About Oaxaca

Oaxaca in Mexico Map

Rich in biodiversity:

  • Oaxaca is esteemed as the state with the greatest bio-diversity in the country.
  • It includes nearly every type of ecosystem that exists in Mexico. 
  • It’s estimated to contain 8,431 species of flora and 4,543 species of fauna, giving a total of 12,974 species which represent approximately 50% of the nation's total. 
  • Oaxaca also has an enormous quantity of endemic plant and animal life.

Rich in culture:

  • Oaxaca is home to 33% of Mexico’s total indigenous population.
  • Of the 3.5 million people residing in the region today, over a third speak an indigenous language such as Zapoteco, Mixteco, Chatino, Trique, and Mixe.
  • As a group, Oaxacans speak over fourteen indigenous languages and ninety dialects.
  • Indigenous traditions are still a prominent part of life today as manifested by traditional dress, cuisine, festivities, and community structure. 

Rich in history:

  • Oaxaca is home to many ancient archeological ruins – including the ancient city of Monte Alban and the religious center of Mitla– that have been named “World Heritage Sites” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Rich in natural resources:

  • Oaxaca’s rich bio diversity, culture and history make Oaxaca a state with a strong potential for high productivity. 
  • Currently, indigenous and mestizo entrepreneurs are involved in trout farms and the production of coffee, chocolate, mushrooms, traditional medicines, fruit trees, honey, woven tapestries, embroidery, traditional clothing, shawls, fine artisan paper, eco-tourism, among others.  Oaxacan migrants in the U.S., as well as locals that have had access to appropriate training have been able to export their products into the U.S. and created an emerging transnational market of these native products.

Lack of Opportunities for economic development:

  • Oaxaca ranks as the second poorest state in Mexico, after Chiapas, followed by Guerrero.
  • Over 76% of its residents live in extreme poverty, lacking basic necessities such as food, water, education and healthcare (national average: 42-45%).
  • Its per capita income averaged the lowest in the country: $3400 USD, compared to $20,000 USD in Mexico City (See the tables on the tables on Mexico’s comparative per capita indices and Oaxaca’s per capita indices by municipality).
  • Its human development index (HDI) is 0.7164 comparable to Africa, India and regions occupied by Palestine.
  • With the current political crisis, Oaxaca’s only significant source of income, tourism, has collapsed causing the state a loss of approximately $800 million dollars to date.
  • 33% of the population is indigenous and it is among these groups that the deepest levels of social and economic marginalization prevail.

Lack of decent education opportunities:

  • 22% of the population is illiterate and 45% have not completed a high school education.
  • Approximately 90% of all indigenous teachers do not meet the requirements of an essential academic background.
  • In rural areas, the availability of education beyond elementary school ranges from inadequate to nonexistent, with an increasing number of dropouts after age 11.
  • Compared to a national average of 26%, only 5% of Oaxaca’s indigenous population reaches a middle or higher education, with a ratio of 15 women to 1 being men.

Lack of appropriate health care access:

  • In Oaxaca, one woman dies every 48 hours of cervical-uterine cancer.
  • In Oaxaca there is only one hospital bed per 1,000 residents.
  • While Mexico City registers 18 deaths for every 1,000 infants under one year of age, the municipality of Amoltepec in Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur reports 103 deaths for every 1,000 infants under one year of age.
  • See the table on Mexico’s comparative Mexico’s comparative health indices and Oaxaca’s health indices by municipality.

Large political fragmentation

  • The state of Oaxaca is divided into 570 municipalities, the largest number of municipalities found in any state of Mexico.
  • Oaxaca municipalities represent 23% of all municipalities in the country.
  • 70% of these municipalities are governed by traditional indigenous practices known as “usos y costumbres?
  • Only 30% are governed by political parties. ?423 of these municipalities are highly marginalized.
  • In the last 8 years, social discord has risen, not only between political groups, but within the general population (both rural and urban) due to social inequality and a growing division between society and the government.
  • There is an absence of viable public policies (both at the local and federal levels) that make active civil society participation and the improvement of the quality of life difficult.

Large indices of migration:

  • Nearly 25% of the total population (approx. 1 million Oaxacans) has migrated to the U.S. and other parts of Mexico.
  • More than 90% of these migrants are residing in the U.S., primarily in the state of California: San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Oxnard, Ventura, and the San Joaquin Central Valley, and in other states such as Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and New York.
  • The dynamics of migration pose a new set of challenges for the receiving communities, primarily in the area of housing, access to adequate health services, and language barriers.