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Oaxaca: Crossroads of a Continent

Weekend Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, February 12, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2182
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Zapotec site, Monte Alban, Oaxca (Photo: George Scheper)

The state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and its eponymous Spanish colonial capital city, have been important cultural crossroads from pre-Columbian times to the present day. Scholar George Scheper surveys Oaxaca’s rich cultural history, from the domestication of maize corn more than 10,000 years ago and the rise of the ancient Zapotec and Mixtec ceremonial centers to the coming of the Spanish, the arts of colonial New Spain, and Oaxaca’s emergence as a contemporary international cultural center.

9:30 to 10:45 a.m.  The Pre-Columbian Cultures: Zapotec and Mixtec

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 re-occupation by the Mixtec has yielded the richest tomb ever excavated in North America. The Mixtec also produced the most lavishly illustrated manuscripts of any pre-Columbian people. The works narrate origin stories and tell of the lives of Mixtec kings and queens.

11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  Oaxaca: Spanish Colonial Capital and Contemporary Arts Center

Now a World Heritage site, the city of Oaxaca and its hinterland are home to an array of Spanish colonial churches and civic mansions, making it one of the best-preserved capitals of New Spain. Oaxaca today is experiencing an important indigenous cultural revival. Its contemporary art scene extends from the fine arts to vibrant folk and graphic art.

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

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.