Oaxaca, Mexico

General Information

Administrative status

Capital of the State of Oaxaca

Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Alban

Registration Year


Historical function

Religion and industry

Location and site

In the south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and at the foot of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Oaxaco is located in the valley of the same name at 1,500 m. above sea level. Monte Alban extends along a promontory that rises 500 m. above the valley. A distance of 4 km. (as the crow flies) separates the archaeological site and the historic site.

Urban morphology

In Monte Alban, a rectangular esplanade (300 m. in the east- west direction) was the site of the immense sanctuary of the Zapotecs. Oaxaca – with its gardens, squares, and pedestrian area – is laid out according to a perfectly orthogonal plan: its 172 blocks, each 84 m. x 84 m., provide the framework of the historic centre. In order to account for the exposure of the sun’s rays, the town’s grid is slightly out of line with the direction of the four cardinal points. The Zocalo, or main square at the heart of the city, is located at an equal distance from each of the two rivers that cross the site.

Monte Alban’s urban fabric, which was influenced by Teotihuacan, brings together massive, almost superhuman architecture and large urban spaces. Oaxaca, on the other hand, has the appearance of a small colonial town; its architecture, which is also rather massive and perhaps somewhat defensive, is explained by the threat of earthquakes. The churches, with their Baroque facades and cupolas, are major features in these well- preserved and monumental ensembles of religious and civic architecture.

Registration criteria

Monte Alban presents a grandiose architectural landscape that, like Machupicchu, represents a unique artistic creation. (I) For over a millenium, Monte Alban has exercised considerable influence on the cultural context of Oaxaca. (II) With its pelota field and other works, Monte Alban bears a unique testimony to the pre-Classical and Classical periods in the region (III), and offers an eminent example of the Pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. Oaxaca is a perfect example of the colonial city of the 16th century. (VI)

Historical reference

  • The Zapotecan civilization, which developed in the Oaxaca Valley, established Monte Alban as its religious and urban centre.
  • By 100 A.D., the Zapotecs built their ceremonial centre. The natural environment, which was finally brought under control, became charged with symbols.
  • After the Zapotecs enjoyed a heyday which lasted from the 4th century until the 7th century, their culture and their site suffered a period of decline that began around 800. When threatened by the Mixtecs from the mountains, the Zapotecs fled from the valley.
  • In 1486, the Aztecs spread their hegemony throughout the Oaxaca Valley and founded the Huaxyacac stronghold.
  • Following a decision of Charles-Quint in 1526, the Spanish created, on the site of Oaxaca, the second colonial city in the country to be modeled on Mexico City.


More information about Oaxaca here!




Sr. Oswaldo García Jarquín

Honorable Presidente Municipal de Oaxaca de Juárez
Municipio de Oaxaca

Plaza de la Danza S/N Centro Histórico
Oaxaca de Juárez, México
C.P. 68000

[email protected]

Sra. Reyna Elisa Vicente Ávila

Unidad de Relaciones Internacionales
Presidencia municipal de Oaxaca de Juárez

Plaza de la Danza S/N
Oaxaca, México

+52 951 501 5500
[email protected]

c.Dr. en Arq. Gerardo José Corres Tenorio

Director de FUNAP-MÉXICO | Secretario del Consejo Consultivo Temático de las Culturas
Municipio de Oaxaca de Juárez

Murguia 1001 Centro Histórico
Oaxaca de Juárez, México
C.P. 68000

[email protected]

Sra. Thelma Soledad Neri Caballero

Coordinadora de infraestructura y desarrollo urbano
Municipio de Oaxaca

[email protected]