BootsnAll Travel Network

February Highlight – Oaxaca, Mexico

With this entry, I begin a new series that highlights individual Mexican states…all 31 of them, each with its own culture, history, and TEFL job scene. I will try to bring some of each state’s history and features into focus, as well as to note important contributions made to the world of TEFL by foreign teachers working in the state of the month.

We start with the lovely state of Oaxaca, located in the deep south of Mexico.

Oaxaca, Mexico

First, a little history on the state of Oaxaca, courtesy of wiki.

Oaxaca’s rugged terrain, which caused various groups to develop in relative isolation from one another, is responsible for the cultural and linguistic diversity of the region. The central Valley of Oaxaca was one of the most fertile areas of the Americas and allowed powerful and influential groups to emerge. The valley was first occupied by the Zapotec people, who were conquered by the Mixtecs in the thirteenth century. Society was mainly organized in villages by extended family groups with communal authority, although the civilizations of the Mixtecs and Zapotecs did have kings and religious orders.

Among these civilizations’ accomplishments were the domestication of many plants and animals including corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chiles, squash, pumpkin, and turkeys. Also available in the fertile region of Oaxaca were pineapples, avocados, zapotes, and maguey. In the south, the Pacific Ocean was an important food source. The civilizations built by these groups are reflected in important archaeological sites including Monte Albán, Mitla, Guiengola and Huijatzoo. Monte Albán was a great ceremonial center built on a flattened mountain top by the Zapotec people which reached its zenith between 600 and 900 AD The ancient Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle near the city of Oaxaca is one of the oldest human settlements in Mexico.

Oaxaca has long fascinated me…I first visited the region in late 2001, passing through the city of Oaxaca and later on to the beach at Puerto Escondido. Much of my work in TEFL training courses has resulted in sending graduates of the program to work in the state, with everyone reporting very good experiences there, in learning Spanish, teaching English, and in the joy of discovering and exploring one of the most unique places on the planet.


Oaxaca is a challenging state if one wishes to find work teaching English there. Most jobs are confined to Oaxaca City, though people with higher qualifications can find work within several university systems such as UMAR. Pay is generally considered low by national standards, but very livable considering the low cost of living.

As a regular writer on Dave’s ESL Cafe, ELT World, and, I’ve come to know several people who teach in Oaxaca. I’ve come to trust their views and experiences and always recommend that people both read their reports and get in touch with them when looking for work in the state. Two of them are:

Melee (aka MamaOaxaca)… I’ve been reading Melee’s comments over the last several years and finally met her in person in early 2007. She is the premiere source for information on the state, for working in Oaxaca, and on numerous environmental issues (a major interest of hers). Melee hails from the USA and has been living in a small town in Oaxaca for several years. Any time I need information about jobs, culture, or something general on the state of Oaxaca, she is the person to contact first.

Lozwich, an Australian woman working currently in Colombia, is another such soul I’ve had the fortune to meet in person. She has experience working in Oaxaca as well and despite being in South America, she has a considerable amount of knowledge of Oaxaca from her prior experience working there. She’s also a regular poster on the Cafe and on ELT World.


Oaxaca City saw considerable unrest in 2006 and 2007 when teachers went on strike and the federal government ordered troops into the city to bring order. The situation has been somewhat resolved, though tensions remain not far below the surface. All in all, despite the killing of independent US journalist Brad Will during the conflict, the state remains at peace and is still a tourist mecca for the country.

Some recent stories and expatriate postings about Oaxaca…

Listen Up, Oaxacanos…

I’m considering a move to Oaxaca. In an effort to find out more about the life of English teachers there, I’d like to ask the following questions.

What did you do this weekend? Anything exciting, normal or boring?

I’d like to hear from you all, especially anyone in Ixtlan de Juares and UMAR.

and, for anyone in the know, what might a random weekend in Ixtlan consist of?


Oaxacan University Sysem…

I’m really interested in possibly working in the Oaxacan system, possibly for the fall, or definitely by January, but I’m having trouble piecing together on my own just what the system comprises, what the different campuses are, how they fit together, if they do, etc.

Can anyone compare and contrast them? Is there any way to find out what the needs are in the state as a whole? Can someone recommend a particular campus? Do they all pay about the same? Can anyone talk about the working conditions at one or another? Etc.?

A Less Crowded, More Colorful Oaxaca…

Stumbled across this story on Oaxaca.

Find it interesting that vendors have also been outlawed there.

But one thing they are less likely to find are the street vendors who had long carved out their own space on one side of the plaza. Except for a few balloon vendors, the vendors are no longer allowed.

Seems like quite the trend that is circling….

and much, much more on the teaching forums I’ve linked above.

Next month, we’ll get a look at Baja California, including the infamous Tijuana.

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2 responses to “February Highlight – Oaxaca, Mexico”

  1. Cyntha Johnson says:

    My husband and I just completed our TESOL certification in Seattle and we’d like to move to Guaymas to teach and eventually retire. Do you know where we could find good info about Guaymas? Thanks!

  2. Robert Geczi says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences about Mexico. I am also teaching abroad, in Asia, and find it very rewarding. Maybe in the future, I can head on down to Mexico to see some of the things you mentioned in this article.

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