Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


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

The Mixes
Mixe Woman
Girl and basket
Woman with flowers


Historical Background
There are two versions on the origin of the Mixe nation, which currently inhabits north-west Oaxaca. Some believe that they hail from the tropical zone of the Gulf of Mexico, from which they were displaced. Others believe that they came from the coast of Peru. According to available sources, the Mixes arrived in Oaxaca, on successive excursions, from 1294 to 1533, in search of Zempoatepetl, "Hill of the Twenty Deities".

They settled in a conflictive area, which provoked constant, armed confrontations with the Mixtecs and Zapotecs. One of the most fiery battles, of which stories are still told, was commanded by Condoy, legendary king of the Mixes and originally Peruvian. This battle was held against the forces of Zaachila I, during the fourteenth century. Zapotecos and Mixtecos joined forces, and proceeded to set fire to the Zempoatepetl hill, where Mixes, Tarascos, Zoques and Chontales had congregated, in an effort to defeat them. Despite this aggressive strategy, Zapotecos and Mixtecs were not able to submit the Mixe people to their hegemony.

With the Aztec expansion flourishing, and their search for better commercial routes, the Mixes were, once again, in danger of being enslaved by the most powerful warriors of the time. Their alliance to the Zapotecs liberated them from Mexica domination, and contributed to the expulsion of the Mixtecs from the Tarasco and Chontal lands.

Location and Environment
Mixes inhabit the northern part of Oaxaca, close to the border with Veracruz. It covers a zone that, until 1971 constituted the Mixe district, and the municipality of San Juan Guichicovi. This region consists of 19 municipalities and 108 communities. The most important are: Coatzocon, Guichicovi, Mazatln, Mixistlan, Tamazulapan, Tlahuitoltepec and Totontepec.

The highest part, more than 4,921 feet above sea level, is crossed by the Zempoatepetl mountain cluster. The climate is cold, with rains falling during the summer and a predominance of coniferous forests. It is formed by the municipalities of Ayutla, Cacalotepec, Mixistlan, Tamazulapan, Tepantlali, Tuxtepec, Tlahuitoltepec and Totontepec.

The mid-altitude area, with altitudes ranging from 2,625 to 4,921 feet above sea level, has the highest precipitation in the region. It has two types of vegetation: tropical forests and mixed forests in the temperate zones. It is composed of 8 municipalities: Alotepec, Atitlan, Camotlan, Juquila, Ocotepec, Quetzaltepec and Zacatepec.

The low region, less than 2,625 feet above sea level, is hot and humid with intense rains during the summer. It has tropical vegetation. The municipalities of Guichicovi, Mazatln, Ixquintepec and Cotzocon are in this zone.