Lesson 409 – Coffee and Culture in Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca is home to sixteen different Indian groups among whom can be found more than sixty different languages. Its landscapes are the most diverse of any Mexican state. Host David Yetman joins in the harvesting, drying, roasting and sampling of coffee in the cloud forest.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the different Indigenous groups and languages native to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Social Studies Standards

Individuals, Groups, & Institutions: A, G

Discussion Prompts

  • There are many things that make the state of Oaxaca unique. Discuss how the Zapotecs’ region and your region are alike and different and the uniqueness of both places. 
  • The Germans that brought coffee to the region were deported due to the World War II. Coffee is now one the most important agricultural product of the region. Does the Mexican government owe those farmers reparation? Justify your opinion.
  • The Oaxaca region has different habitats with a perfect microclimate, the mangrove swamp being one of the habitats. Why would the Mexican government feel compelled to preserve it?
  • There are sixteen indigenous groups in Oaxaca with sixty different languages being spoken. What kind of issues might this diversity cause? How might people determine their position in their communities? Would the groups be isolated to maintain their language and their way of living?

Lesson Activities

  • Coffee plantation workers may get paid by the hour or by the basket. Who gets better wages? How would you rather get paid, by the hour or by the basket? What other information would you need to know to make an informed decision? Explain your choice in a mathematically and/or in words. 
  • Plan a trip to Oaxaca listing all the stops and activities that you would be experiencing during your 5-day trip. Include in your itinerary a trip to the market and the food you are planning on eating there.
  • Create a postcard to be sold to tourists with all different habitats (mangrove forests, coastal dunes, swamps, and spine forests), revealing the region’s biological diversity. Write a sentence about it on the back of the card.
  • Mostly women were working in the market and mostly men were working in the plantation. Select or write a culturally relevant song that addresses the professional gender divide and create a video for the song. Share your work with the class.


  • biologically diverse
  • culturally diverse
  • densely
  • edible
  • estuary
  • mangrove swamp
  • microclimate
  • polyculture
  • preserved
  • Zapotecs


Lesson Plan