The city of Oaxaca (formally: Oaxaca de Juárez, in honour of 19th-century president and national hero Benito Juárez, who was born nearby) is the capital and main city of the Mexican state of the same name. It is located in the Oaxaca Valley in the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains, at 17.07°, N 96.72° W. The important Monte Albán archaeological site is close to the city. In 2003 the estimated population was 259,600 people.
There have been Zapotec and Mixtec settements in the general area of the modern city of Oaxaca for thuousands of years, in connection with the important ancient centres of Monte Albán and Mitla. The colonial city, however, dates from 1532, when Spanish settlers who had followed Hernán Cortés´conquistadores succesfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a grant of land. They had already founded a city in the neighbourhood, under the name of Antequera, on the basis of a crter from King Carlos V of Spain, but Cortés had successfully sought to have the entire Valle de Oaxaca declared as part of his personal marquisate, and to have the settlers removed.
The queen’s charter however secured the townspeople’s rights, and the modern city grew up within and around the one-league square that they were granted.
The historic centre of the city is laid out in typical Spanish colonial style, with a rectangular grid of streets surrounding a central square, the zócalo. Most of the important buildings are within this central area.
Oaxaca is far more than a tourist destination, and tourism does not dominate the city’s life. Nonetheless, it does have a significant tourist trade, based on its numerous baroque churches and religious buildings (many of which have recently been restored), its proximity to Monte Albán, the ready availability of attractive local craft products in its markets and in local villages, and on a reputation for a relaxed style of life and friendly and courteous local population. It has a very wide range of cafés and restaurants, many of them specialising in the distinctive regional cuisine and some of them claimed to be among the best in Mexico.