The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest part of the Mexican Republic; it is located at the east of the State of Oaxaca; it is mountainous on the west side and has plains on the east. Tehuantepec is a Nahuatl composite word that means “hill of wild beasts”. The city of Tehuantepec is historically important; there you can find colonial buildings, such as the ex-convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. There is a. Zapotec archaeological site nearby, called Guiengola.
The Isthmus is composed of a vast cultural diversity, inhabited by Zapotecs, Chontals, Huaves, Zoques, Mixes, Mixtecs, Tzotxils and Chinantecos. This mixture of cultures is reflected in their dances and ceremonies, which are an important part of their important annual fiestas called “Velas”, where you can listen to and dance popular regional “sones”, traditional dances of the Isthmus, such as “Son Bioxho”, originally accompanied by a double patch drum, reed flute and turtle shell played with small deer antlers as drumsticks.
Other popular sones are “The Turtle” a dance that is almost a rite in Tehuantepec, representing the collection of turtle eggs by the Huaves (coastal inhabitants), or the insuperable “Sandunga”, which is considered the hymn of the Isthmus. The Sandunga was presented at the National Theatre of México ( in México City) on December 3rd, 1850, then in Oaxaca was played as a ballroom dance melody and three years later, Sr. Máximo Ramón Ortíz heard it at the Arts and Sciences Institute of Oaxaca and wrote the lyrics as they are known today, and introduced it to Tehuantepec. So, in 2003 the Isthmus celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Sandunga: dance, music and lyrics.
Santo Domingo Tehuantepec
The “Vela Sandunga” is the most important “Vela” in Santo Domingo Tehuantepec; it has taken place on the last Saturday of May since 1953. Besides the elaborate dance and the parade with floats that are part of the Velas, the City of Tehuantepec organizes expositions, gastronomic sampling, round tables, parades with floats, folklore shows, and fireworks.
The greatest ethnic celebration takes place on March 22nd, on the Tehuantepec River banks, with the participation of Zapotec, Mixtec, Triques and Mexica dance groups. It is called “Guendaliza’a” and commemorates a historical event called “La Rebelión de Tehuantepec” (the Tehuantepec Rebellion). Since the seventeenth century the native groups had all been subject to exploitation, dispossession and humiliations, and even the destruction of their shrines (Teocalli), so on March 22nd, 1660 these groups took the law into their hands and named their own authorities.
Juchitán de Zaragoza
Juchitán is located in the southeast part of the state, in the Isthmus region. It was founded in 1480 by the Zapotec King Cosijopi. In 1502 the King Cosijoeza ordered the population of this area and authorized settlements with people from Zaachila, the Zapotec capital city. The original Nahuatl name was Ixtaxochitlán, meaning “place of the white flowers”. Juchitán is heir to the rich Zapotec tradition and culture. There are several “Velas” at different times of the year but mainly in May, and the beginning of the festivities is announced with the melody “berelele” (stone curlew) played on a rustic drum using short wooden drumsticks a, turtle shell, beaten by deer antlers, and a reed flute. - Juchitán is land of various composers of “sones” such as “La Martiniana” of Andrés Henestrosa, among others. A local historical day to celebrate is September 5th, because in the year of 1866 the Juchitecan battalion defeated the French imperialist troops.
Industrial sea port and city located in the southeast part of the state, on the Pacific or Gulf of Tehuantepec coast. It is the most important commercial seaport of the state and one of the most important ones of the Pacific Coast of México; it has shipyards, dry docks to repair boats, salt mines, an Oil Refinery and a cement factory. In its beginning, it was a small Huave fishermen´s village. Hernán Cortéz ordered the construction of shipyards on the site we know today as Salina Cruz, and from where his ships weighed anchor and took him to the Gulf of California.
Let yourself be embraced by the history of our people, where the ancient and the new converge and the adventure of the extraordinary is within the reach of your hands.