Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


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

Huave Music Band
In the sea
Resting Huaves


Historical Background
The origin of the Huave nation is unknown. Burgoa and some other historians have based their theories on the native traditions. They speculate that Huaves came from distant lands, possibly Nicaragua or even as far as Peru. It is said that they were forced to migrate from their place of origin due to lack of lands. They are thought to have arrived by sea, travelling along the coast, looking for a place to settle on several occasions, to no avail. Most of the land was already occupied or inhospitable. They reached the Tehuantepec coast, inhabited by the Mixe nation, who gave no resistance to the Huaves. The Huave nation conquered a large expanse, known to this day, as Jalapa del Marques, in Oaxaca.

In the time of Moctezuma I, Mexicas invaded and conquered the Zapotec and Huave territories, and they were forced to pay tribute to the invaders. Huave settlements were renamed in the Nahuatl dialect, for example, the town currently known as San Francisco del Mar, Tuan-Umbah for the Huaves, was renamed Itzaltepec, San Mateo del Mar became Huazontlan, and San Dionisio del Mar, known as Umalalang in Huave became Tepehuatzontlan.

The Zapotecs, taking advantage of the weakening Huaves, provoked by the Mexica victory, invaded their territory, and obliged them to flee Tehuantepec and the Jalapa del Marques Valley. They settled in the land they occupy today, at the edge of the sea, on the banks of the Diuk-guialat upper and lower lagoons.

Location and Environment
Huaves live in the Oaxacan municipalities of San Franciso del Mar, San Mateo del Mar and San Dionisio del Mar, and the municipal agency of Santa Mara del Mar, which belongs to Juchitlan. As their name would indicate, these municipalities are at the edge of the sea, in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, near the towns of Tehuantepec, Juchitan and Salina Cruz. The Huave territory comprises three very contrasting zones: A low mountain area some workable wood. The area is good for hunting. There is a savannah, with good pasture lands and some agriculture. Finally, there is a swampy zone, full of mangroves and salt mines.

Generally speaking, the territory is quite arid, with sandy soil which is not apt for agriculture or human settlements. There are floods during the rainy season, from June to September. Large tracts of lands flood as the soil is impermeable, causing it to flow easily to the sea. The terrain is not rough, having few low-level hills. Most of the settlements are near the previously mentioned lagoons, which are connected to the sea.

The climate is hot, extremely dry and has a yearly average temperature of 81 F. The sea breeze that blows in the morning and afternoon freshens the environment, as rain is scarce and infrequent.

Vegetation corresponds to the climate. There are tropical forests, where caduceous plants grow, such as, acacia, and some trees yielding exotic woods, such as mahogany, ebony, oak, and cedar. Herbaceous zones and mangroves grow near the lagoons. The careless consumption of forests has provoked serious changes in the climate and vegetation.

In the past, a large variety of animals existed here, such as crocodiles, coyotes, jaguars and peccaries that have become extinct. There are endangered species, which include ocelots, margays, jaguarundi, aardvarks and deer. On the other hand, there is still an abundance of racoons, coatis, skunks, opossums, reptiles, turtles and iguanas. Among the bird species, is a great abundance of ducks.

The marine fauna in the lagoons is very rich and plentiful. There are: lisa, trout, sea bass, bobos, among others. There are also shrimp, oysters, and other species of molluscs.

You can reach these communities from Tehuantepec, Salina Cruz or Juchitan.