Mexico is a country of diverse and ancient cultures, rich in tradition, history and religion, yet with a modern economy and tourism infrastructure. Mexico dates back approximately 10,000 years with its first known culture, the Olmec, creating the first civilization around 1500 B.C. Modern Mexico can be said to be a blend of two cultures originating from the Spanish conquest of the Aztec civilization in 1521.

To explore Mexico is to walk through rain forests and along tropical beaches, to traverse vast deserts and gaze at snow-capped volcanoes, and to walk the streets of teeming cities, sleepy indigenous villages, chic resorts and the ruined cities of the great Aztec, Maya and other civilizations that flourished here centuries ago.

A Country in Need
In 2002, half the population in Mexico was living in poverty and one fifth was living in extreme poverty. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico with more than a third of its population living on less than three dollars a day. According to government statistics, the literacy rate is 79% and about half of all children don't finish primary school, many dropping out to work alongside their parents.

The lack of productive jobs forces many families to depend on the income of their children. Access to medicine and health care is minimal with the state run health care attending to just 23% of the population. These factors and many others combine to lock the people of Oaxaca in a continual struggle against poverty.

The city of Oaxaca offers an extraordinary array of cultural activities. The city is known for its
cobbled streets, shaded squares, colonial churches and busy markets and surrounding communities boast numerous museums exploring the culture and tradition of the area. The city is in close proximity to some of Mexico's best preserved archaeological areas, and is surrounded by communities renowned for their cultural diversity and the quality of local crafts.

The state of Oaxaca is one of the most ethnically diverse in all of the 31 states in Mexico. The many indigenous groups in the area boast over 90 dialects in 14 distinct languages. It also has the greatest biodiversity and variety of natural terrain of any state in Mexico. Within a few hours, volunteers can travel from the sandy beaches of the Pacific coastline to tropical jungles to thickly forested mountains of over 10,000 feet.

Oaxaca is 1,534 meters (5,034ft) above sea level with yearly average highs of 75°F (29.3°C) and lows of 54.5°F (12.5°C), though temperatures will vary throughout the year: Spring 77°F (25°C), Summer 72°F (22°C), Autumn 72°F (22°C), Winter 61°F (16°C).
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