Historic Centre of Oaxaca 
and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán (1987)
Mexico

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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. 

Mexico 1990. Oaxaca designated World Cultural Heritage.

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. 

  • Mexico 1990. Oaxaca designated World Cultural Heritage. 

Oaxaca in full, Oaxaca de Juaréz, is the capital city of the state of Oaxaca in the highlands of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains in southern Mexico. Oaxaca is a center of Native American culture and heritage, and is located near some of the country’s most important archaeological sites. Situated in a large valley at an elevation of more than 1500 m (5000 ft), the city enjoys a subtropical climate.

The state of Oaxaca is home to one of the largest Native American populations in Mexico. The state has more people who speak an indigenous language than any of the 31 Mexican states. Zapotec and Mixtec peoples make up a large proportion of the people of both the city and the state, and many speak both Spanish and a Native American language. The city grew considerably in the 1970s and 1980s as migration from rural areas boosted its population to 212,818 in 1990. Growth continued in the 1990s, with the city’s population estimated at more than 300,000 in 1995. 

Oaxaca’s attractions include its shaded central plaza, known as the Zócalo, the covered walks and pedestrian-only streets that surround the square, and a wide variety of colonial architecture. Colonial structures include the city’s baroque cathedral, the churches of La Soledad and Santo Domingo, and the converted monastery that now houses the city’s premier museum—the Oaxaca Regional Museum of Anthropology and History. 
  • Mexico 1998. Block of four stamps with various views of the Oaxaca museums. Scan by courtesy of Mr. Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia & Montenegro). 

Mexico 1998. Block of four stamps with various views of the Oaxaca museums.

Other sites include the Rufino Tamayo Museum, the Government Palace, the Benito Juárez Museum and Home, the Oaxaca Museum and Home of Cortés, and the Macedonio Alcala Theater, an impressive building constructed in the late 19th century in a French revival style. The city is also home to the National Autonomous University of Benito Juárez (1827). 

Panama 1968. Air Post. Oaxaca - Monte Alban. Gran Plaza de los Zapotecas.

At times Oaxaca has played a notable role in Mexican history. Originally founded by Aztec warriors in 1486, the city was taken over by Spanish conquerors in 1521 (see Aztec Empire). For the next 50 years it flourished as the only major population center between Mexico City and Spain’s first Pacific port at Huatulco. With the opening of the port of Acapulco, Oaxaca’s fortunes declined. The town rebounded in the mid-1700s when the production of an intense red dye made from the cochineal insect, native to the region, was used widely in Europe’s growing textile industry. 
  • Panama 1968. Air Post. Monte Alban. Gran Plaza de los Zapotecas. Scan by courtesy of Mr. Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia & Montenegro). 

This ushered in a period of unparalleled prosperity for the town. However, in the early 1800s economic stagnation began due to competition from producers in Guatemala and the discovery of synthetic dyes later in the century. The economy revived in the last decades of the 19th century with the completion of a railroad link to Mexico City and the city of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast, and increasing foreign investment in mining operations. The paving of the Pan-American Highway in the middle of the 20th century opened the city to increasing commerce from Mexico City, but decimated local industries producing consumer goods for local consumption.

Oaxaca has been home to a variety of famous Mexicans. This list includes two presidents, Benito Juárez (1861-1863; 1867-1872, stamp issue Mexico 1915, Scott #505) and Porfirio Diaz (1877-1880; 1884-1911), the 17th-century feminist writer Juana Inés de la Cruz, and the 20th-century artist Rufino Tamayo. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage sites in Mexico (on this website). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Mexico-section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 08 aug 2006  
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