Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


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

Weaving in front of the home door
Man with hat
Tacuate girl
The goldsmith
All Souls' Day altar without roof


Historical Background
The Tacuates are an indigenous group that still preserves its language. "Tacuate", a variant of the Mixteco language. It is believed that the word Tacuate originates from the Nahuatl term Tlacoatl: tlal= Land, and Coal= serpent, snake. It is thought that those "of reason", or mestizo could not pronounce it and began calling them Tacuates.

The first Tacuate community or first Zacatepec or Yucusaduta in Mixteco, which is currently named Pueblo Viejo (Old Town) would have been situated near Cerro de la Campana (Bell Hill). No one knows when this first town was abandoned and established in its present location, but it has been determined that it happened before 1580, since the Zacatepec writings of that year places it in its current territory.

Dominicans began evangelisation of this area in 1529, and the first jurisdiction and missions were established in 1536. With the conquest and occupation of their territory, Mixtecos were exposed to a different culture launching a destructive process due to changes of their social and religious structure, illnesses, epidemics, etc. For these reasons, population decreased between 50 and 60 per cent.

In general, Tacuate economy is based on survival agriculture. They raise cattle and goats and lately, they have developed native textiles because it represents a source of income. Their land distribution is communal. The traditional male attire is a shirt made of two long strips open on the sides that reach above the ankles, and undergarments. The female attire is a white loosely fitting blouse (huipil) hand-stitched with various motifs.

It is important to mention that this region actively participated in the War of Independence, Reform, and French Intervention, with a substantial presence during the Revolution of 1910 on the agrarian side.

Location and Environment
Tacuates lived in a territory divided into two municipalities: Santa Maria Zacatepec and Santiago Ixtayutla part of the Putla and Jamiltepec districts respectively.

Santa Maria Zacatepec is 1,148 feet above sea level. Its climate is mild with sporadic rains in May, and steady downpours from June through October. There are temperate-humid microclimates with temperatures ranging from 71 F. to 95 F. from April through September. Its vegetation is herbaceous with such great trees as ceiba (pochota), "huapinole", "parota", mahogany, oak, palm, and fruits trees such as mango, mammee, sapodilla, tamarind, banana, and coffee. Mahogany, oak, and "perota" are in danger of extinction. Santa Maria Zacatepec is 119 kilometres south-east of Tlaxiaco City, on Federal Highway 125. Approximate time: 2:30 hours.

Santiago Ixtayutla is 1,509 feet above sea level. Its climate is mild and of low humidity with abundant rain from June to September and an average annual temperature of 81.68F. The vegetation is "aciculiesclerofilo" forests and semi-"subcaducifolia" jungle. Santiago Ixtayutla is 65 kilometres Northeast of Jamilepec on a dirt road. Approximate time: 4 hours.

Due to the ragged terrain, we recommend travelling only by pick up or four-wheel drive trucks