Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


HOME » Indigenous Villages »


(Click to enlarge)
Black&White photos courtesy of Vittorio D'Onofri

Chontal woman
Among the baskets
Between iguana and ixtle
Light rays


Historical Background
The origins of the Oaxacan Chontal population have not been clearly defined, which is why it has been said that they hail from many different places. Some archaeologists believe the Chontals came from Nicaragua, migrating north, to what is now Honduras, due to internal warfare. They kept travelling north, towards Yucatan and Tabasco, and finally settling in Oaxaca and Tabasco.
This ethnic group is known as a warrior race. Since the foundation of its kingdom, in 1374, they were involved in constant confrontations with the Zapotecs, who were able to defeat them and take possession of their lands.

Location and Environment
Chontals living in south-east Oaxaca do not constitute a homogeneous group, as geographical and climactic conditions, as well as the race's physical separation, have propitiated its division into Coast and Mountain groups.

The first live in territory between Rincon Bamba and Chacalapa, with the most populated towns being Santiago Astata and San Pedro Huamelula. The Serranos dwell in the mountainous zone in the former districts of Yautepec and Tehuantepec situated in the triangular area of Pochutla-Oaxaca-Salina Cruz, especially in the municipalities of Ecatepec, Tequisistlan, and Yautepec.

The climate is variable. It goes from the tropical rain of the savannah with periodical rains falling during the summer and dry winters, to temperate with precipitation oscillating between 0.6 inches per year on the coast to 3.2 inches in the mountains.

Altitudes vary between 3,937 and 5,905 feet above sea level, diminishing considerably in the coastal area. The high Chontal or Serrana has, among its most important rivers, the Costoche and Otate. The latter is extremely important for the irrigation of zones such as Tlacolulita and Tequisistlan.