Oaxaca (English // wə-HAH-kə, Spanish: [waˈxaka] ( listen), from Nahuatl: Huaxyacac [waːsʃakak]), officially Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca (Spanish: Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca), is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 (almost three quarters) are governed by the system of Usos y costumbres (customs and traditions) with recognized local forms of self governance. Its capital city is Oaxaca de Juárez.
The Guelaguetza, or Los lunes del cerro (Mondays on the Hill) is an annual indigenous cultural event in Mexico that takes place in the city of Oaxaca, capital of the state of Oaxaca, as well as in nearby villages. The celebration centers on traditional dancing in costume in groups, often gender-separated groups, as is traditional, and includes parades complete with indigenous walking bands, native food, and statewide artisanal crafts such as prehispanic-style textiles. Each costume (traje) and dance usually has a local indigenous historical and cultural meaning. Although the celebration is now an important tourist attraction, it also retains deep cultural importance for the peoples of the state and is important for the continuing survival of these cultures.
Oaxaca has a large native indigenous population, well over 50 percent of the population, compared to 20 percent for Mexico as a whole (depending on systems of classification). Indigenous culture in Oaxaca remains strong, with over 300,000 people in the state who are monolingual in a wide variety of native indigenous languages and many others who are bilingual in Spanish, or follow a predominantly indigenous lifestyle. Unlike nearby Yucatán also located in the Mexican Southeast, where the indigenous culture consists of closely related groups of the same culture (Mayans), the indigenous people in Oaxaca are from many different cultures. Zapotec and Mixtec are the two biggest ethnic groups in terms of population and area, but there are also a great number of other groups, and all have their own unique traditions and speak diverse, mutually unintelligible languages. The Guelaguetza celebration dates back long before the arrival of the Spanish and remains a defining characteristic of Oaxacan culture. Its origins and traditions come from prehispanic earth-based religious celebrations related to the worship of corn and the corn god. In contemporary Oaxaca, indigenous communities from within the state gather at the Guelaguetza to present their native culture, mainly in the form of music, costumes, dances, and food. It is the most famous indigenous gathering of its kind in Mexico.