Where Queso Oaxaca Comes From
It was shortly after the Spanish exploration (Conquest) that the first dairy animals (both cows and goats) were brought to the region of the Etla Valley in southwestern Mexico (currently the state of Oaxaca). Tucked in between the Sierra Madre del Sur and Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, this valley was an ideal area for agriculture, including dairy, since it had a temperate climate and adequate supply of water from the rivers.
The new dairy products quickly changed the eating habits of the indigenous people. Cheese making which, though introduced by conquerors from another continent, evolved into a regional occupation, producing distinctly Mexican cheeses. In many parts of Mexico, this trade has become a family tradition, it's secrets and techniques passed on from one generation to the next. Today, many families in the region are able to earn a comfortable living by producing milk and cheese for a local dairy cooperative.
Traditionally all cheese made in the heat of Mexico's climate was made and sold fresh for daily use. Little is known of how the cheese first made in this region, but it was most likely very different than today's Queso Oaxaca. Most likely it was a rather rustic cheese that was simply coagulated and drained.
The old stories were that the Dominican Monks that came to the area began to improve the process of cheese making but not likely that it was a stretched curd (Pasta Filata) style cheese even then.
Other stories tell of an Italian influence coming to the area in the 1950s was the methodology behind this cheese but many elders say that they remember this cheese well before then.
The one thing that becomes readily apparent as you read the procedures below is that this cheese is much like the Italian Mozzarella. Further reading and research show me that this cheese is quite different in how it has evolved than what they learned from their Italian influence.