Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán

Etat de Oaxaca de Juarez, municipalites de Oaxaca, Xoxocotlan et Cuilapan
N17 3 41.684 W96 43 33.186
Date of Inscription: 1987
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Property : 4,375 ha
Buffer zone: 121 ha
Ref: 415
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Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The nearby city of Oaxaca, which is built on a grid pattern, is a good example of Spanish colonial town planning. The solidity and volume of the city’s buildings show that they were adapted to the earthquake-prone region in which these architectural gems were constructed.

The World Heritage property, located in the in the region known as central valleys of Oaxaca in the depression formed between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre del Sur, is composed of two distinct cultural sites: the historic centre of Oaxaca de Juarez and the archaeological site of Monte Albán.

The city of Oaxaca de Juarez, initially named Antequera, was founded in 1529 in a small valley occupied by a group of Zapotec Indians. It is an example of sixteenth XVI century colonial city and of town planning given that it retains its trace in the form of checkerboard with square blocks and portals on all four sides of the square. To trace the Villa de Antequera, Alonso García Bravo chose a point midway between the rivers Jalatlaco, Atoyac and the Cerro del Fortin. The trace was initiated from a central plaza basis of two axes, east-west and north-south, with a slight tilt to compensate for the lighting and sunlight due to its latitude.

The centre of the city remains the centre of economic, political, social, religious and cultural activities that give dynamism to the city. It retains its iconic architecture and the buildings representative of a cultural tradition of more than four centuries of art and history. A total of 1,200 historic monuments has been inventoried and listed. The major religious monuments, the superb patrician town houses and whole streets lined with other dwellings combine to create a harmonious cityscape, and reconstitute the image of a former colonial city whose monumental aspect has been kept intact. Fine architectural quality also characterizes the 19th-century buildings in this city that was the birthplace of Benito Juarez and which, in 1872, adopted the name of Oaxaca de Juarez. Being located in a highly seismic zone, the architecture of the city of Oaxaca is characterized by thick walls and low buildings. The mestizo population keeps alive both traditions and ancestral customs.

Monte Alban is the most important archaeological site of the Valley of Oaxaca. Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The grand Zapotec capital flourished for thirteen centuries, from the year 500 B.C to 850 A.D. when, for reasons that have not been established, its eventual abandonment began. The archaeological site is known for its unique dimensions which exhibit the basic chronology and artistic style of the region and for the remains of magnificent temples, ball court, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The main part of the ceremonial centre which forms a 300 m esplanade running north-south with a platform at either end was constructed during the Monte Albán II (c. 300 BC-AD 100) and the Monte Albán III phases. Phase II corresponds to the urbanization of the site and the domination of the environment by the construction of terraces on the sides of the hills, and the development of a system of dams and conduits. The final phases of Monte Albán IV and V were marked by the transformation of the sacred city into a fortified town. Monte Albán represents a civilization of knowledge, traditions and artistic expressions. Excellent planning is evidenced in the position of the line buildings erected north to south, harmonized with both empty spaces and volumes. It showcases the remarkable architectural design of the site in both Mesoamerica and worldwide urbanism.

Criterion (i) Oaxaca was the first town laid out in the New Spain during the XVI century with square blocks of 100 yards per side and planned from a central square. The icons of economic, political and religious powers were built around this central place, giving the city dynamism and contributing to universal urbanism. The grid layout of the city of Oaxaca is a unique example of urban planning in New Spain in the XVI century. The ceremonial centre of Monte Alban has created a grandiose architectural landscape which represents one of a kind artistic achievement.

Criterion (ii) For more than a millennium, Monte Alban exerted considerable influence in the entire cultural area of Oaxaca. Latter-day Oaxaca is a perfect example of a 16th-century colonial town. The trace of grid layout of the city of Oaxaca was adopted in several other colonial towns. 

Criterion (iii) Monte Albán is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre in the middle zone of present-day Mexico, which was subjected to influences from the north – first from Teotihuacan, later the Aztecs – and from the south, the Maya. With its ball game court, magnificent temples, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions, Monte Albán bears unique testimony to the successive civilizations occupying the region during the pre-Classic and Classic periods.

Criterion (iv) Among some 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological sites inventoried in the valley of Oaxaca, the Monte Alban complex best represents the singular evolution of a region inhabited by a succession of peoples: the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The City of Oaxaca, with its design as a check board and its iconic architecture, has developed over more than four centuries as evidence of the fusion of two cultures Indian and Spanish.

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Oaxaca (Oaxaca de Juárez) is a city in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. It lies at an altitude of 1,555 m (5,102 ft), so in winter nights are cold and days are warm. In summer it’s always hot and dry. There’s been a settlement here since earliest times, the first settlements being by the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples. The nearby sites of Monte Albán and Mitla are from this time, and the former is regarded as a precursor to present-day Oaxaca, and a world heritage site. The Aztecs arrived around 1440, and the current name derives from Aztec “huax yacac”, meaning “in the nose of the squash”, and in 1521 the Spanish led by Francisco de Orozco, looking for gold. The Spanish laid out a colonial town in the present grid pattern in the 16th century, and in the 19th century, it grew rich from the export of cochineal, the red dye [read more].

Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz is a town and municipality in Oaxaca in south-eastern Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 326.6 km², and is at an average elevation of 1,600 meters. It is part of the Miahuatlán District in the south of the Sierra Sur Region. As of 2005, the municipality had 6,708 households with a total population of 32,185, of whom 2,517 spoke an indigenous language. The name comes from the Nahuatl Miahuatlán: Miahua (ear of corn) and tlan (place or area). During the Aztec period the town was known as Miahuapan Miahuatlán, “Canal of the Corn Tassel”. The city has 16 kindergartens, 12 primary schools, a technical high school and a general secondary school and a regional university, Universidad de la Sierra Sur. It has a radio station, a television station, telephone service, telegraph and a post office. The Battle of Miahuatlán took place near the town on 3 October 1866, an important military action in which the Mexican republican troops defeated a larger force of troops of the Second Mexican Empire [read more].

Tehuacán is the second largest city in the Mexican state of Puebla, nestled in the southeast of the valley of Tehuacán, bordering the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. The 2010 census reported a population of 248,716 in the city and 274,906 in the surrounding Tehuacán municipality, of which it serves as municipal seat. The municipality has an area of 390.36 km² (150.72 sq mi). Originally a Native American settlement, it became officially a city in the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1660. Tehuacan is known for hosting many diverse festivals that celebrate traditions and costumes earned through the years from the ancient natives. One of the most recognized festival in the last 15 years is the Festival Internacional de Tehuacán 1660 which celebrates the artistic and cultural backgrounds of the city. In the late nineteenth century, the city was well known for its mineral springs. In fact, Peñafiel (now owned by Cadbury Schweppes), a well-known soft drinks manufacturer, extracts water from these wells for use in their products [read more].

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