Oaxaca, the capital of the state of the same name, lies 340 miles southeast of Mexico City and can be reached by air, highway or train. A new superhighway connecting the two cities has cut driving time to four and a half hours. Located in a valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur, the city has a superb climate, making it a year-round favorite of visitors. Once the center of the Mixtec and Zapotec civilizations, Oaxaca is a combination of pre-conquest, colonial and modern influences. The early Zapotecs developed a great civilization at nearby Monte Alban centuries before the birth of Christ. Two of Mexico's most famous presidents, Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz, were of Zapotec origin. After the Spanish conquered Oaxaca in 1533, the city quickly took on a Spanish flavor, with ornate buildings, churches, elegant archways, balconies, decorative grillwork and charming plazas. Yet despite its colonial heritage, the city remains basically Indian at heart.