The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name.
It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, on the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín extending to the banks of the Atoyac River.
The name Oaxaca is derived from the Nahuatl name for the place, Huaxyacac, which was Hispanicized to Guajaca, later spelled Oaxaca.
The Spanish expedition under Orozco set about building a Spanish city where the Aztec military post was at the base of the Cerro de Fortín.
The first mass was said here by Chaplain Juan Díaz on the bank of the Atoyac River under a large huaje tree, where the Church of San Juan de Dios would be constructed later.
This same chaplain added saints’ names to the surrounding villages in addition to keeping their Nahuatl names: Santa María Oaxaca, San Martín Mexicapan, San Juan Chapultepec, Santo Tomas Xochimilco, San Matías Jalatlaco, Santiago Tepeaca, etc.
This group of Spaniards chose their first mayor, Gutierres de Badajoc, their first town council and began construction of the cathedral of Oaxaca in 1522.
The coat of arms for the municipality bears the image of the decapitated Donaji, who was an indigenous princess in the years immediately after the Conquest.
There had been Zapotec and Mixtec settlements in valley of Oaxaca for thousands of years, especially in connection with the important ancient centers of Monte Albán and Mitla, which are close to modern Oaxaca city.The Aztecs entered the valley in 1440 and named it "Huaxyacac," a Nahuatl phrase meaning "among the huaje" (Leucaena leucocephala) trees.A strategic military position was created here, at what is now called the Cerro (large hill) del Fortín to keep an eye on the Zapotec capital of Zaachila and secure the trade route between the Valley of Mexico, Tehuantepec and what is now Central America.Their name for the settlement was Guajaca, a Hispanization of the Nahuatl name (which would later be respelled as Oaxaca).The establishment of the relatively independent village did not suit Hernán Cortes, who wanted power over the entire region for himself.Cortés sent Pedro de Alvarado, who proceeded to drive out most of the village's population.