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Oaxaca: Crossroads of a Continent

Evening Program

Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1M2796

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The state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and its Spanish colonial capital city of the same name, have been important cultural crossroads from pre-Columbian times to the present day. Scholar George Scheper surveys Oaxaca’s rich cultural history over the centuries: the domestication of maize corn more than 10,000 years ago; the rise of the ancient Zapotec ceremonial centers of Monte Alban and Mitla; the ascendency of powerful Mixtec dynasties in the highlands of the Mixteca Alta; the coming of the Spanish and the arts of colonial New Spain; and the emergence of Oaxaca as a contemporary international art center.

6:45 to 7:50 p.m.  The Pre-Columbian Cultures: Zapotecs and Mixtecs

The pyramids, ball courts, and enigmatic carvings of Monte Alban (600-800 A.D.), and the mosaic stonework of the palaces of Mitla were built by the Zapotecs. Subsequent Mixtec re-occupation has yielded the richest tomb ever excavated in North America. The Mixtec also produced the most lavishly illustrated manuscripts of any pre-Columbian people (11th to 15th centuries A.D.), which read like ancient graphic novels telling of the lives of Mixtec kings and queens.

8 to 9 p.m.  Oaxaca: Spanish Colonial Capital and Contemporary Arts Center

Now a World Heritage site, Oaxaca and its hinterland are home to an array of Spanish colonial churches and palaces, making it one of the best preserved capitals of New Spain. Today, its vibrant contemporary art scene extends from the fine arts to folk and street art.

Scheper, senior lecturer in advanced academic programs, Johns Hopkins University, has directed National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes in Oaxaca.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)