Huave people along the Southern Coast of the State of Oaxaca

San Mateo del Mar, San Francisco del Mar, and San Dionisio del Mar, the three most important cities of the Huave people, are municipalities that are politically dependent on the district of Tehuantepec and economically dependent on the oil enclave of Salina Cruz.

Huave people along the Southern Coast of the State of Oaxaca
To what geographical area do the Huave people belong? The state of Oaxaca in Mexico. Credit: INPI

The Huaves, who come from a culture based around lagoons, live on the southern coast of the state of Oaxaca, between the Pacific Ocean and the lower and upper lagoons of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The coast's fate has been shaped by the weather and changes in the environment, which have left it with a dry and desolate look.

There isn't much rain, it's hard to water crops, and production, both at sea and on land, is affected by the weather. Like other native coastal areas, the coast has a long dry season and a short wet season. This almost always happens at the same time as the north and south winds, which are important to fishing and mythology.

From October to February, a strong north wind blows along the coast, pushing the dunes toward the land that was once used for farming. The four months of "north" and the months of heat that follow, which are caused by the south wind, are enough to change the phreatic levels of the lagoons and almost completely dry out the coastline. This means that it rains less often between June and September.

The Road that Leads to the Huave Towns of Oaxaca

The main Huave towns are San Mateo del Mar, San Dionisio del Mar, and San Francisco del Mar. Politically, they depend on the districts of Juchitán and Tehuantepec, and economically, they depend on the oil enclave of Salina Cruz, which is the city in the state of Oaxaca that has grown the most in recent years.

In the last few decades, new towns like Cuauhtémoc and Benito Juárez have been built along the 22-kilometer dirt road that goes from the port of Salina Cruz to San Mateo del Mar. Santa Mara del Mar, which is part of Juchitán and the fourth most important Huave town, is where the road ends.

Because San Dionisio and San Francisco del Mar are to the southwest of the lagoons, it is hard to get to them by land. The highway that connects the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the state of Chiapas runs along the lake region, making it the only way to get to these towns. So, there are only two ways to connect the three municipalities: using public transportation, which is usually hard to find, or crossing the lagoons when the north wind is calm.

Source: Huaves, by Saúl Millán, pages 5-6. Saúl Millán holds PhD. in Anthropological Sciences. He is a professor-researcher at the National School of Anthropology and History of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas), INPI