The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name. It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, on the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín extending to the banks of the Atoyac River. This city relies heavily on tourism, which is based on its large number of colonial-era structures as well as the native Zapotec and Mixtec cultures and archeological sites. It, along with the archeological site of Monte Albán, were named a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is also the home of the month-long cultural festival called the «Guelaguetza», which features Oaxacan dance from the seven regions, music and a beauty pageant for indigenous women.
It is nicknamed «la Verde Antequera» due to its prior name and the variety of structures built from a native green stone. The name Oaxaca is derived from the Nahuatl name for the place, Huaxyacac, which was Hispanicized to Guajaca, later spelled Oaxaca. «de Juárez» was added in honor of Benito Juárez, who was a native of this state. The coat of arms for the municipality bears the image of the decapitated Donaji, who was an indigenous princess in the years immediately after the Conquest.
There had been Zapotec and Mixtec settlements in valley of Oaxaca for thousands of years, especially in connection with the important ancient centers of Monte Albán and Mitla, which are close to modern Oaxaca city. The Aztecs entered the valley in 1440 and named it «Huaxyacac,» a Nahuatl phrase meaning «among the huaje» (Leucaena leucocephala) trees. A strategic military position was created here, at what is now called the Cerro del Fortín to keep an eye on the Zapotec capital of Zaachila and secure the trade route between the Valley of Mexico, Tehuantepec and what is now Central America. When the Spanish arrived in 1521, the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs were involved in one of their many wars. Spanish conquest would end this fighting.
The first Spanish expedition here arrived late in 1521, headed by Captain Francisco de Orozco, and accompanied by 400 Aztecs. Hernán Cortés sent Francisco de Orozco to Oaxaca because Moctezuma II said that the Aztec’s gold came from there. The Spanish expedition under Orozco set about building a Spanish city where the Aztec military post was at the base of the Cerro de Fortín. The first mass was said here by Chaplain Juan Díaz on the bank of the Atoyac River under a large huaje tree, where the Church of San Juan de Dios would be constructed later. This same chaplain added saints’ names to the surrounding villages in addition to keeping their Nahuatl names: Santa María Oaxaca, San Martín Mexicapan, San Juan Chapultepec, Santo Tomas Xochimilco, San Matías Jalatlaco, Santiago Tepeaca, etc. This group of Spaniards chose their first mayor, Gutierres de Badajoc, their first town council and began construction of the cathedral of Oaxaca in 1522. Their name for the settlement was Guajaca, a Hispanization of the Nahuatl name.
Oaxaca has a tropical savanna climate, closely bordering on a humid subtropical climate (Cwa), due to its high altitude. During the dry season, temperatures during the day remain warm with an average high of 27.1 °C (80.8 °F) in the coolest month, December, and an average high of 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) in April, just before the beginning of the wet season. Although daytime temperatures are warm, nighttime temperatures are cool with an average low of 9 °C (48 °F) in January . Due to its altitude of 1,555 metres (5,102 ft), the climate of Oaxaca is more mild than lowland areas with the same climate, resulting in cooler temperatures than lowland areas with the same climate. Precipitation is concentrated in the summer months with June being the wettest with an average precipitation of 171 mm (6.7 in).
The Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo occupies the former monastery buildings attached to Santo Domingo church, and were restored in 1996 and considered to be one of the best restoration works in Latin America. Some important artifacts from Monte Albán are displayed here. In the center of the Centro Cultural, there is a courtyard with a fountain and a very large staircase. The passages along the courtyard have vaulted ceilings, cupolas and intricate corridors. Much of the Centro Cultural is occupied by the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (Museum of Oaxacan Cultures), whose entrance is the one pilgrims used to use to enter the church area of the complex. This museum was placed in the Centro Cultural in 1964, after originally being in the Instituto de Ciencias y Artes, among other places. The museum specializes in Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, covering ten halls and one auditorium. In Sala III is displayed the «Tesoro Mixteco»(Mixtec Treasure) which is a collection of offerings that were discovered by archeologist Alfonso Caso in Tomb 7 of Monte Álban. These offerings include hundreds of pieces of jewelry made of gold and silver. They make up the richest collection of gold and silver smithing of ancient Mexico. Another important exhibit is the objects from Tomb 5 of Lambitieco, which dates back to 700 C. E and from Monte Albán. The museum has rooms dedicated to everyday items from the colonial period as well. The center also contains the Biblioteca Fray Francisco de Burgoa (Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library) which holds over 25,000 degrees that were conferred from the 15th to the 20th century from the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez in Oaxaca.