Puerto and the Costa Chica
Puerto Escondido itself did not exist as a modern town until the 1920’s, when the owners of the great coffee fincas (farms) in the foothills decided that the protected bay of this lovely little town made an ideal and convenient port for shipping coffee and other products of the region. The creation of the Carretera costal (coastal highway) along the Pacific coast in the 1960’s and the later paving of the highway to Oaxaca, opened the area to tourism and was the beginning of real growth in Puerto Escondido. In the nearly 25 years that the Hotel Santa Fe has been in Puerto, the town has grown from a small fishing village of 3,000 people to a thriving town of more than 50,000 people. This growth has been due to Puerto Escondido’s importance as a regional center for agriculture, education, commerce, fishing and tourism and has resulted in the town becoming a vibrant community rather than just a tourist destination.
The western part of the state of Oaxaca has a history going back more than 2500 years. The Chatino, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztec cultures all played a significant role in the pre-hispanic history of this regiion. An hour inland, above Puerto, is the ancient Chatino town of Santo Reyes Nopala, the pre-Columbian center of the Chatino kingdom, a site of great archeological and cultural importance. An hour to the north of Puerto is the town of San Pedro Tututepec, the former capital of the Mixtec empire, another site of great significance. Even closer to Puerto, sites along the Rio Verde indeicate very early and important settlements and ceremonial centers. The coast also has some communities with an African heritage, whose ancestors worked on an early slave plantation. In addition there is a long and rich Spanish colonial history. Thus this part of the state has a complex interweaving of indigenous, Spanish and African cultures.
Indigenous people of Zapotec, Mixtec and Chatino descent still live in the hills above Puerto Esondido in villages little changed by modern times. These villages are accessible still by the trails and dirt roads that have been used for hundreds of years for the flow of goods and people among their communities and between their communities and the state capital and the coast.