Its name comes from Náhuatl, "cacaxtli" or "Cacaxtle" that refers to the baskets of palm used by the merchants to transport their goods.
It is believed that Cacaxtla was the capital of Olmec -Xicallanca people, suggesting that Cacaxtla could exist from the first settlers, possibly descendants of the Olmecs or Mayans of central region of Mexico, and coming from the Gulf of Mexico or the Peninsula of Yucatán circa 400. Olmec-xicallancas ought not to be confused with the Olmec archaeological culture.
After the fall of the nearby Cholula, about the year 600 AD, in which cacaxtlecas must be involved, the city became the hegemonic power of this part of the valley of Puebla-Tlaxcala. Its ascendancy came to an end around 900 already and by 1000, the city was abandoned.
Cacaxtla was a fortification in which around the constructions they built wide and deep pits that served as traps to defend against their enemies. They also raised earth walls used as strategic points of protection and covered small pyramids on which they built shrines. Its buildings were decorated with bas-reliefs in clay; also they painted murals that highlighted in colors like red, blue, yellow, black and white; the represented characters exhibit characteristics of the Mayan culture.