Oaxaca, city (1990 pop. 212,818), capital of Oaxaca state, S Mexico. The city is officially called Oaxaca de Juárez. Situated in a valley encircled by low mountains, Oaxaca is a commercial and tourist center with gardens and many examples of colonial church architecture. The church and monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is a national monument. Oaxaca is noted for hand-wrought gold and silver filigree, pottery, and sarapes that rank among the finest in Mexico. The city has two museums that feature pre-Hispanic art and a contemporary art museum, and the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Albán is nearby. There is an annual festival that celebrates indigenous culture. The chief city of S Mexico, Oaxaca is linked with the federal capital by rail and the Inter-American Highway. The city is subject to severe earthquakes.
According to Aztec tradition, Oaxaca was founded as Huasyacac in 1486, during the brief ascendancy of the Aztecs over the Mixtecs and Zapotecs; the present city was laid out by Spanish conquerors in 1529. Prominent in the Mexican revolution against Spain, the city also joined in the War of the Reform and in resistance to the French intervention. Both Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz were born in Oaxaca in the 1800s. During May–Nov., 2006, the city was torn by a bitter protest against Oaxaca state's governor by teachers, leftists, and others and a heavy-handed state response; in October, federal police intervened with force to restore order to the central city.