Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Interesting Facts about Oaxaca

Oaxaca Coat of Arms

Here are some more interesting facts about Oaxaca that I dug up.

1) Oaxaca's coat of arms features a red background that commemorates the many battles that have been fought in the state. The top of the design is adorned with an eagle holding a snake atop a cactus, Mexico's national symbol. Seven stars represent the state's seven geographical regions: Istmo (isthmus), Costa (coast), Papaloapan (river basin), Sierra (mountains), Mixteca (Mixtec territory), Valles Centrales (central valleys) and Cañada (woodlands). The emblem's central oval is bordered by the phrase "Respect for the rights of others will bring peace." At the bottom of the oval, two hands are breaking a chain, symbolizing Oaxaca's struggle against colonial domination. On the left is an indigenous symbol for Huaxycac, the first Oaxacan region settled by the Spanish conquistadors. To the right are the Mitla Palace and a Dominican cross, representing Oaxaca's indigenous history and its ties to Catholicism.

2) The diversity of Oaxacan cuisine is suggested by its nickname, Land of the Seven Moles. Each of the state's seven regions produces a unique variation of the spicy mole sauce.  It's pronounced Mo-lay.

3) Prominent natives of Oaxaca include Benito Juárez, Porfirio Díaz, José Vasconcelos (a writer who greatly influenced the Mexican Revolution), famed painters Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo and baseball hero Vinicio (Vinny) Castilla.

4) An unusual Oaxaca delicacy is chapulines, a dish consisiting primarily of barbecued grasshoppers.

5) Mitla (meaning place of the dead) is a town in Oaxaca known for its unique ancient architecture and tile mosaics traceable to Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. Just over 15,000 people still live in Mitla, which is a short distance from Oaxaca City.

5) The city of Oaxaca celebrates the festival of Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Guelaguetza honors the diverse cultures that contribute to Oaxaca, giving communities from around the state the opportunity to share their music, traditional costumes, dances and food. The main event takes place in the city's open-air amphitheater located on Cerro del Fortín, a nearby historic hill.

6) One of Oaxaca's best-known products is mezcal, an alcoholic beverage similar to tequila but distilled from varieties of cactus other than the blue agave, which is used for tequila. The plant must be six to eight years old before it can be harvested. Most bottles of mezcal include a worm, a practice that originated in the 1940s when Jacobo Lozano Páez accidentally discovered that a worm enhances the flavor of mezcal.

7) Oaxaca relies on the commercial value of its forestry products, fruit and vegetable crops and handicrafts created by indigenous artisans to support its economy.  However, the main industry today is still tourism with nearly 500 kilometers (310 miles) of Pacific Coast beaches, archeological ruins, colonial architecture, mountains, and valleys.

8) While there are officially 16 indigenous groups in Oaxaca, every group actually has hundreds of subgroups, each distinguished by unique linguistic and social traditions. Oaxaca, like the nearby states of Guerrero and Chiapas, contains a startlingly diverse range of indigenous cultures with roots that reach back many centuries.

9) El Dia de Los Rabanos (The Day of the Radishes) is a festival occurring in December in which participants carve people and animals from radishes.  The contest is judged by the governor.

10) Bolero is a traditional form of Spanish music that features a slow and driving tempo. Bolero received a Oaxacan twist and became more prominent in Oaxaca in the mid-20th century, when Oaxacan-born bolero artist, Alvaro Carrillo, gained local and international popularity.

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