long time, maintaining their ancestral traditions intact. For this reason, two different cultures settled on the plains and in the western mountains, that cultivated their splendour throughout the land: the Mixtec and Zapotec.
In addition, there are several others: Amuzgos, Chatinos, Chinantecos, Chochos, Chontales, Cuicatecos, Huaves, Ixcatecos, Mazatecos, Mixes, Popolcas, Triquis, Zoques and Tacuates. We will learn about their characteristics as ethnic groups as we go along.
As we approach the turn of the century, we have much to learn from these indigenous cultures about the true values of life, that are so intimately linked to Nature.
As a final note, we would like to add a quote found in the Article 2 of the First Chapter of the New Laws and Rights for Indigenous Groups and Communities in the State of Oaxaca: "The State of Oaxaca has a plural and ethnic formation, sustained by the great majority represented by the State's indigenous groups and communities. The cultural and historical roots these groups portray constitute the Mesoamerican civilisation. They speak a dialect of their own and have occupied their territory in an uninterrupted and continuous manner, being able to built their own specific culture, a fact that sets them apart from the rest of the State's population. These groups and communities have existed since before the State was founded, and they have set the bases for the political and territorial constitution of the State, therefore they will always be entitled to the social rights this new law provides for them."