The town of Mitla (MEE-tlah) is about 42 kilometers (26 miles) southeast of Oaxaca and about 1.9 kilometers (3 miles) off Mex. 190. The original city, a religious and ceremonial center, was inhabited by the Zapotecs as early as 800 B.C.; by the 11th or 12th century, the Mixtecs had expelled the Zapotecs from both Mitla and Monte Albán and began to establish their own culture. Mitla prospered up until the time of the Spanish conquest. The name means “place of rest” and refers to the catacombs beneath the Mitla ruins.
Weaving is the principal commercial activity today; woven goods can be purchased almost everywhere. Around Mitla and south along Mex. 190 are outlet stores selling mezcal, a locally produced liquor that packs a wallop. Derived from a variety of the maguey plant, mezcal is a specialty of the state of Oaxaca. The bottle often includes a pickled gusano (worm). If imbibed at all, mezcal is best diluted with fruit juice.