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Cheap flights to Paris from Oaxaca
Oaxaca de Juárez 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. The 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, together with the archeological site of Monte Albán, was 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” (the green Antequera) due to its prior name (Nueva Antequera) 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. In 1872, “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 (large hill) 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 (which would later be respelled as Oaxaca).
The establishment of the relatively independent village did not suit Hernán Cortes, who wanted power over the entire region for himself. Cortés sent Pedro de Alvarado, who proceeded to drive out most of the village’s population. The original Spanish settlers appealed to the Spanish crown to recognize the village they founded, which it did in 1526, with land divided among the Spaniards of Orozco’s expedition. However, this did not stop Cortés from driving out the population of the village once again and replacing the town council only three months after royal recognition. Once again, the original founders appealed to Spanish royal authority, this time to the viceroy in Mexico City, Nuño de Guzmán. This viceroy also sided with the original founders, and the town was refounded in 1529 as Antequera, in honor of Nuño de Guzmán’s hometown. Francisco de Herrera convened the new, Crown-approved town council, and the first layout of the settlement was mapped out by Juan Peláez de Berrio.
In the meantime, Cortés was able to obtain from the crown the title of the Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, which contains the disputed village. This permitted him to tax the area heavily, and to have control of the territory that surrounded the village. The village was then in a position of having to survive surrounded by villages which answered to Cortés. These villages not only did not take orders from Antequera, they were hostile to it, mostly likely encouraged by Cortés.
To counter this, the village petitioned the Crown to be elevated to the status of a city, which would give it certain rights, privileges and exceptions. It would also ensure that the settlement would remain under the direct control of the king, rather than that of Cortés. This petition was granted in 1532 by Charles V of Spain.
After the Independence of Mexico in 1821, the city became the seat of a municipality, and the name of both the city and the municipality became Oaxaca, changed from Antequera. In 1872, “de Juárez” was added to the city and municipality names to honor Benito Juárez, who began his legal and political career here.
The 2006 Oaxaca protests originated in 2005 when Oaxaca’s new state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortíz ordered the assassination of 36 leaders and activists, banned political demonstration in the capital’s main square and historic center, or Zocalo, and moved to make the Zocalo a modernized tourist attraction, turning the state legislature building into a museum. In summer 2005, Oaxaca’s urban middle classes joined in protests against these decisions. In May 2006, the national teachers union staged their annual occupation of the Zocalo, a union negotiation tactic and local tradition performed every summer since 1989. After a year of protests and growing resistance to the new governor, 2006 saw significantly more occupants than usual.
Increases in wages and employment benefits were announced a short time later, but an internal conflict in the local teachers’ union led to accusations that the bargaining had not really been in the teachers’ best interest. On the night of June 14 the state police attacked and tear-gased the teachers sleeping in the Zocalo, only to bring more public outrage against Governor Ruiz and the ruling party. Many radical groups merged with the teachers’ union to form the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO). This assembly defended the rights of several neighborhoods and organizations against government repression, in particular the “caravanas de la muerte” – death squads of government agents patrolling the city in police trucks. The assembly also closed government buildings, barricaded access roads to the city, and replaced the city’s police force with the Honorable Cuerpo de Topiles, a civilian law force based on indigenous traditions of communal policing. In October over 10,000 paramilitaries were sent in by president Vicente Fox, resulting in the deaths of Indymedia journalist Bradley Roland Will , Roberto López Hernández and Jorge Alberto Beltrán. Through December, teacher’s union leaders announced an end to their strike, while the APPO saw several leaders arrested, international accolades from grassroots groups and scholars, and continued clash with local and state government before removing all barricades and turning over control of the city .
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