Although there are some unsubstantiated facts, the history of Puerto Escondido can be divided into five sections:
Before 500 BC C., archaeologists say that there was a little population in this part of the Oaxaca coast. There was flooding and a lot of soil erosion due to agriculture in the central valleys of Oaxaca. But Puerto Escondido had deposits of fertile soil and floodplains on the coast, so it became an area conducive to agriculture and settlement.
- The ruins of the Copalita Eco-Archaeological Park provide an idea of how this lifestyle for the original peoples.
- The mountainous city area of Nopala was first settled around 2300 BC. The city was established for the year 800 BC.
- Then the area reached its zenith between 500 and 700 BC. The ruins outside the city contain pyramids and a ball court.
- By the year 1500 Nopala was conquered and used as a tributary by the Aztecs.
- Excavations at Tututepec are evidence of trade from 400 B.C. C. with the central valley of Oaxaca.
History of Puerto Escondido between 1250-1522
The Mixtecs in Tututepec controlled the coast of Oaxaca, from the border of the current state of Guerrero to Huatulco. It stretched for 75 km.
Colonial records show that around Tututepec there was a trade in ornamental shells, purple dye, cotton, salt, salted fish, and cocoa.
Puerto Escondido was occupied for a long time. There are unexplored ruins near the Colotepec River and artifacts throughout the area.
There used to be stone slabs for grinding corn above Puerto Angelito. People used to dig up bowls and flutes. Some claimed to find pottery filled with gold.
Between 1522 and 1911
During much of this period Puerto Escondido was also called Punta Escondida.
- In 1522 the conquistadors, under the leadership of Pedro de Alvarado, and some Zapotec allies reached Nopala.
- After a bloody battle, Nopala and Tutepec fell to the Spanish. The indigenous population did not support the diseases of the Spanish.
- In 1590 an English corsair arrived in Huatulco and burned 24 million coffee beans, a fortune at the time.
- From 1793 until the Independence of Mexico, there were Afro-Mexicans or Afro-Mexizos in Playa Zicatela to keep an eye on pirates sailing along the coast. Their descendants lived there until 1873 until men from the community of Santa María Colotepec burned their crops and huts.
- In 1811 a rebellion was put down in Laguna de Chacahua after declaring independence from Spain.
- 1896, Nopala rebels for the high taxes, in the “War of the Pants” or “War of the Calzones”.
- In 1921 Puerto Escondido does not appear in the census. By 1930 there were 55 inhabitants and the place was listed as part of San Pedro, Mixtepec, Juquila.
- By 1930, a swarm of locusts consumed most of the plants in the area, leaving behind banana trunks and tree branches.
- One day in 1931, a large part of Oaxaca was shaken by an earthquake measuring 8.0.
- In 1935, the first elementary school opens in Puerto Escondido, “La Luz”.
- Two years later (1937), the Lagunas de Chacahua National Park was created.
- Until 1939, the first airplane runway was leveled at Playa Zicatela.
- In 1938, a hurricane hit Puerto Escondido, after half an hour of hail. Months later, the road between San Pedro and Bajo de Chila was reopened.
- By 1938 there are disputes between Colotopec and San Pedro. One death was recorded in Puerto Escondido.
- In 1950 the first Health Clinic was opened. Then, in 1955, the first Catholic Chapel and a lighthouse were built, which worked until a year later.
- In 1960 the first Mayor’s Office was built. The coastal highway reaches Puerto Escondido. By 1996 it will be completely paved and will become Highway 131.
- In the mid-1960s, the “sea cockroach” or “dog’s tongue” (a type of mollusk) nearly became extinct due to overexploitation.
- There is some debate about who introduced surfing to Puerto Escondido. According to the local historian, a group of Venezuelans introduced this sport in the 1960s.
History of Puerto Escondido today
- In 1964 the first deep well was drilled, which delivered drinking water from the Crucero area to El Adoquín.
- In 1966, the Federal Electricity Commission arrives in Puerto Escondido.
- In the 1970s, the Pochutec language became extinct.
- In the eighties the new City Hall was built, which was occupied by the Teachers’ Union (SNTE), but is now used by the Municipality of Colotepec.
- In 1985, the current Puerto Escondido airport and the Benito Juárez Market were inaugurated. The other market (now Parque Idilio) was closed in 1992.
- In 1990 the Mexican federal law protects sea turtles. Before this, local fishermen caught 4,000 to 5,000 turtles a year.
- By 1992 the Scenic Walkway was inaugurated, from Playa Principal to almost all the way to Puerto Angelito. It was closed in 2017 but there is often talk of rebuilding it.
- In 1997 Hurricane Paulina hits land followed by Hurricane Rick.
- For 1999 there is an earthquake of 7.5 in Puerto Escondido.
- Around 2005, Puerto Escondido gets its first traffic light.
- In 2007, the place was submerged for the first time in a thick layer of fog, something typical of a Stephen King fiction.
- In 2009 the Congress of Oaxaca declared Puerto Escondido a city.
- By 2012 Hurricane Carlotta hits, a category 2 hurricane.
- In 2014, garbage recycling begins and the water treatment center for Playa Zicatela and Lázaro Cárdenas is built.
- In 2015 a massive swell hits Puerto Escondido and the Oaxaca coast.
- In 2017, an earthquake of magnitude 8.2 hit with an epicenter in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. It killed 91 people in the area, but with little damage in Puerto.
- In 2018 Mercado Zicatela opens its doors.
- For 2020 a 7.1 earthquake shakes the coast, the epicenter was on the outskirts of Huatulco.
Notes of interest
Did you know that Puerto Escondido means “Hidden Port/ Hidden Harbor” in English?
A legend tells that the pirate Andrés Drake kidnapped a young Mixtec girl from Huatulco. While the pirates camped in the bay of Puerto Escondido, she escaped and hid. They referred to her as “La Escondida” and searched for her every time they returned. This caused the bay to be known as “Bahía de la Escondida”.
There are many Afro-descendants along the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero. They are probably the offspring of slaves who fled from a ship that sank off the coast or who escaped from the Spanish sugar plantations. Afro-Mexicans also suffer discrimination and police harassment.
Zicatela Beach comes from the Nahuatl, “place of large thorns”.
Playa Manzanillo gets its name from the plants that used to grow there.
Puerto Angelito gets its name from a mural of a girl that measured 8×3 meters.
Playa Carrizalillo got its name because the locals used to cut reeds, a kind of stick for the flag for the Independence Day celebrations.
Isla del Gallo in Laguna Manialtepec was named after a crocodile hunter, who hunted with his pet rooster. The hunter died on the island and his poor rooster died of loneliness and hunger. It is said that the inhabitants listen to the rooster crow for his mistress every Christmas Eve at midnight.
Puerto Escondido is located between the two municipalities of Santa María Colotepec and San Pedro Mixtepec. Both municipalities have had territorial conflicts that include some deaths. The government chooses not to solve it.
Did you learn about the history of Puerto Escondido? Read more in Xaca: