Tlacolula means “place of abundance” in Zapotec tongue

Tlacolula de Matamoros is a city and municipality in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, about 30 km from the center of the city of Oaxaca on Federal Highway 190, which leads east to Mitla and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It is part of the Tlacolula District in the east of the Valles Centrales Region.

The city is the main commercial center for the Tlacolula Valley area, and best known for its weekly open-air market held on Sundays. This market is one of the oldest, largest, and busiest in Oaxaca, mostly selling foodstuffs and other necessities for the many rural people who come into town on this day to shop. 

The city is also home to a 16th-century Dominican church, whose chapel, the Capilla del Señor de Tlacolula, is known for its ornate Baroque decoration and a crucifix to which have been ascribed many miracles. Outside the city proper, the municipality is home to the Yagul archeological site. and a number of a group of one hundred caves and rock shelters which document the pre-historic transition of people from hunting and gathering to agriculture based on the domestication of corn and other plants.

The name most likely comes from the Nahuatl phrase tlacolullan, which means “place of abundance.” However, some trace the origin to the Nahuatl phrase tlacololli, which means “something twisted.” Its original Zapotec name was Guillbaan, which means “village of the burials.” The appendage “de Matamoros” is to honor Mariano Matamoros of the Mexican War of Independence.

The Zapotecs probably arrived in the central valleys of Oaxaca in the 2nd century CE. At that time, much of the Tlacolula area was covered by a lake. Fray Juan de Torquemada thought that the Zapotecs arrived from a region called Panuco and established themselves first at Tule, with the first dominant settlement at Teotitlán del Valle. The early populations eventually drained the lake, and built a number of settlements. The first settlement nearest the modern city is at what is now San Antonio de la Cal, which was established around 1250 Eventually, the Zapotecs dominated most of the central valleys area. Tradition states that the city was first founded in Yagul, now an archeological site.

The Sunday open-air market (or tianguis) of Tlacolula is one of the oldest continuous in Mesoamerica and the largest and busiest in the Central Valley region of Oaxaca. The only market of any type which is larger is the Centro de Abastos (main grocery market selling to retailers) in the city of Oaxaca.

This market is part of a tradition of weekly markets which is still found in Oaxaca, where people from rural areas come to the local town to buy, sell and socialize, and are a functional feature of pre-modern peasant economies. The market provides a retail outlet for those living in communities too small to support permanent retail establishments.

Source: Conociendo Oaxaca

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