The Region

Lachirioag is situated in the Sierra Norte, about 150 Km north east of Oaxaca City. Many confusing and conflicting names have been used for this area and its subareas. When the Spanish arrived they called it the Provincia Zapoteca y Chinanteca and Provincia Mije, but soon after they had founded the village Villa Alta it was known as such. Many scholars and travelers since have given the region different names, thereby creating confusion. The Sierra Norte however is part of the Sierra Madre Oriental, which in Oaxaca is called the Sierra Madre del Sur. It is called Sierra Norte because it is situated north of the Valley of Oaxaca, specifically Tlacolula arm of it. These mountains rise up like a wall from the relatively flat valley only to drop down into the lowlands of Veracruz. The highest point in this rugged region is Zempoaltepetl which reaches 3395 m above sea level.

Every person that has ever been in the Sierra Norte will assent to the descriptions that were given by the chronicler José Antonio Gay: …laderas cortadas por precipicios, rodeando inaccesibles peñascos y cruzando con frecuencia bosques humedecidos continuamente por el rocío y el lluvia. En estas montañas, las sendas son estrechas y el paso se ve impedido muchas veces por obstáculos que de ningún modo pueden franguer las caballerías.

(Gay 1990:136:Ch 10.12)

…las dificultades que a cada paso les oponía la naturaleza, atravesando ciénegas y caudalosos ríos en la llanura, y franqueando barrancos y cimas fortificadas en la serranía (Gay 1990:149-150:Ch 11.6)

The topography of the region creates the extreme ecological diversity and makes every description only partly fitting. At the higher altitudes rain, fog and cold are almost always present while at the lower altitudes the sun shines bright and an almost subtropical climate exists. These differences in altitude are an important aspect of the Zapotec and Mixe region. Most villages have three different ecological zones within their  boundaries. This gives them the opportunity to cultivate many different crops that will only  grow in a particular ecological zone. Specific.

To be continued…