Mixtec (mĭsˈtĕk) [key], Native American people of Oaxaca, Puebla, and part of Guerrero, SW Mexico, one of the most important groups in Mexico. Although the Mixtec codices constitute the largest collection of pre-Columbian manuscripts in existence, their origin is obscure. Before the arrival (700?) of the Toltec on the central plateau, the Mixtec, possibly influenced by the Olmec, seem to have been the carriers of the advanced highland culture. Probably c.900 they began spreading southward, overrunning the valley of Oaxaca. By the 14th cent. they had overshadowed their rivals, the Zapotec. The Mixtec produced some of the finest stone and metal work of ancient Mexico and also left elaborately carved wood and bone objects and painted polychrome pottery. Their influence on other cultures was strong and is especially noticeable in Mitla and Monte Albán, Zapotec cities taken by the Mixtec during the long and bitter warfare among the tribes of the area. This struggle halted momentarily at the end of the 15th cent. in an alliance to defeat the Aztec, but the Zapotec soon teamed up with the Aztec and eventually made an alliance with the Spanish conquerors. The Mixtec carried on a bloody resistance until they were subjugated by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. There are perhaps 500,000 Mixtec-speaking people in Mexico today.
See A. K. Romney, The Mixtecans of Juxtlahuaca, Mexico (1966); R. Wauchope, ed., Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. VII: Ethnology (ed. by E. Z. Vogt, 1969).