THE MEXICAN CENSUS 

The Indigenous Languages of Mexico: A Present-Day Overview
Mexico's 1921 Census: A Unique Perspective
Indigenous Mexico Statistics: The 2005 Conteo
Extranjeros in Mexico
(1895-2000)
Mexico and Its Religions   

 
 

The Indigenous Languages of Mexico : A Present-Day Overview

By John P. Schmal

The most recent census count in Mexico reveals that a multitude of languages are used by Mexican nationals throughout the country. It is true that the percentage of Mexicans who are speaking indigenous languages is steadily declining, but a great many people have held on to their mother tongue, sometimes taking it with them to other parts of Mexico .

1. Nahuatl. 1,376,026 Mexicans speak twenty-eight Nahuatl languages and live in every state of Mexico . Nahuatl speakers make up 22.89% of all indigenous speakers in the country and are most prominent in several eastern states, including Puebla (28.9% of all Nahuatl speakers), Veracruz (23.2%) and Hidalgo (15.8%).

2. Maya. The Maya language is the second most commonly spoken language in Mexico . In all, 759,000 persons speak Maya, representing 12.63% of the entire indigenous-speaking language. Almost 70% of these people live in Yucatan state, but many others live in Campeche , Quintana Roo and a multitude of other states where they have migrated to in recent decades.

3. Mixteco. In 2005, it was believed that 423,216 Mexicans spoke one of the 57 Mixtec languages, representing 7.04% of all indigenous speakers. Mixtecs are unique in that they have migrated in large numbers to every corner of the Mexico and to many areas in the U.S. Although they are found in every state in significant numbers, the Mixtecs are primarily indigenous to two Mexican states: 57.2% of the Mixtecs live in Oaxaca and 26.1% live in neighboring Guerrero.

4. Zapoteco. It was estimated that 410,901 persons spoke one of the 64 Zapotec languages of Mexico , representing 6.84% of all indigenous speakers. Zapotecs have also migrated to areas throughout Mexico and can be found in every state. However, the largest number of Zapotecs live in the state of their origin, Oaxaca , where 86.9% of all Zapotecs live.

Many people wonder how so many Zapotec and Mixtec languages evolved from the same origin. But, if one understands the topography of Oaxaca , it makes sense. Oaxaca is characterized by numerous valleys and mountains, which tend to separate closely related peoples. Over time, people who once spoke the same language become separated from one another and their languages evolve until finally, a new language comes into existence. This is, in fact, a very simple explanation for what is a very complex evolution that may take place over hundreds or thousands of years.

5. Tzeltal. In 2005, 371,730 persons spoke the Tzeltal language, representing 6.18% of all indigenous speakers in Mexico . Although Tzeltal's have migrated to other parts of Mexico , 97.6% of their members still live in their homeland state of Chiapas . Tzeltal and its close cousin, Tzotzil, are both Mayan langugages.

6. Tzotzil. The Tzotzil are close cousins of the Tzeltal who also inhabitants of Chiapas . In 2005, 329,937 Tzotzil speakers were estimated in Mexico , representing 5.49% of all indigenous speakers. Like their cousins, the Tzeltal, the vast majority of Tzotzil's (97.3%) lived in Chiapas .

7. Otomi. In 2005, 239,850 persons in Mexico spoke this widely dispersed language, representing 3.99% of all the indigenous speakers. Approximately 34.8% of the Otomis live in the State of Mexico , but large numbers also inhabit Puebla , Veracruz and many other states in the central and eastern regions of Mexico . Many Otomis traveled north with the Spaniards in the early colonial people and settled in some areas of Jalisco, Nayarit and Guanajuato, but many of them assimilated and did not hold onto their language and culture. The Otomi language is part of the Otomanguean linguistic group.

8. Totonaca. The Totonaca language was spoken by 230,930 persons in 2005, representing 3.84% of the indigenous speakers in Mexico . This language is a language that is not closely related to the other large languages but has made its imprint in the eastern regions of Mexico . Two states have the largest shares of Totonaca speakers: Veracruz (50.3%) and Puebla (42.0%).

9. Mazateco. The Mazateco language was spoken by 206,559 individuals in 2005, accounting for 3.44% of the indigenous speakers. Mazateco is spoken in several states, but is most predominanet in Oaxaca , where 79.7% of the Mazateco speakers resided in 2005. Significant numbers also live in Puebla , Veracruz and the State of Mexico . The Mazateco language is part of the Otomanguean Linguistic group (as are the Zapotec, Mixtec and Popoloca languages).

10. Chol. A total of 185,299 persons in Mexico spoke the Chol language in 2005. This represents 3.08% of all indigenous speakers in the country. Chol is a Mayan language that is spoken primarily in Chiapas , where 87.3% of the Chol speakers lived.

11. Huasteco. In 2005, 149,532 persons in Mexico spoke the Huasteco language, making up 2.49% of all indigenous speakers. Huasteco is a northern extension of the Mayan language group. Speakers of this language are clustered in a three-state region that includes Tamaulipas , San Luis Potosi and Veracruz . The majority of Huasteco speakers live in San Luis Potosi (58.9%) but 33.8% also live in Veracruz .

12. Chinanteca. In 2005, 125,706 person in Mexico spoke one of the 14 Chinanteca languages. They represented 2.09% of all indigenous speakers in Mexico and, like their distant Otomanguean relatives (the Zapotecs and Mixtecs), their people have migrated to many parts of the country. However, 81.7% of Chinanteca speakers lived in Oaxaca in 2005, and a considerable number inhabit Veracruz .

13. Mixe. The Mixe language is an isolated language that is primarily spoken in Oaxaca . In 2005, 115,824 persons spoke Mixe, representing 1.93% of the indigenous speakers in Mexico .

14. Mazahua. The Mazahua tongue is a northern extension of Otomanguean language, which was spoken by approximately 111,840 Mexicans in 2005, representing 1.86% of all indigenous speakers. The Mazahua language is most commonly spoken in the State of Mexico , where 85.3% of its speakers live.

15. Purepecha. The Purepecha people - sometimes referred to as the Tarascans - are a unique people and the only indigenous group that consistently defeated the Aztecs in battle. Their language is a language isolate which seems to have no known affiliation with any other Mexican languages. Some researchers have suggested a South American origin. At any rate, 105,556 Mexicans spoke Purepecha in 2005, representing 1.76% of all indigenous speakers. Purepechas have migrated all over Mexico in search of gainful employment, but their strong family ties and cultural pride has maintained Michoacan as their primary homebase. Approximately 91.9% of all Purepecha live in Michoacan.

16. Tlapaneco. The Tlapanecos in Guerrero are very similar to the Purepecha of Michoacan. They too speak a language isolate, with no close affiliation with neighboring languages. The Tlapanecos also held out against the Aztecs and lived in a small enclave that resisted Aztec intrusions for more than a century. Their original homeland was a small area that lies completely within the present-day boundaries of Guerrero. As a result, 93.5% of all Tlapanecos lived in Guerrero in 2005.

17. Tarahumara. The Tarahumara of Chihuahua are famous and well-known to many Americans who have journeyed south of the border to visit these intriguing people. In 2005, 75,371 persons spoke Tarahumara, representing 1.25% of all indigenous speakers. Although 96.1% of these people lived in Chihuahua , smaller numbers inhabited Durango and Sinaloa.

18. Zoque. The Zoque are one of the few non-Maya groups living in Chiapas . In 2005, speakers of the Zoque language numbered 54,004 in Mexico (representing 0.9% of the indigenous speakers). Closely related to the Mixe of Oaxaca, the Zoques primarily inhabit Chiapas , where 81.4% of the Zoque speakers live. A significant number of Zoques also live in Oaxaca .

19. Amuzgo. The Amuzgos are another Otomanguean language group. In 2005, 43,761 Mexicans spoke one of their three languages, representing 0.73% of Mexico 's indigenous speakers. The lion's share of Amuzgos live in Guerrero (85.5%), while smaller numbers live in nearby Oaxaca (10.8%).

20. Tojolabal. In 2005, 43,169 persons spoke the Tojolabal language, representing 0.72% of all indigenous speakers. This language is a Mayan language which its origins clearly tied to the State of Chiapas , where 99.1% of their speakers lived in 2005.

There are almost 300 Mexican languages, and roughly 70 of them were tallied in the 2000 census and 2005 census count. Several more deserve honorable mention.

Huichol: In twenty-fourth place, the Huichol language survived and prospered even as most of its neighbors in Nayarit and Jalisco died out from the onslaught of war, disease, assimilation and mestizaje. In 2005, 35,724 persons spoke the Huichol language in Mexico , representing 0.59% of all indigenous speakers. While their neighbors stayed and fought the Spaniards or settled down alongside them, the Huicholes treasured their isolation and maintained their ancient language, culture and religion. In 2005, 55.2% of the Huichol speakers lived in Nayarit, while 36.2% lived in Jalisco.

Mayo. In twenty-fifth place, the Mayo are one of three surviving Cahita languages. The Cahita people originally spoke 18 languages, but were largely decimated during the 1500s and 1600s. The Mayos, and their Yaqui cousins, continued to endure and, at time resist, against both the Spanish Government and, later, the Mexican Government. In 2005, 32,702 Mexicans spoke the Mayo language, representing 0.54% of all indigenous speakers. They were primarily distributed across their two homeland states: Sonora (74.8%) and Sinaloa (23.9%).

Cora. In twenty-eighth place, the Cora language was spoken by 17,086 persons in 2005, representing 0.28% of the indigenous speakers. The Coras primary homeland has always been Nayarit, where 97.0% of their speakers resided in 2005.

Yaqui. In thirty-first place, the famous Yaqui Indians of Sonora are famous for their resistance against the Mexican Government. During the early 1900s, many Yaquis had to flee to Arizona or were exiled to faraway places such as the Yucatan peninsula. In 2005, 14,162 persons spoke Yaqui, representing 0.24% of all Mexican indigenous speakers. At that time 95.7% of the Yaquis lived in Sonora .

 

 

 

 

 

INDIGENOUS MEXICO STATISTICS: THE 2010 CENSUS

By John P. Schmal

 

 

The 2010 Census

The results of the 2010 Mexican Census have been published and a comparison with the 2000 Censo and 2005 Conteo (Count) reveals a significant increase in the number of Mexicans 5 years of age and older who speak indigenous languages. But while the overall numbers rose in many states, the percentage of indigenous speakers in individual states actually dropped in many parts of Mexico.  

The overall number of indigenous speakers dropped from 6,044,547 to 6,011,202 between 2000 and 2005, but increased to 6,695,228 in 2010.   At the same time, the percentage of indigenous speakers dropped from 7.2% to 6.7% between 2000 and 2005 and remained at 6.7% in 2010.  

It is important to point out that the criteria in this tally represents people who speak  indigenous languages and that the number of Mexicans who consider themselves to be indigenous – through culture, tradition, spirit, genetics and other factors –was measured in a separate census question to be discussed below.  

Most Spoken Languages

Náhuatl remains the most widely spoken language in Mexico with 1,544,968 persons five years of age and older speaking that tongue. Náhuatl speakers, in fact, represented 23.08% of the indigenous speakers 5 and older in the Mexican Republic , up from 22.89% in the 2005 census count. The most commonly spoken languages in Mexico at the time of the 2010 census were:  

  1. Náhuatl – 1,544,968 (23.08% of all indigenous speakers)
  2. Maya – 786,113 (11.74%)
  3. Mixtec Languages – 476,472 (7.12%)
  4. Tzeltal – 445,856 (6.66%)
  5. Zapotec Languages – 450,419 (6.73%)
  6. Tzotzil – 404,704 (6.04%)
  7. Otomí – 284,992 (4.26%)   

 More than 50% of the people who speak indigenous languages in Mexico speak the Náhuatl, Maya, Mixtec and Tzeltal languages. These languages are found in considerable numbers in many Mexican states far from their traditional homelands, in large part because of migration to the northern states and urban areas, usually in search of gainful employment. Persons who speak Zapotec, Tzotzil, Otomi, Totonac, Mazatec and Chol make up another 28% of the indigenous speaking population 5 and older.  

The following table illustrates the number of speakers for the primary indigenous languages of Mexico in the 1970, 1990, 2000 and 2010 censuses. In addition, the last column shows the percentage of indigenous speakers for each language (out of the total number of indigenous speakers in the country) in 2010:  

Mexico’s Indigenous Languages (1970 to 2010)

Indigenous Language

1970 Census

1990 Census

2000 Census

2010 Census

2010 Census (%)

Náhuatl

799,394

1,197,328

1,448,936

1,544,968

23.08%

Maya

454,675

713,520

800,291

786,113

11.74%

Mixtec Languages

233,235

386,874

446,236

476,472

7.12%

Tzeltal

99,412

261,084

284,826

445,856

6.66%

Zapotec Languages

283,345

403,457

452,887

450,419

6.73%

Tzotzil

95,383

229,203

297,561

404,704

6.04%

Otomí

221,062

280,238

291,722

284,992

4.26%

Totonaca

124,840

207,876

240,034

244,033

3.64%

Mazateco

101,541

168,374

214,477

223,073

3.33%

Chol

73,253

128,240

161,766

212,117

3.17%

Huasteco

66,091

120,739

150,257

161,120

2.41%

Mazahua

104,729

127,826

133,430

135,897

2.03%

Chinantec Languages

54,145

109,100

133,374

133,438

1.99%

Mixe

54,403

95,264

118,924

132,759

1.98%

Purépecha

60,411

94,835

121,409

124,494

1.86%

Tlapaneco

30,804

68,483

99,389

120,072

1.79%

Tarahumara

25,479

54,431

75,545

85,018

1.27%

Zoque

27,140

43,160

51,464

63,022

0.94%

Tojolabal

13,303

36,011

37,986

51,733

0.77%

Amuzgo

13,883

28,228

41,455

50,635

0.76%

Chatino

11,773

29,006

40,722

45,019

0.67%

Huichol

6,874

19,363

30,686

44,788

0.67%

Chontal

N.A.

36,267

38,561

42,306

0.63%

Popoluca

27,818

31,254

38,477

41,091

0.61%

Mayo

27,848

37,410

31,513

39,616

0.59%

Tepehuano

5,617

18,469

25,544

35,873

0.54%

Cora

6,242

11,923

16,410

20,078

0.30%

Huave

7,442

11,955

14,224

17,554

0.26%

Yaqui

7,084

10,984

13,317

17,116

0.26%

Cuicateco

10,192

12,677

13,425

12,785

0.19%

Other Languages

63,997

308,768

179,699

248,067

3.71%

Mexican Republic

3,111,415

5,282,347

6,044,547

6,695,228

100.00%

 The Mexican States  
The Mexican states with the largest populations of indigenous speakers (by number) are:  

  1. Oaxaca – 1,165,186 indigenous speakers
  2. Chiapas – 1,141,499 indigenous speakers
  3. Veracruz – 644,559 indigenous speakers
  4. Puebla – 601,680 indigenous speakers
  5. Yucatán – 537,516 indigenous speakers
  6. Guerrero – 456,774 indigenous speakers
  7. Hidalgo – 359,972 indigenous speakers

By percentage, the nine states within indigenous speaking populations of more than 10% are:  

  1. Oaxaca              (34.2%) – dropped from 35.3% in the 2005 census count
  2. Yucatán (30.3%) – dropped from 33.5% in the 2005 census count
  3. Chiapas (27.2%) – increased from 26.1% in the 2005 census count
  4. Quintana Roo (16.7%) – dropped from 19.3% in the 2005 census count
  5. Guerrero (15.1%) – dropped from 14.2% in the 2005 census count
  6. Hidalgo (15.1%) – dropped from 15.5% in the 2005 census count
  7. Campeche (12.3%) – dropped from 13.3% in the 2005 census count
  8. Puebla (11.7%) – the same percentage as the 2005 census count
  9. San Luis Potosí (10.7%) – dropped from 11.1% in the 2005 census count

  Veracruz lands in tenth place, with 9.4% indigenous speakers. With the exception of the Chiapas dialects, many of the most populous indigenous languages have declined in percentage, possibly due to immigration to the United States and other countries and also do to the increase of the non-indigenous speaking population.  

Another factor in the decline is that many indigenous migrants who move from Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, or Campeche to large urban areas in Mexico City or the North may have children who, in the absence of a nurturing mother culture, may tend to assimilate and perhaps stop speaking their mother tongue as they socialize and work with their non-indigenous friends, associates, and neighbors.  

The number and percentage of indigenous speakers in each of the Mexican states is illustrated in the table below, along with information on the two most commonly spoken languages of each state. The table is sorted by percent (the third column):  

State

Number of Persons Who Speak an Indigenous Languages*

%

Most Commonly Spoken Language

%

Second Most Commonly Spoken Language

Oaxaca

1,165,186

34.2%

Zapotec

31.1%

Mixteco

Yucatán

537,516

30.3%

Maya

98.7%

Chol

Chiapas

1,141,499

27.2%

Tzeltal

37.9%

Tzotzil

Quintana Roo

196,060

16.7%

Maya

89.6%

Tzotzil

Guerrero

456,774

15.1%

Náhuatl

27.5%

Mixteco

Hidalgo

359,972

15.1%

Náhuatl

65.8%

Otomi

Campeche

91,094

12.3%

Maya

78.2%

Chol

Puebla

601,680

11.7%

Náhuatl

72.6%

Totonaco

San Luis Potosí

248,196

10.7%

Náhuatl

55.5%

Huasteco

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave

644,559

9.4%

Náhuatl

53.6%

Totonaca

Nayarit

49,963

5.1%

Huichol

47.7%

Cora

Chihuahua

104,014

3.5%

Tarahumara

77.8%

Tepehuanes

Michoacán de Ocampo

136,608

3.5%

Purépecha

83.1%

Náhuatl

Tabasco

60,526

3.0%

Chontal de Tabaco

60.8%

Chol

Estado de México

376,830

2.8%

Mazahua

30.7%

Otomí

Tlaxcala

27,653

2.6%

Náhuatl

83.7%

Totonaca

Sonora

60,310

2.5%

Mayo

46.4%

Yaqui

Durango

30,894

2.1%

Tepehuanes

80.0%

Huichol

Morelos

31,388

2.0%

Náhuatl

61.4%

Mixteco

Baja California Sur

10,661

1.9%

Náhuatl

27.9%

Mixteco

Querétaro

29,585

1.8%

Otomí

80.8%

Náhuatl

Baja California

41,005

1.5%

Mixteco

37.2%

Zapoteco

Distrito Federal

122,411

1.5%

Náhuatl

27.5%

Mixteco

Nuevo León

40,137

1.0%

Náhuatl

53.9%

Huasteco

Sinaloa

23,426

0.9%

Mayo

47.2%

Náhuatl

Jalisco

51,702

0.8%

Huichol

33.1%

Náhuatl

Tamaulipas

23,296

0.8%

Náhuatl

42.9%

Huasteco

Colima

3,983

0.7%

Náhuatl

35.5%

Mixteco

Zacatecas

4,924

0.4%

Huichol

19.1%

Náhuatl

Guanajuato

14,835

0.3%

Otomi

21.6%

Chichimeca Jonaz

Aguascalientes

2,436

0.2%

Náhuatl

16.0%

Mazahua

Coahuila de Zaragoza

6,105

0.2%

Náhuatl

15.2%

Kikapú

Mexican Republic

6,695,228

6.7%

Náhuatl

23.1%

Maya

* These statistics refer to persons who are five years of age and older.

 Indigenous Speakers 3 Years and Over

In previous censuses, information on the indigenous speaking population five years of age and older was obtained from the Mexican people. However, in the 2010 census, this approach was changed and the Government also began to collect data on people 3 years and older because from the age of 3, children are able to communicate verbally. With this new approach, it was determined that there were 6,913,362 people 3 years of age or more who spoke an indigenous language (218,000 children 3 and 4 four years of age fell into this category).  The population of children aged 0 to 2 years in homes where the head of household or a spouse spoke an indigenous language was 678 954. 

The states with the highest percentages of population aged 3 and over speaking an indigenous language were:  

  1. Oaxaca (33.8%)
  2. Yucatán (29.6%)
  3. Chiapas (27.3%)
  4. Quintana Roo (16.2%)

 

However, in nine states, this percentage was lower than a percent (Jalisco, Sinaloa, Guanajuato , Aguascalientes , Tamaulipas , Durango , Zacatecas, Nuevo León and Coahuila de Zaragoza).  It is worth noting that the percentage of this population in the Federal District was 1.5%, which in absolute terms represents 123 000 people.

 

Mexicans Considered Indigenous

The 2010 census also included a question that asked people if they considered themselves indigenous, whether or not an indigenous language was spoken. The results of this question indicated that 15.7 million persons 3 years of age and older identified themselves as “indigenous.”  By comparison, 6.9 million people in the same age bracket were tallied as indigenous speakers, meaning that approximately 8.8 million Mexicans aged 3 and older did not speak an indigenous language but considered themselves to be of indigenous origin.

 

The states with the greatest percentage of persons who considered themselves indigenous were Yucatan (62.7%), Oaxaca (58.0%), Quintana Roo (33.8%), Chiapas (32.7%) and Campeche (32.0%).  The following table illustrates both census categories for each state side-by-side for comparison:

 

State

Percentage of Persons 3 years of age and older who speak an indigenous language

Percentage of Persons 3 years of age and older who are considered indigenous

Yucatán

29.6%

62.7%

Oaxaca

33.8%

58.0%

Quintana Roo

16.2%

33.8%

Chiapas

27.3%

32.7%

Campeche

12.0%

32.0%

Hidalgo

14.8%

30.1%

Puebla

11.5%

25.2%

Guerrero

15.2%

22.6%

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Lave

9.3%

19.9%

San Luis Potosí

10.6%

19.2%

Tlaxcala

2.6%

17.1%

Morelos

1.9%

15.5%

Querétaro

1.8%

15.1%

Michoacán de Ocampo

3.5%

14.6%

Colima

0.7%

13.3%

Sonora

2.5%

11.9%

Estado de México

2.7%

11.3%

Tabasco

2.9%

10.7%

Nayarit

5.2%

10.1%

Chihuahua

3.5%

8.4%

Baja California Sur

1.8%

7.1%

Baja California

1.4%

5.7%

Distrito Federal

1.5%

5.2%

Jalisco

0.8%

4.8%

Sinaloa

0.9%

4.6%

Guanajuato

0.3%

4.3%

Aguascalientes

0.2%

4.2%

Tamaulipas

0.8%

3.9%

Durango

2.2%

3.8%

Zacatecas

0.4%

2.9%

Nuevo León

0.9%

1.9%

Coahuila de Zaragoza

0.2%

1.9%

Mexican Republic

6.6%

14.9%

 


Tasa de Monolingüismo (Rate of Monolingualism)

Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the number of Mexicans who spoke indigenous languages but did not speak Spanish dropped from 16.9% of the population to 15.2%. In the 2010 census, the rate of monolingualism among indigenous speakers showed marked differences according to age. Of all children aged 5 to 9 years, 36.9% were monolingual. Among adults 65 years and older, the rate was 23%.

 

Among youths aged 15 to 29 years  and people aged 30 to 64 years, the percentage of monolingual indigenous speakers was 6.8% and 12.5%, respectively. The following table reveals the rate of monolingualism in both the 2000 and 2010 census for the most commonly spoken Mexican languages:

 

Principle Languages

2000 Census – Rate of Monolingualism (Percent)

2010 Census – Rate of Monolingualism (Percent)

Amuzgo

46.1

41.4

Tzeltal

41.4

36.9

Tzotzil

40.6

36.7

Tlapaneco

32

28.5

Cora

31.5

27.8

Chatino

30.3

27

Chol

29.8

22.4

Mixtec Languages

23

21.3

Tojolabal

30.2

20.4

Mixe

25

19.6

Mazateco

25.5

19.5

Huave

16.3

17.2

Total

16.9

15.2

Tepehuano

19.9

14.9

Huichol

15.5

14

Totonaca

16.4

12.9

Tarahumara

18

12.5

Chinantec Languages

13.4

11.6

Náhuatl

13.8

10.5

Zapotec Languages

11

9

Purépecha

12.9

7.8

Huasteco

10

7.4

Maya

8.2

6.6

Zoque

9.4

6.5

Yaqui

6

5.1

Otomí

5.9

4.4

Cuicateco

7.7

4.1

Mazahua

1.9

1.1

Mayo

0.7

0.3

Mexican Republic

16.9

15.2

Source: INEGI, Tasa de monolingüismo de la población hablante de lengua indígena de 5 y más años por principales lenguas según sexo, 2000 y 2010

 

 

Highest Rates of Monolingualism

The Mexican indigenous language with the highest rate of monoligualism is the Amuzgo tongue.  Amuzgo is an Oto-Manguean language spoken in certain sections of both Guerrero and Oaxaca by a little more than 50,000 people. It is only the twentieth most spoken language group in the Mexican Republic. But the rate of monolingualism for this language dropped from 46.1% in 2000 to 41.4% in 2010.

 

The second and third Mexican languages with the highest rate of monolingualism are sister-languages, Tzeltal (36.9%) and Tzotzil (36.7%)  – both are Mayan tongues spoken in the State of Chiapas.  Both languages saw significant increases in their overall populations between the 2000 and 2010 census, but declines in the rate of monolingualism.

 

The fourth language with the highest rate of monolingualism is Tlapaneco (28.5%), which is spoken by over 120,000 individuals and is the sixteenth most commonly spoken language group in Mexico. Tlapaneco is spoken in Guererro. Remarkably, the Tlapaneco were one of the few indigenous groups in Southern Mexico that were not conquered by the Aztecs and they have managed to retain many elements of their original culture.

 

The language with the fifth highest rate of monolingualism is the Cora language (27.8%), which is spoken primarily in Nayarit, as well as in some parts of Jalisco.

 

The Future

The future of Mexico’s indigenous languages is not certain, but there does appear to be some effort to carry on some of the nation’s ancient languages.  The movement of indigenous peoples from their places of origin to other parts of Mexico will play some role in the continued decline of some languages.  On the other hand, the sense of pride and cultural identity among some indigenous groups will ensure the survival of many of the languages well into the future.

 

Sources:

 

Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Conteos de Población y Vivienda, 2005.

 

INEGI. Censos de Población y Vivienda, 2000 y 2010.

 

INEGI, Censo de Población y Vivienda (2010): Panorama sociodemográfico de México (March 2011).

 

INEGI, Principales resultados del Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010.

 

Copyright © 2011, by John P. Schmal.   

 

 

RACIAL AND CULTURAL IDENTITY IN MEXICO: 2015

By John P. Schmal

 

Mexico’s 2015 Intercensal Survey

In 2016, the Mexican government agency, Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI), published the 2015 Intercensal Survey, which upgraded Mexico’s socio-demographic information to the midpoint between the 2010 census and the census to be carried out in 2020. With a sample size of over 6 million homes, this survey provides information on the national, state and municipio level, as of March 15th, 2015.

 

Considered Indigenous Classification

One of the 2015 survey questions asked, “De acuerdo, con su cultura, se considera indígena?” Essentially, Mexican residents were being asked if they considered themselves indigenous through their culture. Survey respondents had four possible responses:

 

  1. Sí (Yes)
  2. Sí, en parte (Yes, in part)
  3. No
  4. No sabe (Do not know)

 

Based on the responses to this question, eight Mexican states in 2015 had populations that considered one-third or more of their people to be of indigenous descent, as noted below:

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Oaxaca

65.7%

5

Hidalgo

36.2%

2

Yucatán

65.4%

6

Chiapas

36.1%

3

Campeche

44.5%

7

Puebla

35.3%

4

Quintana Roo

44.4%

8

Guerrero

33.9%

 

Nearly two-thirds of the populations of both Oaxaca and Yucatán considered themselves to be indigenous. In all, 16 states had an indigenous population of over 20%.  On the other hand, the state with the lowest percentage of persons considered indigenous was Tamaulipas (6.3%), followed by two other northern Mexican states: Nuevo León (6.9%) and Coahuila (6.9%).

 

Across all states, the survey reported that 21.5% of all Mexicans considered themselves to be of indigenous descent, which means that more than one-fifth of the entire population of the nation recognized its indigenous origins. A table at the end of this article illustrates the survey results for all the Mexican states and the Distrito Federal (DF).

 

The Indigenous-Speaking Population

The 2015 census count told a different story with regards to the population of persons 3 years of age and older who spoke Indigenous languages. While 21.5 percent of Mexican residents recognize that their culture and physical appearance has been inherited from indigenous ancestors, a much smaller percent of people actually speak an indigenous language: 6.5%.

 

Another question in the 2015 survey asked each participant if they spoke an indigenous dialect or language. Only persons 3 years of age and older were considered for this category.

 

Not a single state had a population of indigenous speakers that exceeded one-third of its total population. Only Oaxaca — with 32.2% of its people speaking indigenous languages — approached the one-third mark.  As a matter of fact, only eight states actually had populations of 10% or more who spoke indigenous languages, as noted below:

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Oaxaca

32.2%

5

Hidalgo

14.2%

2

Yucatán

28.9%

6

Campeche

11.5%

3

Chiapas

27.9%

7

Puebla

11.3%

4

Quintana Roo

16.6%

8

San Luis Potosí

10.0%

5

Guerrero

15.3%

 

 

 

 

A table at the end of this article illustrates the survey results for all the Mexican states and the Distrito Federal (DF).

 

Afromexican Population

Still another 2015 survey question asked “De acuerdo con su cultura, historia y tradiciones, se considera negra(o), es decir, afromexicana(o) o afrodescendiente?” Essentially, each Mexican resident was asked if, according to their culture, history and traditions, they considered themselves to be black (i.e., an Afromexican or Afro-descendant). Once again, each respondent had four possible answers.

 

The survey revealed that only nine states had Afromexican populations that exceeded 0.5%, as illustrated in the following table:

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Guerrero

6.5%

6

Baja California Sur

1.5%

2

Oaxaca

4.9%

7

Nuevo León

1.5%

3

Veracruz

3.3%

8

Jalisco

0.8%

4

Estado de México

1.9%

9

Quintana Roo

0.6%

5

Distrito Federal

1.8%

 

 

 

 

While census data from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicate that many African slaves labored throughout Mexico in the colonial period, assimilation with Spaniards, mestizos and Indians over time had reduced their cultural influence on present-day populations in Mexico.

 

Principal Indigenous Languages

The principal languages spoken in Mexico in 2015 are shown in the following table, which shows the states of origin for each language:

 

Language

Primary State /States of Origin

Percent of the Population 3 Years and Older Who Speak Indigenous Languages

Náhuatl

Multiple – Central Mexico

23.4%

Maya

Multiple – Yucatán Peninsula

11.6%

Tzeltal

Chiapas

7.5%

Mixteco

Oaxaca & Guerrero

7.0%

Tzotzil

Chiapas

6.6%

Zapoteco

Oaxaca

6.5%

Otomí

Multiple - Central Mexico

4.2%

Totonaco

Puebla & Veracruz

3.6%

Ch’ol

Chiapas

3.4%

Mazateco

Oaxaca, Veracruz & Puebla

3.2%

Other Languages

Various

22.9%

 

As in past censuses, Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs, continued to be the language of almost one-quarter of all indigenous speakers in Mexico. Thanks to the widespread migration of laborers from one part of Mexico to another, many of these “Top Ten” languages are spoken in a wide range of states, some of which are far the original homeland of the language.  

 

Mexican Migration from Place of Origin

According to the 2015 Intercensal Survey, with the information on the place of birth of each survey respondent, INEGI reported that 17.4% of Mexican residents throughout the country were either born in an entity other than the entity in which they resided, or were born abroad (i.e., U.S., Guatemala, etc.).

 

According to the 2015 Survey, the following states have the largest percentage of their populations born in another entity (Mexican state or the Distrito Federal) or another country:

 

Ø  Quintana Roo (54.1%)

Ø  Baja California (44.1%)

Ø  Baja California Sur (39.6%)

Ø  Estado de México (33.7%)

Ø  Colima (28.7%)

Ø  Morelos (27.3%)

Ø  Querétaro (25.4%)

Ø  Campeche (24.0%)

Ø  Tamaulipas (23.1%)

Ø  Nuevo León (21.2%)

 

The states with the least percent of people born in another country or state were Chiapas (3.4%), Guerrero (4.9%) and Oaxaca (6.2%).

 

Migration and Indigenous Languages

If the high level of migration continues in many parts of Mexico, Indigenous languages will continue to be spread across the entire Mexican Republic. However, with new generations of children and grandchildren adapting to new cultural environments, it is also possible that some of the descendants of these migrants will no longer speak their mother tongue and will become more comfortable with the Spanish language.

 

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in Mexico

The following table contains 2015 Intercensal Survey data relating to populations that speak indigenous languages or identity themselves to be of Indigenous or Afromexican descent. The table has been sorted by indigenous identity (the first row):

 

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in Mexico (2015)

State

Percentage of the Total Population That  Consider Themselves to be Indigenous

Percentage of Persons 3 Years of Age and Older Who Speak an Indigenous Language

Percentage of the Total Population That Consider Themselves to be Afrodescendants

Oaxaca

65.7%

32.2%

4.9%

Yucatán

65.4%

28.9%

0.3%

Campeche

44.5%

11.5%

0.4%

Quintana Roo

44.4%

16.6%

0.6%

Hidalgo

36.2%

14.2%

0.1%

Chiapas

36.1%

27.9%

0.1%

Puebla

35.3%

11.3%

0.1%

Guerrero

33.9%

15.3%

6.5%

Veracruz

29.3%

9.2%

3.3%

Morelos

28.1%

2.0%

0.4%

Michoacán

27.7%

3.6%

0.1%

Tabasco

25.8%

2.7%

0.1%

Tlaxcala

25.2%

2.7%

0.1%

San Luis Potosí

23.2%

10.0%

0.0%

Nayarit

22.2%

5.4%

0.1%

Estados Unidos Mexicanos

21.5%

6.5%

1.2%

Colima

20.4%

0.6%

0.1%

Querétaro

19.2%

1.7%

0.1%

Sonora

17.8%

2.4%

0.1%

Estado de México

17.0%

2.7%

1.9%

Baja California Sur

14.5%

1.5%

1.5%

Sinaloa

12.8%

1.4%

0.0%

Aguascalientes

11.7%

0.3%

0.0%

Chihuahua

11.3%

2.7%

0.1%

Jalisco

11.1%

0.8%

0.8%

Guanajuato

9.1%

0.2%

0.0%

Distrito Federal

8.8%

1.5%

1.8%

Baja California

8.5%

1.5%

0.2%

Durango

7.9%

2.4%

0.0%

Zacatecas

7.6%

0.3%

0.0%

Coahuila de Zaragoza

6.9%

0.2%

0.1%

Nuevo León

6.9%

1.2%

1.5%

Tamaulipas

6.3%

0.7%

0.3%

 

Sources:

 

INEGI, “Principales resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Estado Unidos Mexicanos.”

Online:

http://www.beta.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/proyectos/enchogares/especiales/intercensal/2015/doc/eic2015_resultados.pdf

 

INEGI, “Principales resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Estado Unidos Mexicanos:  III: Etnicidad.” Online:

http://www.senado.gob.mx/comisiones/asuntos_indigenas/eventos/docs/etnicidad_240216.pdf

 

INEGI, “Encuesta Intercensal 2015: Cuestionario para viviendas particulares habitadas y población.” Online: http://www.beta.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/proyectos/enchogares/especiales/intercensal/2015/doc/eic2015_cuestionario.pdf

 


 

MEXICO’S 1921 CENSUS: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

By John P. Schmal (© 2007)

In the aftermath of the Mexican revolution, Mexico’s Departamento de la Estadística Nacional administered a census that would be unique among Mexico’s census counts administered between 1895 and 2005. In this new census, the Mexican Government decided to ask Mexicans about their perception of their own racial heritage. In the 1921 census, residents of the Mexican Republic were asked if they fell into one of the following categories:

1. "Indígena pura" (of pure indigenous heritage).
2. "Indígena mezclada con blanca" (of mixed indigenous and white heritage).
3. "Blanca" (of White or Spanish heritage).
4. "Extranjeros sin distinción de razas" (Foreigners without racial distinction).
5. "Cualquiera otra o que se ignora la raza" (Either other or chose to ignore the race)

States With the Largest "Indígena Pura" Population

The results were a remarkable reflection of México’s own perception of its indigenous and mestizo identities. Although only three states had more than 50% pure indigenous populations (Oaxaca, Puebla and Tlaxcala), a total of eight states had more than 40% of the same classification (Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Guerrero, Campeche, Yucatán, and México).


The five states with the largest populations of "indígena pura" were:

The Most Indigenous State: Oaxaca

The most indigenous state, in terms of absolute numbers and percentage was Oaxaca, in which

675,119 persons out of 976,005 inhabitants were classified as indígena. In effect, this meant that 69.17% of Oaxaca’s population had a pure indigenous identity.

Not all of "pure indigenous" population of Oaxaca, however, spoke indigenous languages. Only 482,478 individuals five years of age or more spoke thirty indigenous languages. This represented 49.43% of the population five years of age and older and 57.18% of the entire state population. [Children up to the age of four in indigenous households were not included in the tally of languages.]

Another 274,752 residents of Oaxaca described themselves as "mezclada," representing an additional 28.1% of the population. The combination of the indigenous and mezclada categories represented 949,871 individuals who had possessed some element of indigenous descent and represented 97.32% of the entire state population.

As a matter of contrast, only 13,910 persons were categorized as "blanca," while another 11,124 did not claim a designation and 1,100 were "extranjeros" (foreigners).

The Second Most Indigenous State: Puebla

The State of Puebla had the second largest "pure indigenous" population, with 560.971 (who represented 54.73% of the entire state population). In addition, 403,221 residents of Puebla were classified as mezclada, representing another 39.34% of the population. Puebla had the sixth largest number of mezclada inhabitants. Combining the pure indigenous with the mezclada element, we can estimate that 964,192 persons were of some indigenous origin, representing 94.07% of the total state population of 1,024,955.

As with Oaxaca, however, a smaller element of the population spoke native tongues. In all, 247,392 individuals five years of age and older spoke a wide range of indigenous languages, representing only 24.14% of the entire state population.

Puebla had a much higher number of blanca residents: a total of 58,032 inhabitants, who made up 5.66% of the state population.

The Third Most Indigenous State: Veracruz

Veracruz has the third largest "indígena pura" population with 406,638, representing 35.06% of the state population. Veracruz also had the fourth-highest number of mezclada residents: 556,472 (or 47.97%). Combining the two indigenous classifications, we observed that 963,110 persons out of a total population of 1,110,971 claimed some indigenous descent and that this group represented 86.69% of the state population.

In striking contrast, however, only 120,746 residents of Veracruz spoke indigenous languages, representing 10.87% of the state population and 12.62% of residents five years of age or more.

The Fourth Most Indigenous State: México

The State of México had the fourth largest indígena pura population, 372,703, equal to 42.13% of the state population. Together with the mestizo/mezclada population, which numbered 422,001 (47.70% of the state population), the total population with an indigenous heritage was 794,704, or 89.84% of the population.

In stark contrast, only 172,863 residents of the State of México spoke indigenous languages, representing only 19.54% of the total state population.

Other states with significant numbers of indígena pura population are as follows:

5. Guerrero - 248,526 persons (43.84%)

6. Hidalgo – 245,704 persons (39.49%)

7. Chiapas – 200.927 persons (47.64%)

8. Jalisco – 199,728 persons (16.76%)

9. Michoacán – 196,726 persons (20.93%)

10. Distrito Federal– 169,820 (18.75%)

11. Yucatán – 155,155 persons (43.31%)

12. San Luis Potosí – 136,365 persons (30.60%)

13. Tlaxcala – 97,670 persons (54.70%)

Because the populations of the various states vary widely, the percentage of pure indigenous persons in a given state provide us with a different set of results. The contrast between absolute numbers and percentages of the pure indigenous population was largely contingent on the population of each state. For example, Tlaxcala actually had the third largest percentage of indígena pura inhabitants but, because of its small population, was in thirteenth place in terms of percentage.

And Jalisco’s largely pure indigenous population of 199,728 represented only 16.76% of its total population of 1,191,957. Jalisco, as a matter of fact, had the largest population of any state in México, followed closely by Veracruz (1,159,935), Puebla (1,024,955) and the Distrito Federal (906,063).

States With the Largest "Indígena Mezclada Con Blanca" Population

In the 1921 census, the status "Indígena Mezclada con Blanca" implied that a person was of mestizo origin. Persons classified by this identity probably did not speak Indian languages, but still felt an attachment to their indigenous roots and probably had indigenous facial features.. The eight Mexican states with the largest populations of "Indígena Mezclada con Blanca" were:

1. Jalisco - 903,830 (75.83%)
2. Guanajuato - 828,724 (96.33%)
3. Michoacán - 663,391 (70.59%)
4. Veracruz - 556,472 (47.97%)
5. Distrito Federal - 496,359 (54.78%)

6. México – 422,001 (47.71%)

7. Puebla – 403,221 (39.34%)

8. Sinaloa – 335,474 (98.30%)

9. Zacatecas – 326,615 (86.10%)

10. Hidalgo – 320,250 (51.47%)

In terms of percentages, the states with the largest mezclada population were Sinaloa (98.30%), Guanajuato (96.32%), Durango (89.10%), Zacatecas (86.10%), and Querétaro (80.15%).

The State With the Largest Mezclada Population: Jalisco

As with the other classifications, the percentage of "indígena mezclada con blanca" in each state varied widely because of the level of assimilation and the states’ overall population. For Jalisco, the large number of mestizos in the state was a reflection of Jalisco’s mestizaje over the centuries. The combination of Jalisco’s mezclada and indígena pura populations (903,830 and 199,728) indicated that 92.58% of Jalisco’s total population (1,103,558 out of 1,191,957 people) had an indigenous background. In addition, 87,103 residents of Jalisco claimed to be White (7.31%).

Although the inhabitants of Jalisco had a strong link to their indigenous origins, only 195 persons in the entire state spoke indigenous languages. Two languages dominated within this small group of indigenous speakers (99 Huichol speakers and 81 Náhuatl speakers).

Guanajuato: The Second Largest Mezclada Population

Guanajuato was settled early in the colonial period and underwent mestizaje at an early date. 828,724 of Guanajuato’s population of 860,364 classified themselves as indígena mezclada con blanca, representing 96.33% of the state population. Only 25,458 persons claimed pure indigenous background (representing 2.96%) of the population and another 4,687 classified themselves as blanca. In contrast, only 220 inhabitants of Guanajuato spoke indigenous languages. [All but one of these indigenous speakers spoke the Otomí tongue.]

Sinaloa: The State with the Largest Percentage of Mezclada

In the 1921 Mexican census, 335,474 persons were classified as mezclada, representing an extraordinary 98.30% of the state population. Incredibly, a mere 3,163 people (or 0.93% of the state population) identified themselves as pura indígena. The number of person classified as white was smaller yet: only 644 people out of a total state population of 341,265.

Zacatecas: A State Without Indigenous Speakers

Zacatecas posed one of the most interesting cases in this analysis. With 8.54% of its inhabitants identified as "pura indígena" and another 86.1% classified as mestizo, 94.64% of Zacatecas’ inhabitants identified with their indigenous origins. At the same time, not a single inhabitant of the state claimed to speak an indigenous language. This would lead one to speculate that in some parts of México, persons who spoke Indian languages may, in fact, have denied this fact.

States With the Largest Blanca Population

The states with the largest populations of "Blanca" or White persons were:

1. Distrito Federal - 206,514
2. Chihuahua - 145,926
3. Sonora - 115,151
4. Veracruz - 114,150
5. México - 88,660

In terms of percentage, the "blanca" classification was most prominent in these states:

1. Sonora - 41.85%
2. Chihuahua - 36.33%
3. Baja California Sur - 33.40%
4. Tabasco - 27.56%
5. District Federal - 22.79%

One of the most interesting aspects of the 1921 census is that several Mexican states contained very small numbers of Indigenous speakers but had significant populations of people who were identified as "pura indígena." Some examples of these states are:

Coahuila

The State of Coahuila had 44,779 individuals who were identified as "indígena pura," representing 11.38% of the state population. If you combined the pure indigenous and mestizo populations, you would recognize that 89.26% of Coahuila’s population had some kind of indigenous heritage. However, in the entire state of 393,480 inhabitants, only 293 persons spoke an indigenous language. [All of these indigenous speakers spoke the Kikapóo language.]

Tamaulipas

Tamaulipas presented a similar issue. In 1921, 39,606 inhabitants of the state were recognized as of pure indigenous background, representing 13.80% of the population. The combined "indígena pura" and mestizo population was calculated at 83.16%. However, in the entire state only 237 persons spoke more than 15 indigenous languages, of which only one (Huasteca) was actually native to the State.

San Luis Potosí

San Luis Potosí, with large indigenous areas in its eastern regions, boasted a total "indígena pura" population of 136,365, which represented 30.6% of the state population. With a mestizo population tallied at 61.88%, the combined percentage of persons with some indigenous origins was 92.48%. However, only 1,738 inhabitants of the state claimed to speak one of the state’s six indigenous languages (Huasteco, Mayo, Mazateco, Náhuatl, Otomí and Totonaco).


The Overview

The table below outlines the racial classifications of the 1921 census by percentage:

Racial Makeup of the Mexican Republic (1921 Census) © Copyright 2007, John P. Schmal

State

Indígena Pura (% of Total State Population)

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca (% of State Population)

Blanca (% of State Population)

Extranjeros sin distinción de razas (% of State Population)

Aguascalientes

16.70%

66.12%

16.77%

0.41%

Baja California

7.72%

72.50%

0.35%

19.33%

Baja California Sur

6.06%

59.61%

33.40%

0.93%

Campeche

43.41%

41.45%

14.17%

0.60%

Coahuila

11.38%

77.88%

10.13%

0.61%

Colima

26.00%

68.54%

4.50%

0.12%

Chiapas

47.64%

36.27%

11.82%

4.27%

Chihuahua

12.76%

50.09%

36.33%

0.82%

District Federal

18.75%

54.78%

22.79%

3.26%

Durango

9.90%

89.10%

0.01%

0.15%

Guanajuato

2.96%

96.33%

0.54%

0.15%

Guerrero

43.84%

54.05%

2.07%

0.04%

Hidalgo

39.49%

51.47%

8.83%

0.21%

Jalisco

16.76%

75.83%

7.31%

0.10%

México

42.13%

47.71%

10.02%

0.14%

Michoacán

20.93%

70.59%

6.90%

0.08%

Morelos

34.93%

61.24%

3.59%

0.22%

Nayarit

18.32%

66.04%

5.24%

0.24%

Nuevo León

5.14%

75.47%

19.23%

0.08%

Oaxaca

69.17%

28.15%

1.43%

0.11%

Puebla

54.73%

39.34%

5.66%

0.22%

Querétaro

19.40%

80.15%

0.30%

0.11%

Quintana Roo

13.08%

26.90%

9.63%

13.64%

San Luis Potosí

30.60%

61.88%

5.41%

0.24%

Sinaloa

0.93%

98.30%

0.19%

0.58%

Sonora

13.78%

40.38%

41.85%

2.05%

Tabasco

18.50%

53.67%

27.56%

0.27%

Tamaulipas

13.80%

69.36%

13.54%

2.69%

Tlaxcala

54.70%

42.44%

2.53%

0.08%

Veracruz

35.06%

47.97%

9.84%

0.82%

Yucatán

43.31%

33.83%

21.85%

0.91%

Zacatecas

8.54%

86.10%

5.26%

0.10%

The Mexican Republic***

29.16%

59.33%

9.80%

0.71%

Classifications:

Indígena Pura (Pure Indigenous Origins)

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca (Indigenous Mixed with White)

Blanca (White)

Extranjeros sin distinction de razas (Foreigners without racial distinction)

One percent of the population of the Republic of Mexico chose a fifth option: "Cualquiera otra o que se ignora la raza" (persons who chose to ignore the question or "other."

Source: Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, "Annuario de 1930" (Tacubaya, Distrito Federal, 1932).

© 2008, John P. Schmal. All rights reserved.

Sources:

Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, "Annuario de 1930" (Tacubaya, D.F., Mexico, 1932), pp. 40, 48.

The 1921 census figures for each state were published in individual volumes by state. Each volume was published by the Departamento de la Estadística Nacional between 1927 and 1929 under the titles of "Resumen del Censo General de Habitantes de 30 de Noviembre de 1921."

About the Author

John Schmal is the coauthor of "The Indigenous Roots of a Mexican-American Family" (available as item M2469 through Heritage Books at http://heritagebooks.com). Recently, he also published "The Journey to Latino Political Representation" (available as item S4114).


 

INDIGENOUS MEXICO STATISTICS: THE 2005 CONTEO

By John P. Schmal

The results of the 2005 Mexican Conteo (Count) have been published and a comparison with the 2000 Mexican Censo (Censo) indicates a decline in the overall number of Mexican citizens who speak indigenous languages. The overall number of indigenous speakers has dropped from 6,044,547 to 6,011,202 persons five years of age and older. This represented a drop in the national percentage of indigenous speakers from 7.2% to 6.7%.

It is important to point out that the criteria in this count represents people who speak indigenous languages and that the number of Mexicans who consider themselves to be indigenous – through culture, tradition, spirit, genetics and other factors – is probably much greater in some parts of the country. Additionally, any children up to the age of four living in indigenous households are not tallied as being indigenous speakers.

Náhuatl remains the most widely spoken language in Mexico with 1,376,026 persons five years of age and older using that tongue. Náhuatl speakers, in fact, represented 22.89% of the indigenous speakers in the entire Republic in the 20005 Conteo. Some of the other prominent languages are:

2. Maya (759,000 speakers – 12.63% of all indigenous speakers)

3. Mixtec Languages (423,216 – 7.04%)

4. Zapotec Languages (410,901 – 6.84%)

5. Tzeltal (371,730 – 6.18%)

6. Tzotzil (329,937 – 5.49%)

7. Otomí (239,850 – 3.99%)

The Náhuatl, Maya, Mixtec and Zapotec languages are found in considerable numbers in many states far from their traditional homelands, in large part because of migration to the north and urban areas.

The states with the largest number of indigenous speakers are, in terms of absolute numbers and percentages, are:

1. Oaxaca (1,091,502 indigenous speakers – 35.3% of the state population)

2. Yucatán (538,355 speakers – 33.5% of the state population)

3. Chiapas (957,255 speakers – 26.1% of the state population)

4. Quintana Roo (170,982 speakers – 19.3% of the state population)

5. Hidalgo (320,029 – 15.5% of the state population)

6. Guerrero (383,427 – 14.2% of the state population)

7. Campeche (89,084 – 13.3% of the state population)

8. Puebla (548,723 – 11.7% of the state population)

9. San Luis Potosí (234,815 – 11.1% of the state population)

10. Veracruz (605,135 – 9.5% of the state population).

With the exception of the Chiapas dialects, many of the most populous indigenous languages have declined in absolute numbers, possibly due to immigration to the United States and other countries. It is also possible that many indigenous migrants who move from Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, or Campeche to large urban areas in Mexico City or the North may have children who, in the absence of a nurturing mother culture, may tend to assimilate and perhaps stop speaking their mother tongue as they socialize and work with their non-indigenous friends, associates, and neighbors.

We continue to see large numbers of Zapotec and Mixtec speakers dominating the indigenous landscape in many western and northern states, in large part because of decades of migration from Oaxaca to other parts of the country. A long distance from their traditional lands, the Mixtecs represent significant percentages of the indigenous-speaking people in several states, including Baja California (38.2% of indigenous speakers), Baja California Sur (21.5%), Distrito Federal (10.4%), Sinaloa (10.2%) and Estado de México (6.8%).

Similarly, the Zapotecs make up significant portions of the indigenous-speaking populations of several states, including Baja California (9.6%), Baja California Sur (8.7%), Distrito Federal (8.4%), Colima (6.5%) and Sinaloa (5.6%). Nevertheless, both the Zapotec and Mixtec languages saw significant overall population drops between 2000 and 2005 and large-scale immigration to the United States is certainly a compelling factor in that trend.

In the states of the Yucatán Peninsula, the Yucatec Maya dialect continues to dominate. For example, in the State of Yucatán, there are 527,107 Maya speakers, who represent 97.9% of the total indigenous-speaking population of the state.

While many languages have declined in absolute numbers, several of the most important Mayan tongues in Chiapas actually increased between the 2000 Censo and the 2005 Conteo. The five most widely spoken languages of Chiapas have all increased in absolute numbers:

1. Tzeltal (362,658 indigenous speakers – 37.9% of the state’s indigenous population)

2. Tzotzil (320,921 indigenous speakers – 33.5%)

3. Chol (161,794 speakers – 16.9%)

4. Zoque (43,936 speakers – 4.6%)

5. Tojolabal (42,798 – 4.5%)

This increase may be related to the high visibility and sense of pride that many Chiapas Indians have begun to feel towards their indigenous heritage, and, in fact, people who did not previously speak Tzotzil or Tzeltal fluently, may be learning the language to take part in the Cultural Renaissance now occurring.

The Náhuatl language continues to dominate many of the Mexican states. In Veracruz, for example, the 318,626 Náhuatl speakers make up 52.7% of the State’s indigenous speakers. The other widely spoken languages in Veracruz are the Totonac (19.2%), Huasteco (8.4%), Popoluca (5.3%), and Otomí (2.8%).

The Tarahumara Indians, one of the few surviving remnants of Chihuahua’s indigenous heritage, continue to represent 77.3% of Chihuahua’s people who speak Indian languages. But indigenous speakers only represent 3.4% of the total state population five years of age and older.

In Sonora, the two surviving traditional languages still dominate the indigenous-speaking population: the Mayo number 24,470 people (47.3%) and the Yaqui number 13,552 people (14.7%). But, here again, the indigenous speakers represent only 2.5% of Sonora’s entire population five years of age and older.

Mexico’s total population increased from 97,483,412 in the 2000 Censo to 103,263,388 in the 2005 Conteo. Interestingly, women outnumber men by 51.34% by 48.66%, a telling reminder that many breadwinners may have left the country to find gainful employment elsewhere.

Below is a graphic interpretation, illustrating the contrast in the indigenous speaking populations of Mexico’s states between the 2000 Censo and the 2005 Conteo:

 

 

A COMPARISON OF MEXICO’S INDIGENOUS-SPEAKING POPULATIONS BETWEEN THE 2000 CENSO AND THE 2005 CONTEO (BY STATE) - Copyright © 2006, by John P. Schmal.

State

2000 Censo – Population of Persons Five Years of Age and More Who Speak an Indigenous Language

2000 Census – Percentage

2005 Conteo – Population of Persons Five Years of Age and More Who Speak an Indigenous Language

2005 Conteo – Percentage

Aguascalientes

1,244

0.2

2,713

0.3

Baja California

37,685

1.9

33,604

1.4

Baja California,Sur

5,353

1.4

7,095

1.6

Campeche

93,765

15.5

89,084

13.3

Coahuila de Zaragoza

3,032

0.2

5,842

0.3

Colima

2,932

0.6

2,889

0.6

Chiapas

809,592

24.7

957,255

26.1

Chihuahua

84,086

3.2

93,709

3.4

Distrito Federal

141,710

1.8

118,424

1.5

Durango

24,934

2.0

27,792

2.1

Guanajuato

10,689

0.3

10,347

0.2

Guerrero

367,110

13.9

383,427

14.2

Hidalgo

339,866

17.3

320,029

15.5

Jalisco

39,259

0.7

42,372

0.7

México

361,972

3.3

312,319

2.6

Michoacán de Ocampo

121,849

3.5

113,166

3.3

Morelos

30,896

2.3

24,757

1.8

Nayarit

37,206

4.6

41,689

5.0

Nuevo León

15,446

0.5

29,538

0.8

Oaxaca

1,120,312

37.2

1,091,502

35.3

Puebla

565,509

13.1

548,723

11.7

Querétaro Arteaga

25,269

2.1

23,363

1.7

Quintana Roo

173,592

23.1

170,982

19.3

San Luis Potosí

235,253

11.7

234,815

11.1

Sinaloa

49,744

2.2

30,459

1.3

Sonora

55,694

2.9

51,701

2.5

Tabasco

62,027

3.7

52,139

3.0

Tamaulipas

17,118

0.7

20,221

0.8

Tlaxcala

26,662

3.2

23,807

2.5

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave

633,372

10.4

605,135

9.5

Yucatán

549,532

37.4

538,355

33.5

Zacatecas

1,837

0.2

3,949

0.3

Mexican Republic

6,044,547

7.2

6,011,202

6.7

Below is a second illustration indicating the evolution of Mexico’s indigenous languages in terms of their total numbers within the Mexican Republic.

THE EVOLUTION OF MEXICO’S INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES FROM 1970 TO 2005 -- Copyright © 2006, by John P. Schmal.

Primary Languages

1970

1990

2000

2005

2005 - % of all Indigenous Languages Spoken

Náhuatl

799,394

1,197,328

1,448,936

1,376,026

22.89%

Maya

454,675

713,520

800,291

759,000

12.63%

Mixtec Languages

233,235

386,874

446,236

423,216

7.04%

Zapoteco Languages

283,345

403,457

452,887

410,901

6.84%

Tzeltal

99,412

261,084

284,826

371,730

6.18%

Tzotzil

95,383

229,203

297,561

329,937

5.49%

Otomí

221,062

280,238

291,722

239,850

3.99%

Totonaca

124,840

207,876

240,034

230,930

3.84%

Mazateco

101,541

168,374

214,477

206,559

3.44%

Chol

73,253

128,240

161,766

185,299

3.08%

Huasteco

66,091

120,739

150,257

149,532

2.49%

Chinanteca Languages

54,145

109,100

133,374

125,706

2.09%

Mixe

54,403

95,264

118,924

115,824

1.93%

Mazahua

104,729

127,826

133,430

111,840

1.86%

Purépecha

60,411

94,835

121,409

105,556

1.76%

Tlapaneco

30,804

68,483

99,389

98,573

1.64%

Tarahumara

25,479

54,431

75,545

75,371

1.25%

Zoque

27,140

43,160

51,464

54,004

0.90%

Amuzgo

13,883

28,228

41,455

43,761

0.73%

Tojolabal

13,303

36,011

37,986

43,169

0.72%

Chatino

11,773

29,006

40,722

42,791

0.71%

Chontal

ND

36,267

38,561

36,578

0.61%

Popoluca

27,818

31,254

38,477

36,406

0.61%

Huichol

6,874

19,363

30,686

35,724

0.59%

Mayo

27,848

37,410

31,513

32,702

0.54%

Tepehuano

5,617

18,469

25,544

31,681

0.53%

Cora

6,242

11,923

16,410

17,086

0.28%

Huave

7,442

11,955

14,224

15,993

0.27%

Yaqui

7,084

10,984

13,317

14,162

0.24%

Cuicateco

10,192

12,677

13,425

12,610

0.21%

Other Languages

63,997

308,768

179,699

278,685

4.64%

Total Indigenous Speakers in Mexico

3,111,415

5,282,347

6,044,547

6,011,202

100%

Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Conteos de Población y Vivienda, 2005.

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal.


 

EXTRANJEROS IN MEXICO (1895-2000)

By John P. Schmal (© 2007)

Immigration to Mexico

From the early Sixteenth Century to the end of the Nineteenth Century, Mexico saw a continuous surge of immigrants from Spain. But several other countries – most notably Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, the Philippines and China – also contributed a steady stream of immigrants to various parts of Mexico through the centuries. Immigration from North America and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean has also been healthy over the long haul.

Extranjeros in Mexico’s 1895 Census

According to the 1895 Mexican census, the countries with the largest number of natives living in Mexico were:

  1. Spain (14,108 natives)
  2. Guatemala (14,004)
  3. United States (12,945)
  4. France (3,897)
  5. United Kingdom (3,263)
  6. Germany (2,497)
  7. Italy (2,148)
  8. China (1,026)

The total number of extranjeros living in Mexico numbered 56,355 in 1895. In contrast, the number of people five years of age and older who spoke foreign languages amounted to only 23,916 persons. Of course, those individuals who were born in Spain and Guatemala and spoke Spanish did not speak a foreign language. Therefore the five most widely spoken foreign languages were:

  1. English (13,711 speakers)
  2. French (3,569 speakers)
  3. German (2,247 speakers)
  4. Italian (1,376 speakers)
  5. Chinese (827 speakers)

During the reign of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1910), foreigners were invited to Mexico to serve as skilled professionals in a number of industries, including the railroad and mining industries. This policy guaranteed a steady stream of immigrant who entered Mexico, some of whom stayed and raised families.

Extranjeros in 1900

The total number of extranjeros living in Mexico increased from 56,355 in 1895 to 67,674 in 1900. Although Spain remained the largest contributor of natives to Mexico, United States moved into second place as the country of birth for Mexican residents. The most represented countries were:

  1. Spain (16,280 natives)
  2. 2 United States (15,242)

    3 Guatemala (5,820)

    4. France (3,970)

    Extranjeros in 1910

    In 1910, the total number of extranjeros living in Mexico almost doubled to 117,108 persons. Although the largest number of natives continued to be from the Spain, Guatemala and the United States, natives of China increased almost fourfold from 2,660 in 1900 to 13,203 in 1910. The countries most represented by extranjeros in Mexico’s 1910 census were:

  3. Spain (29,64 natives)
  4. Guatemala (21,334)
  5. United States (20,639)
  6. China (13,203)
  7. United Kingdom (5,274)
  8. France (4,729)
  9. Germany (3,627)

In the 1910 census, 56,491 persons five years of age and older spoke some foreign language. The most widely spoken foreign language was English (with 24,480 English speakers), followed by Chinese (12,972 speakers), French (4,729), German (4,132) and Arabic (3,545).

Extranjeros in 1921

Mexico experienced a violent revolution that caused widespread death, destruction and migration from 1910 to 1920. By the time the next census was taken in 1921, more than a million Mexicans had been killed and internal migration had displaced millions more. In 1921, the number of extranjeros dropped from 117,108 in 1910 to 101,312. The countries with the largest representation were:

  1. Spain (29,565 natives)
  2. China (14,472)
  3. Guatemala (13,974)
  4. United States (11,090)
  5. Syria (4,715)

As a general rule, many of the foreign populations decreased during the revolution as many people fled the country to escape the turmoil. The number of persons speaking foreign languages also dropped from 56,4391 in 1910 to 47,989 in 1921. The six most widely spoken foreign languages were:

  1. Chinese (14,514 speakers)
  2. English (13,570 speakers)
  3. Arabic (5,420 speakers)
  4. German (3,772 speakers)
  5. French (3,553 speakers)
  6. Italian (2,108 speakers)
  7. Japanese (1,880 speakers)

Extranjeros in 1930

The number of extranjeros in Mexico increased from 101,312 in 1921 to 159,844 in 1930. The most represented countries were:

  1. Spain (47,239 natives)
  2. China (18,965)
  3. Guatemala (17,023)
  4. United States (12,396)
  5. Canada (7,779)
  6. Germany (6,501)
  7. Syria (5,195)

Arabic countries saw significant increases with several native populations well represented in the Mexican census: Saudi Arabia (4,435 natives), Lebanon (3,963) and Syria (5,159). However, speakers of foreign languages declined significantly from 47,989 to 8,223. The three most widely spoken languages were: English (5,134 speakers), Chinese (1,008) and German (503). The decline in foreign languages may have been due to a reluctance of individuals to admit that they spoke foreign languages, as well as assimilation of second-generation of Mexicans.

Extranjeros in 1940

The total number of extranjeros in Mexico dropped dramatically from 159,844 in 1930 to 67,548 in 1940. As the older generation of immigrants died out, the Mexican-born children of the foreign-born individuals took their place as natives of Mexico, not a foreign country. The five countries with the largest representation in Mexico during this census year were:

  1. Spain (21,022 natives)
  2. United States (9,585)
  3. Canada (5,338)
  4. China (4,858)
  5. Guatemala (3,358)

Natives of Arab countries continued to make up a significant portion of the foreign natives: Lebanon (2,454 natives), Saudi Arabia (1,070) and Syria (1,041). Significant numbers of natives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union were also represented among the extranjeros.

During this census, the number of people who spoke foreign languages also dropped from 8,223 in 1930 to 6,465 in 1940. German was the most widely spoken foreign language (with 5,111 speakers), followed by English (1,159 speakers). It is likely that many people tallied in the census simply did not admit that they spoke foreign languages. It is also possible that many of the 14,923 natives from Canada and the U.S. may actually have been the children of Mexican immigrants who returned to Mexico with their children during the repatriation of the 1930’s and in the aftermath of a devastating world-wide economic depression.

Extranjeros in 1950

Between 1940 and 1950, the number of foreign-born residents in Mexico increased significantly from 67,548 to 106,015. The largest number of immigrants that had entered Mexico during the last decade came from the United States and Spain. For the first time, United States had the largest representation. The most widely represented countries were:

  1. United States (30,454 natives)
  2. Spain (26,676)
  3. Canada (6,102)
  4. China (5,124)
  5. Guatemala (4,613)

Other countries represented in significant numbers were France, Germany, Italy, Cuba, Japan, Lebanon and Poland. Speakers of foreign languages also increased dramatically from 6,465 in 1940 to 100,830 in 1950. The five most widely spoken languages correlated to some extent with the influx of natives:

  1. English (57,172 speakers)
  2. German (9,383 speakers)
  3. French (5,975 speakers)
  4. Chinese (5,262 speakers)
  5. Japanese (1,805)

Although the influx of English speakers correlated with the increase of immigrants from Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S., the number of German speakers (9,383) did not seem to match the number of German-born Mexicans (1,811), indicating possibly that second-generation German-Mexicans may have retained their German language skills. There seemed to be a similar phenomenon with French (5,975 French speakers compared to 1,088 French natives in Mexico). Chinese, on the other hand, seemed to correlate well between the two classifications.

Extranjeros in 1960

Between 1950 and 1960, the number of foreign-born in Mexico more than doubled from 106,015 to 223,468. The United States had the largest number of natives, followed at a great distance by Spain, Guatemala and Germany, as indicated below:

  1. United States (97,902 natives)
  2. Spain (49,637)
  3. Guatemala (8,743)
  4. Germany (6,690)
  5. Canada (5,631)
  6. China (5,085)
  7. Poland (4,275)
  8. France (4,196)

Between 1950 and 1960, the number of persons speaking foreign languages also increased from 100,830 to 147,827. English speakers were the largest group (103,154), followed by French, German, Arabic, Japanese and Polish. Spanish-speakers from Spain, Guatemala and other Latin American countries, of course, would not be included as speakers of foreign languages and, as such, did not figure in the calculations for speakers of foreign languages.

Extranjeros in 1970

Between 1960 and 1970, the number of foreign-born in Mexico dropped for the first time from 223,468 to 192,208. The number of U.S.-born natives barely decreased from 97,902 to 97,248 while the number of Spanish immigrants dropped significantly from 49,637 to 31,038. Below is a tally of the extranjeros in Mexico at the time of the 1970 census:

  1. United States (97,248 natives)
  2. Spain (31,038)
  3. Guatemala (6,969)
  4. Germany (5,379)
  5. Cuba (4,197)
  6. Nicaragua (3,674)
  7. France (3,495)
  8. Canada (3,352)

One of the most notable increases took place among natives from a variety of Latin American countries. Immigration from 13 Latin American countries accounted for 24,561 foreign-born individuals in the 1970 census. Although a variety of reasons for this immigration may have instigated this enhanced movement, the flight of refuges from Castro’s Cuba probably played a role in placing Cuban-born nationals in fifth place.

Extranjeros in 1980

Between 1970 and 1980, the number of foreign-born persons in Mexico increased from 192,208 to 268,900. Once again, natives from the United States made up the largest segment with 157,080 persons, followed by Spain (32,240). However, natives from 13 Latin American countries totaled 33,981 and made up 12.6% of all the foreign-born residents. The countries most represented by the extranjeros in the 1980 census were:

  1. United States (157,080 natives)
  2. Spain (32,240)
  3. Argentina (5,479)
  4. Germany (4,824)
  5. France (4,242)
  6. Guatemala (4,115)

Extranjeros in 2000

At the time of the 2000 census, 492,617 extranjeros lived in Mexico. A total of 343,591 extranjeros were born in the United States, representing 69.75% of the entire immigrant population. The countries most represented by the extranjeros in the 2000 census were:

1. United States (343,591 natives)

2. Guatemala (23,957)

3. Spain (21,024)

4. Cuba (6,647)

5. Argentina (6,465)

6. Colombia (6,215)

Immigrants from both the United States and the rest of the Americas constituted 87.5% of all extranjeros living in Mexico in 2000. However, Canada, France and Germany also continued to contribute several thousand of their natives to Mexico’s resident population.

If current trends continue in the Twenty-First Century, it is likely that immigration from both the United States and Latin America will continue to constitute the largest number of extranjeros residing in Mexico.

© 2008, John P. Schmal. All rights reserved.

Sources:

Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, "Annuario de 1930" (Tacubaya, D.F., Mexico, 1932),

Secretaria de la Economia Nacional, Direccion General de Estadistica, "Annuario Estadistico de los Estados Unidos Mexicano" (1938-1972)

Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI), Censo de Poblacion y Vivienda de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos" (1980-2000).

First published at: http://www.somosprimos.com/sp2007/spdec07/spdec07.htm

 




Mexico
and Its Religions

By John P. Schmal

From the earliest of times, religion has been an important element in the life of the Mexican people. The pre-Hispanic indigenous inhabitants of Mexico worshipped a pantheon of Gods represented by the objects or animals that played a significant role in their lives. For many of the Amerindians of Mexico, the reverence and fear of their gods was deeply engrained. But when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico in 1519, they brought with them a new religion, Christianity.  As the Spaniards triumphed on the battlefield, many Indian tribes gave up their gods who had abandoned them in critical times and adopted the beliefs of the conquerors.

Many of the Mexican Indians adapted rather quickly to Catholicism but their conversion was made easier as they were able to incorporate elements of their old cultures and superstitions. This fusion of Catholicism with some elements of the original traditions lead to what some persons call Folk Catholicism, which provided many indigenous people with a smoother transition to Christianity. This “Folk Catholicism” is practiced in some parts of Mexico . In other parts of Mexico , entire tribes managed to maintain their old religions. One good example of this would be the Huichol Indians of Jalisco and Nayarit.

As the Nineteenth Century progressed, Mexico remained a predominantly Catholic country. It was during the time following the War of Independence (1810-1821) that many Mexican politicians began to see the Catholic Church as a tool of the Spanish authorities. While many Mexican people strongly adhered to Catholicism, a political battle took place that would eventually reduce the economic power and political influence of the Catholic Church throughout the country.

Starting in the 1830s, the Conservative Party, advocating the status quo, came into direct conflict with the Liberal Party, which essentially sought to reduce the power of the established order – the large landowners and Catholic Church. Eventually, the Liberals gained control of the Federal Government and enacted the Constitution of 1857, effectively abolishing many of the Church’s special privileges. In 1878, schools were secularized and during the next decade, religious institutions were stripped of their legal status. Finally, in 1898, Mexico officially broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican .

In spite of these seemingly anti-Catholic government measures enacted over a period of several decades, the vast majority of the Mexican people remained staunchly Roman Catholic. By the time of the 1895 census, at least 9,580 Catholic churches or temples existed throughout the land, in contrast to only 189 Protestant churches. The states containing the most Catholic Churches were: Mexico (1,692 churches or temples), Puebla (1,299), Guanajuato (1,009), Hidalgo (883), and Guerrero (526).

The 1900 Census

Catholicism in Mexico was listed as the religion of 99.36% of the respondents in the 1900 Mexican census. In absolute terms, 13,519,668 persons professed to be Catholics. Another 51,796 persons claimed to be Protestant, while Buddhists were represented by only 2,062 persons. Only 134 people listed in the 1900 census classified themselves as Jewish. It is noteworthy that 18,635 persons claimed to have no religion, and another 12,563 ignored the census question.

In the 1900 census, twenty-three Mexican states boasted populations of 99% or more Catholics. In fact, three states spread across different parts of Mexico held the largest percentage of Catholics: Chiapas (99.94%), Colima (99.91%) and Querétaro (99.90%), while Chihuahua had the smallest percentage of Catholics: 96.04%. In the 1900 census, Protestants made up a mere 0.39% of the total population of the Mexican Republic .

It is believed that as many as one in eight Mexicans – almost two million people – perished in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). The 1921 census count reflects this decrease, as the population of Mexico dropped from 15,160,369 in 1910 to 14,334,780. The Catholic population declined even more, dropping from 15,033,176 to 13,921,226 in 1921, representing 97.1% of the total population of that year. The population of Protestants, in contrast, increased slightly from 68,838 to 73,951 during the same period of time.

The Mexican Revolution represented a crisis of major proportions for all elements of Mexican society, including the Catholic Church. One of the major consequences of the Mexican Revolution was the Constitution of 1917. The articles of this constitution deprived the Catholic Church of its traditional privileged position in Mexican society by secularizing all primary education and requiring the registration of all clergymen with the government (to regulate their “professional conduct”).

Article 24, which forbade public worship outside the confines of the church, had antagonized many Mexican citizens. In 1926, President Plutarco Elias Calles, in implementing the articles of the Constitution, signed the so-called Intolerable Acts. The implementation of these strongly anti-clerical laws antagonized many Catholics and laid the foundation of the so-called Cristero Religious War. Los Altos and the Three-Fingers border region of northern Jalisco, long regarded as a vanguard of Catholicism in Mexico , would become battlefields in this next war, which started in 1926.

During the period from 1926 to 1932, the government of Jalisco changed hands ten times. At one point, some 25,000 rebels had been mobilized to resist the articles of the Constitution. The bloody conflict was formally ended in June 1929. However, outbreaks of violence continued into the 1930s. Over time, the uneasy relationship between the Church and state relaxed considerably and, while the oppressive laws originally signed into law by Calles remained on the books, little effort was made to enforce them.

The 1930 Census

By the time of the 1930 census, the Cristero Rebellion had ended and Mexican Catholicism -while greatly reduced in economic power and influence - was still the religious creed of 16,179,667 individuals, who made up 97.7% of the Mexican population. The population of the Protestants, by now, had increased significantly, amounting to 130,322 individuals, equivalent to about 0.7% of the Mexican population. The number of Buddhists had increased to 6,743, and the number of Jewish believers reached 9,072 persons.

 

In the 1930 census, Querétaro had the largest percentage of Catholics (99.54%), followed by Guanajuato (99.25%) and Oaxaca (99.24%). The greatest absolute number of Protestants for this census could be found in the Federal District , where they numbered 16,895 souls (or 1.37% of the population). However, the southern state of Tabasco had the largest percentage of Protestants (3.38%), followed by Tamaulipas (2.39%) and Baja California (2.27%).

 

The 1950 Census

The 1950 Mexican census counted 25,791,071 persons in all, of which 25,329,498 were Catholics, representing 98.21% of the total population. In the same census, the Protestant population had climbed to 330,111, now making up 1.28% of the population. The Jewish population also reached 17,574 persons.

 

In 1950, the Catholic states with the largest percentage of Catholics were: Querétaro (99.77%), Baja California Sur (99.69%), Guanajuato (99.67%), and Colima (99.53%). The Federal District continued to boast the largest number of Protestants in the country, with 54,884 individuals (1.80% of the state population). The percentage of Protestants living in Tabasco continued to lead the rest of the country, with 5.13%, followed at a great distance by Tamaulipas (2.82%) and Quintana Roo (2.44%).

 

The 2000 Census

In the 2000 census, the Mexican Republic 's percentage of Catholics dropped to 87.99%. The states with the largest percentages of Catholics were Guanajuato (96.41%), Aguascalientes , (95.64%), Jalisco (95.38%), Querétaro (95.26%), and Zacatecas (95.15%).

 

It is noteworthy that significant numbers of people in the southern states had become Protestant in recent decades. The states with the largest percentages of Protestants were: Chiapas (13.9%), Tabasco (13.62%), Campeche (13.19%), and Quintana Roo (11.16%), all southern states. It is also important to understand that the states with the significant percentages of Protestants are also the states with the largest populations of indigenous peoples. The anthropologist Carlos Garma has explained this phenomenon as follows: “In Indian communities, Pentecostalism has had the strongest impact because of its emphasis on faith healing and miracles.”

The Government of Mexico has kept statistics on religion in every census since 1895. All such statistics - including those cited in this work - are available in various publications of INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática) from the last century.

Sources:

Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, Annuario de 1930 (Tacubaya, D.F., México, 1932).

Secretaría de Economia, Estadísticas Sociales del Porfiriato, 1877-1910 (México, 1956).

INEGI, Estados Unidos Mexicanos, XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda, 2000. Tabulados Básicos y por Entidad Federativa. Bases de Datos y Tabulados de la Muestra Censal.

Carlos Garma, “Religious Affiliation in Indian Mexico ,” in James W. Dow and Alan R. Sandstrom (eds.), Holy Saints and Fiery Preachers: The Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico and Central America ( Westport , Connecticut : Praeger Publishers, 2001), pp. 57-72.

 

                                                   

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