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Soon after Cortes arrived in the early 16th century, Mesoamerica was swamped with Catholic missionaries sent by the Spanish crown intent on the conversion and salvation of the heathen populace. The area was divided up into zones controlled by different orders - Jesuits, Franciscans, or in the case of Oaxaca - Dominicans. They built many grandiose churches with beautiful retablos - all designed for the mass conversion of the indigenous people. (Amazing what you can accomplish with slave labor.) Often these churches were built on top of the ruins of Zapotec or Mixtec temples.