Today we are introducing Oaxaca, Oaxaca City and Oaxaca de Juárez to our lineup of the best places for expats to live in Mexico. Many of you know the capital and largest city of the state of Oaxaca as just Oaxaca, but its official name is Oaxaca de Juárez, and it is also often called Oaxaca City.
After Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, the city became the seat of a municipality, and the name of both the city and the municipality became Oaxaca. The name Oaxaca comes from the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) name, Huaxyacac, which then became Guajaca, and later Oaxaca. In 1872, “de Juárez” was added to the city and municipality names to honor Mexico president Benito Juárez, who began his legal and political career in Oaxaca.
Tourists flock to Oaxaca for the city’s world-renowned food, colonial architecture and rich historical and cultural traditions. Expats move to Oaxaca for the same reasons, but also for its low cost-of-living and year-round temperate climate.
We have featured expats Margie Barclay, who moved to Oaxaca from Manhattan, and local realtor and entrepreneur John Harvey Williams, in our Expats In Mexico Hometown Series, which provides readers with a taste of expat life in cities throughout Mexico. You may want to read those articles to get a better understanding of the city.
Expats choose Oaxaca as a place to live for a variety of reasons, but climate, cost-of-living and the divine food are three of the top reasons.
Oaxaca’s sublime climate is the confluence of altitude and latitude. It sits at 5,100 ft. above sea level and is located 17 degrees north of the equator, well within the tropical latitudes.
Cost-of-living is more than half of what it costs in most U.S. cities, according to the popular crowd-sourced cost-of-living website Numbeo. For example, you would need around US$1,515 per month in Oaxaca to maintain the same standard of living you would have in Des Moines, Iowa for US$3,700 a month, assuming you rent in both places.
And, of course, there is the food. Foodies from all corners of the world descend upon Oaxaca to revel in its renowned cuisine. Known to some as “the land of the seven moles,” it is well-known for the complex mole sauces made with as many as 30 ingredients, many of which include chocolate. And let’s not forget the fried grasshoppers with chile, called chapulines. If you are a chocolate lover, the city has something special for you: chocolate flavored with cinnamon, almonds and sugar warmed in milk and served in a large coffee cup.
Oaxaca has some of the world’s best five-star restaurants, most of them relatively affordable. Margie Barclay told us that a tasting menu of 10 dishes in an expensive restaurant costs about US$50, but you can eat very well in most restaurants in Oaxaca for about four or five dollars per person.
Notably, less than 20-minutes from the city of Oaxaca by automobile is Monte Albán, the most important and well-preserved Zapotec and Mixtec archaeological site in the Oaxaca Valley. Monte Albán was named a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1987.
Oaxaca has about 5,000 expats, mostly Americans and Canadians, and some from a variety of other countries. Canadians are mostly snowbirds who come for the winter. Interested?