ESSAYS AND RESEARCH ON

INDIGENOUS MEXICO

By John P. Schmal

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PDF 48-page file, click to view
IndigenousMexico.pdf   

PDF  46-page file, click to view
MexicanGenealogy.pdf 

PDF  53-page file, click to view
LatinoPoliticalRepresentation
.pdf

PDF  66-page file, click to view
Indigenous Peoples of Nueva Galicia and Nueva Vizcaya.pdf


Documents: Click on name links to view pdf files

   

 

THE MEXICAN CENSUS 
The Indigenous Languages of Mexico: A Present-Day Overview
Mexico's 1921 Census: A Unique Perspective
Mexico's 2010 Census: A Unique Perspective
Indigenous Mexico Statistics: The 2005 Conteo
Extranjeros in Mexico
(1895-2000)
Mexico and Its Religions
  

INDIGENOUS ROOTS IN MEXICO
Indigenous Roots in Mexico
Tracing Your Indigenous Roots in Sonora

 

ZACATECAS HISTORY AND RESEARCH
Mexican Americans Finding Their Roots
The History of Zacatecas

The Indigenous People of Zacatecas
The Mexicanization of the Zacatecas Indians
Genealogical Research in Zacatecas
Indigenous Roots: Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Jalisco  (the Chichimeca Story)
The Caxanes of Nochistlán: Defenders of their Homeland



 JALISCO HISTORY AND RESEARCH 
Mexico: The Best Records in the World
L
os Tapatiós de California: Returning to Their Jalisco Roots
The History of Jalisco
Indigenous Jalisco: Living in a New Era


AGUASCALIENTES 
 

  THE AZTEC EMPIRE 
The Mexica: From Obscurity to Dominance
The History of the Tlaxcalans
The Defeat of the Aztecs


SOUTHERN MEXICO 
Campeche: On the Edge of the Mayan World
Oaxaca: A Land of Diversity

Indigenous Yucatán
The Mixtecs and Zapotecs: Two Enduring Cultures of Oaxaca
Chiapas - Forever Indigenous


NORTHWEST MEXICO
Indigenous Baja: Living on the Edge of Existence
The Yaqui Indians: Four centuries of resistance
NW Mexico: Four centuries of resistance
An Entire Frontier in Flames


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.

   

 



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.

 

 


 

 INDIGENOUS ROOTS IN MEXICO

Tracing Your Indigenous Roots in México

By John P. Schmal

Because I volunteer as a Mexican genealogical consultant at the Los Angeles Family History Center a few days out of each month, many people have asked me for assistance in tracing their indigenous roots in México. For three hundred years, México was blessed with an exceptional record-keeping system. For the most part, Spanish padres in the small Mexican parishes were very diligent in recording the lives of their parishioners.  In many parts of México, expedientes de bautismos, matrimonios y defunciones provide family history researchers with interesting details about the lives and origins of their ancestors that cannot be found in most other countries.

It is possible for people to trace their indigenous roots in México, but it may involve a little bit of work and creative thinking.  Depending upon which state your family came from, you may have great success or you may have very limited success.  Your success depends upon several inter-related factors.

Racial classifications

Up until 1821, most Spanish priests recorded the racial classifications of the persons they baptized and married.  The Spanish racial order included a large variety of categories that included español (White), mestiso, mulato, indio, coyote and lobo.  Although this method of categorization was, in our present-day eyes, a very racist and degrading system, it does offer the researcher and family historian some insight into their own ethnic makeup. After 1821, the racial classifications were made illegal.

Assimilation and Mestizaje

If a person is trying to determine the name of the Indian tribe from which they descend, they may be disappointed.  The assimilation and mestizaje of the Mexican people started early in the Sixteenth Century and continued at various levels for the next three hundred years of colonial México.  In many parts of México, Indians lost their tribal identity early on. And intermarriage among various indigenous groups was common, thus obscuring one’s descent from a particular ethnic group.

When the Spaniards arrived in some areas, a social transformation took place. The Spaniards, with their superior military tactics, easily overwhelmed the tribes that resisted them. The loss of life from disease or war caused a social chaos among some indigenous groups. But in some areas, the indigenous peoples accepted the suzerainty of the Spaniards and a peaceful process of assimilation resulted.

The processes that took place differed from one region to another, but the effect was the same for the majority of México’s native peoples.  The existing social structures disintegrated and blended into more dominant Indian groups or assimilated into the central Hispanic culture. The pre-Hispanic cultural link that had been handed down from parents to their children was severed. A new religion, Christianity, replaced the old religions. And two languages - Spanish and Náhuatl - became the primary languages of the subdued tribes, who essentially evolved into what we now know as the Mexican people.

Because converted Indians were now God-fearing Christians, they no longer felt pride in or reverence for their old cultures. So, after being Christianized and Hispanicized, many indigenous people assumed Christian given names and Spanish surnames.

To help with the social and religious transformation, the Spanish authorities brought peaceful sedentary Christianized Indians from other parts of México into the region. These so-called "civilized" Indians were given the task of helping their Indian brethren to adapt to the new Christian way of life under Spanish tutelage. These Indian groups - the Tlaxcalans, the Mexica, Otomí, and the Purépecha, among others - had all undergone the same experience several decades earlier.

The result of this social and cultural transformation is that many people probably are descended from many kinds of Indian tribal groups.  A person from Sain Alto in Zacatecas, for example, may be descended from the Zacatecos Indians who were indigenous to the area, but may also be descended from Otomí, Tlaxcalan and Mexica Indians who settled in the area during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.

The Generic Classification "Indio / India"

Because of the "lost identity" of so many indigenous people, most parish priests employed the generic terms "indio" or "india" to describe the persons being baptized or getting married in their parish books.  The following excerpt from a 1773 document in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco – translated into English – describes the marriage of two Indians:

"In the Parish of Lagos on the 10th of July 1773, having read the marriage banns in solemn Mass on three holy days, on the 13th, 20th, and 24th of June, as required by the Holy Council of Trent, I, Father Miguel Días asked for the consent of JOSE DIONICIO DELGADO, Indian, originally from and a resident of this parish in the post of Quarenta, legitimate son of Leon Delgado and Josefa Ramires, and RITA QUITERIA DE LARA, Indian, originally from and a resident of this parish in Sabinda, legitimate daughter of Carlos Antonio de Lara, and of Maria Valades, and having expressed mutual consent, I married them..."

Note that the José Dionicio Delgado and his bride Rita Quiteria de Lara are both called Indians, without reference to a specific tribe. This was a widespread practice through many parts of México, where the Indians simply assumed or were given surnames.  It is worth noting that surnames such as de la Cruz and de los Reyes were frequently given to Indian peasants by their parish priests. 

There is no better example of the generic use of "indio" than the baptism of the famous son of Oaxaca: Benito Juárez:

"In the Parish Church of Santo Tomas Ixtlan, on the 22nd of March of the year of 1806, I, Father Mariano Cortabarria, assisted by Vicar Antonio Puche, baptized solemnly BENITO PABLO, son of Marcelino Juárez and Brigida Garcia, Indians of the village of San Pablo Guelatao, belonging to this main district; his paternal grandparents are Pedro Juárez and Justa Lopez; the maternal grandparents: Pablo Garcia and Maria Garcia; the godmother was Apolonia Garcia, an Indian and the wife of Francisco Garcia, and whom I advised of her obligation and spiritual parentage, and in witness thereof we signed the present act." [Source: Pere Foix, Juárez (México, D.F.: Editorial Trillas, 1949), p. 23.]

We know that Benito Juárez was a Zapotec Indian, but because he was born into a Christian Mexican family, his parents were simply given the generic classification of "indios" in the church recording of his baptism.

Ethnic Classifications

In some states, such as Sonora, Chihuahua, or Coahuila, church records occasionally reference a specific kind of Indian tribe.  In Ciudad de Chihuahua, marriages between "indios de Tarahumara" and "indios de Yaqui" are commonly found in Eighteenth Century records. Such marriages took place because Yaqui laborers from Sonora and Tarahumaras from southern Chihuahua came in significant numbers to the ciudad looking for employment. As an example, the following marriage took place in 1751:

"On the 12st of May of 1751, Father José Ruis de Mexa, having resided over everything that is right, and finding no impediments to marriage resulting, married in the face of the church, BALTHASAR, a Yaqui Indian from the Pueblo of Saguaripa, with MARIA ROSALIA of the Pueblo of Torimp…"

As you can see by this document, the two people being married do not have surnames.  Eventually, all Mexicans would adopt surnames, but in the 1600s and 1700s, some native inhabitants lacked surnames.  This poses a major stumbling block to researching indigenous roots.

Useful Tools

However, some tools are available to assist researchers in analyzing ancestral records. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) for México contains almost 30 million extracts for México.  The IGI and other associate databases can be accessed at the following website:

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp

Indigenous Identity

Regardless of the amount of mestizaje and cultural assimilation that may have taken place since the Sixteenth Century, the indigenous identity of the Mexican people was preserved well into the Twentieth Century.  In the 1921 census, 4,179,449 persons claimed to be "indígena pura."  These pure indigenous individuals represented 29.16% of the Mexican Republic’s total population.  Even more people, however, recognized the duality of their ethnic identity. In the same census, 8,504,561 Mexican citizens classified themselves as "indígena mezclada con blanca," representing 59.33% of the nation’s population.  The population who acknowledged that they were "blanca," amounted to only 9.8% of the population.

Expectations in Research

Tracing indigenous roots in México can be a rewarding and exciting experience, but the most important factor in tracing your family tree is to accept whatever results you find.  When a person has fixed expectations, they are likely to be disappointed.  In my own research over the last 16 years, I have found that every Mexican family has a blend of both Spanish and Indian roots.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved.

Primary Sources: John P. Schmal and Donna S. Morales, "Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico" (Heritage Books: 2003).

Various films of the Family History Library. Catalog Website:
http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp
 

 


 

TRACING YOUR INDIGENOUS ROOTS IN SONORA: A CHALLENGE AND AN ADVENTURE

By John P. Schmal

In recent years, many Americans have taken an interest in their indigenous roots from northern Mexico. From the Late Eighteenth Century to the present, significant numbers of people from the State of Sonora migrated to Los Angeles and other areas of California. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Los Angeles Times newspapers were filled with stories about the battles fought between the Yaquis and the Mexican Government forces. Many Yaquis and other indigenous peoples in the State fled north to escape persecution from government forces. Some people simply needed to get away from the constant turmoil to find stable employment in California or Arizona. And today, many Californians claim descent from these refugees.

Located in northwestern Mexico, Sonora occupies 180,833 square kilometers, which amounts to 9.2% of the national territory of Mexico. Sonora shares 588 kilometers of borders with the United States, specifically with the States of Arizona and New Mexico. This state also shares a common border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua (on the east), Sinaloa (on the southeast), and Baja California (northwest). Sonora also has a long shoreline along the Gulf of California.

In 2000, Sonora had a total population of 2,183,108, making up 2.2% of the national population of the Mexican Republic. Sonora, with Hermosillo with its capital, is a mostly mountainous state, with vast desert stretches located along its western coastal region. Politically, Sonora is divided into seventy-two municipios.

The Ethnic Makeup of Sonora

Many people identify Sonora with the Yaqui, Pima and Pápago Indians. However, Sonora actually has a very diverse mix of origins. Among the many Spaniards who came to the area were significant numbers of Basques from northern Spain. Equally important to Sonora’s economy was the large number of African slaves who were brought into the region to work for the mining industry. A 1783 census indicated that there were 13 gold mines and 100 silver mines in twenty mining districts throughout Sonora (from Pfefferkorn, "Description of Sonora," published in 1989 by the University of Arizona Press in Tucson).

The ethnic diversity of Sonora was illustrated by the 1921 Mexican census, which asked the residents to classify themselves in several categories, including "indígena pura" (pure indigenous), "indígena mezclada con blanca" (indigenous mixed with white) and "blanca" (white). Out of a total state population of 275,127 residents, 37,914 persons (or 13.8%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background. A much larger number - 111,089, or 40.4% - classified themselves as being mixed, while a slightly larger number – 115,151 (41.9%) – claimed to be white.

Although 37,914 persons were classified as being of pure indigenous background, only 6,765 residents of the State in 1921 actually admitted to speaking an indigenous language. The most commonly spoken indigenous language was the Mayo language, which 5,941 individuals used. The Yaqui language was spoken by only 562 persons. This meager showing may have been the result of the deportations taking place in the previous three decades, but may also indicate that many Yaqui speakers were fearful of admitting their linguistic and cultural identity, for fear of government reprisal.

Tracing Your Indigenous Roots in Sonora

Many people have expressed an interest in finding a connection to their Yaqui ancestors. Others indicate some indigenous background, but are not clear if it is Pima, Mayo, Opata or Yaqui. In recent years, I have worked with several individuals in tracing their lineages, utilizing the resources of the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Through this library and its associated Family History Centers scattered around the United States, you can access many church and civil records for most of the cities and towns of Sonora. Anyone can access this online catalog to see the availability of records for his or her specific region:

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp

Once you have determined what records you need, you can order each roll of microfilm for $6.05. Once this arrives, you will have one month to utilize it at your local Family History Center. If you see long-term value in the film, you can renew it permanently and the library will make it part of its permanent collection.

The Problems

There are a number of issues that can complicate researching indigenous roots in Sonora. These problems are discussed below:

Racial Classifications

Up until 1822, most Sonoran priests recorded the racial classifications of the persons they baptized and married. The Spanish racial order included a large variety of categories that included español (White), mestiso, mulato, indio, coyote and lobo, which covered the spectrum of skin color. Although this method of categorization was, in our present-day eyes, a very racist and degrading system, it does offer the researcher and family historian some insight into their own ethnic makeup.

After 1822, the racial classifications were made illegal in Mexico, although some parishes in Sonora continued to designate people as Yaqui, Opata, Pima, Pápago and Seri. Other Parishes –like Hermosillo and Guaymas – almost completely abandoned the labeling. By the 1850s, most of these tribal designations disappear from the church registers and you can usually not tell what kind of an Indian your ancestor was. At best, they occasionally referred to an indigenous person as "indígena."

The Generic Classification "Indio / India"

Because of the "lost identity" of so many indigenous people who had become assimilated into Mexico’s colonial life, parish priests employed the generic terms "indio" or "india" to describe many of the persons being baptized or getting married in their parish books. Once the ancestors of these people had been baptized as Christians, they had become subjects of the Spanish empire and, in essence, the children of the local mission or parish. Their tribal identity had become unimportant because they were living, working and worshipping in the Spanish-speaking Christian community.

More than most Mexican states, however, Sonoran priests did frequently describe their parishioners as Pima, Yaqui and Pápago. But in a large parish like Alamos in the south, researchers are more likely to see lobo, coyote, mestizo and indio applied to their ancestors during the colonial period.

Jurisdictional Issues and Missing Church Records

Another problem with parish records in Sonora is the placement of church records. Sometimes several towns or cities may be attached to one parish. For example, in the Family History Library Catalog, you will notice that there are no church records available for Pitiquito or Caborca. However, both towns are close to Altar, where the parish records date back to 1771.

The Presidio de Santa Gertrudis de Altar was established in the 1775 within the territory of the Pimas. However, the nearby town of Caborca was established earlier (in 1688) by the Jesuit missionary, Eusebio Francisco Kino. Originally called "Caborca Viejo," the modern mission was established in 1790. The Altar jurisdiction was very large and for a long time was the central administrative point for the present-day municipios of Caborca, Oquitoa, Tubutama, Saric, Pitiquito, Puerto Penasco and San Luis Rio Colorado.

Because of these jurisdictional issues, many baptisms and marriages of people from Pitiquito and Caborca can be seen in the Altar records. For example, the following 1806 marriage of two Yaqui Indians from the "Mision de Caborca" can be seen in the Altar records:

En el año del Señor de mil ochocientos y seis, dia veinte, y ocho de Julio, haviendo precedido las tres amonestaciones, que dispose el Santo Concilio Tridenino, y no resultando impedimento alguno, Yo, Fr. Santiago Visategui, Pon. App. y Ministro de esta Mision de Caborca, pregunte a DOMINGO YGNACIO BUITEMEA, soltero, hijo de PEDRO DOMINGO BUITEMEA, y de JUANA MARIA BAISEA, difuntos, y a JUANA MARIA CECILIA, doncella, hija de FRANCISCO BUITEMEA, y de MARIA DOMINGA LILIJAN tambien difuntos, todos Yndios Yaquis de los Pueblos de Vica y Buimiris, y haviendo dado su mutual consentimiento por palabras de presente, que hacen verdadero matrimonios…

During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, many Indians in Sonora frequently moved from their traditional areas to towns and missions in the territories of other tribes. Although Pimas inhabited the area around Altar and Caborca, researchers will frequently find baptisms of Opatas, Seris, Yaquis, Pápagos and Yumas, all of whom came to or were brought to the presidio and the mission. I have transcribed the following baptism of a Pima Indian child from Caborca’s Mission records in 1799:

En el año del Señor a mil setecientos noventa y nueve dia dos de Diciembre, Yo Fr. Ramon Lopez, Misionero Ap. De esta mission de Caborca, bautice solemnemente a un parbulo, que nacio el dia veinte y nueve del mes proximo pasado de Noviembre, hijo de MANUEL GALINDO, y de CALENDARIA SERRANO, conyuges, Yndios de esta mision. Se le puso por nombre JUAN MARIA CALIPTO….

The family history researcher exploring Sonora roots should be prepared to see Spanish words and names spelled differently from the way they are spelled today. Except for the Yaquis, most indigenous people will also carry Spanish surnames.

Although Altar’s records go back to 1771, the marriage records are largely incomplete and mixed with the baptisms. Altar’s records are contained on 49 rolls of film. It is most unfortunate that there appear to be no baptism or marriages available for Altar from 1836 to 1850. For anyone whose ancestors came from Altar, this is a potential stumbling block, although it can be worked out.

Another problem with searching for your indigenous roots in Sonora is that the parents of newly converted Indians may not be recognized in the church records. Essentially, if the baptized person was now a Christian his non-Christian parents were not considered important to the church record. As an example, I have transcribed the baptism of a Yuma Indian girl in Altar’s church in November 1853:

En la Parroquia de Guadalupe de Altar en trienta dias del mes de Noviembre de mil ochocientos cincuenta y tres, bautisé solmnemete á una niña de edad siete años á quien pusé por nombre MARIA SELAYA, hija de PADRES NO CONOCIDOS, Indígena Yuma. Fueron Padrinos: CLAUDIO SELAYA y JOSEFA SELAYA, á quienes adverti el parentesco y de mas obligaciones de que doy fé.

With this baptism, a young indigenous girl without parents was given the Spanish surname of her godparents.

Rayon and San Miguel de Horcasitas

In both Altar and in Rayón, near the center of Sonora, I have found various baptisms and marriages of some Yaquis and Pimas as late as the 1830s. Like Altar, Rayón was a center of attraction in terms of employment, and I have seen Pimas, Pápagos and Yaquis equally represented in the City during certain periods.

The parish registers of Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Rayón commence in 1813 and the registers for nearby San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel de Horcasitas begin in 1750.

Magdalena

Although Santa María Magdalena Church in Magdalena has some records as far back as 1698, its marriage records only reach back to 1850. In genealogical research, working with both marriage and baptism records from one location is important and when one or the other is missing it can make an already difficult search more complicated.

Some of the earlier records of Magdalena include baptisms of both Pima and Pápago Indians. (In the United States, the Pápagos are known as Tohono O'odham). Below, I have transcribed the 1771 baptism of a Pápago Indian child from Magdalena’s parish records:

En quarto de Julio de mil setecientos setenta y uno, Yo el infra escrito Ministro por su Magestad de esta Mission de Santa María Magdalena bautice solemnemente d un parvulo, que nacio el dia dos por la mañana, hijo de JOACHIM ARELLANO, Pápago, y de su legitima mugger, MAGDALENA PARMA, Pápago, hijos de dicha Mission alque puse por nombre, FELIS MARIA. Fueron Padrinos FELIPSE GONZALEZ, Pima Govez., y su muger MARIA SUSANA, Pápago, hijos de la Mission….

Even in Magdalena, in the northern border area far from Yaqui territory, researchers can find some Yaqui records. As an example, I have transcribed this March 1841 baptism of a Yaqui child, whose parents have Yaqui surnames:

En dicha Yglesia e el mismo dia mes y año, yo el Br. Trinidad Garcia Rojas, cura encargado del Rio de San Ygnacio y puntos de la linea, bautizé y escrcizé y puso el Santo oleo y sagrado crisma an niño de seis meces de nacido aquien puse por nombre JOSE LUIS DE LA CONCEPCION (de la nacion Yaqui), hijo legitimo de JUAN AGUSTIN AGUIBUAMEA and JUANA MARIA GUAISATA. Fueron sus padrinos: JOSE LUIS HUYUAMEA y MARIA REFUGIA CONSEPCION….

Huatabampo

The Mayo Indians inhabit southern Sonora and northern Sinaloa. In 1614, a Jesuit mission, Santa Cruz de Mayo, was established in what is now the municipio of Huatabampo to assist the Mayo Indians with their spiritual lives. However, the actual town of Huatabampo was not founded until 1898 and parish records of the town only begin in 1906.

Nearby Navojoa, also in the territory of the Mayo Indians, has parish records that only go back to 1891. Navojoa, Cohuirimpo, Masiaca, Navojoa and Tesi were, until 1917, part of the large Alamos district, and it is there that the researcher can hope to find records for their ancestors.

Quiriego and Sahuaripa

Quiriego, which lies on the border between the traditional Yaqui and Mayo homelands, was, for some time, attached to the Parish of Sahuaripa, for which church records are available. Sahuaripa, located in southeast Sonora, was originally a town of Opatas. A mission was founded there in 1641 and we currently have access to Sahuaripa’s baptisms as far back as 1781. However, marriage records only start around 1810 and are not complete until 1854. The registers include events from several parishes, including: Arivechi, Bacanora, Bacum, Carrizal, Cócorit, La Dura, Movas, Onavas, Nuri, Quiriego, Rebeico, Rio Chico, Rosario, San Antonio de la Huerta, San Nicolás, Santa Rosa, Santo Tomás, Soyopa, Tacupeto, Tepachi, Tepoca, Tezopan, Trinidad and Yécora.

The Parish of Alamos

Alamos is a colonial Mexican town established in the late Seventeenth Century in the territory of the Mayo Indians. The parish itself was founded in 1685 and the records we have access to begin in 1696. However, there are gaps of several years in both baptisms and marriages during the next hundred years, complicating intensive research. For example, the baptisms from late 1699 to early 1751 are missing, as are the marriages from between 1699 to 1758.

As an important part of the silver mining industry, Alamos attracted many kinds of people: Spaniards, African slaves, free mulatos, Indians from other parts of Mexico and Mayo and Yaqui Indians from the surrounding regions. And this diversity is represented in the colonial Alamos records. However, the generic term "indio" is applied more frequently than the Yaqui and Mayo classifications, and coyotes, lobos, mulatos and mestizos are fairly abundant in the Alamos colonial registers.

Hermosillo

Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora is located in the west central portion of the State. The city was originally founded in an area that contained Seri, Tepoca and Pima Bajo Indians.

In 1741, the town was given the name Pitic. Much later in 1828, it was renamed Hermosillo in honor of the revolutionary general, José María González de Hermosillo, but it did not become the capital of Sonora until 1879.

Hermosillo’s Church, La Asunción, was not established until the 1780s and the parish registers – contained on 194 rolls of film by the Family History Library – begin in 1783. The early records of Hermosillo contain a fair amount of indigenous peoples and an equally large amount of Spaniards. Many of the early indigenous parishioners had not yet adopted the Spanish apellidos, which is illustrated by this 1783 baptism in Hermosillo:

En Veintiguatro de Septiembre de 1783 baptizé solemnemente aun parvulo Pima, que nacio el 22 del mismo mes, y se le puso por nombre FRANCISCO XAVIER, hijo de JUAN BAPTISTA, y de su muger TOMASA, Indios Pimas de esta Villa y Mission del Pitic: Padrinos: Francisco Duarte, Pima de Cumuripa, y Rosa Seamo, india del Pueblo de Santa del Mayo, aguienes adverti el parentesco spiritual the y para que conste lo firmé en dicho dia mes, y año ut supra

Although Hermosillo was not in the territory of the Yaquis, a fair amount of Yaquis moved to this population center to work and raise their families. With time, many of the Yaquis started to use surnames. One example of this is in the baptism record of a person whose parents had Yaqui surnames in 1784:

En seis de Junio del 1784, Yo el infrascrito --- asistemente de Santa Villa de San Pedro de la Conguista baptize solemnemnte el parvulo, el primero que nacio el 30 del mes anterior, y se le puse el nombre, FRANCISCO, hijo de MANUEL BUSAAEL y de MARIA CHANAYEI, conjuges Hiaguis de Huirivis, sirvientes de Duarzo…

In the colonial records, the Mexican priests had many different spellings for Yaqui. The above-reference record used the spelling, Hiaguis, but there were other kinds as well.

I am happy to report that the records for Hermosillo, for a period of many years before and after the end of the revolution (1823) are quite good and fairly easy to understand. However, designations of "Indio" and "Yaqui" become very scarce after 1810. It is quite likely that many Yaquis baptized or married in the church may not have been categorized as such. For the most part, the marriage records at Hermosillo began in 1814 and are quite detailed for most of the Nineteenth Century.

Guaymas

Guaymas is located along the Sea of Cortez, approximately 120 kilometers south of Hermosillo. This town was near the northern edge of the Yaqui territory. When the San José de Guaymas Mission was established by the Jesuits in 1701, the territory was within the domain of the Seri Indians. Guaymas was not promoted to the status of a town until 1859.

The parish registers of the San Fernando Church are contained on 63 rolls of film and begin in 1783. However, with the exception of several years in the 1780s, the marriage records for Guaymas do not start until 1846. Although large numbers of Yaquis moved to this town for employment, the Guaymas records, like the Hermosillo records, are not filled with many indigenous classifications after 1820. If you are looking for your Yaqui ancestors in Guaymas, you may find them, but they will probably not be called Yaquis.

For a few short years in the 1780s, Guaymas contains a large amount of marriages of Yaquis who have Spanish given names and Yaqui surnames. Some of the individuals married during this period included: DOLORES ABASHESEALAE, JUAN MATHEO ACHEMEA, PABLO AGUAETEMEA, LORENZO AMIMOLLESPO, LUIZ AREMIPAI, GERONIMO BACOMEAME, LUIZ BASORITEMEA, MAURICIO BUITEMEA, MARIA LORETO CALASAYTE, MICHAELA CAULIQUI, LUIZ COCHOTAGUE, JUAN ANDREZ GAIGUOTEMEA, JUAN FRANCO GUAPOPIJUAME, THOMS. HAMACAMEAME, XAVIER JAIGUOTEMEA,

MATHEO MACHIGUIQUITI, NICOLASSA SEALLOQUESIA, MELCHOR TANGINSICOMEA and AUGUSTIN TETUJEBITMEA.

The Mission 2000 Database

Mission 2000 is a database of Spanish mission records of southern Arizona and northern Sonora containing baptisms, marriages, and burials from Seventeenth Century to the mid-Nineteenth Century. Some of the mission records extracted for this database include Arizpe, Caborca, Magdalena, San Ignacio and Horcasitas. The ethnicity of the names in this database include Apache, Seri, Opata, Yuma, Yaqui, Spanish and Mexican. You can access this database at:

http://home.nps.gov/applications/tuma/search.cfm

A Challenge

Tracing your indigenous roots in Sonora can be very challenging. The movement of people – both Spanish and indigenous – from one city to another can complicate your research. However, the International Genealogical Index and the FHL’s Pilot Database can be valuable tools in helping your research and help you detect the movements that may have taken place from generation to generation. These tools are available at:

http://pilot.familysearch.org/recordsearch/start.html#p=0

http://www.familysearch.org/eng/search/frameset_search.asp?PAGE=igi/search_IGI.asp&clear_form=true

For those who have an interest in understanding Sonora’s indigenous research, please read the following story written by this author:

http://houstonculture.org/mexico/sonora.html

Dedication:

I have traced indigenous roots in Sonora with several friends and acquaintances, but I dedicate this article to my friend, Teddy Whitefeather, a true daughter of Sonora.

Copyright © 2009 by John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved.

Primary Sources:

John P. Schmal and Donna S. Morales, "Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico" (Heritage Books: 2003).

Various films of the Family History Library. Catalog Website:

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp

 


  ZACATECAS HISTORY AND RESEARCH 

 


Mexican Americans Finding Their Roots: Utilizing Local Resources
The History of Zacatecas
The Indigenous People of Zacatecas
The Mexicanization of the Zacatecas Indians
Genealogical Research in Zacatecas
Indigenous Roots: Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Jalisco  (the Chichimeca Story)


 

 


Mexican Americans Finding Their Roots: Utilizing Local Resources
by John P. Schmal

Several million Americans have ancestors from the states of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. This is not surprising when we consider that large numbers of Mexican immigrants from these states were moving to the United States during the first three decades of the Twentieth Century. Oral interviews and statistical data had indicated that these three states were among the five central Mexican states that fed large numbers of railroad workers to help build, maintain and expand the railroad industry in the United States. And, more often than not, the railroad workers would bring their families to join them after spending some time in the U.S.

Immigrants arriving in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s also came from Zacatecas and Jalisco. And, in recent decades, immigrants from these states continued to arrive in the U.S. For many sons of Zacatecas, Jalisco and Aguascalientes, there is a sense of pride in having ancestors from these lands. Jalisco, in particular, has been an important cultural center for several centuries and is easily one of the most famous Mexican states.

But Jalisco, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas are a good distance from most parts of the United States. The City of Zacatecas is about 1,229 miles (1,978 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, California, and the cities of Aguascalientes and Guadalajara are even farther away. As a result, anyone who would like to research their family history might expect to spend many weeks and dollars in the pursuit of his or her roots, traveling to various towns to visit local churches or municipios.

A Local Resource

What many people do not know is that there is a local resource that is available to Americans in any part of the country. The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City Utah) holds copies of many of the church and civil records for all three states. And, in addition to holding these records, the Library has developed important databases that assist genealogists in tracing their Mexican roots.

Many years ago, Mormon missionaries visited many of the churches and municipio registries and asked for permission to make copies of their records. The churches and municipios allowed their records to be copied and made available to a wide audience through the library. And these records are available to people of any religion at any Family History Center in the country (or the world)

Family History Centers

Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of the Family History Library. There are over 4,500 centers in 88 countries and approximately 1,800 in the United States. Each FHC is a free resource available to any patron who has an interest in pursuing his or her roots. From these centers, patrons can order a roll of microfilm for $6.05. This roll of film will arrive at the library and be available for analysis and copying for one month. A patron also has the option of requesting the film to be made part of the center’s permanent collection for an additional fee.

Zacatecas

The FHC owns 4,149 rolls of microfilm for the State of Zacatecas. Zacatecas is the eighth largest state of Mexico and is divided into 57 municipios. The Library actually has the civil registration for nearly all of Zacatecas’ municipios. Furthermore, the FHL has parish registries for 84 of Zacatecas’ parishes.

In all, eleven towns in the State of Zacatecas have church records going back to the 1600s, while another sixteen churches have records reaching back into the 1700s. For the most part, the baptism and marriage records of the Zacatecas churches in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century are remarkably detailed. With some exceptions, starting around 1800, the baptism records listed the child’s parents, as well as their abuelos paternos and abuelos maternos. Civil registration officially began in 1859, and beginning around 1885, most Zacatecas municipio records are very detailed.

Aguascalientes

I have been researching the records of Aguascalientes for almost two decades. I have found that the records of La Ciudad, as well as those of outlying areas like Calvillo, can be filled with an extraordinary amount of detail. The church records in La Ciudad de Aguascalientes begin in 1616 and continue up to the present. In all, the Library owns 631 rolls of microfilm for the two Catholic churches in the capital city. In addition, the Library also owns another 460 rolls for the civil records spanning from 1859 to 1961.

The one major drawback to research in La Ciudad is that it has been a large population center since the 1700s. As a result, there are a lot of baptisms and marriages to look at. The good news, however, is that many records from Aguascalientes are contained in the Library’s online databases which serve as excellent aides in genealogical research (the International Genealogical Index).

In all, the FHL owns 2,219 rolls of microfilm for Aguascalientes.

Jalisco

Jalisco is slightly larger than Zacatecas but, through time, has been inhabited by many more people (because of a more favorable climate). For the state of Jalisco alone, the Family History Library owns 19,597 rolls of microfilm, covering roughly 200 cities, municipios and villas. The Family History Library has the civil registration for most of the 124 municipios in Jalisco.

The Library also owns copies of the parish records for 180 parishes located in every part of the State. Of the Jalisco churches, 46 have registers going back to the 1600s and another 37 have records stretching back to the 1700s. Like Zacatecas, Jalisco’s church records become very detailed around 1800. And, some parishes started using indexes around 1850, a practice that enhances the researcher’s abilities.

Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico and – some say – the cultural center of Mexico, was originally founded in 1542 and became a point of attraction for migrants in the early 1600s as the city became the economic powerhouse of colonial Mexico. Although some records for Guadalajara are available from the earliest days of its founding, the first church records commence in 1599. Today, the FHL owns an impressive 3,400 rolls of microfilm from 14 Guadalajara churches and the municipio’s registry archives.

The Family History Library Catalog

Anyone who is interested in checking for the availability of records from any given location in Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes can begin their search from this website:

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp

As an example, to search for the records available for Nochistlan, Zacatecas, one would enter "Nochistlan" in the "place" field and "Zacatecas" in the "part of" field. You will then receive two options:

México, Zacatecas, Nochistlán

México, Zacatecas, Nochistlán de Mejia

Sometimes the name of the municipio and the city will be different. Once you have resolved those issues, you can complete your search, looking for church, civil or census records. To see what years the individual microfilms contain, you will need to press "View Film Notes."

The International Genealogical Index

Some of the records contained on the FHL’s microfilms have been summarized in short extracts that are contained in several databases. You can enter your own searches at this link:

http://www.familysearch.org/eng/search/frameset_search.asp

For Jalisco researchers, the best bet many be to go to the "International Genealogical Index" link (the fourth option), where you can search on individual states. It takes time to become skilled in the use of this database, but over time, it can be a valuable resource for any researcher.



THE HISTORY OF ZACATECAS
By John P. Schmal

The state of Zacatecas, located in the north-central portion of the Mexican Republic, is a land rich in cultural, religious, and historical significance. With a total of 75,040 square kilometers, Zacatecas is Mexico's eighth largest state and occupies 3.383% of the total surface of the country. Politically, the state is divided into fifty-six municipios and has a total of 5,064 localities, 86% of which correspond to the old haciendas.

With a population of 1,441,734 inhabitants, Zacatecas depends upon cattle-raising, agriculture, mining, communications, food processing, tourism, and transportation for its livelihood. Although much of Zacatecas is desert, the primary economic driver of the state is agriculture. Zacatecas is Mexico's foremost producer of beans, chili peppers and cactus leaves, and holds second place in guava production, third in grapes, and fifth in peaches.

In the middle of the Sixteenth Century, Zacatecas was merely one part of a larger area that the Spaniards referred to as La Gran Chichimeca (which also included Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Nayarit and Guanajuato). This area, which was inhabited by several indigenous tribes, had never been conquered by the Aztec Indians of the south. The Aztecs, in fact, had collectively referred to these nomadic Indians as the Chichimecas (a derogatory term meaning "the sons of dogs"). The four primary tribes who inherited the area of present-day Zacatecas were the Zacatecos, Cazcanes, Guachichiles, and the Tepehuanes.

After the conquest of southern Mexico in 1521, Hernán Cortés sent several expeditions north to explore La Gran Chichimeca. Juan Alvarez Chico and Alonso de Avalos each led expeditions northward into the land we now call Zacatecas. By this time, the Aztec and Tlaxcalan nations had aligned themselves with the Spaniards and most explorations were undertaken jointly with Spanish soldiers and Indian warriors. These expeditions went north in the hopes of developing trade relations with the northern tribes and finding mineral wealth. Each expedition was accompanied by missionaries who carried Christianity and the Word of God to native peoples.

However, in 1529, Nuño de Guzmán, leading a force of 500 Spaniards and 10,000 Indian allies from the south of Mexico, marched through Michoacán, Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango, Sinaloa, and Zacatecas. Although these lands had already been claimed by Avalos and other explorers, Guzmán ignored prior rights of discovery by provoking the natives to revolt so that he might subdue them. Guzmán's campaign led to the killing, torture, and enslavement of thousands of Indians. However, reports of Guzmán's brutal treatment of the indigenous people got the attention of the authorities in Mexico City. Eventually, he was arrested and put on trial. Although Guzmán was returned to Spain where he died in poverty and disgrace, his reign of terror had long-lasting repercussions in Zacatecas, which now became a part of the Spanish colony of Nueva Galicia.

In February 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado set out in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola. However, the departure of Coronado's expedition had left the small Spanish settlements in Nueva Galicia seriously undermanned. Still reeling from the cruelty of Guzmán, the Indian population began a fierce rebellion against the Spanish authorities and their Indian allies from the south. This revolt, referred to as the Mixtón Rebellion, started in the Spring of 1540 and lasted until December 1541. Eventually, the Spanish forces were able to regain their advantage and suppress the revolt.

In 1546, a Basque noble, Juan de Tolosa, was the first European to find silver in Zacatecas when a small group of Indians living near the present-day city of Zacatecas brought him several pieces of ore as a gift. In the same year, the small mining settlement of Zacatecas, located 8,148 feet above sea level, was founded. In the next few years, the dream of quick wealth brought a multitude of prospectors, entrepreneurs, and laborers streaming into Zacatecas. Rich mineral-bearing deposits would also be discovered farther north in San Martín (1556), Chalchihuites (1556), Avino (1558), Sombrerete (1558), Fresnillo (1566), Mazapil (1568), and Nieves (1574).

Unfortunately, the stampede of Spanish settlers and Indian laborers from southern Mexico had ignored the fact that several indigenous tribes regarded this land as an inheritance from their ancestors. As the mining camps in Zacatecas increased in number, a long stretch of unsettled and unexplored territory surrounded the merchant routes that led out of Zacatecas to Mexico City. In 1550, the Chichimeca War began when the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians began to attack travelers and merchants along these "silver roads."

The definitive source of information relating to the Chichimeca Indians and the Chichimeca War is Philip Wayne Powell's Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: North America's First Frontier War. For several decades, the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians waged a fierce guerrilla war, staging attacks on both mining towns and the small caravans entering the war zone. However, in 1585, Alonso Manrique de Zuñiga, the Marqués de Villamanrique, recently appointed as the Viceroy of Mexico, decided to investigate Spanish policies in the war zone.

The Viceroy learned that some Spanish soldiers had begun raiding Indian settlements for the purpose of enslavement. Infuriated by this practice, he prohibited further enslavement of all captured Indians and freed or placed under religious care those who had already been captured. Soon, he launched a full-scale peace offensive and opened up negotiations with the principal Chichimeca leaders. In trade for peace, Villamanrique offered food, clothing, lands, and agricultural implements. This policy of "peace by purchase" worked and by the end of the Sixteenth Century, the Chichimeca War had ended.

In the meantime, Catholic missionaries had began a vigorous campaign to win the hearts and souls of the native people of Zacatecas. By 1596, fourteen monasteries dotted the present-day area of Zacatecas. The peace offensive and missionary efforts were so successful that within a few years, the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians had settled down to peaceful living within the small settlements that now dotted the Zacatecas landscape. Working in the fields and mines alongside the Aztec, Tlaxcalan, Otomíe and Tarascan Indians who had also settled in Zacatecas, the Chichimeca Indians were very rapidly assimilated and, as Mr. Powell writes, "the Sixteenth-century land of war thus became fully Mexican in its mixture."

For the next two centuries, the prosperity of Zacatecas corresponded with the vagaries of its silver industry. A period of great prosperity from 1690 to 1752 was followed by a period of economic depression in which the value of silver dropped. However, in 1768, the silver industry rallied and the next period of expansion lasted until 1810. This period of prosperity led to a significant increase in the population of the city of Zacatecas from 15,000 in 1777 to 33,000 in 1803. A census tally in the latter year also revealed the ethnic composition of the city: 42% Spanish and mestizo extraction; 27% Indian; and 31% Black and mulato. A mestizo is a person of mixed Spanish and Indian heritage, while a mulato is a person of mixed Spanish and African ancestry.

In September 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo raised the standard of revolt in nearby Guanajuato. For several months, Father Hidalgo's rebel forces occupied Zacatecas and other areas of Mexico. However, eventually Royalist forces routed the insurgents and captured Father Hidalgo, who was executed on July 31, 1811 by a firing squad. The war for independence continued for ten more years before the Spanish Empire was finally forced to give up its prized colony at the Treaty of Cordoba on August 24, 1821. Two years later, on July 12, 1823, Zacatecas declared itself an independent state within the Mexican Republic. In the years to follow, many of the Mexican states, including Zacatecas, would seek provincial self-government and political autonomy from Mexico City. However, the self-determination that Zacatecas sought for itself came into direct conflict with the Federal government.

In the early years of the independent republic, two factions dominated Mexican politics. The Conservatives, backed by the large landowners, the Catholic Church and the federal army, favored the old system that had dominated colonial Mexico for three centuries. The Liberals, however, challenged the old order. In 1832, Federal forces under President Anastacio Bustamante, representing Conservative interests, defeated rebellious Zacatecas forces under the command of General Esteban Moctezuma in the Battle of Gallinero.

Three years later, Zacatecas once again revolted against the national government. On May 11, 1835, the Zacatecas militia, under the command of Francisco García, was defeated at the Battle of Guadalupe by the Federal forces of General Santa Anna. Soon after this victory, Santa Anna's forces ransacked the city of Zacatecas and the rich silver mines at Fresnillo. In addition to seizing large quantities of Zacatecan silver, Santa Anna punished Zacatecas by separating Aguascalientes from Zacatecas and making it into an independent territory. Aguascalientes would achieve the status of state in 1857. The loss of Aguascalientes and its rich agricultural terrain would be a severe blow to the economy and the spirit of Zacatecas.

The War of the Reform, lasting from 1858 to 1861, pitted the Conservatives against the Liberals one more time. Once again, Zacatecas became a battleground and its capital was occupied alternatively by both sides. Finally, in 1859, the Liberal leader Jesus Gonzalez Ortega seized control of the government in Zacatecas. However, the Catholic church, which strongly endorsed Conservative ideals, found itself in direct opposition with the state government. When, on June 16, 1859, Governor González Ortega decreed a penal law against the Conservative elements in Zacatecas, causing many Catholic priests to flee the state.

The French invasion of Mexico in 1861 was just another extension of the conflict between the Conservatives and Liberals. Invited by the Conservative faction to invade Mexico, the French forces, against great resistance, were able to make their way to Mexico City and occupy the capital. In 1864, the French forces occupied Zacatecas as well. However, the occupation of Zacatecas lasted only two years and by 1867, the French were expelled from all of Mexico.

In the 1880s, a transportation revolution brought the railroad to Zacatecas. By the end of the decade, in fact, Zacatecas was linked by rail with several northern cities, including Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican Central Railway, which ran from Mexico City through Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Chihuahua, became a major catalyst for the massive immigration from Zacatecas to the United States during the Twentieth Century. At the same time, the silver industry, which had declined dramatically during and after the Independence War, started to rebound. By 1877-1878, silver alone accounted for 60 percent of the value of all Mexican exports.

During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Zacatecas, with its central location in the Republic, was unable to escape the devastation of war. In June 1914, the City of Zacatecas was the center of national attention when the city was taken by Pancho Villa and his Dorados in the famous battle known as La Toma de Zacatecas (The Taking of Zacatecas). The City of Zacatecas, now a town of 30,000, witnessed the largest and bloodiest battle that took place in the fighting against General Victoriano Huerta. When the battle ended, some 7,000 soldiers lay dead. In addition, 5,000 combatants were wounded and a large number of civilians were injured or killed.

Today, Zacatecas has more than fifteen mining districts which yield silver, lead, zinc, gold, phosphorite, wollastonite, fluorite, and barium. The Zacatecas region hosts the Fresnillo and Zacatecas silver mines which combined have produced over 1.5 billion ounces of silver to date. As a matter of fact, thanks to Zacatecas, even today Mexico is the largest producer of silver in the world, contributing 17% of the world's total output.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Katz, Friedrich, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1998).

Olague, Jesus et al., Breve Historia de Zacatecas (Mexico City, 1996).

Powell, Philip Wayne. Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War (Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1973).

Wasserman, Mark. Everyday Life and Politics in Nineteenth Century Mexico: Men, Women, and War (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 2000).


THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF ZACATECAS
By John P. Schmal

Millions of Americans today look to the Mexican state of Zacatecas as their ancestral homeland. But it is very difficult to locate historical information on Zacatecas in the English language media. As a result, many Zacatecanos know little or nothing about the region in which their ancestors lived for thousands of years.

If you look at a present-day linguistic map of Mexico, you will find that no indigenous languages are spoken in the state today. But, all obvious evidence to the contrary, Zacatecas was indeed occupied by several Indian groups over the last two millennia. And these indigenous natives, when confronted by the Europeans and their Indian allies from southern Mexico did not go quietly into the night. Instead, for the better part of the Sixteenth Century they waged a fierce guerrilla war against the intruders who had ventured onto their native lands.

One of the earliest encounters that the Zacatecas Indians had with the Europeans took place in 1530 when Juan de Oñate, a lieutenant of the conquistador Nuño de Guzmán, began construction of a small town near the site of present-day Nochistlán in southern Zacatecas. Oñate called this small village La Villa de Espíritu Santo de Guadalajara in honor of the Spanish city where Guzmán had been born.

However, from the beginning, the small settlement had come under Indian attack and in 1531, the Indians of nearby Teul massacred the local Spanish garrison as well as the reinforcements dispatched to subdue them. Recognizing that the neighborhood was not very receptive to its Spanish neighbors, Guzmán, in 1533, decided to move Guadalajara to another site, closer to the center of the province. The City of Guadalajara - today the second largest urban center of Mexico - would be founded at its present location farther south in 1542.

But the indigenous history of Zacatecas stretches so far into the past that we are unable to say exactly when people settled the area. Even today, in many parts of Zacatecas, a hundred or more ancient ruins in the state give testimony to an ancient civilization that flourished in western Zacatecas along the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental between about 200 and 1250 A.D.

The largest pre-Columbian settlement in Zacatecas can be found in southwestern Zacatecas. In 1535, when the Spaniards discovered La Quemada, they commented on its wide streets and "imposing appearance." The massive ruins at this fortified ceremonial site consist of extensive terraces and broad stone causeways, as well as gigantic pillars, 18 feet in height and 17 feet in circumference. First occupied between about 200 and 300 A.D., La Quemada's population probably peaked after 500 A.D.

Eighteenth Century historians conjectured that this might have been the legendary Chicomostoc, the place where the Aztecs stayed nine years during their extended journey from Aztlán to Tenochtitlán (the site of present day Mexico City). Other interpretations of La Quemada have speculated that it may have been an enclave of Teotihuacan culture, a Toltec market site, or a Tarascan fort. Between 500 and 700 A.D., it is believed that La Quemada was a trade center for the collection and redistribution of raw materials (such as salt, minerals and shells). After 850 A.D., however, La Quemada went into decline, and by 900, the site was abandoned completely.

The archaeological site of Alta Vista, at Chalchihuites, is located 137 miles to the northwest of the City of Zacatecas and 102 miles southeast of the City of Durango. Located to the west of Sombrerete in the northwestern corner of the state, it is believed that the site was a cultural oasis that was occupied more or less continuously from 100 A.D. to 1400 A.D.

The archaeologist Manuel Gamio referred to Chalchihuites as a "culture of transition" between the Mesoamerican civilizations and the so-called Chichimeca hunters/gatherers who lived in the arid plateau of central Mexico. Chalchihuites and Le Quemada were both outposts of Mesoamerican settlement in an ecological and cultural frontier area. However, in this transition zone, climatic changes caused continual shifts in the available resource base, discouraging most attempts at creating permanent settlements.

When the Spaniards started exploring north central Mexico in the 1520s, they encountered several nomadic tribes occupying the area we now call Zacatecas. The Aztecs had collectively referred to these Indians with the all-encompassing term, Chichimecas. The primary Chichimeca groups that occupied the present-day area of Zacatecas were the Zacatecos, Cazcanes, and Guachichiles.

Although the Aztecs employed the term Chichimeca frequently, they acknowledged that they themselves were the descendants of Chichimeca Indians. Mr. Alfredo Moreno González, in his book Santa Maria de Los Lagos, explains that the word Chichimeca has been subject to various interpretations over the years. Some of these suggestions included "linaje de perros" (of dog lineage), "perros altaneros" (arrogant dogs), or "chupadores de sangre" (blood-suckers). With time, however, the Aztecs and other Indians came to fear and respect the Chichimeca Indians as brave and courageous defenders of their ancestral homelands.

In December 1529, Nuño de Guzmán, left Mexico City at the head of a force of five hundred Spaniards and 10,000 Indian soldiers. According to J. Lloyd Mecham, the author of Francisco de Ibarra and Nueva Vizcaya, "Guzmán was an able and even brilliant lawyer, a man of great energy and firmness, but insatiably ambitious, aggressive, wily, and cruel." In a rapid and brutal campaign lasting from February to June, 1530, Guzmán traveled through Michoacán, Jalisco, and southern Zacatecas. The historian Peter Gerhard writes that "Guzmán's strategy throughout was to terrorize the natives with often unprovoked killing, torture, and enslavement. The army left a path of corpses and destroyed houses and crops, impressing surviving males into service and leaving women and children to starve."

Reports of Guzmán's brutal treatment of the indigenous people got the attention of the authorities in Mexico City. In 1536, he was arrested, imprisoned and put on trial. Two years later, his trial was removed to Spain, where he would die in poverty and disgrace. But the actions of this man would stir up hatred and resentment that would haunt the Spaniards for the rest of the Sixteenth Century. In the meantime, the present-day areas of Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Aguascalientes were all lumped together as part of the Spanish administrative province, Nueva Galicia.

The historian Philip Wayne Powell has written several books that dealt with the Chichimeca Indians and the Spanish encounter with these Indians. In his publication Soldiers Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War, Mr. Powell noted that "Hernán Cortés, the Conqueror, defeated the Aztecs in a two-year campaign" but that his "stunning success created an illusion of European superiority over the Indian as a warrior." Continuing with this line of thought, Mr. Powell observed that "this lightning-quick subjugation of such massive and complex peoples as the Tlaxcalan, Aztec, and Tarascan, proved to be but prelude to a far longer military struggle against the peculiar and terrifying prowess of Indian America's more primitive warriors."

In the Spring of 1540, the Indian population of western Mexico began a fierce rebellion against the Spanish rule. The indigenous tribes living along today's Three-Fingers border region between Jalisco and Zacatecas led the way in fomenting the insurrection. In the hills near Teul and Nochistlán, the Indians attacked Spanish settlers and soldiers and destroyed churches.

By April of 1541, the Cazcanes of southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco were waging a full-scale revolt against all symbols of Spanish rule. Pedro de Alvarado, the conqueror of Guatemala, hastened to Guadalajara in June 1541 with a force of 400 men. Refusing to await reinforcements, Alvarado lead a direct attack against the Juchipila Indians near Nochistlán. On June 24, several thousand Indians attacked the Spaniards with such ferocity that they were forced to retreat with heavy losses. In this retreat, Alvarado was crushed when he fell under a horse. He died in Guadalajara from his injuries on July 4, 1541.

It took the better part of two years to contain the Mixtón Rebellion. Antonio de Mendoza, who had become the first Viceroy of Nueva España in 1535, quickly assembled a force of 450 Spaniards and 30,000 Aztec and Tlaxcalan warriors. In a series of short sieges and assaults, Mendoza captured the native fortresses one by one. By December, 1541, the native resistance had been completely crushed. The Mixtón Rebellion had a profound effect upon the Spanish expansion into central and northern Mexico. The historian J. Lloyd Mecham wrote that "the uprising in Nueva Galicia not only checked advance in that direction, but even caused a temporary contraction of the frontiers."

However, in 1546, an event of great magnitude that would change the dynamics of the Zacatecas frontier took place. On September 8, a Basque nobleman, Juan de Tolosa, meeting with a small group of Indians near the site of the present-day city of Zacatecas, was taken to some nearby mineral outcroppings. Once it was determined that the mineral samples from this site were silver ore, a small mining settlement was very quickly established at Zacatecas.

Suddenly, the dream of quick wealth brought a multitude of prospectors, entrepreneurs, and laborers streaming into Zacatecas. Indians from southern Mexico, eager to earn the higher wages offered by miners, flooded into the region. In the next two decades, rich mineral-bearing deposits would also be discovered farther north in San Martín (1556), Chalchihuites (1556), Avino (1558), Sombrerete (1558), Fresnillo (1566), Mazapil (1568), and Nieves (1574). However, "the rather sudden intrusion of the Spaniards," writes Allen R. Franz, the author of Huichol Ethnohistory: The View From Zacatecas, soon precipitated a reaction from these "hostile and intractable natives determined to keep the strangers out."

Most of the semi-nomadic Indians of Zacatecas shared a primitive hunting-collecting culture, based on the gathering of mesquite and tunas (the fruit of the nopal). Some of them also lived off of acorns, roots and seeds. In some areas, they even cultivated maize and calabashes. From the mesquite they made white bread and wine. Many Chichimeca tribes utilized the juice of the agave as a substitute for water when the latter was in short supply. Several of the Chichimeca Indians are described in the following paragraphs:

Zacatecos. The Zacatecos Indians occupied much of what is now northern Zacatecas and northeastern Durango. Their lands bordered with those of the Tepehuanes on the west and the Guachichiles on the east. Mr. Powell writes that the Zacatecos were "brave and bellicose warriors and excellent marksmen." They were greatly feared by the neighboring tribes, in particular the Cazcanes, whom they attacked constantly.

Although many of the Chichimeca Indians were nomadic, some of the Zacatecos Indians had dwellings of a more permanent character, inhabiting areas near the wooded sierras. They inhabited homes constructed of adobe or sun-dried bricks and stones. They slept on the floor of their one-room homes. A fireplace in the middle of the floor, surrounded by rocks, was used for cooking food. The Zacatecos Indians grew roots, herbs, maize, beans, and some wild fruits. They hunted rabbits, deer, birds, frogs, snakes, worms, and rats. Eventually, the Zacatecos would develop a fondness for the meat of the larger animals brought in to their territory by the Spaniards. During their raids on Spanish settlements, they frequently stole mules, horses, cattle, and other livestock, all of which became a part of their diet.

Peter Masten Dunne, the author of Pioneer Jesuits in Northern Mexico, writes that the Zacatecos were "a tall, well-proportioned, muscular people." They had oval faces with "long black eyes wide apart, large mouth, thick lips and small flat noses." The men wore breechcloth, while the women wore short petticoats of skins or woven maguey. Both sexes wore their hair long, usually to the waist. The Zacatecos married young, with most girls being married by the age of fifteen. Monogamy was their general practice. The Indians smeared their bodies with clay of various colors and painted them with the forms of reptiles. This paint helped shield them from the sun's rays but also kept vermin off their skin.

Guachichiles. Of all the Chichimec tribes, the Guachichile Indians occupied the largest territory, from Saltillo in the north to some parts of Los Altos (Jalisco) and western Guanajuato in the south. Their territory extended westward close to the city of Zacatecas. The name Guachichil - given to them by the Aztecs - meant "head colored red." They had been given this label, writes Mr. Dunne, because "they were distinguished by red feather headdresses, by painting themselves red (especially the hair), or by wearing head coverings (bonetillas) made of hides and painted red." The archaeologist Paul Kirchhoff wrote that the following traits characterized the Guachichile Indians: "painting of the body; coloration of the hair; head gear; matrilocal residence; freedom of the married woman; special forms of cruelty to enemies."

In the development of tribal alliances, the Guachichiles were considered the most advanced of the Chichimec tribes. They were a major catalyst in provoking the other tribes to resist the Spanish settlement and exploitation of Indian lands. "Their strategic position in relation to Spanish mines and highways," wrote Mr. Powell, "made them especially effective in raiding and in escape from Spanish reprisal." The Spanish frontiersmen and contemporary writers referred to the Guachichiles "as being the most ferocious, the most valiant, and the most elusive" of all their indigenous adversaries. In addition, the Christian missionaries found their language difficult to learn because of its "many sharply variant dialects." As a result, the conversion of these natives to Christianity did not come easy.

Cazcanes. The Cazcanes Indians occupied southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco. Occupying territory to the west of the Guamares and Tecuexes and south of the Zacatecos Indians, they were a partly nomadic people whose principal religious and population centers were in Teul, Tlaltenango, Juchipila, and Teocaltiche. After their defeat in the Mixtón Rebellion, the Cazcanes began serving as auxiliaries to the northward Spanish advance. For this reason, they would occasionally come under attack by the Zacatecos Indians.

The Chichimeca War (1550-1590). Mr. Powell writes that rush to establish new settlements and pave new roads through Zacatecas, "left in its wake a long stretch of unsettled and unexplored territory..." As these settlements and the mineral output of the mines grew in numbers, "the needs to transport to and from it became a vital concern of miners, merchants, and government." To function properly, the Zacatecas silver mines "required well-defined and easily traveled routes." These routes brought in badly-needed supplies and equipment from distant towns and also delivered the silver to smelters and royal counting houses in the south.

Mr. Powell wrote that these highways "became the tangible, most frequently visible evidence of the white man's permanent intrusion" into their land. As the natives learned about the usefulness of the goods being transported (silver, food, and clothing), "they quickly appreciated the vulnerability of this highway movement to any attack they might launch."

In time, the Zacatecos and Guachachile Indians, in whose territory most of the silver mines could be found, started to resist the intrusion by assaulting the travelers and merchants using the roads. And thus began La Guerra de los Chichimecas (The War of the Chichimecas), which eventually became the longest and most expensive conflict between Spaniards and the indigenous peoples of New Spain in the history of the colony."

The attacks against the silver caravans usually took place in a narrow pass, in rocky terrain, at the mouth of a ravine, or in a place with sufficient forestation to conceal their approach. They usually ambushed their victims at dawn or dusk and struck with great speed. Mr. Powell wrote that "surprise, nudity, body paint, shouting, and rapid shooting were all aimed at terrifying the intended victims and their animals. There is ample evidence that they usually succeeded in this." The Spaniards' superiority in arms was not effective when they were taken by surprise.

In hand-to-hand combat, the Chichimeca warriors gained a reputation for courage and ferocity. Even when the Chichimeca was attacked in his hideout or stronghold, Mr. Powell writes, "he usually put up vigorous resistance, especially if unable to escape the onslaught. In such cases, he fought - with arrows, clubs, or even rocks! Even the women might take up the fight, using the weapons of fallen braves. The warriors did not readily surrender and were known to fight on with great strength even after receiving mortal wounds."

The intensity of the attacks increased with each year. Then, in 1554, the worst disaster of all occurred when a train of sixty wagons with an armed escort was attacked by the Chichimecas in the Ojuelos Pass. In addition to inflicting great loss of life, the Chichimecas carried off more than 30,000 pesos worth of clothing, silver, and other valuables. By the late 1580s, thousands had died and a general depopulation of the Zacatecas mining camps became a matter of concern for the Spanish authorities.

If there was any single date that represented a turning of the tide in the Chichimec War, it would be October 18, 1585. On this day, Alonso Manrique de Zuñiga, the Marqués de Villamanrique, became the seventh viceroy of Mexico. Mr. Powell writes that "to this great viceroy must go the major share of credit for planning and largely effecting the end" of the war and "the development of basic policies to guarantee a sound pacification of the northern frontier." Villamanrique evaluated the deteriorating situation, consulted expert advice, and reversed the practices of the past.

The Viceroy learned that many Spanish soldiers had begun raiding peaceful Indians for the purpose of enslavement. Infuriated by this practice, the Marqués prohibited further enslavement of all captured Indians and freed or placed under religious care those who had already been captured. He also appointed Don Antonio de Monroy to conduct investigations into this conduct and punish the Spaniards involved in the slave trade.

Villamanrique also launched a full-scale peace offensive. He opened negotiations with the principal Chichimeca leaders, and, according to Mr. Powell, made to them promises of food, clothing, lands, religious administration, and agricultural implements to attract them to peaceful settlement." As it turns out, the olive branch proved to be more persuasive than the sword, and on November 25, 1589, the Viceroy was able to report to the King that the state of war had ended.

The policy of peace by persuasion was continued under the next Viceroy, Luis de Velasco. He sent Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries into the former war zone and spent more money on food and agricultural tools for the Chichimecas. He also recruited some 400 families of Tlaxcalans from the south and settled them in eight towns of the war zone. Velasco's successor, the Conde de Monterrey, completed Velasco's work by establishing a language school at Zacatecas to teach missionaries the various Chichimeca dialects. Through this effort, the conversion of the Chichimeca Indians to Christianity would be streamlined.

The most important component of the "peace by purchase" policy involved the shipment and distribution of food, clothing, and agricultural implements to strategically located depots. The clothing shipped, according to Mr. Powell, included coarse woolen cloth, coarse blankets, woven petticoats, shirts, hats and capes. The agricultural implements included plows, hoes, axes, hatchets, leather saddles, and slaughtering knives. "However," writes Mr. Powell, "the most fundamental contribution to the pacification process at century's end was the vast quantity of food, mostly maize and beef." Another important element of the pacification was the maintenance of freedom. Many of the Indians had been granted exemption from forced service and tribute and had thus retained their independence of action.

Peter Gerhard, the author of The North Frontier of New Spain, has explored various jurisdictions of Zacatecas, and it is through this work that we have some insight into the tribal groups that occupied certain parts of Zacatecas:

Sombrerete (Northwestern Zacatecas). At contact, the indigenous people living in this area were Zacatecos Indians. Spanish explorers passed through the area in 1552 and miners settled at San Martín (northwest of present-day Sombrerete) around 1555.

Jerez (southwestern Zacatecas). According to Peter Gerhard, a small band of Spaniards settled at the site of present-day Jerez in 1569 and , at that time, were surrounded by Chichimecas, "probably Zacateco speakers, although there may have been Guachichiles in the vicinity." Mr. Gerhard also comments that western part of this region may have been occupied at contact by Tepecano farmers. The hostility of the Indians in this area did not taper off until the 1590s.

Fresnillo (Central Zacatecas). At contact, this area was occupied by Zacateco-speaking racherías of hunter-gatherers. To the east of Fresnillo were Guachichile Indians. On the western fringe of this district, there may have been some Tepecano and Huichol villages. Up until 1590, the hostility of the local Indians continued to be a problem to Spanish miners and farmers. Mr. Gerhard writes that in the 1590s, as the Chichimec War ended, Tlaxcalans moved into the Valparaíso and Trujillo valleys to work on farms and cattle haciendas. The Zacatecos Indians in the area either gradually retired to the north or were assimilated.

Sierra de Pinos (Southeastern Zacatecas). At contact, this area was sparsely population by Guachichile-speaking hunters and gatherers.

Mazapil (Northeast Zacatecas). This area was ruled over by a powerful Guachichile leader at contact. Silver was not discovered in this area until 1568 and the Guachichiles in the area were not pacified until after 1590.

Nieves (Northwest Zacatecas). At contact, most of this jurisdiction was occupied by rancherías of Zacateco-speaking Chichimecs.

Zacatecas (South central Zacatecas). At contact, this area, which had extensive forests (that were destroyed in the Sixteenth Century), was inhabited by Zacatecos Indians. After the establishment of the mining settlement, some of the first mine-workers, according to Mr. Gerhard, were the Zacatecos Indians. However, the Spanish authorities also brought African slaves, Náhuatl-speaking Mexicans and Tlaxcalans, and Tarascans. Cazcanes, who had been enslaved after the Mixtón War, also came to work in the area.

In 1562, an attack by the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians caused great damage to the city and the mines. But, by 1588, Zacatecas earned the title of city. Viceroy Mendoza's use of Indian auxiliaries to put down the Mixtón rebellion had brought many Indian allies from central Mexico into the Gran Chichimeca. Some of the early Indian mine laborers at Zacatecas after 1546 were some of the remnants of Mendoza's forces from the Mixtón Rebellion.

Near the city of Zacatecas, Mr. Gerhard writes, each Indian group "lived in its own barrio," and these became pueblos segregated by nationality and language. Eventually there were barrios for the Aztecs (Mexicalpa), the Tlaxcalans (Tlacuitlapan), Tarascans (Tonaláa), and Texcocans (El Niño).

As the Chichimeca War ended and the Zacatecos and Guachichile Indians settled down to work for their former enemies, the nomadic tribes of Zacatecas disappeared. Absorbed into the Spanish and Indian groups that had invaded their lands half-a-century earlier, the Guachichiles and Zacatecas Indians disappeared as distinguishable cultural entities. And thus, Mr. Powell concludes, "the sixteenth-century land of war thus became fully Mexican in its mixture."

Although most Zacatecanos and Mexican Americans can look to the indigenous peoples of Zacatecas as their ancestors, there is virtually nothing left of the old cultures. The languages they spoke, the religions they adhered to, the cultures they practiced are today unknown. Professor Julian Nava, in this videotape production about Zacatecas, explains that there are many architectural monuments left by ancient inhabitants of the area, and few have been studied so far.

The Huicholes and Tepehuanes who occupied portions of far western Zacatecas have survived to this day, but most of them live in the neighboring states of Durango, Chihuahua, Nayarit and Jalisco. In the 1930 census, only 27 persons were tallied as persons over the age of five who spoke an indigenous language. This number increased to 284 in 1950 and to 1,000 in the 1970 census.

In the 2000 census, a mere 1,837 persons speak indigenous languages, with the main languages spoken by Tepehuán (358 persons), Huichol (330 persons), Náhuatl (330), Otomí (119), Mazahua (101), and Purépecha (80). The majority of these speakers of Indian languages are transplants from other states.

The Indigenous peoples of Zacatecas do not exist as individual cultural entities anymore, but genetically their blood has been passed forward to present generations of Zacatecanos and Mexican Americans. The fifty-year struggle of the Zacatecas Indians is a tribute to their resolve and independence, and the fact that they could not be defeated through war along, but had to be bribed into peace, is a testimony to their tenacity and strength.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sources:

P.J. Bakewell, Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546-1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

Alfredo Moreno González, Santa Maria de Los Lagos. Lagos de Moreno: D.R.H. Ayuntamiento de Los Lagos de Moreno, 1999.

Donna S. Morales and John P. Schmal, My Family Through Time: The Story of a Mexican-American Family. Los Angeles, California, 2000.

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War. Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1975.

Peter Masten Dunne, Pioneer Jesuits in Northern Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1944.

Allen R. Franz, "Huichol Introduction: The View From Zacatecas," in Stacy B. Schaefer and Peter T. Furst (eds.), People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion, and Survival. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Basil C. Hedrick et al., The North Mexican Frontier: Readings in Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.

Paul Kirkchhoff, "The Hunter-Gathering People of North Mexico," in the North Mexican Frontier: Readings in Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.

About the Author:

John Schmal was born and raised in Inglewood, California. He attended Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where he studied Geography, History and Earth Sciences and received two BA degrees.

Mr. Schmal specializes in Mexican, German, California, Texas and U.S. Census genealogical research. With regards to Mexican research, John Schmal has spent nearly two decades studying and extracting records from the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco, Chihuahua, Sonora, Guanajuato and Michoacán.

John also provides lectures on Indigenous Mexico to libraries and classes. He is the coauthor of Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico (Heritage Books, 2002). He has also coauthored six other books on Mexican-American themes, all of them published by Heritage Books in Maryland. He is an Associate Editor of www.somosprimos.com and a board member of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR).

Recently, John Schmal published The Journey to Latino Political Representation, about the struggle for Hispanic representation in California, Texas and the U.S. Congress. The preface to this book was written by his friend, Edward Telles, a professor at UCLA and the author of an award-winning book about race in Brazil.

 


 

THE MEXICANIZATION OF THE ZACATECAS INDIANS
by 
John P. Schmal

Across the 756,066 square miles that comprise Mexico you can find a great variety of landscapes and climates. While mountains and plateaus cover more than two-thirds of her land mass, the rest of Mexico’s environment is made up of deserts, tropical forests, and fertile valleys. Mexico’s many mountain ranges tend to split the country into countless smaller valleys, each forming a world of its own.

Mexico’s "fragmentation into countless mountain valleys, each with its own mini-ecology," according to the historian Nigel Davies, led the Indians within each geographical unit to develop their own language and culture. This cultural development is a key to understanding Mexican history. Mexico’s remarkable cultural and linguistic diversity, in large part, led to her conquest by the Spaniards. Speaking more than 180 mutually alien languages, the original Mexican Indians viewed each other with great suspicion from the earliest times.

When Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) came to Mexico in 1519, he found a large but fragmented collection of tribes. It was this lack of unity that he exploited to his advantage. Even today, almost five centuries after The Conquest, sixty-two ethnic indigenous groups speak ninety-one languages and make up almost ten percent of Mexico’s population.

The Chichimeca Indians
The Indians of Jalisco, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato were collectively called the Chichimecas, a derogatory epithet given to them by the Aztec Indians, who were themselves of Chichimec descent. The definitive source for information relating to the Chichimeca Indians is Philip Wayne Powell’s Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: North America’s First Frontier War.

The Chichimeca Indians and their fifty-year resistance to Spanish rule (1550-1600) is significant because the aftermath of that conflict (known as La Guerra de los Chichimecas – The War of the Chichimecas) is archetypal of what was repeated many times in other parts of Mexico. The Chichimeca conflict and other wars of resistance forced the Spaniards to rely heavily upon their Indian allies. The result of this dependence upon indigenous allies as soldados (soldiers) and pobladores (settlers) led to enormous and wide-ranging migration and resettlement patterns that would transform the geographic nature of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. In describing this phenomenon, Mr. Powell noted that the "Indians formed the bulk of the fighting forces against the Chichimeca warriors." Continuing with this reflection, Mr. Powell wrote:

"As fighters, as burden bearers, as interpreters, as scouts, as emissaries, the pacified natives of New Spain played significant and often indispensable roles in subjugating and civilizing the Chichimeca country. Occasionally armies composed exclusively of these native warriors (particularly the Otomíes) roamed the tierra de guerra to seek out, defeat, and help Christianize the hostile nomad of the north. On some parts of the frontier defense against Chichimeca attacks was at times exclusively in the hands of the native population... "

"Spanish authority and personnel were in most cases supervising agents for manpower supplied by Indian allies. The white men were the organizers of the effort; native allies did much of the hard work and often bore the brunt of the fighting. In the early years of the war the Spaniards placed heavy reliance upon those natives who had been wholly or partly subdued by the Cortesian conquest – Mexicans, Tarascans, Otomíes, among others."

"This use of native allies... led eventually to a virtual disappearance of the nomadic tribes as they were absorbed into the northward-moving Tarascans, Aztecs, Cholultecans, Otomíes, Tlaxcalans, Cazcanes, and others... within a few decades of the general pacification at the end of the century the Guachichiles, Zacatecos, Guamares, and other tribes or nations were disappearing as distinguishable entities in the Gran Chichimeca."

By the second decade of the Seventeenth Century, Mr. Powell concludes, "the Sixteenth-Century land of war thus became fully Mexican in its mixture."

Sources:

Nigel Davies, The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 15.

J. Alden Mason, "The Native Languages of Middle America" in The Maya and Their Neighbors (New York: Appleton-Century Company, 1940), p. 58.

James F. Smith, "Mexico’s Forgotten Find Cause for New Hope," Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2001, pp. A1, A12.

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America’s First Frontier War (Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1975).

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal. This article has been derived in part from Donna S. Morales and John P. Schmal, Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to America. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part without the express permission of John P. Schmal is strictly prohibited.

 


 

GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH IN ZACATECAS

by John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Zacatecas, located in the north-central portion of the Republic, is a land rich in cultural, religious, and historical significance. Surrounded by Coahuila on the north, San Luis Potosi on the east, Aguascalientes and Jalisco on the south, and Durango on the east, Zacatecas is the eighth largest state in Mexico. The name Zacatecas is derived from the fusion of two Náhuatl words, Zacatl (grass, hay) and co (located). Thus, the literal translation of the state name in English would be "the place where a lot of hay is found."

By virtue of its large size (75,040 square kilometers), Zacatecas has contributed its fair share of immigrants to the United States during the last century. In the days preceding and during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), many inhabitants fled Zacatecas for the American states of Texas and California. During the height of the Revolution, the capital city of Zacatecas became the focus of national attention when it was seized by the forces of Pancho Villa in the famous battle known as La Toma de Zacatecas (The Taking of Zacatecas) on June 23, 1914.

In pre-Columbian times, Zacatecas was home to many indigenous tribes. By the time the Spaniards first arrived in the region (1531), the Zacatecos, Caxcanes, Irritilas, Guachichiles, Tecuexes, and Tepehuanes were still making their homes in the area. Most of these Indians put up a fierce resistance to the Spanish encroachment upon their territory. However, in 1546, silver was discovered in Zacatecas. With this discovery, the Spanish incursion into Zacatecas became ever more determined and, in time, the Spanish forces – superior in weaponry and tactics – subdued all the native tribes. Today, Zacatecas has more than fifteen mining districts which yield silver, lead, zinc, gold, phosphorite, wollastonite, fluorite, and barium.

The richest resource available to Americans who are trying to find their roots in Zacatecas can be found in the Family History Library (FHL), whose catalog can be accessed at its website,

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp

When you go to this website, you can utilize the place search by simply entering the name of your ancestral town. The FHL owns church, civil or census records for at least ninety-four separate localities in Zacatecas, and you can view these microfilmed records at your nearest Family History Center.

The Family History Library owns the Catholic church records for at least eighty-six distinct locations in Zacatecas, the earliest of which (the city of Zacatecas) goes back to 1605. All told, eleven towns in Zacatecas have church records going back to the 1600s, while another sixteen localities have records reaching back into the 1700s. For the most part, the baptism and marriage records of the Zacatecas churches are remarkably detailed. With few exceptions, starting around 1800, the baptism records listed the abuelos paternos and abuelos maternos. In addition, marriage records will not only give the age, birthplace, residency, and occupation of the newlyweds, but the same information for their parents and witnesses.

Mexico enacted civil registration in 1859. Within the next decade, nearly all of the fifty-six municipios of Zacatecas started to collect birth, marriage, and death records. The Family History Library has compiled the municipio civil records for forty-nine of these municipios. Most of their records begin between 1861 and 1867. As an added bonus, the FHL also has the 1930 census records for at least forty-two municipios on microfilm.

There are three preliminary steps to take in a successful search for your Zacatecas ancestors: First, you should locate your ancestral town on a map. Secondly, you need to find out the name of the municipio in which the town was located since civil records were only recorded in the capital city of each municipio. Thirdly, it is important to be aware of the names of adjacent villages where your ancestors may have attended church or baptized their children.

For the first step, it is important to realize that maps of Zacatecas in atlases and tourist brochures only show the largest and most historically significant cities. For this reason, I strongly advise that you visit a college or university map library to locate a large scale map (preferably 1:250,000). If you have an ancestral community which you have not been able to locate on a conventional map or in the FHL catalog, you will understand the reason for this course of action.

A few years ago, I was trying to locate the church and civil records for a family that had lived in the small Hacienda de Santa Monica, Zacatecas, during the Nineteenth Century and the first decade of the 1900s. However, I was unable to find the hacienda on any conventional maps of Zacatecas. My next step was to pay a visit to the UCLA Map Library where I located a gazetteer of Zacatecas. Having pinpointed the geographic coordinates of Santa Monica in the gazetteer, I subsequently consulted a large-scale present-day map of Zacatecas, which showed Santa Monica as a small town. I made note of the fact that Santa Monica belonged to the municipio of Sain Alto and was a short distance from the small town of Rio de Medina.

Once I had become familiar with the terrain surrounding Santa Monica, Zacatecas, I was able to check the FHL catalog. I found that the Catholic Church records for Rio de Medina went back to 1899. I also checked the FHL inventory for Sain Alto and found that Sain Alto’s civil records went back to 1862, while some of their church records went back to 1792. I was able to locate the family in question in the records of both towns.

The point of this example is to state that a successful search for your Zacatecas ancestors may be contingent on some extracurricular research. If you are able to do the essential footwork and locate your ancestors, you may be able to trace your ancestors clear back to the Seventeenth Century.

 


 

INDIGENOUS ROOTS:

ZACATECAS, GUANAJUATO, AND JALISCO

by John P. Schmal

 

If your ancestors are from Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes or Jalisco, it is likely that you may be descended from the indigenous peoples who inherited these areas before the Spaniards arrived from the south. The historian Eric Van Young of the University of California at San Diego has called this area, the "the Center-West Region" of Mexico. This cultural region, according to Dr. Van Young, includes all of the modern states of Jalisco, Michoacán, Colima, Nayarit, and Aguascalientes, as well as parts of Zacatecas and Guanajuato, amounting to about one-tenth of Mexico's national territory. 

The states of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes did not exist in the Sixteenth Century, but substantial parts of these states belonged to the Spanish province of Nueva Galicia, which embraced some 180,000 kilometers ranging from the Pacific Ocean to the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. 

Across this broad range of territory, a wide array of indigenous groups lived before 1522 (the year of contact with Spanish explorers). Domingo Lázaro de Arregui, in his Descripción de la Nueva Galicia – published in 1621 – wrote that 72 languages were spoken in the Spanish colonial province of Nueva Galicia. But, unfortunately, some of the Amerindians who lived in this area have not been studied extensively. Dr. Van Young - in analyzing this - has explained that "the extensive and deep-running mestizaje of the area has meant that at any time much beyond the close of the colonial period the history of the native peoples has been progressively interwoven with (or submerged in) that of non-native groups." 

Unfortunately, our image of pre-Hispanic Jalisco is obscured by the cultural shock, the devastation, and widespread displacement that was inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of western Mexico during the Sixteenth Century. Four primary factors influenced the post-contact indigenous distribution of Jalisco as it evolved into a Spanish colony. These factors are presented below in chronological order:

A. The occupation and conquest of Nuño de Guzmán (1529-1536).

B. The influence of epidemics in reducing the indigenous population.

C. The Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1541).

D. The Chichimeca War (1550-1590)

The Chichimeca Indians
In 1522, shortly after the fall of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), Hernán Cortés commissioned Cristóbal de Olid to journey into the area now known as Jalisco. In these early days, the Spaniards found it necessary to utilize the services of their new allies, the Christianized sedentary Indians from the south. 

These indigenous auxiliaries - serving as scouts and soldiers - were usually Mexica (from Tenochtitlán), Tarascan (from Michoacán), Otomí Indians (from Querétaro), Cholulans, or Tlaxcalans. Unlike other Indians, they were permitted to ride horses and to carry side arms as soldiers in the service of Spain.

As the Spaniards and their Amerindian allies from the south made their way north into present-day Jalisco, Guanajuato and Zacatecas, they started to encounter large numbers of nomadic Chichimeca Indians. Philip Wayne Powell - whose Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: North America's First Frontier War is the definitive source of information relating to the Chichimeca Indians - referred to Chichimeca as "an all-inclusive epithet" that had "a spiteful connotation."

Utilizing the Náhuatl terms for dog (chichi) and rope (mecatl), the Mexica had referred to the Chichimecas literally as "of dog lineage." But some historians have explained that the word Chichimeca has been subject to various interpretations over the years, including "perros altaneros" (arrogant dogs) and "chupadores de sangre" (blood-suckers). The Spaniards borrowed this designation from their Mexica allies and started to refer to the large stretch Chichimeca territory as La Gran Chichimeca (the Great Chichimeca). 

Although Chichimeca was used as an umbrella term for all of the nomadic hunters and gatherers inhabiting this part of Mexico, these indigenous peoples were actually divided into several distinct cultures. However, because most of the Chichimeca Indians were rapidly assimilated into the Hispanic culture of Seventeenth Century Mexico, there have been very few historical investigations into their now extinct cultures and languages. Ironically, these indigenous peoples are - in large part - the genetic ancestors of the present-day inhabitants of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Aguascalientes. And, as a result, they are thus the ancestors of many Mexican Americans.

The historian Paul Kirchhoff, in his work "The Hunting-Gathering People of North Mexico," has provided us with the best description of the Chichimeca Indian groups. Most of the Chichimeca Indians shared a primitive hunting-collecting culture, based on the gathering of mesquite, agave, and tunas (the fruit of the nopal). However, many of them also lived off of acorns, roots and seeds. In some areas, the Chichimecas even cultivated maize and some calabashes. From the mesquite they made white bread and wine. Many Chichimec tribes utilized the juice of the agave as a substitute for water when the latter was in short supply.

The Zacatecos Indians
The Zacatecos Indians, occupying 60,000 square kilometers in the present-day states of Zacatecas, eastern Durango, and Aguascalientes, may have received their name from the Mexica word zacate (grass). But some contemporary sources have said that the name was actually taken from the Zacatecos language and that it meant cabeza negra ("black head"). This would be a reference to the Chichimeca's penchant for painting their bodies and faces with various pigments (in this case, black pigment).

The Zacatecos Indians lived closest to the silver mines that the Spaniards would discover in 1546. The Zacatecos Indians inhabited large portions of northwest and southwest Zacatecas. Their lands bordered with those of the Tepehuanes on the west and the Guachichiles on the east. They roamed as far north as Parras, where they came into contact with the Irritilas of Coahuila.

The Zacatecos Indians belonged to the Aztecoidan Language Family and were thus of Uto-Aztecan stock. It was believed that the Zacatecos were closely related to the Caxcanes Indians of northern Jalisco and southern Zacatecas. The Zacatecos were "a tall, well-proportioned, muscular people, their strength being evidenced by the great burdens they carried for the Spaniards." They had oval faces with "long black eyes wide apart, large mouth, thick lips and small flat noses." The men wore breechcloth, while the women wore short petticoats of skins or woven maguey. Both sexes wore their hair long, usually to the waist.

The Zacatecos Indians married young, with most girls being married by the age of fifteen. Monogamy was their general practice. The Indians smeared their bodies with clay of various colors and painted them with the forms of reptiles. This paint helped shield them from the sun's rays but also kept vermin off their skin.

Some Zacatecos Indians grew roots, herbs, maize, beans, and some wild fruits. Most of them hunted rabbits, deer, birds, frogs, snakes, worms, moles, rats, and reptiles. Eventually, the Zacatecos and some of the other Chichimecas would develop a fondness for the meat of the larger animals brought in by the Spaniards. During their raids on Spanish settlements, they frequently stole mules, horses, cattle, and other livestock, all of which became a part of their diet.

Although most of the Chichimeca Indians were nomadic, some of the Zacatecos Indians had dwellings of a more permanent character, inhabiting areas near the wooded sierras. They inhabited homes constructed of adobe or sun-dried bricks and stones. They slept on the floors of their one-room homes and a fireplace in the middle of the floor, surrounded by rocks, was used for cooking food.

Mr. Powell writes that the Zacatecos were "brave and bellicose warriors and excellent marksmen." They were greatly feared by the neighboring tribes, in particular the Caxcanes, whom they attacked in later years after they began cooperating with the Spaniards.

The Guachichiles
The Guachichile Indians were the most populous Chichimeca nation, occupying perhaps 100,000 square kilometers, from Lake Chapala in Jalisco to modern Saltillo in Coahuila. The Guachichiles inhabited all of eastern Zacatecas and some parts of western San Luis Potosí, northeastern Jalisco and western Guanajuato.

The Guachichile Indians were classified with the Aztecoidan division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family. It was believed that they were closely related to the Huichol Indians, who continue to live in Nayarit and the western fringes of Zacatecas in the present day era.

The name "Guachichil" was given to them by the Mexica, and meant head colored red. They had been given this label because "they were distinguished by red feather headdresses, by painting themselves red (especially the hair), or by wearing head coverings (bonetillas) made of hides and painted red."

The archaeologist Paul Kirchhoff wrote that the following traits characterized the Guachichile Indians: "painting of the body; coloration of the hair; head gear; matrilocal residence; freedom of the married woman; special forms of cruelty to enemies." In the development of tribal alliances, the Guachichiles were considered the most advanced of the Chichimec tribes. They were a major catalyst in provoking the other tribes to resist the Spanish settlement and exploitation of Indian lands. "Their strategic position in relation to Spanish mines and highways," wrote Mr. Powell, "made them especially effective in raiding and in escape from Spanish reprisal."

The Spanish frontiersmen and contemporary writers referred to the Guachichiles "as being the most ferocious, the most valiant, and the most elusive" of all their indigenous adversaries. In addition, the Christian missionaries found their language difficult to learn because of its "many sharply variant dialects." As a result, the conversion of these natives to Christianity did not come easy.

In the development of tribal alliances, the Guachichiles were considered the most advanced of the Chichimec tribes. They were a major catalyst in provoking the other tribes to resist the Spanish settlement and exploitation of Indian lands. "Their strategic position in relation to Spanish mines and highways," wrote Mr. Powell, "made them especially effective in raiding and in escape from Spanish reprisal."

The Guamares
The nation of the Guamares, located in the Guanajuato Sierras, was centered around Pénjamo and San Miguel. They extended as far north as San Felipe, and almost to Querétaro in the east. They also extended as far west as Aguascalientes and Lagos de Moreno.

The author, Gonzalo de las Casas, called the Guamares "the bravest, most warlike, treacherous, and destructive of all the Chichimecas, and the most astute (dispuesta)." One Guamar group called the "Chichimecas Blancos" lived in the region between Jalostotitlán and Aguascalientes. This branch of the Guamares painted their heads white. However, much like the Guachichiles, many of the Guamares colored their long hair red and painted the body with various colors (in particular red).

The Caxcanes
If your ancestors are from northern Jalisco – both the Three-Fingers Border region (with Zacatecas) or Los Altos – it is likely that you have many ancestors who were among the Caxcanes Indians. The Caxcanes Indians were a tribe of the Nahuatlan (Aztecoidan) division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock. Caxcanes Indians occupied portions of present day Aguascalientes, southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco. Their range - at certain times - extended south toward Lake Chapala and beyond the Río Grande de Santiago.

Dr. Phil C. Weigand of the Departmento de Antropología of the Colegio de Michoacán in Mexico has theorized that the Caxcan Indians probably originated in the Chalchihuites area of northwestern Zacatecas. After the collapse of the Chalchihuites culture around 900 to 1000 A.D., Dr. Weigand believes that "the Caxcanes began a prolonged period of southern expansion" into parts of Jalisco.

Dr. Weigand has further noted that - at the time of the Spanish contact - the Cazcan "were probably organized into small conquest states." He also states that the "overriding theme of their history seems to have been a steady expansion carried by warfare, to the south."

Dr. Weigand also observed that the Caxcanes "appear to have been organized into highly competitive, expansion states. These states possessed well-developed social hierarchies, monumental architecture, and military brotherhoods." The Caxcanes are believed to have built their primary peñoles (fortifications) and religious centers at Juchípila, Teúl, Teocaltiche, Tlatenango, Nochistlán, Jalpa and El Chique. 

The Caxcanes played a major role in both the Mixton Rebellion (1540-41) and the Chichimeca War (1550-1590), first as the adversaries of the Spaniards and later as their allies against the Zacatecos and Guachichiles. The cocolistle epidemic of 1584 greatly reduced the number of Caxcanes. In the decades to follow, the surviving Caxcanes assimilated into the more dominant cultures that had settled in their territory. Today, Dr. Weigand writes, "the Caxcanes no longer exist as an ethnic group" and that "their last survivors" were noted in the late 1890s.

All of these Indian groups were involved in the Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1541) and the Chichimeca War (1550-1590). Mr. Powell's book Solders, Indians and Silver is a very detailed description of this war, which stands as the longest lasting war between the Spaniards and an Amerindian tribe. Although the Apache and Yaqui Indians offered serious resistance to the Spaniards over a period of time, these campaigns were not continuous as the forty-year struggle against the Chichimecas were.

In the end, the Chichimecas acquiesced to Spanish rule. Most of the Chichimeca tribes were not militarily defeated, but were bribed and persuaded into settling down by the Spanish administrators. Within decades they were assimilated into the evolving mestizaje culture of Mexico. Today, the languages, the spiritual beliefs and the cultural practices of most of the Chichimeca Indians are lost to us. Their customs have disappeared into extinction. However, the blood of the Guachichiles, Zacatecos, Caxcanes and Guamares still flows through the heart of anyone whose ancestors came from Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Jalisco and Aguascalientes. Their cultural extinction was not followed by genetic extinction.

Copyright © 2008, by John Schmal. All Rights Reserved.


Sources:
Peter Masten Dunne, Pioneer Jesuits in Northern Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1944).

J. Lloyd Mecham, Francisco de Ibarra and Nueva Vizcaya (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1927).

Paul Kirchhoff, "The Hunting-Gathering People of North Mexico," in Basil C. Hedrick et al. (ed.), The North Mexican Frontier: Readings in Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971), pp. 200-209

Donna S. Morales and John P. Schmal, Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2002).

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers, Indians and Silver; North America's First Frontier War (Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1975).

John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1952).

Eric Van Young, "The Indigenous Peoples of Western Mexico from the Spanish Invasion to the Present," in Richard E.W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume II: Mesoamerica, Part 2 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 136-186.

About the Author:

John Schmal was born and raised in Inglewood, California. He attended Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where he studied Geography, History and Earth Sciences and received two BA degrees.

Mr. Schmal specializes in Mexican, German, California, Texas and U.S. Census genealogical research. With regards to Mexican research, John Schmal has spent nearly two decades studying and extracting records from the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco, Chihuahua, Sonora, Guanajuato and Michoacán.

John also provides lectures on Indigenous Mexico to libraries and classes. He is the coauthor of Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico (Heritage Books, 2002). He has also coauthored six other books on Mexican-American themes, all of them published by Heritage Books in Maryland. He is an Associate Editor of www.somosprimos.com and a board member of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR).

Recently, John Schmal published The Journey to Latino Political Representation, about the struggle for Hispanic representation in California, Texas and the U.S. Congress. The preface to this book was written by his friend, Edward Telles, a professor at UCLA and the author of an award-winning book about race in Brazil.


The Caxcanes of Nochistlán: Defenders of Their Homeland

By John P. Schmal

Throughout human history, many groups of people have witnessed the arrival of aliens from far away countries in their traditional homeland territories. Responses to such intrusions have varied from century to century, continent to continent and from one people to another. In most cases, the invader intruded upon the economy, the resources and the political administration of the indigenous peoples. And all too often, the invader dominates and enslaves the people. Other occupations are less dramatic.

Although this is an event that has taken place time and again to many peoples, I find the story of the Caxcanes in the Juchipila and Nochistlán areas of southern Zacatecas to be particularly interesting. Although the Caxcanes have disappeared as a cultural and linguistic entity, millions of people whose origins are in southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco carry on the genetic legacy of the Caxcanes.

The Caxcanes living in the vicinity of present-day Juchipila and Nochistlan in April of 1530 were visited by an army of intruders, led by Nuño Beltran de Guzmán. Guzmán, commanding an army of 300 Spaniards and 6,000 indigenous soldiers, had left Mexico City four months earlier to escape a political war with the great Conquistador, Hernán Cortés. When Guzmán’s forces entered the area, most of the Caxcanes faded into the surrounding hills of the Sierra de Nochistlán. The Caxcanes, themselves, had been newcomers to the area three centuries earlier. In the Twelfth Century, the Caxcanes had driven out another indigenous group, the Tecuexes, using armed force.

On December 3, 1531, Guzmán, a native of Guadalajara in Espana, had tasked his chief lieutenant, Captain Juan de Oñate, with creating a settlement at the place the native peoples called Nochistlán. Guadalajara, named in honor of Guzmán to honor his birthplace, was officially founded on January 5, 1532. The building of the city progressed but faced a major obstacle in that the local Indians refused to provide manual labor for the town’s construction. Lacking basic resources and located far from other Spanish settlements, the young city of Guadalajara struggled.

When Guzman visited the town in May 1533, the inhabitants of the town told Guzman that they lacked sufficient resources of water. In addition, they were very concerned about Indian attacks. The Spanish inhabitants seemed perplexed that they could not get the Caxcanes to labor for them but it’s possible that the Caxcanes had already heard about the abuses of the notorious encomendero system and did not want to subject themselves to a system that was so degrading. While the encomienda system was meant to establish a beneficial relationship between the Spanish encomendero and the community he was responsible for. However, in some areas, the system quickly degenerated into an abusive system rife with taxes and closely resembling slavery.

So the Caxcanes resisted and did not cooperate. And, in July 1533, Guzman ordered that Guadalajara be moved south. The historian Peter Gerhard has indicated that as many as 50,000 Indians lived in the area at the time of contact, including approximately 6,000 families in Nochistlan. Eventually, the conquest of the area proceeded as it did in other adjacent areas of what we now call Zacatecas and Jalisco.

Mixtón Rebellion

Eventually the abuse of the encomienda system led to a violent uprising of the Caxcanes and Tecuexes and other Indians throughout the region. Tenamaxtle, originally from Nochistlan, was one of the leaders of this rebellion which quickly spread south. With the help of his second-in-command, Caitlacotl, Tenamaxtle led a coalition of 60,000 indigenous soldiers southward to threaten Guadalajara.

The revolt gained the attention of the Viceroy Antonio Mendoza who called for aid. Pedro de Alvarado had recently arrived in the coastal area to take part in the search for gold in the northern regions, but decided to assist the Viceroy. To Alvarado, the Great Conquistador, the Conqueror of Guatemala and the Architect of La Noche Triste, this change of plans was a minor convenience. As he had done so many times in the past, he expected to put the indigenous rebels in their place.

Against the advice of Mendoza, Pedro de Alvarado made a reckless attack against Nochistlan on June 245h. The resistance of the Caxcanes surprised Alvarado and his men who were forced to retreat. In the chaos of the retreat, Alvarado was crushed under a horse. In great pain, he died of his injuries in Guadalajara on July 4, 1541.

Later, in the year, Viceroy Mendoza had put together enough forces to force the Caxcanes and Tecueces of Nochistlan and surrounding areas into submission. The reconquest was tragic. Many of the surviving Caxcanes around Apozol and Juchipila were enslaved and sent to Guadalajara. In addition to the hard labor imposed upon them, many of these Indians died in the epidemic of 1546-1548. However, some of those who survived returned to their homes after a decade.

On December 12, 1550 Bishop Maraver sent a letter to King of Spain requesting that the Crown permit the conversion of the Caxcanes. In an effort to carry out this effort, the Bishop indicated that the entry of Spanish soldiers in the area should be prohibited for at least 15 years so that the clergy could concentrate their efforts on the people of the region, without distraction by possible negative elements. This request was granted.

In the following decades, many indigenous groups in the area of Nochistlan and Juchipila remained hostile towards Spanish intruders and their indigenous allies from the south. Gradually, however, the area was settled by outsiders who made Nochistlan and Juchipila their homes.

The resistance of the Caxcanes and the Tecuexes in southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco has been forgotten by some, but not by all. Some people from this area feel a sense of pride in the fact that the famous Guadalajara had to removed 150 kilometers to the south because of the resistance of their ancestors.

The Caxcanes no longer exist as a cultural entity. According to the Czech anthropologist, Ales Hrdlicka, the last speakers of their language died in the late 1890s. However, anyone whose ancestors from the border regions of southern Zacatecas and northern Jalisco is most likely descended from the Caxcanes.

The people of Nochistlán also speak with pride of their resistance to the French. More than three centuries later, during the French occupation, Colonel J. Jesús Mejía led an attack on French forces on May 13, 1864. During this period, the people of Nochistlan still talk about the French general who was shot in the head.

Dedication

I dedicate this story to my two friends, Sonia and Cristina Perez. Together, the three of us spent a year tracing their Moyahua, Juchipila and Nochistlan roots back over 300 years. We estimate that about two-thirds of their ancestors are descended from the Caxcanes Indians. This research project was a rewarding experience for the three of us.

Sources:

Carvajal de Barragán, Paulina, "Costumbres y Tradiciones en Guadalajara," in Manuel Caldera Robles, ed., "Capítulos de Historia de la Ciudad de Guadalajara, Tomo II". (Guadalajara: Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara, 1989-1992).

Gerhard, Peter, "The North Frontier of New Spain" (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Torres, Francisco Mariano de, "Crónica de la Sancta Provincia de Xalisco" (Mexico, 1960).

 

 


 JALISCO HISTORY AND RESEARCH 

 


 

Mexico: The Best Records in the World

By John P. Schmal


Many people look to Mexico as a nation rich in mineral resources, cultural antiquities and historical significance. Indeed, it is this... and much more. But many people, aware of Mexico's tumultuous past, a history full of political strife and turmoil, don't realize that - inspite of its difficult periods - Mexico has an extraordinary record of keeping diligent and detailed records of its people and their significant life events.

My ancestors lived in Illinois, Minnesota and New York in the 1850s and 1860s and getting information on my ancestors from those areas for those two decades is exceedingly difficult. However, I have traced the Mexican lineages of my relatives and my friends in Zacatecas, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes and Chihuahua during the same two decades with extraordinary success. Many Mexican Catholic church records from the 1800s, from the 1700s and even from the 1600s are very rich in details that you would never see in most American records. (There are exceptions, of course.)

It is worth noting that most American counties did not begin keeping birth and death records until the 1900s, and the recording to marriage records was only slightly better. However, Mexico started civil registration in 1859 and this practice was in widespread practice by the 1880s, and these records, for the most part, are very detailed.

To the family history researcher, Mexico is a land whose vital records are rich in both detail and availability. Mexico's Registros Parroquiales (Parish Registers) - in particular - have provided many Mexican Americans with a fabulous window into their past. From one end of Mexico to another, countless church books and civil registries have chronicled the life events of ordinary laborers and slaves, alongside those of wealthy landowners. Millions of baptisms, marriages and confirmations were performed and it appears that a great number of these church records have survived to the present day. Mexico's civil registration, enacted in 1859, provides the researcher with a secondary source that is sometimes even more detailed than the church records.

To help you better appreciate this valuable resource, I would like to present a translated record of the 1903 marriage record of Olayo Morales and Juana Luevano. This marriage record was performed by the Judge of the Civil Court in the small town of Cieneguilla in the state of Aguascalientes in central Mexico. The civil registry of birth, marriage and death records from Cieneguilla have been microfilmed by Genealogical Society of Utah and are now present on seventeen rolls of film

The civil marriage record of Olayo Morales and Juana Luevano, as translated to English, tells us:

In Cieneguilla on January 18, 1903 at nine in the morning in this office and before the recording judge, appeared the citizens OLAYO MORALES and JUANA LUEVANO, who stated that they desired to be married (in a civil ceremony) in conformity with the applicable laws for which they will make their best efforts. The first party (Olayo) is single, 22 years of age, originally from Santa Maria and a resident of this place, a laborer, and the legitimate son of Eustacio Morales and Juana Salas, who are living. The second party (Juana) is 16 years old, the legitimate daughter of Tiburcio Luevano and Manuela Martinez, who are also alive. At once, and at the end of the demonstration of their legal capacity to marry, introduced as witnesses were the citizens Crispin Santana (50 years of age) and Zacarias Salinas (60 years of age), both married and adults of age, laborers and residents of this hacienda, witnesses for the first party. The second party presented as witnesses the citizens Juan Perez and Eligio Chavez, both married, adults of age, laborers, and residents of this property, who under the protest of their truthfulness, declared that they are not aware of any impediments to marriage, prior to the consent of the parents, I, the Judge, made the presentation and I decided that it will be published for the period required by law. According to the content that was read to the people present in front of me, I, the Judge, signed it. The people present did not sign it because they do not know how to write.

Signed, Pablo Valdivia

This rich detail can also be found in the following 1788 marriage in the Catholic Church of Aguascalientes which I have also translated to English:

In the Village of Aguas Calientes on the 23rd day of April, 1788, having presided over the usual preparatory steps and having read the arranged marriage banns as required by the Holy Council of Trent in the parish church on three holy days in solemn Mass on the 6th, 13th, and 20th days of the current month, and no impediment to marriage having resulted, I, Father Sir Thomas Serrano, with permission from Father Andres Martinez, the senior interim parish priest, assisted in the marriage in my presence and by these words celebrated in Holy Mass - JOSE CIPRIANO GOMES, of Spanish origin (White), originally from and a resident of this jurisdiction in Juiquinaqui, legitimate son of Antonio Gomes and Rita Quitaria de Robalcava - and MANUELA MASIAS, Spanish, originally from this jurisdiction in the Canutillo and resident of the above-mentioned Juiquinaqui, natural daughter of Ines Masias (deceased) - (joined) in Blessed Nuptials. The padrinos (sponsors)were Antonio Flores and Dolores Garcia and the witnesses, Matias Hernandez and Juan Valades - In witness thereof we signed it.

Even the marriages of slaves and Indians were recorded in detail by the parish priests, as is evident in this partial translation of a 1774 marriage record from Charcas, San Luis Potosí, which indicates the marriage between one Jacinto Ramon Rodriguez Flores, a mulato esclavo (slave mulato), and Maria Manuela Sauzeda (a mestiza from El Rancho del Sitio). The translation of this 233-year-old marriage document reads in part:

In this Parish Church of Our Lady of Charcas on the 16th of August in 1774, having presided over the usual preparatory steps as required by the Holy Council of Trent and the synod of this town,... I married JACINTO RAMON RODRIGUEZ FLORES, a mulato, originally of Aalosto, servant in this place, widower of Rita Quiteria Felicia, who was buried in the Parish a year and three months ago, legitimate son of Francisco Rodriguez and Maria Magdalena Perez, deceased mulata slave,

And MARIA MANUELA SAUZEDA, a mestiza of the Post of Animas in this jurisdiction and resident of Ranch of San Jose de Sitio, legitimate daughter of Francisco Xavier Zauzeda and Martina Xaviera Perez, and not having found any impediments, I proclaimed the banns of marriage...

Mixed marriages of couples who had various combinations of Spanish, African, and Indian blood were common throughout Mexico in the colonial period and many of those records can be viewed today, by either visiting the ancestral parish or accessing the film through the Family History Library's microfilmed resources.

Stepping back into an earlier century, I now present another translated marriage record from the parish archives in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco from 1673:

On the 6th day of the month of July of the year 1673, I married and veiled within the church FRANCISCO DE CARDONA, a native of Saint Barholome de la Agua, a dependent of the Bishopric of Guadalajara, legitimate son of Francisco de Cardona and Magdalena de Carbajal, with LUISA DE ROBALCABA, native of this village, legitimate daughter of Jose Gonsalez de Robalcaba and Ana Gonsalez Florida (already deceased), resident of this village, having presided over the conciliar measures as required by the Holy Council of Trent, and having published the marriage banns in Holy Mass on three holy days, on Sunday the 9th of July, Sunday the 16th of July and Saturday the 22nd of July. I continued (with the marriage), no impediments to marriage that I know of having resulted...

The evidence is clear that Mexico has another rich resource that many people, in fact, were not aware of.

 

L


 

Los Tapatiós de California: Returning to Their Jalisco Roots
The History of Jalisco

By John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Jalisco seems to inspire a sense of cultural identity and pride that is not nearly as evident with other Mexican states. Even among some second- and third-generation Americans, loyalty to and interest in Jalisco is commonplace among Mexican Americans. To many people, Jalisco represents the essence of Mexican culture, tradition and music. The Tapatiós are well-known for their energetic and colorful dances, which are usually accompanied by the mariachi music that made Guadalajara famous. The state itself has been contributing large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. since the early Twentieth Century and continues to send many Jaliscans to California, Texas, Illinois and other American states.

One of the founding fathers of Los Angeles, Luis Quintero, was born in Guadalajara and his descendants, numbering in the thousands, live throughout Los Angeles and neighboring counties. In my own personal and professional dealings, I have known at least a couple hundred people who either came from Jalisco or whose ancestors came from the place.  In fact, my nieces and nephews have ancestors from Tequila and Hostotipaquillo in the valleys of northern Jalisco, not far from the Nayarit border.

Thousands of Jaliscans have been arriving in Los Angeles and throughout California each year for the last half-century, and, today, the sons and daughters of Jalisco work in California's banks, health care companies, publishing companies, schools, libraries and factories. Many of them attend elementary school or are making their way through college, while others stand on street corners, looking for day laboring opportunities. Today, without a doubt, the lifeblood of Jalisco flows through the heart of California.

I spend a few hours of each month as a volunteer Family History Consultant for people who are seeking to find their roots in Mexico and have met with many individuals who were interested in exploring their Jalisco roots. Many of them also have ancestors from Michoacán, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato, but for some reason, they have a compelling urge to explore their Jalisco origins first and foremost. (Michoacán runs a close second, in large part because some people have a sense of pride for their Purépecha/Tarascan roots in Jalisco’s neighbor to the south).

Some of the most successful, rewarding and enjoyable research that I’ve done is Jalisco research. Jalisco’s parish priests and the civil registrars followed a rigorous system of record-keeping that was not nearly as meticulous in some of the other Mexican states. As an added benefit, a significant number of Jalisco's parish records after 1850 are indexed, offering great opportunities for the family history researcher.

The most endearing characteristic of Jalisco records after 1800 is what I call The Abuelos Factor. Unlike some Mexican states and most countries of the world, a baptism record in the Jalisco parish books gives the family historian six new names to research: the padres (parents), abuelos paternos (paternal grandparents), and abuelos maternos (maternal grandparents) of the person being baptized.

As an example, the following baptism – translated into English from Spanish – was recorded on September 29, 1885 for Juana Luevano in the northern Jalisco town of Villa Hidalgo (a hop, skip and jump from the border with Aguascalientes):

In the Parish of Paso de Sotos on the 29th of September of 1885, I, Father Estevan Agredano... baptized solemnly and poured Holy Oil and Sacred Chrism on Juana, who was born on the 27th day at seven in the morning in this place, legitimate daughter of Tiburcio Luevano and Manuela Martinez. Paternal grandparents: Pablo Luevano and Manuela Serna. Maternal grandparents: Timoteo Martinez and Fermina Rubalcaba. Godparents: Paulin Diaz and Epifania Aguallo, whom I advised of their spiritual and parental obligation. In witness thereof, I signed it.

For the most part, people researching in Michoacán, Guanajuato and several other Mexican states do not usually have the benefit of the Abuelos Factor. But many post-1800 records in Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Chihuahua are influenced by the Abuelos Factor which makes jumping from one generation to another an easier process.

The most important repository of Jalisco records for most Americans to research are available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake city. This library probably has the largest genealogical resources for the state of Jalisco in the world and its catalog can be accessed at the following link:

http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp


For the state of Jalisco alone, the Family History Library owns at least 20,000 rolls of microfilm, covering roughly 200 cities, municipios, and villas. Of the 165 towns and villages whose Catholic churches are represented in this collection, 46 have registers going back to the 1600s while another 37 have records stretching back to the 1700s. Each roll of microfilm in the FHL collection can be ordered from any local Family History Center for $6.05. That roll of film will stay "in-house" for one month and can be renewed at the end of that period.

Most of Jalisco's 124 municipios are also represented in the FHL catalog. Although Mexico enacted civil registration in 1859, most of the municipios of Jalisco did not start keeping birth, marriage, and death records until 1867 or later. This collection is constantly being updated for some cities. In addition, the 1930 Mexican census is available for almost one hundred of the municipios. Another invaluable resource for the Hispanic researcher is the International Genealogical Index (IGI). In this database, many of the church records held by the FHL have been indexed. Of Mexico's 30 million baptism and marriage entries in the IGI, Jalisco accounts for about 3.5 million. In my own research, I have found this powerful and dynamic database to be of enormous value for pre-1880 baptisms and marriages.

Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico, is the capital of Jalisco. Founded in 1542, Guadalajara became the administrative capital of the province of Nueva Galicia. As the second largest tourist destination in Mexico, the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area enjoys the highest quality of life in Mexico. With a present-day population of around 4 million people, it is not surprising that many Mexican Americans search for their roots in the parish registers of Guadalajara and its immediate vicinity.

The FHL owns an impressive 3,400 rolls of microfilm dealing with Guadalajara. Fifteen Catholic churches, some with baptism and marriage registers stretching back as far as 1635, are represented on 1,500 rolls of film. Padrones (local census lists) from 1639 to 1875 comprise 48 rolls of film and can be a very useful resource. Property and water rights records can be found on 269 rolls of microfilm and date back to 1584. Notarial and probate records, dating back to at least 1583, make up almost 1,300 rolls.

It is interesting to note that, as one goes back in time, the records of some cities actually become more detailed. For example, a researcher exploring the marriage records in Lagos de Moreno between 1650 and 1670 will find that they are amazingly detailed, even for Indian couples who have no surnames.

In pre-Columbian times, many indigenous groups inhabited Jalisco, and, in fact, the present-day territory of Jalisco was crisscrossed by a large number of small autonomous states speaking a multitude of languages, some of which are long forgotten. The area around Guadalajara was inhabited by Cocas and Tecuexes, while the northern Altos region was dominated by the Caxcanes and Guachichiles. The Otomies lived around Zapotitlán, Juchitlán, Autlán in the south, but it is possible that they were transplanted Indians who came to fill a demographic void left by the original inhabitants after epidemics had reduced their numbers.

The Purépecha Indians (Tarascans), identified with the State of Michoacán, inhabited some of the southern border regions. The Tepehuán Indians, presently inhabiting Chihuahua, Durango and Nayarit, once lived in some of the northern mountains of Jalisco’s Three-Fingers Border Region with Zacatecas. The Huicholes, who now live in Nayarit, also inhabited some regions of northern Jalisco until shortly after the Spanish contact.

An integral part of genealogical research is historical perspective and understanding Jalisco’s indigenous past is a step towards understanding your own family history. Only three authors have dealt with the topic of Jalisco’s indigenous people at great length. The following two books may be of assistance to the determined researcher:

Peter Gerhard, The North Frontier of New Spain. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Eric Van Young, "The Indigenous Peoples of Western Mexico from the Spanish Invasion to the Present: The Center-West as Cultural Region and Natural Environment," in Richard E. W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod, The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume II: Mesoamerica, Part 2. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 136-186.

In addition, Dr. Phil Weigand of the Centro de Estudios Arqueologicos, El Colegio de Michoacan, in Zamora, Michoacán, has spent years studying the archaeology and history of the indigenous peoples of Jalisco and Zacatecas. Dr. Weigand has written many books and articles on the topic of indigenous Jalisco, both pre-Hispanic and later, and most of these works can be found in the California University library system. Although most of his works are in Spanish, a few are in English.

Many people have come to me talking about the etymology of their surname and how it came from a certain place in Spain at a certain time. Sometimes they give very intricate details about a surname’s history, without really knowing exactly how they connect to the surname, and sometimes their sources of this information are just quotes off the Internet, not from published academic sources.

This is all good information to know and may turn out to be useful (and hopefully accurate), but it is important for people to realize that there is only one way to actual trace your own family tree and that is to look for your ancestors one generation at a time, baptism by baptism, marriage by marriage, going back gradually through time. Like any genealogical research project, tracing your roots in Jalisco demands a certain amount of patience, perseverance, and determination, as well as an open mind. Once you get the hang of it, it is really quite simple and the rewards can be spectacular.

Jalisco is still a vibrant and proud state. People who come from there have difficulty shedding their cultural ties to their tapatió heritage and generally maintain a sense of identity about their Jaliscan origins. The State of Jalisco, with its rich cultural inheritance, has become, in many ways, part of California society as well. But no matter how American you are, it doesn’t hurt to know about your ancestors from Jalisco and the evolution that transformed them from Indian warriors and Spanish settlers into American citizens.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Source: John P. Schmal and Donna S. Morales, Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico (Heritage Books, 2002).

 


THE HISTORY OF JALISCO
By John P. Schmal

For more than a century, Mexican nationals have been crossing the southern border to begin new lives in the United States. A large percentage of those immigrants have come from the state of Jalisco. Jalisco, located in the west central part of the Mexican Republic, is the sixth largest of Mexico's thirty-one states. Within its 124 municipios, the state boasts a population that is approaching seven million.

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west, the 31,210 square miles of Jalisco make up 4.1% of the total area of Mexico and touches seven other Mexican states. While Colima and Michoacán lay to her south and east, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Nayarit lay to the north. In addition, Jalisco has a common border with Guanajuato and a small sliver of San Luis Potosí on her northeastern frontier.

Today, Jalisco is a land of peace. But from the early Sixteenth Century until the Cristero Rebellion of the 1920s, Jalisco's beautiful landscape was ravaged by warfare time and again. Over a period of four centuries, many battles were fought on the soil of Jalisco. When one learns of the trials and tribulations endured by the people of Jalisco, he or she can begin to appreciate and understand the pride that Jaliscans feel for their native soil.

The name "Jalisco" is believed to be derived from the Nahuatl words xalli (sand, gravel) and ixtli, which means "face," or by extension, plane. Thus, the word Jalisco would literally mean "sandy place." The first inhabitants of Jalisco were nomadic tribes traveling through the area en route to the south. At one point, the Toltecs ruled over the Kingdom of Xalisco. But, in 1112, the Indian subjects of this kingdom rose in rebellion, leading to the disintegration of Xalisco. Among the indigenous tribes inhabiting Jalisco at the time of the Spanish encounter were the Cazcanes (who inhabited the northern regions near Teocaltiche and Lagos de Moreno) and the Huicholes (who also inhabited the northwestern region near present-day Huejúcar and Colotlán).

The Guachichile Indians, who inhabited a large part of Zacatecas, also had some representation in the Los Altos area near Tepatitlán and Arandas. The Cuyuteco Indians, who spoke the Nahua language of the Aztecs, lived in the western sector near the present-day towns of Cuyutlán and Mixtlán. Living close to what is now Guadalajara were the Tecuexes and Cocas. However, the Tecuexes also extended to the northeast through Los Altos all the way to Lagos de Moreno. The Guamares lived in the far east, along what is now the border of Jalisco and Guanajuato. The Otomíes, who inhabited the southern area near Zapotitlán and border area with Colima, were transplanted Christian Indians brought to the region as allies of the Spaniards.

In 1522, shortly after the fall of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), Hernán Cortés commissioned Cristóbal de Olid to journey into the unexplored territories of the northwest to explore that area we now call Jalisco. Then, in December 1529, the President of the First Audiencia in Nueva España (Mexico), Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, left Mexico City with a force of 300 Spaniards and 6,000 Indian allies. Guzmán, a lawyer by profession, had already gained a reputation as a ruthless and cruel administrator when he served as Governor of Panuco on the Gulf Coast. With little regard for Spanish laws forbidding the enslavement of Indians, Guzmán had enslaved and shipped tens of thousands of Indians off to the Caribbean Islands to live out their lives as slaves.

Traveling through Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Sinaloa, Guzmán left a trail of devastation and terror wherever he went. In 1531, Guzmán ordered his chief lieutenant, Juan de Oñate, to found La Villa de Guadalajara - named after the city of his birth in Spain - on the plateau near Nochistlán in the present-day state of Zacatecas. The construction of Guadalajara began on January 5, 1532. However, the small settlement came under repeated attacks almost immediately from the local Cazcanes Indians and, on August 5, 1533, had to be abandoned. The town of Guadalajara would be moved four times before finding its final home on February 14, 1542 at its present site.

While Guzmán ravaged through the western and central parts of Mexico, reports of his brutal treatment of the Indians reached the authorities in Mexico City. One man who took special notice of Guzmán's genocidal transgressions was Antonio de Mendoza, who in 1535 was appointed as the first of sixty-one viceroys who would rule Nueva España. Egged on by both Bishop Bartolome de las Casas and Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga, strong advocates for the Indians, Mendoza arrested Guzmán in 1536 and imprisoned him. He was returned to Spain where he died in obscurity and disgrace.

The long-range implications of Guzmán's reign of terror were realized in 1541 when the Mixtón Rebellion pitted the indigenous people of Jalisco against Spanish rule. Under the leadership of Tenamaxtli, the Indians fortified their positions near Mixtón, Nochistlán, and other towns, while laying siege to Guadalajara. Unable to cope with the intensity of this uprising, Cristóbal de Oñate, the Acting Governor of the region, pleaded for aid from Viceroy Mendoza. The famous conquistador, Pedro de Alvarado, coming to the aid of Oñate, led an attack on Nochistlán. However, the indigenous defenders counterattacked with such ferocity that Alvarado's forces were routed. In this hasty retreat, a horse fell upon Pedro de Alvarado. Mortally wounded by the crushing weight of the horse, Alvarado, the conqueror of Guatemala, died in Guadalajara a week later on June 24, 1541.

However, eventually Viceroy Mendoza, with a force of 300 horsemen, 300 infantry, eight pieces of artillery and 20,000 Tlaxcalan and Aztec Indian allies, succeeded in recapturing one town after another, against great resistance. By December 8, 1541, most of the indigenous resistance had been ended. In 1548, King Carlos V of Spain decreed the creation of the Audiencia of Nueva Galicia, which included all of present-day Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Aguascalientes.

In 1550, the Chichimeca War started. The definitive source of information relating to the Chichimeca Indians and the Chichimeca War is Philip Wayne Powell's Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: North America's First Frontier War. Although Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, and Guanajuato were the primary battlegrounds in this fierce frontier war, some parts of Jalisco also came under attack. In 1554, the worst disaster of all took place when Chichimeca Indians attacked a Spanish caravan of sixty wagons with an armed escort in the Ojuelos Pass. In addition to inflicting great loss of life, the Chichimecas carried off more than 30,000 pesos worth of clothing, silver, and other valuables.

By the last decade of the century, the efforts of Viceroy Alonso Manrique de Zuñiga to make peace with the Chichimecas met with success. Mr. Powell has described in detail the efforts of Viceroy Mendoza to achieve peace. The end of hostilities brought a period of extended prosperity for the economy of Jalisco. During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, the commercial importance of Jalisco became a crucial ingredient to the success of Spain's prized colony.

Guadalajara, because of its strategic location within the Spanish colony, became prosperous as it funneled imported goods - both legal and illegal - to other parts of the colony. This period was also a period of consolidation in which certain Indian groups were formally brought under Spanish control. In 1721, the leader of the Coras, an indigenous group living in present-day Nayarit and western Jalisco, negotiated a peace with the Spanish authorities.

On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo set into motion the Mexican struggle for independence when he issued El Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores) from his parish in Guanajuato. What started as a small rebellion quickly snowballed into a full-scale revolution. Moving from one town to another, Hidalgo's insurgents were able to take control of some cities without firing a shot.

On November 4, 1810, the rebel forces defeated a Creole militia at Zacoalca, killing over 250 Loyalists. This victory left the city of Guadalajara vulnerable to rebel attack. On November 26, 1810, the forces of Hidalgo entered Guadalajara. Once in the city, the rebels arrested many Spaniards and announced the abolition of slavery. In the meantime, the recruitment efforts of Hidalgo brought the rebel strength up to about 80,000 in January. However, on January 13, 1811, Hidalgo learned that the Royalist forces of General Félix María Calleja del Rey were approaching Guadalajara. Upon receiving this news, Hidalgo assembled his forces and led them to the outskirts of the city. Here the rebel forces took up positions on several hills and awaited the arrival of the enemy.

On January 17, 1811, at Calderón Bridge on the Lerma River east of Guadalajara, Hidalgo's forces joined battle with the Royalist forces of Gen. Calleja del Rey. Hidalgo's men were on the verge of victory when - suddenly - Royalist artillery fire struck one of the insurgents' ammunition wagons. A stupendous explosion resulted, igniting the grass of the plains and panicking Hidalgo's men. Within minutes, Hidalgo's forces were in a massive retreat. It was this battle that broke the back of Hidalgo's revolt. Eventually, Hidalgo was captured and executed (July, 1811).

As the revolution continued, Jalisco remained the site of confrontations between royalist forces and insurgents. In 1812, insurgent activity became particularly strong in the vicinity of Lake Chapala. However, after the capture and execution of key leaders, the rebel movement lost momentum and some insurgent leaders accepted amnesty in 1816. The uncertainty of the rebellion against Spain was further magnified on the morning of May 31, 1817 when a massive earthquake caused great damage to Guadalajara and the surrounding areas. Jalisco remained, for the duration of the war, a stronghold of periodic insurgent activity. Finally, in 1822, the Spanish authorities relinquished their claim on Mexico, and Royalist forces embarked for Spain, leaving behind an independent Mexican Republic.

On June 2, 1823, the Free State of Jalisco was established in confederation with the other Mexican states. But independence did not bring stability to Jalisco. The historian Dawn Fogle Deaton writes that in the sixty-year period from 1825 to 1885, Jalisco witnessed twenty-seven peasant (primarily indigenous) rebellions. Seventeen of these uprisings occurred within one decade, 1855-64, and the year 1857 witnessed ten separate revolts.

According to Ms. Deaton, the cause of these "waves of unrest, popular protest, and open rebellion" arose "out of the political and social struggles among classes and between classes." She further explained that the "commercialization of the economy," especially in agriculture, had led to fundamental changes in the lifestyles of the peasants and thus brought about "the seeds of discontent."

The peasant rebellions were accompanied by revolts on the state level against the federal government. On April 12, 1834, the Jalisco Legislature invited the states of Querétaro, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Tampico and Durango to form a coalition to defend themselves against the Federal rule of General Antonio López de Santa Anna. During that summer, a mob of about sixty to eighty men, through intimidation and threats, persuaded the leaders of Guadalajara to resign. Through such manipulation, the Federal Government kept Jalisco under heel.

During the 1850s, the ongoing and passionate battle between the Liberals and Conservatives spilled into Jalisco. From 1855 to 1864, Ms. Deaton writes, Jalisco's government witnessed eighteen transfers of power. One of the key issues was the role of the Catholic Church and the separation of church and state. The Liberals viewed the Church as their staunch opponent and as the conservatives' political and economic supporter. In effect, Liberal advocates sought to reduce influence of the Church.

Then, with the adoption of a Liberal-based constitution in January 1857, the Conservative/Liberal conflict evolved into a full-scale civil war, referred to as the War of the Reform. With the resignation of President Comonfort, Liberal leader Benito Juárez had become Acting President of the Mexican Republic. However, Conservative forces moved quickly to attack Juárez in Mexico City. As a result, Juárez was forced to flee to Guadalajara.

Then, on March 20, 1858, faced with the imminent arrival of Conservative forces, Benito Juárez and his Liberal forces were forced to flee Guadalajara. Soon he would arrive in Veracruz, where he set up his government. Reaching its peak in June and July of 1859, the War of the Reform paralyzed the economy of Jalisco. A large segment of southern Jalisco, including Guadalajara, were devastated, leading to a mass migration of middle class persons. Of the thirty most important battles of the War of the Reform, twelve took place on Jalisco's territory.

With the end of the War of the Reform and the return of Juárez to Mexico City in 1861, Mexico faced a French invasion. The French, invited to Mexico by the Conservatives, moved - against great resistance - to occupy most of the country. During the French occupation, multiple confrontations between French and Republican troops took place within the territory of Jalisco. On December 18, 1866, Mexican forces under General Eulogio Parra won a decisive battle against the French forces near Acatlán. Within months, the French would completely evacuate their forces from Mexico.

A state of Jalisco's prominence was unable to avoid becoming a battleground during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). In Manuel M. Diéguez, an ally of President Venustiano Carranza and the Governor of Jalisco, enacted a reign of terror. During his occupation of Guadalajara, Diéguez's forces persecuted the clergy, confiscated holdings of the rich, and imprisoned or executed followers of Victoriano Huerta. As the rebel forces of Pancho Villa approached Guadalajara, many people from the Jalisco countryside joined forces with the Villistas. Finally, on December 17, 1914, Villa entered Guadalajara, forcing Diéguez to flee. Soon after, Villa called together the richest men of both Jalisco and Guadalajara and announced a forced loan of one million pesos. Passing out money to the poor, Villa became enormously popular, but his victory was short-lived and soon he had to leave the city. By April, the Constitutionalist forces of Diéguez once again controlled Guadalajara.

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 Elías 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.

Today, Jalisco remains one of the most important states in Mexico, both culturally and economically. With the third-largest economy in the Mexican Republic, Jalisco exports more than $5 billion annually to 81 countries and ranks first among the states in agribusiness, computers and the manufacturing of jewelry. Some people say that Jalisco is both the heart and soul of Mexico. Many of the things that are considered as typically Mexican, such as mariachi music, charreadas (rodeos), the Mexican Hat Dance, tequila, and the broad-rimmed sombrero hat, are in fact derived from Jalisco's rich cultural heritage. For the last five centuries, Jalisco has been the site of many civil wars and many battles. But, in spite of these ongoing conflicts, the spirit of the people of Jalisco has endured and, in fact, flourished.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Michael P. Costeloe, The Central Republic in Mexico, 1835-1846 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Dawn Fogle Deaton, "The Decade of Revolt: Peasant Rebellion in Jalisco, Mexico, 1855-1864," in Robert H. Jackson (ed.), Liberals, the Church, and Indian Peasants: Corporate Lands and the Challenge of Reform in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America (Albuquerque: New Mexico Press, 1997).

José María Muriá, Breve Historia de Jalisco (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994).

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War (Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, 1975).

Jim Tuck, The Holy War in Los Altos: Regional Analysis of Mexico's Cristero Rebellion (Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1982).


Indigenous Jalisco: Living in a New Era

By John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Jalisco is located in the west central part of the Mexican Republic. This large state, occupying a total of 78,839 square kilometers, borders the states of Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Nayarit and Durango (on its north), Guanajuato (on its east) and Michoacán de Ocampo and Colima to the south. On its west, Jalisco borders the Pacific Ocean.

Jalisco is crossed by two large mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Neo-Volcanic Axis. With a wide range of topographies, Jalisco became the home to wide variety of indigenous peoples. Domingo Lázaro de Arregui, in his "Descripción de la Nueva Galicia" – published in 1621 – noted that 72 native langauges were spoken in the Spanish colonial province of Nueva Galicia, which included a large part of Jalisco, as well as Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.

The Spaniards first visited the indigenous peoples of Jalisco in the early 1520s and their journey for the rest of the Sixteenth Century led to displacement, assimilation and mestizaje which I have discussed in a separate article at:

http://houstonculture.org/mexico/jalisco_indig.html

By the early part of the Nineteenth Century, very few people living in Jalisco still spoke Indian languages. In fact, a large number of the original languages spoken in Jalisco had disappeared from the face of the earth. However, the descendants of the original Indians still lived in Jalisco and many of them still felt a spiritual, cultural and physical bond to their Indian ancestors.

On June 23, 1823, the Department of Guadalajara was proclaimed as the "El Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco" (The Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco). This new era, however, did not bring stability to Jalisco, nor did it bring economic reform to the descendants of Jalisco’s indigenous peoples. The historian Dawn Fogle Deaton has written that in the sixty-year period from 1825 to 1885, Jalisco witnessed twenty-seven peasant rebellions, most of them carried out by indigenous citizens.

According to Ms. Deaton, the cause of these "waves of unrest, popular protest, and open rebellion" arose "out of the political and social struggles among classes and between classes." She further explained that the "commercialization of the economy," especially in agriculture, had led to fundamental changes in the lifestyles of the peasants and thus brought about "the seeds of discontent."

The bond that the people of Jalisco felt towards their indigenous ancestry continued well into the Twentieth Century and is clearly manifested in the 1921 Mexican census. At the time of this census, which was tallied after the end of the devastating Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), 199,728 Jalisco natives identified themselves as being of "indígena pura" (pure indigenous) descent, representing 16.8% of the entire state’s population. In contrast, a mere 195 individuals were classified as speakers of indigenous languages (primarily Náhuatl and Huichol).

In a true testament to the mestizaje of Jalisco’s inhabitants, 903,830 Jaliscans classified themselves as "indígena mezclada con blanca" (Indigenous mixed with White), representing 75.8% of the total state population. The mestizos of Jalisco, in fact, represented 10.6% of the mestizo population of the entire Mexican Republic in the 1921 census.

In contrast, only 87,103 of Jalisco’s 1,191,957 inhabitants referred to themselves as "blanca." When the next census was counted in 1930, only 1,681 inhabitants of Jalisco spoke indigenous languages. Nearly all of these persons were Huicholes (1,676). The racial classifications of Jalisco’s population in 1921 is illustrated in the following table:

RACIAL CLASSIFICATIONS IN JALISCO

AND THE MEXICAN REPUBLIC –

1921 CENSUS

Copyright © 2007, by John P. Schmal

Racial

Classification

Jalisco

(Number of

Persons)

As a Percentage

of the Total

State Population

As a Percentage

of the Population

of the Mexican

Republic

Mexican

Republic

(Number

of Persons)

"Indígena

Pura"

199,728

16.8%

4.8%

4,179,449

"Indígena

Mezclada

con Blanca"

903,830

75.8%

10.6%

8,504,561

"Blanca"

87,103

7.3%

6.2%

1,404,718

Total

Population

1,191,957

100%

8.3%

14,334,780

Source: Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, Annuario de 1930:

Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Tacubaya, D.F., 1932).

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in Jalisco totalled 39,259 individuals. The most common of these languages were: Huichol (10,976 persons), Náhuatl (6,714), Purépecha (3,074), Mixteco (1,471), Otomí (1,193), and Zapoteco (1,061). The majority of the indigenous languages spoken in the state were transplanted tongues from other parts of México and the Huichol language represented the only truly indigenous language of these tongues.

The State of Jalisco contains 124 municipios, but only 11 of these entities contained indigenous populations that numbered more than one percent in 2000. I have illustrated the indigenous populations of these municipios in the following table:

JALISCO -- MUNICIPIOS WITH AT LEAST ONE PERCENT POPULATIONS OF INDIGENOUS SPEAKERS - 2000 CENSUS (All Statistics based on Persons Aged 5 Years or More)

Copyright © 2007, by John P. Schmal

 

No.

 

Municipio

%

Indigenous

Population

 

Population

Primary

Language

Group

01

Mezquitic

64.75

7,652

Huichol

02

Bolaños

48.35

2,125

Huichol

03

Huejuquilla el Alto

5.07

400

Huichol

04

Villa Guerrero

3.46

176

Huichol

05

El Grullo

3.02

598

Náhuatl

06

San Martín de Bolaños

1.64

56

Various

07

Tuxcacuesco

1.33

48

Purépecha

08

Puerto Vallarta

1.24

1,967

Náhuatl

09

Cuautitlán de García Barragán

1.15

 

Náhuatl

10

Tenamaxtlán

1.13

72

Various

11

Chimaltitlán

1.02

34

Huichol

The most important indigenous group still living in Jalisco are the Huichol people. In the entire Mexican Republic, there were 30,686 persons five years of age or more who spoke the Huichol language in the 2000 census. They were primarily distributed across portions of four adjacent states: Nayarit (16,932), Jalisco (10,976), Durango (1,435), and Zacatecas (330). The Huicholes have managed to preserve their identity, language, culture and religious customs, largely because of their isolation in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the northern reaches of Jalisco, where they occupy portions of all four states.

The three main Huichol communities belong to the northern Jalisco municipio of Mezquitic. The Huichol speakers numbered 7,652 in the 2000 census and represented 64.75% of the municipio’s population. Monolingual Huicholes numbered 2,621 individuals, representing 34.25% of the Huichol speakers and a clear indication of their resistance to assimilation into mainstream Mexican culture.

In 2000, Huichol speakers also represented 48.35% of the population of the Municipio of Bolaños. The Huicholes have been described and analyzed in a multitude of published works. The reader may be interested in checking this source for a brief, but detailed, description of this indigenous group:

http://68.166.190.115/wixarika/Assets/pdf/THEHUICHOl-Wixarika.pdf

The Náhuatl language is spoken by many inhabitants of Jalisco. Because this language has been spoken for so long in so many parts of México for so long, some Náhuatl speakers are probably migrants from other states, while others are natives to the state. Náhuatl speakers tend to inhabit municipios with larger populations, such as Guadalajara (where 1,494 Náhuatl speakers lived in 2000), Zapopan (7,348 speakers) and Puerto Vallarta (779 speakers). They are largely bilingual and can communicate in Spanish.

Purépecha is the third most commonly spoken language in present-day Jalisco. The Purépecha – who are sometimes called Tarascans (a label that was given to them by the Spaniards in the Sixteenth Century) – ruled over a significant portion of Michoacán during the pre-Hispanic era and have managed to preserve their language and many of their unique customs. Many of the Purépecha speakers live in the border regions adjacent to Michoacán.

The Otomí, Mixtec and Zapotec languages are also believed to be largely migrant languages in Jalisco. Otomí is widely spoken through many central Mexican states, while the Mixtec and Zapotec languages have their origins in the southern state of Oaxaca. The Mixtecs and Zapotecs have migrated to many states of Mexico and are in great demand as agricultural laborers throughout the northern states.

The Cora people, like the Huichol, have survived in isolation, occupying mountains and valleys within the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain range. The vast majority of the Cora speakers (15,380) live in the State of Nayarit, Jalisco’s northwestern neighbor. However, in 2000, only 162 Cora speakers lived within Jalisco’s borders.

As Jalisco moves into the Twenty-First Century, the percentage of indigeous speakers in the state – as with many other Mexican states – will continue to drop as assimilation continues. The presence of migrant laborers from other parts of the country will ensure that Jalisco has a significant number of persons speaking Indian languages, but most of those languages are not truly indigenous to the state itself. Nevertheless, many sons and daughters of Jalisco recognize and feel great pride in the indigenous heritage that they have inherited from their distant ancestors.

Sources:

Departamento de la Estadistica Nacional, Estados Unidos Mexicanos, "Censos General de Habitantes: 30 de Noviembre de 1921, Estado de Jalisco," (Mexico, Distrito Federal: Talleres Graficos de la Nación, 1926)

Dawn Fogle Deaton, "The Decade of Revolt: Peasant Rebellion in Jalisco, Mexico, 1855-1864," in Robert H. Jackson (ed.), "Liberals, the Church, and Indian Peasants: Corporate Lands and the Challenge of Reform in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America." (Albuquerque: New Mexico Press, 1997).

Population statistics from Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI).

 

 



AGUASCALIENTES
: THE GEOGRAPHIC CENTER OF MEXICO

By John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Aguascalientes ("Hot Waters") is located in central Mexico. Surrounded by Zacatecas (on the north and west) and by Jalisco (on the south and east), Aguascalientes occupies 5,589 square kilometers, corresponding to only 0.3% of the Mexico's surface area. Although it is one of the smallest Mexican states, Aguascalientes holds a position of great importance in the Mexican Republic, in large part because of its strategic location within the country. With its textile, electronics and auto parts industries, Aguascalientes represents an integral part of the Mexican economy.

Located on the Anáhuac Plateau, the state is linked by railroad to both Mexico City in the south and Ciudad Juárez in the north. In fact, Aguascalientes' transportation network is linked to many parts of Mexico. A ride to Guadalajara would take approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, while a drive north to the city of Zacatecas would take one hour and 45 minutes.

In 2000, the capital city of Aguascalientes - as the eighteenth largest city in Mexico - had a total population of 594,100 persons. Aguascalientes is noted for its warm mineral springs and its comfortable climate. It has been called La Ciudad Perforada (City of Holes) because of the labyrinth of tunnels dug in Pre-Hispanic times by an unknown Indian tribe. The State of Aguascalientes had a population of 994,285 in 2000, making it one of the five most densely populated states in the country.

When the Spaniards arrived in the 1520s, this area was located in Chichimec Indian territory and represented a frontier region between three indigenous groups: the Caxcanes, Zacatecos, and Guachichiles. Caxcán farmers inhabited the southwestern portion of present-day Aguascalientes. In the north lived the nomadic Zacatecos Indians. And to the east in the largest part of the state lived the warlike Guachichile Indians.

The Caxcanes territory spread south and west through the Three-Fingers Border Region of present-day Zacatecas and Jalisco. The Zacatecos inhabited most of what is now known as Western Zacatecas. The widespread Guachichiles inhabited large portions of eastern Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, eastern Jalisco, and western Guanajuato.

At the end of 1529, after serving as President of the First Audiencia in Mexico, a professional lawyer named Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán led a land expedition from Mexico City toward the region of Aguascalientes and Jalisco. Leading an army of 300 Spaniards and 6000 indigenous people, Guzmán entered this territory and discovered springs of thermal water and mineral deposits.

In his expeditions, Guzmán laid waste to large areas of Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, and Zacatecas, capturing and enslaving many Indians. Although Guzmán was eventually brought to trial for his crimes, his reign of terror would become a major catalyst for the Mixtón Rebellion of 1541.

In April and May of 1530, Guzmán's lieutenants Pedro Almendes Chirinos and Cristóbal de Oñate, spent some time exploring the territory of present-day Teocaltiche, Nochistlán and Aguascalientes. During the 1530s, more Spanish forces moved into the area, and soon the Spanish colonial administrators gave this region the name Nueva Galicia, an area that comprised much of present-day Jalisco, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas.

The Mixtón Rebellion of 1540-41 and the Chichimeca War of 1550-1600 made Nueva Galicia a war zone for many years. For the better part of four decades, the indigenous population of Aguascalientes, northern Jalisco and Zacatecas waged an unrelenting guerilla war against Spanish entrepreneurs and military forces and Indian laborers who traveled through the area. As a result many settlements were depopulated.

As early as the 1550s, Spaniards from Guadalajara had received grants for establishing cattle estancias in Guachichiles territory. From 1568 to 1580, Martin Enríquez de Almanza, serving as the Viceroy of Nueva España, decided to establish military outposts along the merchant routes to protect merchants and merchandise passing through the area from Zacatecas to Mexico City. The Viceroy believed that the garrisons would stand as a buffer against the hostile Indians occupying the area. This led to the founding of La Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Aguascalientes (The Village of Our Lady of the Assumption of Aguascalientes) on October 22, 1575 by Doñ Gerónimo de Orozco, the President of the Royal Audiencia and Governor of Nueva Galicia. The founding of the villa was approved by King Felipe II, the ruling monarch in Spain.

However, the intensity of the Chichimeca War continued to increase and by 1582, the population of Aguascalientes had dwindled to one military commander, 16 soldiers and two citizen residents. In effect, the small settlement - located in the middle of the war zone - was under siege. But in the late 1580s, the threat of Indian attack diminished steadily, as the Spanish authorities attempted to negotiate a peace with the Indians of the region. The last Indian attack took place in 1593, after which the threat of hostile attack disappeared entirely and the region experienced a new peace.

The new-found peace of the 1590s, according to the historian Peter Gerhard, "brought a tide of Spanish settlers beginning in the 1590s, mostly cattlemen and farmers, together with Indian and Negro retainers." Because epidemics and war had reduced the indigenous population of the area, many slaves were brought into to labor alongside the Indians as the small village of Aguascalientes grew in size and stature.

By 1610, the small town of Aguascalientes had approximately 25 Spanish residents, about fifty families of mestizos, at least 100 mulatos, twenty Black slaves, and ten Indians. Most of these twenty-five Spanish inhabitants are believed to have been among the founding families of Aguascalientes, bearing the surnames Ruiz de Esparza, Alvarado, Tiscareno de Molina, Luebana, and Delgado.

The Registros Parroquiales (Parish Registers) for La Parroquia de la Asunción (Assumption Parish) in Aguascalientes are available through the Family History Library are contained on 458 rolls of film and range from 1616 to 1961. During the first decades that these registers were kept, dozens of marriages and baptisms were conducted for mestizos, negros, mulatos, and indios, who made up the majority of the population. It is interesting to note, however, that in some cases, the padrones (sponsors and godparents) at these marriages and baptisms of mixed-race and African persons were Spanish individuals, most notably the Ruiz de Esparza family.

The Ruiz de Esparza family is a well-known Basque family that settled in Aguascalientes at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century. The surname Esparza is said to mean one who came from Esparza (a barren place or a place where feather grass grew) in Spain. The word was derived from the Latin sparsus (spread abroad, scattered), probably referring to land that yields little. Esparza is the name of a village near Pamplona in Navarra (Navarre), España (Spain).

It is very likely that the Ruiz de Esparza family of Aguascalientes could trace its roots back to that small village. The patriarch of this family in Mexico was Lope Ruiz de Esparza, who is documented by the Catalogo de Pasajeros a Indias (Vol. III - #2.633) as having sailed from Spain to Mexico on Feb. 8, 1593. Lope, who was the son of Lope Ruiz de Esparza and Ana Días de Eguino, was a bachelor and a servant of Doñ Enrique Maleon. After arriving in Mexico, Lope made his way to Aguascalientes where, about a year later, he is believed to have married Francisca de Gabai Navarro y Moctezuma. In the following decades, the Ruiz de Esparza family intermarried extensively with other prominent Spanish families in early Aguascalientes, including Romo de Vivar, Macias Valdez, and Tiscareno de Molina.

In 1617, Aguascalientes was separated from Lagos de Moreno and given the status of an alcaldía mayor. Aguascalientes continued to grow in the next two centuries, in spite of periodic epidemics, which wreaked havoc on the indigenous population. One of these epidemics took place in 1738-1739, when, according to the burial register of Aguascalientes Parish, 1,018 people died, the majority of them Indian citizens of the area. The 1760 parish census indicated that 640 Indians and 6,386 non-Indians family lived within the bounds of the church jurisdiction. This translated into 20,441 persons who were qualified to receive Communion and Confession within the Church. If one considers infants and young children or people not attending church, the total population was probably about 34,000 persons.

During both colonial times and after independence, Aguascalientes was frequently the subject of jurisdictional battles between its neighboring states, Jalisco and Zacatecas. In 1804, the region became a subdelegación of Zacatecas. With the end of the Mexican Revolution, Aguascalientes became an independent political entity on June 22, 1821. However, soon after, in 1824, the small territory was incorporated as part of the State of Zacatecas and for the next 14 years it remained attached to its northern neighbor.

However, in 1835, the ruling party of Zacatecas rebelled against the national government. Soon, Federal forces under General Antonio López de Santa Anna were making their way to Zacatecas with the intention of quelling the revolt. On May 11, 1835, the Zacatecas militia, under the command of Francisco Garcia, was defeated at the Battle of Guadalupe by Santa Anna's forces. Soon after this victory, Santa Anna's forces ransacked the city of Zacatecas and the rich silver mines at Fresnillo.

In addition to seizing large quantities of Zacatecan silver, Santa Anna instigated a political punishment against the State of Zacatecas for its mutiny. Less than two weeks later, on May 23, 1835, the Mexican Congress declared the formation of the Territory of Aguascalientes, separating the territory from Zacatecas and setting in motion a process that would eventually lead to statehood. The loss of Aguascalientes and its rich agricultural terrain would be a severe blow to the economy and the spirit of Zacatecas.

However, many citizens of Aguascalientes are proud to point out a more romantic version of the events leading to autonomy and independence from Zacatecas. According to Tony Burton in his book, Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury, "The independence of Aguascalientes was sealed with a kiss, as the locals are invariably quick to point out." As he was engaged in his campaign against the rebellious Zacatecas government, General Santa Anna met one Doña María Luisa Villa. Legend has it that Santa Anna became captivated by this attractive woman and asked her for a kiss, promising her anything she wanted in return. Her request was that her native land be given autonomy. Santa Anna fulfilled this request, granting Aguascalientes the status of territory. María Luisa's husband, Pedro García Rojas, was appointed as the first Gobernador (Governor) of the Territory of Aguascalientes, serving until June 1836.

Santa Anna had his own date with destiny. After putting down the Zacatecas revolt, the General made his way north to end another revolt in the northern Mexican state of Texas. Months later, on Feb. 26, 1836, Santa Anna's forces attacked and seized control of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Two months later, on April 21, he was defeated and captured by General Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto.

On May 21, 1847, the Mexican National Congress decreed that Aguascalientes would be reintegrated as a part of the state of Zacatecas. But, on Dec. 10, 1853, Aguascalientes was once again granted independence from Zacatecas and elevated to the rank of a Department. Finally, on February 5, 1857, the Federal Constitution of the Mexican Republic was given the title El Estado Libre y Soberano de Aguascalientes (Free and Sovereign State of Aguascalientes).

Today, Aguascalientes - located near the geographic center of Mexico - remains an important part of the Mexican economy. The state has highway and rail communications networks that link Aguascalientes to many of Mexico's major cities. This easy access to markets across the country has played a major role in stimulating the economy of Aguascalientes.

The State has had a long-standing tradition in both agriculture and industry, with special emphasis on textiles, wine, brandy and food processing. In recent years, companies such as Nissan, Xerox, and Texas Instruments have established manufacturing facilities in the State, brining about increased production of automobiles, metal, mechanical products, and electronics. Aguascalientes is also recognized as an important cultural center in Mexico. La Feria de San Marcos, celebrated in late April and early May of each year, is famous throughout the nation. The festival lasts for 22 days and features a wide array of cultural and popular events that draws up to a million tourists annually.

Aguascalientes is a state that is rich in culture, history, art and economic potential. Many Mexican Americans look to Aguascalientes as their ancestral homeland, as the State has been sending large numbers of its citizens north for the last hundred years. Today, Mexican Americans and citizens of Aguascalientes are intrigued and fascinated by the cultural and artistic lure of this beautiful state.

Copyright © 2010 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Alcalá Lopez, Efraín. Aguascalientes: Historía y Geografía: Tercer Grado. México, D.F.: Secretaría Educación Pública, 1995.

Burton, Tony. Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury. 3rd edition. St. Augustine, Florida: Perception Press, 2001.

Gerhard, Peter. The North Frontier of New Spain. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Powell, Philip Wayne. Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War. Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1975.

Rojas, Beatriz et al. Breve Historia de Aguascalientes. Mexico, D.F.: Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994.

González, Agustín R., Historia del estado de Aguascalientes. Mexico: V. Villada, 1881.


 

 


THE AZTEC EMPIRE
The Mexica: From Obscurity to Dominance


THE MEXICA: FROM OBSCURITY TO DOMINANCE

by John P. Schmal

The Aztec Empire of 1519 was the most powerful Mesoamerican kingdom of all time. The multi-ethnic, multi-lingual realm stretched for more than 80,000 square miles through many parts of what is now central and southern Mexico. This enormous empire reached from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf coast and from central Mexico to the present-day Republic of Guatemala. Fifteen million people, living in thirty-eight provinces and residing in 489 communities, paid tribute to the Emperor Moctezuma II in Tenochtitlán, the capital city of the great empire.

The Mexica (pronounced me-shee-ka) Indians, the dominant ethnic group ruling over the Aztec Empire from their capital city at Tenochtitlán in the Valley of Mexico, had very obscure and humble roots that made their rise to power even more remarkable. The Valley of Mexico, which became the heartland of the Aztec civilization, is a large internally-drained basin which is surrounded by volcanic mountains, some of which reach more than 3,000 meters in elevation.

My understanding of the Mexica Indians and the Aztec Empire has been greatly augmented by the works of the anthropologist Professor Michael E. Smith of the University of New York. Professor Smith has written several books about the central Mexican Indians, including The Aztecs and Aztec Imperial Strategies, which I have used as primary sources for this article.

The growth of the Mexica Indians from newcomers and outcasts in the Valley of Mexico to the guardians of an extensive empire is the stuff that legends are made of. Many people, however, are confused by the wide array of terms designating the various indigenous groups that lived in the Valley of Mexico. The popular term, Aztec, has been used as an all-inclusive term to describe both the people and the empire.

Professor Smith uses the term Aztec Empire to describe "the empire of the Triple Alliance, in which Tenochtitlán played the dominant role." Quoting the author Charles Gibson, Professor Smith observes that the Aztecs "were the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Most of these were Náhuatl speakers belonging to diverse polities and ethnic groups (e.g., Mexica of Tenochtitlán, Acolhua of Texcoco, Chalca of Chalco)." In short, the reader should recognize that the Aztec Indians were not one ethnic group, but a collection of many ethnicities, all sharing a common cultural and historical background.

On the other hand, the Mexica, according to Professor Smith, are "the inhabitants of the cities of Tenochtitlán and Tlatelolco who occupied adjacent islands and claimed the same heritage." And it is the Mexica who eventually became the dominant people within the Aztec Empire. Legend states that the Mexica Indians originally came to the Valley of Mexico from a region in the northwest, popularly known as Atzlan-Chicomoztoc. The name Aztec, in fact, is believed to have been derived from this ancestral homeland, Aztlan (The Place of Herons).

In A.D. 1111, the Mexica left their native Aztlan to settle in Chicomoztoc (Seven Caves). According to legend, they had offended their patron god Huitzilopochtli by cutting down a forbidden tree. As a result, the Mexica were condemned to leave Aztlan and forced to wander until they received a sign from their gods, directing them to settle down permanently.

The land of Atzlan was said to have been a marshy island situated in the middle of a lake. Some historians actually consider the names Chicomoztoc and Aztlan to be two terms for the same place, and believe that the island and the seven caves are simply two features of the same region. For nearly five centuries, popular imagination has speculated about the location of the legendary Aztlan. Some people refer to Aztlan as a concept, not an actual place that ever existed.

However, many historians believe that Aztlan did exist. The historian Paul Kirchhoff suggested that Aztlan lay along a tributary of the Lerna River, to the west of the Valley of Mexico. Other experts have suggested the Aztlan might be the island of Janitzio in the center of Lake Pátzcuaro, also to the west, with its physical correspondence to the description of Aztlan. Many people have speculated that the ancestral home of the Aztecs lay in California, New Mexico or in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa.

The idea that Sinaloa, Sonora, California, and New Mexico might be the site of Aztlan is a very plausible explanation when historical linguistics are considered. "The north-to-south movement of the Aztlan groups is supported by research in historical linguistics," writes Professor Smith in The Aztecs, "The Náhuatl language, classified in the Nahuan group of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages, is unrelated to most Mesoamerican native languages." As a matter of fact, "Náhuatl was a relatively recent intrusion" into central Mexico.

On the other hand, if one observes the locations of the indigenous people who spoke the Uto-Aztecan languages, all of their lands lay to the northwest of the Valley of Mexico. The northern Uto-Aztecans occupied a large section of the American Southwest. Among them were the Hopi and Zuni Indians of New Mexico and the Gabrielino Indians of the Los Angeles Basin. The Central Uto-Aztecans - occupying large parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Sonora in northwestern Mexico - included the Papago, Opata, Yaqui, Mayo, Concho, Huichol and Tepehuán. It is reasonable to assume that where there is a linguistic relationship there is most likely also a genetic relationship. Thus, it is highly likely that the legendary Aztlan was located in northwestern Mexico or the Southwestern United States.

It is important to note, however, that the Aztlan migrations were not one simple movement of a single group of people. Instead, as Professor Smith has noted, "when all of the native histories are compared, no fewer than seventeen ethnic groups are listed among the original tribes migrating from Aztlan and Chicomoztoc." It is believed that the migrations southward probably took place over several generations. "Led by priests," continues Professor Smith, "the migrants… stopped periodically to build houses and temples, to gather and cultivate food, and to carry out rituals."

The first group of migrants probably included the Acolhua, Tepaneca, Culhua, Chalca, Xochimilca, all of whom settled in the Valley of Mexico. The second group, including the Tlahuica of Morelos, the Matlatzinca of Toluca Valley, the Tlaxcalans of Tlaxcala, the Huexotzinca of Puebla, and the Malinalca of Malinalco, migrated to the surrounding valleys. The last to arrive, around A.D. 1248, were the Mexica who found all the good land occupied and were forced to settle in more undesirable locations of the Valley.

As the late arrivals in the Valley of Mexico, the Mexica were forced by other groups in the valley to take refuge on two islands near the western shore of Lake Texcoco (one of the five lakes in the area). Their first home was an island in the middle of Lake Chapultepec (Place of the Grasshopper), which is now in Downtown Mexico City. The Mexica were welcomed to Chapultepec by the Tepanec leader of city-state of Azcapotzalco on the understanding that they would work as both mercenaries and laborers. However, around 1315, the Mexica were ejected from Chapultepec by the Tepanecs.

When the Mexicas first arrived in the Valley of Mexico, the whole region was occupied by some forty city-states (altepetl is the Nahua term). These city-states - which included the Tepanecs, Coatlinchans, Cholcos, Xochimilcos, Cholulas, Tlaxcalans and Huexotzincas - were engaged in a constant and continuing battle for ascendancy in the Valley. In describing this political situation, Professor Smith observed that "ethnically similar and/or geographically close city-states allied to form regional political confederations." By 1300, eight confederations of various sizes occupied the entire Valley of the Mexico and adjacent areas.

In A.D. 1325, the Mexica, once again on the run, wandered through the wilderness of swamps that surrounded the salty lakes of the Valley of Mexico. On a small island, the Mexica finally found their promised omen when they saw a cactus growing out of a rock with an eagle perched atop the cactus. The Mexica high priests thereupon proclaimed that they had reached their promised land. As it turns out, the site turned out to be a strategic location, with abundant food supplies and waterways for transportation.

The Mexica settled down to found their new home, Tenochtitlán (Place of the Cactus Fruit). The Mexica became highly efficient in their ability to develop a system of dikes and canals to control the water levels and salinity of the lakes. Using canoes and boats, they were able to carry on commerce with other cities along the valley lakes. And, comments Professor Smith, "the limited access to the city provided protection against military attack."

Huitzilihuitl, who ruled the Mexica from 1391 to 1415, writes Professor Smith, "presided over one of the most important periods in Mexica history… The Mexica became highly skilled as soldiers and diplomats in their dealing with neighbors. One of Huitzilihuitl's major accomplishments was the establishment of successful marriage alliances with a number of powerful dynasties." Over time, the Mexica, as the latecomers and underdogs of the Valley region, sought to increase their political power and prestige through intermarriage.

"Marriage alliances," writes Professor Smith, "were an important component of diplomacy among Mesoamerican states. Lower ranking kings would endeavor to marry the daughters of more powerful and important kings. A marriage established at least an informal alliance between the polities and was a public acknowledgement of the dominant status of the more powerful king."

Sometime around 1428, the Mexica monarch, Itzcoatl, ruling from Tenochtitlán, formed a triple alliance with the city-states of Texcoco and Tlacopan (now Tacuba) as a means of confronting the then-dominant Tepanecs of the city-state of Azcapotzalco. Soon after, the combined force of the Triple Alliance was able to defeat Azcapotzalco. Later that year, Culhuacan and Huitzilopochco were defeated by the Alliance. A string of victories continued in quick succession, with the defeat of Xochimilco in 1429-30, Ixtapalapan in 1430, and Mixquic in 1432. "The only area of the valley to resist conquest for any length of time," comments the anthropologist Mary G. Hodge, "was the southeastern portion occupied by the Chalca confederation. The hostilities with the Chalca city-states were resolved only through conquering this area piecemeal, between 1456 and 1465."

Professor Smith writes that "the three Triple Alliance states were originally conceived as equivalent powers, with the spoils of joint conquests to be divided evenly among them. However, Tenochtitlán steadily grew in power at the expense of Texcoco and particularly Tlacopan." In time the conquests of the alliance began to take the shape of an empire, with the Triple Alliance levying tribute upon their subject towns. Professor Smith, quoting the words of the anthropologist Robert McCormick Adams, writes that "A defining activity of empires is that they are 'preoccupied with channeling resources from diverse subject polities and peoples to an ethnically defined ruling stratum."

With each conquest, the Aztec domain became more and more ethnically diverse, eventually controlling thirty-eight provinces. The Aztec tributary provinces, according to Professor Frances F. Berdan, were "scattered throughout central and southern Mexico, in highly diverse environmental and cultural settings." Professor Berdan points out that "these provinces provided the imperial powers with a regular and predictable flow of tribute goods."

Of utmost importance became the tribute that made its way back to Tenochtitlán from the various city-states and provinces. Such tribute may have taken many forms, including textiles, warriors' costumes, foodstuffs, maize, beans, chiles, cacao, bee honey, salt and human beings (for sacrificial rituals).

Aztec society was highly structured, based on agriculture, and guided by a religion that pervaded every aspect of life. The Aztecs worshipped gods that represented natural forces that were vital to their agricultural economy. All of the Aztec cities were dominated by giant stone pyramids topped by temples where human sacrifices provided the gods with the human sustenance that the priests believed their supernatural deities required.

For hundreds of years, human sacrifice is believed to have played an important role of many of the indigenous tribes inhabiting the Valley of Mexico. However, the Mexica brought human sacrifice to levels that had never been practiced before. The Mexica Indians and their neighbors had developed a belief that it was necessary to constantly appease the gods through human sacrifice. By spilling the blood of human beings onto the ground, the high priests were, in a sense, paying their debt to the gods. If the blood would flow, then the sun would rise each morning, the crops would grow, the gods would provide favorable weather for good crops, and life would continue.

Over time, the Mexica, in particular, developed a feeling that the needs of their gods were insatiable. The period from 1446 to 1453 was a period of devastating natural disasters: locusts, drought, floods, early frosts, starvation, etc. The Mexica, during this period, resorted to massive human sacrifice in an attempt to remedy these problems. When abundant rain and a healthy crop followed in 1455, the Mexica believed that their efforts had been successful. In 1487, according to legend, Aztec priests sacrificed more than 80,000 prisoners of war at the dedication of the reconstructed temple of the sun god in Tenochtitlán.

The Mexica's sacrificial rituals were elaborate in form, calculated by the high priests to appease specific gods at certain times. During the ceremony, a victim would ascend the steps of the pyramid. At the top, a Mexica priest would stretch the victim across a stone altar and cut out the victim's heart. The priest would hold the heart aloft to the god being honored and then fling it into a sacred fire while it was still beating.

The function of Aztec priests was one of the most important in Aztec society. It was the priests who determined which days would be lucky for engaging in activities such as war and religious ceremonies. They were guided in their decisions by a religious calendar of 260 days, that was combined with a solar calendar of 365 days. The meshing of the two calendars produced a 52-year cycle that played an integral role in Mexica society and religion.

The basic unit of Aztec society was the calpulli, which was the Aztec equivalent of a clan, or group of families who claimed descent from a common ancestor. Each calpulli regulated its own affairs, electing a council which would keep order, declare war, dispense justice. Calpulli ran the schools where young Mexica boys were taught about citizenship, warfare, history, crafts, and religion. Each calpulli also had a temple, an armory to hold weapons, and a storehouse for goods and tribute that were distributed among its members.

In the Tenochtitlán of later years, during the ascendancy of the Aztec Empire, the function of the calpulli, took on a different form. As the city grew large and complex, the Mexica calpulli were no longer based on familial relationships. Instead, the capulli became like wards, or political divisions, of the city. Each calpulli cstill governed and provided education to its members, but the members of a calpulli were not necessarily related. It is believed that there were 15 calpulli in Tenochtitlán when the city was founded in 1325. By the time that the Spaniards arrived in the early Sixteenth Century, there were as many as eighty calpulli throughout the city.

In Tenochtitlán and the other Aztec city-states, the leaders of each calpulli were joined together in a tribal council which was given the responsibility of electing four chief officials, one of whom would be selected as the Tlatoani (Great Lord). After Tenochtitlán became the center of Aztec civilization, its ruler became the supreme leader of the empire, to whom lesser rulers paid tribute. This ruler was considered to be a descendant of the Aztec gods and served as both military leader and high priest.

By the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, the Aztec Empire had become a formidable power, its southern reaches extending into the present-day Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. The Mexica had also moved the boundaries of the Aztec Empire to a large stretch of the Gulf Coast on the eastern side of the continent. But, as Professor Smith states, "rebellions were a common occurrence in the Aztec empire because of the indirect nature of imperial rule." The Aztecs had allowed local rulers to stay in place "as long as they cooperated with the Triple Alliance and paid their tribute." When a provincial monarch decided to withhold tribute payments from the Triple Alliance, the Aztec forces would respond by dispatching an army to threaten that king.

Professor Smith wrote that the Aztec Empire "followed two deliberate strategies in planning and implementing their conquests." The first strategy was "economically motivated." The Triple Alliance sought to "generate tribute payments and promote trade and marketing throughout the empire." Their second strategy dealt with their frontier regions, in which they established client states and outposts along imperial borders to help contain their enemies."

However, Professor Smith, in his essay on "The Strategic Provinces" commented on the existence of "major unconquered enemy states surrounded by imperial territory." The fact that these enclaves remained free of Aztec dominance is some indication that these "enemy states" may have been recognized as "serious and powerful adversaries." The most powerful enclave, Tlaxcalla, located to the east of the Valley of Mexico, was a "confederation of four republics." Tlaxcalla, writes Professor Smith, "was a Nahuatl-speaking area whose population shared a common cultural and ethnic heritage with the rest of the peoples of central Mexico."

Aztlan migrants had arrived in the Puebla-Tlaxcalla Valley between the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries and, Professor Smith explains, "populations grew and city-states developed in a fashion that paralleled the Valley of Mexico." Thus, by the beginning of the Fifteenth Century, writes Professor Smith, "three polities stood out as the most powerful and influential - Tlaxcalla itself, Huexotzinco, and Cholula."

Emperor Moctezuma I, who ruled the Aztecs from 1440 to 1469, conquered the states north and east of Tlaxcalla and, according to Professor Smith, began "a process of encirclement that continued under the following emperors and was largely complete by the time Moctezuma I took power in 1502." This encirclement cut the Tlaxcallans off from external trade. As a result elite goods (gold, feathers, and cacao) and utilitarian items (cotton and salt) became rare in the state.

In seeking to conquer Tlaxcalla, the Aztecs maintained an almost perpetual state of war with Tlaxcalla. The many wars between the two nations also provided a source of victims of human sacrifices. However, after the arrival of the Spaniards, the Tlaxcalan confederation offered a fertile ground of opposition and defiance against the Aztec Empire. In 1519, the Spaniards initiated an alliance with the Tlaxcallans that played a major role in the fall of Tenochtitlán and continued for many centuries.

Metztitlan. A powerful Otomí conquest state located in the rugged mountainous region of what is now northern Hidalgo, Metztitlan remained an unconquered enclave within the Aztec Empire up until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519. The independence of this small kingdom was easily maintained because of the nature of the terrain in the Metztitlan Valley, where, writes Professor Smith, "a small but well-placed force could hold off a larger and more powerful army." Emperors Ahuítzotl and Moctezuma were able to complete the isolation of Metztitlan. Professor Smith believes that the state remained unconquered because "there were few resources of interest to the empire in this area, and the final emperors may have decided that Metztitlan was not worth the effort."

Yopitzinco. Located in the isolated mountain area along the Coast Chica region of Guerrero, just southeast of present-day Acapulco, Yopitzinco was occupied by the Yope Indians, who had a reputation as fierce warriors. The Pacific coastal regions to the north and south of Yopitzinco were conquered by Ahuitzotl and Moctezuma II but, it appears that Yope territory had little to offer the Aztec Empire.

Tututepec. As a "large and powerful Mixtec conquest state in the mountains of southwestern Oaxaca," write Professor Smith, "Tututepec controlled a long stretch of the Pacific coast and was in the process of expanding to the north and east in the decades prior to 1519."

The Tarascan Empire of present-day Michoacán was not an enclave located within the Aztec Empire but stood on the periphery of the Mexica domain. The Tarascans (Purhépechas) were a constant source of problems for the Mexica. Like the Aztecs, the Tarascans had engaged in militaristic expansion and conquered adjacent states. Located some 150 kilometers west of the Valley of Mexico in the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin, the Purhépecha Kingdom controlled an area of at least 45,000 square miles (72,500 square kilometers), including parts of the present-day states of Guanajuato, Guerrero, Querétaro, Colima, and Jalisco.

In A.D. 1478, when the Aztec armies met in battle with the Tarascans, it is believed that as many as 20,000 Triple Alliance warriors may have perished. Against a Tarascan force of about 50,000, the Aztec force of 32,200 warriors was nearly annihilated and the independence of present-day Michoacán preserved for another half-century.

In 1502, Moctezuma II Xocoyotl (the Younger) ascended to the throne of Tenochtitlán as the newly elected tlatoani. It was about this time when the Mexica of Tenochtitlán began to suffer various disasters. While tribute peoples in several parts of the empire started to rebel against Aztecs, troubling omens took place which led the Mexica to believe that their days were numbered. Seventeen years after Moctezuma's rise to power, the Aztec Empire would be faced with its greatest challenge and a huge coalition of indigenous and alien forces which would bring an end to the Triple Alliance.

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part without the express permission of John P. Schmal is strictly prohibited.

Sources:

Frances F. Berdan, "The Tributary Provinces," in Frances F. Berdan et al., Aztec Imperial Strategies. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996, pp. 115-135.

Ron Hassig, Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

Mary G. Hodge, "Political Organization of the Central Provinces," in Frances F. Berdan et al., Aztec Imperial Strategies. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996, pp. 17-45.

Michael E. Smith, "The Strategic Provinces," in Frances F. Berdan et al., Aztec Imperial Strategies. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1996, pp. 137-150.

Michael E. Smith, The Aztecs. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1996.


THE HISTORY OF THE TLAXCALANS
By John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Tlaxcala, with a population of 911,696 people (0.97% of the national population), is one of the smallest and most densely populated states in the Mexican Republic. Located in the east central part of Mexico sixty miles from Mexico City, Tlaxcala is made up of 1,555 square miles (4,027 square kilometers), which represents 0.19% of the total surface area of Mexico. Tlaxcala is bordered on its south, east and northwest by the State of Puebla, on its north by Hidalgo, and on its east by Mexico. Its meaning originates from the Náhuatl word meaning "Place of born bread." Tlaxcala, with its sixty municipios, became a state on February 5, 1857.

This highland state's elevation is over 6,562 feet. Within the state's border lies La Malinche, Mexico's fifth-highest mountain at 14,637 feet. Although it is Mexico's smallest state, Tlaxcala is rich with tradition, history, and colonial architecture. One of its main attractions is Cacaxtla, an important archaeological site believed to have been built at the zenith of the Olmec Xicalanca culture around AD 700.

The Olmec Xicalanca culture fell into decline after AD 900 and was replaced by the Teo-Chichimecas (also known as Náhuatl Tlaxcalans). Sometime around A.D. 1350, the present-day inhabitants of the area, the Tlaxcalans, drove out the Chichimecas. Defeating the opposition, the Tlaxcalans moved into the Cholula region and set up an autonomous Tlaxcalan state. During the following decades, they made war with and subdued many of their neighbors. In time, the Tlaxcalan Nation would evolve into a "confederation of four republics," each with its own ruling lord, judges and other officials. The Tlaxcalans built defensive walls along the outskirts of their territory and collected taxes and tribute from their subject peoples.

In time, the Tlaxcalans came up against the powerful Mexica (pronounced "me-shee-ka") Indians who inhabited the Valley of Mexico to the west. As the Mexica spread out from their base of power in Tenochtitlán, the Tlaxcalans became their traditional enemies. The Tlaxcalans and Mexica shared a common origin, both of them speaking the Náhuatl language. As a matter of fact, both the Tlaxcalans and the Mexica belonged to the Aztec culture, looking back to the legendary Aztlan (Place of the Herons) as their ancestral homeland in the northwest.

An Independent Enclave

For more than two hundred years, the Tlaxcalan nation lived in the shadow of the Mexica and their rapidly expanding Aztec Empire. Starting in 1325, the Mexica had begun building an empire with their military force. They subdued neighboring city-states and compelled the people to surrender part of their production as tribute. By 1440, the Mexica had spread their influence as far south as Guatemala.

In 1519, the Aztec Empire was the most powerful Mesoamerican kingdom of all time. The Mexica capital of Tenochtitlán had become a city of about 300,000 citizens. And the Aztec Empire itself ruled over about 80,000 square miles of territory extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, and southward to Oaxaca and Chiapas. This empire contained some 15 million people, living in thirty-eight provinces. In all, the Emperor received the tribute of 489 communities.

Although the Mexica put together an extensive and powerful empire, Tlaxcala never fell into their hands. When the Spanish conquistadors, under the command of Captain-General Hernán Cortés, reached the Tlaxcalan republic in 1519, Tlaxcala was an independent enclave deep in the heart of the Mexica Empire. At this time, the Tlaxcalan Confederation ruled over some 200 settlements, boasting a total population of about 150,000. Surrounded on all sides and economically blockaded, they had never yielded to the Mexica and had been subjected to almost continuous warfare and human sacrifice for many decades.

Some historians believe that Tenochtitlán could have overwhelmed Tlaxcala without too much difficulty, and the reason it did not is probably that it wanted a nearby source of victims for the human sacrifices. The clashes between the Tlaxcalans and Mexica were called the "Flower Wars" (Xochiyaoyotl). The chief purpose of these "ceremonial battles" was to furnish captives to be used in their sacrificial rites. It is likely that both the Mexica and Tlaxcalan also saw war as a convenient way of testing and training young warriors for future wars. During this time, it was a common belief in Central Mexico that offering human sacrifice to their gods would ensure the continued movement of the sun and hence the other processes needed to maintain life.

Because of their economic isolation, the Tlaxcalans had no cotton with which to make their clothes. Neither did they have any salt. The salt lakes of Alchichica, not far from Tlaxcala, lay close by but they could not benefit from this. No feathers or precious stones made their way into Tlaxcala. This state of unrelenting warfare had become very hateful to the Tlaxcalans and by the time that Cortés arrived in Tlaxcala, the confederation represented fertile grounds for an anti-Mexica alliance.

The Arrival of the Spaniards

On April 22, 1519, a fleet of eleven Spanish galleons, which had been sailing northward along the eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico, dropped anchor just off the wind-swept beach on the island of San Juan de Ulúa. Under the command of the Spanish-born Captain-General Hernán Cortés, these vessels bore 450 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses. The first indigenous peoples that Cortés met with were the Totonac Indians who inhabited the coastal area near the city-state of Cempoala. Although this town of 14,000 was subject to the Aztec Empire, Cacique (Chief) Tlacochcalcatl and his people offered a warm welcome to Cortés, expressing the hope that the Spaniards may help them to gain independence from their Mexica overlords.

The chief of the Totonacs complained that the Mexica tribute collectors had picked the country clean and that hundreds of young Totonac children were brought to the altars of Tenochtitlán for sacrifice. The Cempoalans, impressed by the superior firepower of the Spaniards and the hope of overthrowing Aztec rule, helped Cortés and his men establish a base on the shore. On June 28, 1519, Cortés formally gave this town the name La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (The Rich Town of the True Cross). At this point, Cortés decided to lead his troops westward into the interior of the continent to find and meet with the Mexica monarch, Moctezuma.

Cacique Tlacochcalcatl warned Cortés that, on his journey inland, he would pass through the territory of the Tlaxcalans, who held a deep and uncompromising hatred toward the Mexica. It was his belief that the Tlaxcalans might be willing to ally themselves with the Spaniards. With the help of Totonac guides, Cortés planned his march to Tenochtitlán through territories that might represent fertile ground for more alliances. Finally, on August 16, 1519, Cortés assembled a formidable expedition to move inland from Cempoala. His army now consisted of 400 Spanish soldiers, 15 horses, 1,300 Indian warriors, seven pieces of artillery, and a thousand tamanes (porters), who helped transport baggage and guns across the land. About 150 of the porters were Cuban Indian servants who were brought along from Cuba. The force brought along many dogs that had been well-trained to fight. The distance from Cempoala to Tenochtitlán is 250 miles, as the crow flies.

On August 31, at a point ten miles into Tlaxcalan territory, Cortés' army encountered a hostile force of at least 30,000 Tlaxcalans. Despite the tremendous size of the army, the Spaniards managed to fend them off. Unlike other Indians, the Tlaxcalans seemed to have no fear of the horses and killed two of the animals. That night, the Spaniards, exhausted from their battle, rested in the open, some twenty miles from the capital city of Tlaxcala. The Tlaxcalan council then decided on a night attack against the Spaniards and their allies, but they found to their surprise that Cortés' troops were ready for them and reversed the ambush.

In the next battle, Cortés claimed that he faced a Tlaxcalan army of well over 100,000 warriors. In this battle, some sixty Spaniards and several horses were wounded by the enemy. But, on the following day, Cortés led a punitive expedition, burning some ten Tlaxcalan towns (with a total population of over 3,000). Many Indians were killed in this campaign. After a third day of battles, the Spaniards had lost 45 men who died in battle, died of wounds or succumbed to disease.

Watching the Spaniards prove themselves in battle, the Tlaxcalan King Xicotenga was very impressed and decided to allow Cortés' army to pass through the confederation. As the Spaniards entered the Tlaxcalan capital on September 18, they were welcomed into the town as if they were heroes. For twenty days, Cortés and his army stayed in Tlaxcala. As his men recovered from their wounds, Cortés forged a relationship with Xicotenga and other Tlaxcalan leaders. Xicotenga agreed to provide necessary provisions and manpower to the Spaniards. This change from hostility to alliance was brought on by Cortés' claims that he was opposed only to the Aztec empire and that there would be a place for Tlaxcala in a Spanish-dominated Mexico.

Xicotenga saw in Cortés a powerful ally who could help the Tlaxcalans destroy the Mexica and undermine the power of the Aztec Empire. The alliance between the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans is one of the most important events in Mexican history. This alliance of the Europeans with the Totonac and Tlaxcalan Indians gave birth to a formidable coalition which would eventually lead to the downfall and destruction of the entire Aztec Empire. The allegiance of the Tlaxcalans with the Spaniards would become an enduring partnership, lasting several centuries.

Joining Forces

On November 1, 1519, Cortés and his army of European mercenaries and indigenous warriors left the Tlaxcalan capital. As many as 6,000 Tlaxcalan warriors had been added to the ranks of Cortés' force, but most of his Totonac allies had to return to their homes on the Gulf Coast. While Indian laborers carried the cannon and baggage in the center of the formation, Tlaxcalan warriors and Spanish horsemen marched along the flanks and with the rear guard.

As Cortés traveled westward through mountain towns and villages, many of the Indians living along this path told him of their cruel treatment at the hands of the Mexica overlords. Through these meetings, Cortés began to understand the depth of this hatred and fear. He also recognized that many of these people would be potential allies in a showdown with the Mexica.

From the mountain passes overlooking the great Valley of Mexico, the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans witnessed for the first time the great splendor of Tenochtitlán as it spread out along the valley floor. Before long, the mountain pass, with the Valley in full view, descended to lower altitudes, eventually bringing Cortés and his forces to an altitude of 7,400 feet above sea level on the valley floor. As they made their way through the valley towards Tenochtitlán, the Spaniards arrived in one town, where the King of Texcoco welcomed them. The Texcocans provided their alien guests with gifts, food, and assistance. Soon after hearing about the Christian religion, many Texcocans, including the king, decided to convert to Catholicism. Before continuing on to the capital, the Spaniards performed several religious services, baptizing the king and other Texcocan nobles.

On November 8, 1519, the coalition army reached Xoloco, just outside of Tenochtitlán, where they were greeted by hundreds of emissaries of Emperor Moctezuma, the ruler of Tenochtitlán and the Emperor of the mighty Aztec Empire. As they were brought into the city, the Spaniards stared in awe at the architectural precision of the city. Filing across the southern causeway of the capital, Cortés and his men were greeted with much ceremony by a retinue of lords and nobles headed by Moctezuma himself. The Tlaxcalans, marching alongside their European allies, were equally impressed by the splendor of their hereditary enemies.

Greeted by Moctezuma, the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans were offered housing and provisions by the Mexica. Moctezuma showed his Spanish guests around the city and entertained them with splendid banquets. By this time, Moctezuma and the other Mexica lords had already heard about the devastation that Cortés and his allies had inflicted upon several of the Aztec villages on his journey westward. Moctezuma also recognized the potential danger of a Tlaxcalan-Spanish alliance.

After several days of negotiations and touring, Cortés and his officers suddenly took Moctezuma as a hostage. Bringing the monarch to his barracks in the great city, Cortés persuaded him to dispatch messengers to the surrounding communities to collect gold and silver. Moctezuma's imprisonment within his own capital continued for eight months.

On April 19, 1520, more Spanish ships appeared along the eastern coast. As Cortés suspected, the Governor of Cuba - his personal enemy - had sent soldiers under Panfilo de Narvaez to arrest Cortés for insubordination. Leaving his friend, Captain Pedro de Alvarado, in charge of his troops in Tenochtitlán, Cortés quickly departed from Tenochtitlán with 266 Spanish soldiers to confront the newly arrived Spanish force on the Gulf Coast. Although Narvaez's troops numbered three times greater, Cortés and his small army defeated Narvaez in a battle near Veracruz. After this battle, Cortés - a master of manipulation - persuaded most of Narvaez's troops to join him, after promising them a share of the spoils when Tenochtitlán was brought under Spanish control.

However, when Cortés and his men returned to Tenochtitlán, he found out that Pedro de Alvarado had provoked an open revolt by massacring 600 Aztec nobles during the Feast of Huitzilopochtli. Fighting had broken out, and soon the Spaniards and their Tlaxcalan allies found themselves under siege within the palace of the great city. An attempt to get the Mexica monarch to calm his subjects failed when Moctezuma was killed by a hail of stones.

Moctezuma was succeeded as Emperor by Cuitlahuac, who immediately set out to organize a determined resistance to the Spanish forces. As the month of June approached its end, Cortés realized that he would have to exit the city or face annihilation by a numerically superior force. On July 1, 1520, 1,250 Spaniards and 5,000 Tlaxcalans attempted to flee the city. This night - often referred to as La Noche Triste, the Night of Sadness - was a disaster for both the Spaniards and Tlaxcalan forces. As they fled the city, the Mexica forces fell upon them, killing 450 Spanish soldiers, 4,000 Tlaxcalans and 46 horses.

Plagued by hunger, disease, and the pursuing Aztecs, Cortés' army fled eastward in an attempt to reach Tlaxcalan territory, where they would try to organize reinforcements. However, on July 8, the retreating army came upon a legion of nearly 200,000 Aztecs sent by Cuitlahuac. There, at the battle of Otumba, Cortés' forces managed a smashing victory that dissuaded the Aztecs from pursuing the Spaniards and their allies any farther.

Four hundred and twenty Spaniards and a mere 17 horses limped into Tlaxcalan territory. All the survivors, including Cortés, were wounded, and very few firearms or ammunition were left. As the battered army made its way into Tlaxcala, they were greeted by their Indian allies and given refuge. It goes without saying that the Spaniards would not have survived their ordeal without the help of their Tlaxcalan allies. The Tlaxcalan chiefs called on Cortés during this dismal time and laid out their conditions for further assistance. The author Richard Lee Marks writes that the Tlaxcalans requested "perpetual exemption from tribute of any sort, a share of the spoils, and control of two provinces that bordered their land." Cortés agreed to these conditions and, as Mr. Marks observed, "Spain substantially kept its promise" to the Tlaxcalans "and exempted them from tribute for the entire period of the Spanish rule in Mexico, nearly three hundred years."

The Spaniards, however, also received more important support from another, unexpected ally. "While the Spaniards rested and recuperated" in Tlaxcala, wrote Mr. Marks, "it occurred to Cortés and his men to wonder why the great armies from Tenochtitlán were not pursuing them." The Aztecs had not attacked or laid siege to Tlaxcala, giving the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans precious time to heal and recover from their catastrophic defeat. Later, Cortés would learn that an epidemic of smallpox had devastated Tenochtitlán.

Brought to the shores of Mexico by an African sailor, "the disease had spread with amazing rapidity through the coastal tribes and up into the highland." The disease spread quickly among the Indians, according to Mr. Marks, because they "were in the habit of bathing to alleviate almost any ailment that afflicted them. These baths were either communal or the same bathing water was used consecutively by many. But after someone with an open smallpox sore entered the bath, the disease was transmitted to everyone who followed." The Spaniards, however, never bathed. Although they occasionally washed off the dirt and blood when they had to, "they believed that bathing per se was weakening." And the Tlaxcalans, "always in a state of semi-siege," were not yet exposed to the smallpox.

"Reviewing their narrow escape," writes the author Michael C. Meyer, "many of the Spanish veterans wanted nothing more to do with the Aztecs. It required all of Cortés' force of personality and subtle blandishments to prevent mass defections and rebellion among his men. Cortés, who seems never to have wavered in his determination to retake Tenochtitlán, began to lay plans for the return." In Tlaxcala, Cortés gained great power over the council and began to form a huge new army to attack Tenochtitlán once again. Reinforcements arrived from Vera Cruz to assist in the campaign, while more Tlaxcalans prepared to join Cortés' army. The Captain-General's army left Tlaxcala in late December of 1520 on its march to the Aztec capital.

With an army of 600 Spanish soldiers and more than 110,000 Indian warriors, Cortés intended to occupy the city of Texcoco and blockade Tenochtitlán from there. In the Spring of 1521, the refreshed army systematically conquered most of the Aztec-inhabited towns around Tenochtitlán, all the while receiving more reinforcements. The Spanish and Tlaxcalan force was bolstered by the addition of some 50,000 Texcocans. In addition, another 200 Spanish soldiers had arrived from the coast to help in the offensive.

In May 1521, Captain-General Hernán Cortés, with 900 Spaniards, 118 crossbows and harquebuses, fifteen bronze cannons and three heavy guns, thirteen brigantines, and as many as 150,000 Indian warriors, approached the entrance to Tenochtitlán. The siege of Tenochtitlán lasted from May 26 to August 13, 1521. The Mexica put up a fierce resistance until their people were reduced to eating worms and bark from trees. Towards the end of the siege, recognizing that the Mexica were nearly incapacitated by hunger and dehydration, the Captain-General ordered a full-scale assault on Tenochtitlán.

On August 13, 1521, after a 75-day siege, Tenochtitlán finally fell. In later years, Aztec historians would state that 240,000 Aztecs died in the siege. While many of the warriors died in battle, others, including most of the women and children, died from dehydration, starvation and disease. Of the 150,000 Amerindian allies fighting alongside the Spaniards, more than 30,000 are believed to have perished.

An Enduring Alliance

The anthropologist Eric R. Wolf stressed the great contribution of Cortés' Indian allies in the capture of Tenochtitlán. Wolf writes that "Spanish firepower and cavalry would have been impotent against the Mexica armies without" the support of the Tlaxcalans and the Texcocans. The allies "furnished the bulk of the infantry and manned the canoes that covered the advance of the brigantines across the lagoon of Tenochtitlán." In addition, "they provided, transported, and prepared the food supplies needed to sustain an army in the field. They maintained lines of communication between the coast and highland, and they policed occupied and pacified areas."

Finally, writes Mr. Wolf, the Indian allies also "supplied the raw materials and muscular energy for the construction of the ships that decided the siege of the Mexican capital." In conclusion, he states that while "Spanish military equipment and tactics carried the day," the "Indian assistance determined the outcome of the war."

The author Charles Gibson, in his work Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century, has explored the intricacies of the Tlaxcalan alliance with the Spaniards in great detail. He notes that even after the surrender of the Mexica capital, the Tlaxcalans continued to offer support to the Spaniards. They accompanied Cortés to Pánuco in 1522, and joined Pedro de Alvarado's expedition to Guatemala in 1524. In 1530, several thousand Tlaxcalans accompanied Nuño de Guzmán in his bloody campaign into northwestern Mexico.

During Nuño de Guzmán's reign of terror as the President of the First Audiencia of New Spain, the Tlaxcalans remained comparatively immune from the oppression and harassment, which reached its peak during in the early 1530s. Because they were directly subject to the Crown, royal officials preferred not to tamper with the privileges which the Crown had granted to the former republic as a reward for its loyalty in the war.

In 1524, twelve Franciscan friars arrived in Tlaxcala to carry on the spiritual conquest of the Tlaxcalans. They built convents and chapels and in 1525 founded Tlaxcala de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción on the site of the present-day capital city. The conversion of the Tlaxcalans to Christianity proceeded and reached its peak in the late 1520s. By 1535, the city of Tlaxcala had been granted a coat of arms and was made the seat of the first archbishopric of Nueva España (New Spain).

After the conquest of the Mexica, the Tlaxcalans were given special concessions, and to some extent, they were able to maintain their old form of government. The special relationship of the Tlaxcalans with the Spaniards continued well into the Sixteenth Century. They accompanied the Spaniards into battle in the Mixtón Rebellion (1540-41) and the Chichimeca War (1550-1590) in Nueva Galicia.

Moving North

In the 1580s, several viceroys had recommended settlement of peaceful, agricultural Indian tribes in the north as part of the pacification of the nomadic groups (Chichimecas). Dr. Philip Wayne Powell, in his book Mexico's Miguel Caldera: The Taming of America's First Frontier (1548-1597), observed that many small groups of southern Christianized Indians - Cholulans, Mexica, Tarascans, Huejotzingas, Tlaxcalans and Otomíes - went "forth to the wilderness, serving as examples for the savages" during the four decades of the Chichimeca War. These sedentary, Christianized Indian allies of the Spaniards - including the Tlaxcalans - consisted of "thousands of individual Indians and families [who] had moved to the frontier in trade, as employees, as merchants, as organized military forces, or simply as adventurers, following the northward-pulling magnets of mining discoveries, town-founding, work and landholding opportunities, or for the attractions of warfare."

On February 6, 1585, the Spanish authorities in the mining town of San Martín had petitioned the King of Spain to send between 2,000 and 4,000 married Indians from Tlaxcala and other southern communities. Dr. Powell points out that the two objectives of this action were to "bolster resistance to Chichimeca warfare, and provide labor for the mines."

Dr. Powell, in Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War, tells us that by December 1590, Viceroy Luis de Velasco "had begun to negotiate with the Indian leaders of Tlaxcala, traditional friends and allies of Spanish conquest in the land, to send four hundred families northward to establish eight settlements (fifty families in each) with church and religious house."

"This defensive, or pacifying, type of colonization," wrote Dr. Powell, "was designed to teach the recently nomadic Chichimecas the ways of work, cultivation of the soil, provide a Christian example, and generally guide them into the ways of the sedentary life." However, the Tlaxcalans argued and received special privileges for themselves and their descendants in exchange for moving to the northern frontier.

On March 14, 1591, Viceroy Velasco took steps to safeguard their interests by various orders for protection (mandamientos de amparo) to make sure that their possessions would not be taken from their heirs at some future date. These special privileges (capitulaciones) included the following:

"The Tlaxcalan settlers in the Chichimeca country and their descendants shall be hidalgos [noble] in perpetuity, free from tributes, taxes (pecho and alcabala), and personal service for all time.

"They are not to be compelled to settle with Spaniards, but will be allowed to settle apart from them and have their own distinct districts [barrios]. No Spaniard can take or buy any solar [building house lot] within the Tlaxcalan districts.

"The Tlaxcalans are to be at all times settled apart from the Chichimecas, and this distinction is to apply to all of their lots, pastures, wooded lands, rivers, salt beds, mills, and fishing rights.

"The lands and estancias granted the individual Tlaxcalans and the community as a whole are never to be alienated because of nonoccupation.

"The markets in the new settlements shall be free, exempt from sales tax (alcabala), from excise taxes (sisa), and from any other form of taxation.

"The Tlaxcalan colonists and their descendants, besides being hidalgos and free from all tribute, shall henceforth enjoy all exemptions and privileges already granted, or to be granted in the future, to the province and city of Tlaxcala.

"The principales of Tlaxcala who go to the new settlements, and their descendants, shall be permitted to carry arms and ride saddled horses without penalty."

Eventually, 932 Tlaxcalan settlers headed north, occupying lands in Coahuila, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas. One of the most important settlements was San Miguel Mexquitic (now in San Luis Potosí), which Dr. Powell referred to as "a center of the most bellicose of the Chichimecas nearest the Mexico-Zacatecas road." Dr. Powell concluded that the "the Tlaxcalan settlement in the Gran Chichimeca was a basic factor in cementing the frontier peace, for, in almost all respects, the enterprise fulfilled or exceeded the hopes of its planners. With one temporary exception, the Tlaxcalan presence did encourage Chichimeca imitation of their peaceful and more civilized ways. This program was so effective that the original six Tlaxcalan settlements were soon contributing offshoot colonies to other parts of the frontier, for the same purpose."

The Tlaxcalan colonists settled in several locations along the Rio Grande, including El Paso (where they had fled after the Pueblo Indian Rebellion of 1680 in New Mexico). Some settlers also located in the missions near San Juan Bautista, not far from the present-day port of entry in Eagle Pass, Texas. When José de Escandón established his new colony of Nueva Santander in the region of present-day Tamaulipas and Texas, he invited Tlaxcalans to accompany him too. As a result, descendants of these Tlaxcalan settlers still live along the Rio Grande, both in Texas and Tamaulipas.

The Tlaxcalans lived peacefully under the protection of the Spanish authorities and Franciscan padres and any Spaniards who tried to interfere with their way of life, land, or privileges were punished. Eventually intermarriage between the Tlaxcalans and the Chichimeca Indians took place, although "the Tlaxcalan identity never entirely disappeared, living on through succeeding centuries."

The modern-day state of Tlaxcala occupies a slightly larger area than the Indian principality of Tlaxcala (in the Sixteenth Century). Tlaxcala's economy contributes to 0.54% of Mexico's Gross National Product. The most important component of Tlaxcala's economy is manufacturing, which represents 28.24% of its economic output. Other elements of Tlaxcala's economy include: Finance and Insurance (16.51%), Trade (12.6%), Transports and Communications (8.61%), Agriculture and Livestock (7.8%), Construction (4.96%), and Mining (0.17%).

The manufacturing sector produces chemicals, petrochemicals, non-metallic minerals, auto parts, electrical items, rubbers, plastics, cellulose, machine tools, as well as textiles and garments. Tlaxcala's agricultural base is also an important sector. Tlaxcala produces corn, barley, potatoes and alfalfa and raises dairy cows and fighting bulls. Although a large part of Tlaxcala's industry is textile-based, the economy has diversified considerably in recent years. Her primary export products are textiles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The colonial heritage of Tlaxcala and its spas have attracted tourists to the area. Boasting a strategic geographic location, 1,145 miles of roads and 191 miles of railroads traverse the state, linking Tlaxcala, the state capital, to Mexico City in the west and to Puebla on the south. Tlaxcala's railroads also link it to the seaport of Veracruz, an important outlet for Tlaxcalan exports.

The capital city of Tlaxcala has an estimated population of 73,184, which makes up about 7.62% of the state's population. It is the site of the oldest Christian church in the Americas, founded in 1521 by Hernán Cortés. The Tlaxcalans have played a very important and unique role in Mexican history. And tourists visiting the state become very aware of this role during their visit.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal.

Sources:

David Adams, The Tlaxcalan Colonies of Spanish Coahuila and Nuevo León: An Aspect of the Settlement of Northern Mexico (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1971).

Ronald Barnett, "The Mighty Tlaxcalans of Mexico," Online: http://www.chapala.com/particles/21w.htm February 1997.

Nicholas Cheetham, New Spain: The Birth of Modern Mexico (London: Victor Golancz Ltd., 1974).

Diego Muñoz Camargo, Historia de Tlaxcala (Alfredo Chavero, ed.: Mexico, 1892).

Diego Muñoz Camargo, Fragmentos de la Historia de Tlaxcala (Mexico, 1871).

Nigel Davies, The Aztecs: A History (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma, 1980).

Charles Gibson, Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century (Yale: Yale University Press, 1952).

Oakah L. Jones, Los Paisanos: Spanish Settlers on the Northern Frontier of New Spain (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979).

Richard Lee Marks, Cortés: The Great Adventurer and the Fate of Aztec Mexico (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).

Matt S. Meier and Feliciano Rivera, The Chicanos: A History of Mexican Americans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972).

Michael C. Meyer, The Course of Mexican History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Philip Wayne Powell, Mexico's Miguel Caldera: The Taming of America's First Frontier (1548-1597) (Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1977).

Philip Wayne Powell, Soldiers, Indians and Silver: North America's First Frontier War (Tempe, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies, 1975).

Marc Simmons, "Tlascalans in the Spanish Borderlands," New Mexico Historical Review 39 (April '64).

Eric R. Wolf, Sons of the Shaking Earth (Chicago: Un of Chicago Press, Phoenix Books, 1959).



THE DEFEAT OF THE AZTECS

by John P. Schmal

 

The conquest of the Aztec Empire, taking place from 1519 to 1521, is a story that has intrigued millions of people over the years. At the climax of this campaign, Moctezuma, the highly respected leader of the mighty Aztec Empire, came face-to-face with Hernán Cortés, the leader of a small band of professional European soldiers from a faraway land (Spain). Against insurmountable odds, Cortés triumphed over the great empire. As a master of observation, manipulation and strategy, he was able to gradually weave an army of indigenous resistance against the Aztecs, while professing his good intentions toward Moctezuma.

This story is a story of logistics and strategy. I do not go into any great detail about the intricate personal and political maneuvering that took place. Nor will I discuss at any length the personal relationships of the principal characters. In the bibliography, I have listed several works that have provided great insight into the workings of the great cultural collision between the Spaniards and the indigenous people of present-day México.

The Aztec Empire of 1519

The Aztec Empire of 1519 was one of the most powerful Mesoamerican kingdoms of all time. By this time, the island city of Tenochtitlán had become a city of about 300,000 citizens. And the Aztec Empire itself ruled over about 80,000 square miles of territory extending from the Gulf of México to the Pacific Ocean, and southward to Oaxaca. This empire contained some 15 million people, living in thirty-eight provinces. In all, the Emperor received the tribute of 489 communities. The term, Aztec, is used to describe all the Nahua-speaking peoples in the Valley of México, while the culture that dominated the Aztec Empire a tribe of the Mexica (pronounced "me-shee-ka"). The Mexica were also called Tenochca ("te-noch-ka").

On April 22, 1519, a fleet of eleven Spanish galleons, which had been sailing northward along the eastern Gulf Coast of México, dropped anchor just off the wind-swept beach on the island of San Juan de Ulúa. Under the command of a Spanish adventurer named Hernán Cortés, these vessels bore 450 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses. These horses would be the first horses to walk upon the North American continent. The horse, which eventually became an important element of Indian life, was unknown to the North American Indians who engaged in warfare and hunting without the benefit of this mammal’s help.

Forging an Alliance with the Totonacs

As the Spaniards disembarked to set up camp on the dunes behind the beach, they received a friendly reception from the native Totonac Indians, who inhabited this area. Cortés explained that he wanted to travel inland to meet with Moctezuma, "the Lord of Cuhúa." By this time, Indian runners reaching the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, some 250 miles to the west in the heart of the continent, reported the arrival of the fair-skinned, bearded strangers and their fearsome "man-beasts" (cavalry).

On June 7, 1519, Cortés led his forces northward to the coastal town Cempoala. As they approached the town, the Totonac Indians started bringing the Spaniards food and gifts. Cortés had heard that the cacique (chief) of the Totonacs, Tlacochcalcatl, who reigned over this area, was an enemy of the Emperor Moctezuma. But the chief was very obese and not able to move around freely. For this reason, he could not come to greet the Spanish force in person.

The coastal city-state of Cempoala, presently under Aztec domination, was made up of some fifty towns. The town of Cempoala itself contained some 14,000 inhabitants. The townspeople gave the Spanish soldiers a very warm reception and Cacique Tlacochcalcatl met with Cortés. The chief of the Totonacs, writes Dr. Marrin, complained that the Aztec "tribute collectors were picking the country clean… like hungry coyotes." And each year, the Totonacs were forced to send hundreds of children to the altars of Tenochtitlán for sacrifice. For this tribute, the hatred of the Totonacs for the Mexica ran deep. For this reason, Tlacochcalcatl forged an alliance with Cortés.

The Spaniards helped the Totonacs to expel Moctezuma’s tribute-collectors who apparently fled to a Mexica garrison at Tizapancingo, about twenty miles to the southwest. With a full force of Spaniards, 16 horses, and Totonacs, Cortés seized control of the town. The seizure of this town had a profound effect on both the Spaniards and Totonacs. "The speed of this victory greatly impressed the Totonacs and naturally had the effect of extending their rebellion," writes Professor Hugo Thomas in Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old México, "It also made Cortés even more self-confident; for it suggested to him and to his captains that the Mexica, despite their fame, had no special military qualities, no secret weapons, and little discipline."

The Cempoalans helped Cortés and his men establish a base on the shore. On June 28, 1519, Cortés formally gave this town the name La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (The Rich Town of the True Cross). At this point, Cortés decided to lead his troops westward into the interior of the continent to find and meet with Moctezuma. Cacique Tlacochcalcatl warned Cortés that, on his journey inland, he would confront the people of Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco, two provinces that hated the Mexica equally. With the help of Totonac guides, Cortés planned his march through territory that might represent fertile ground for more alliances.

On August 8, Cortés assembled his army for the expedition inland. He had a force of 300 Spanish soldiers, 150 Cuban Indian servants, 800 Cempoalans and other Totonacs led by a chief named Mamexi. They also had 15 horses, reserved exclusively for the captains of the army. The Spanish army was thus beefed up with more than a thousand native warriors plus 200 porters. With a small party of soldiers and sailors left to hold the fort at Vera Cruz, Cortés commenced the hazardous journey towards the Aztec capital.

Just as they approached the next town, Jalapa, word arrived from the coast that four Spanish ships under the command of Alonso Alvarez de Pineda had arrived at the coast. With a force of one hundred men, Cortés quickly returned to the coast to meet the new arrivals. Although the ships did not arrive with good intent toward Cortés, he had them arrested and then persuaded them to join his army. Cortés then set off to join and reassemble his army.

The Journey Inland

Without a way to retreat, on August 16, 1519, the expedition started. In addition to the Spaniards, there were forty Cempoalan warrior chiefs and 200 Indians to drag the cannon and carry the supplies. The men were accustomed to the hot climate of the coast, but they suffered immensely from the cold of the mountains, the rain, and the hail. Although Cortés asked for peace and friendship, and permission to cross their land on the way to México, the Tlaxcalan Indians refused.

Finally, on August 16, 1519, as his expedition prepared to move inland from Cempoala, Hernán Cortés mustered an army of 400 Spanish soldiers, 15 horses, 1,300 Indian warriors, seven pieces of artillery, and a thousand tamanes (porters), who helped transport baggage and guns across the land. About 150 of the porters were Cuban Indian servants who were brought along from Cuba. The force brought along many dogs that had been well-trained to fight. The distance from Cempoala to Tenochtitlán is 250 miles, as the crow flies. A fairly large force of 150 Spanish soldiers and sailors and two horses under the command Juan de Escalante stayed at the garrison at Villa Rica de Vera Cruz. Roughly 100 soldiers remained in Villa Rica under the command of Gonzalo Sandoval.

On the road ahead, the allied force faced many obstacles. Shortly after reaching Jalapa, a short distance inland from Cempoala, the altitude of the land rose sharply to 6,000 feet, transforming the climate from tropical to temperate. As they advanced inland, they moved through territory that was firmly in the control of the Mexica. On August 24, the Spanish force arrived in Zautla, where a Mexican garrison was stationed. The chief of the Zautla, Olintecle, met with Cortés and warmly embraced him. Olintecle was a subject of the Mexica and may have been given orders by Moctezuma to give food and lodging to the Spanish force.

After staying in Zautla for about a week, Cortés prepared to move on. He sent four Cempoalan chiefs ahead to Tlaxcala with instructions to inform them of his approach, hoping for a peaceful reception. The next stop for the Castilians was Iztaquimaxtitlan, a mountain town occupied by a Mexica garrison. Several families lived in this town and once again, on Moctezuma’s insistence, the strangers were well received and given gifts and lodging.

On their journey out of Iztaquimaxtitlan, the Spaniards came across a large gate, atop which lay a battlement a foot and a half high. This wall, some twenty paces wide and nine feet high, ran for several miles across the valley from one mountaintop to another. This barrier had represented a border which the people of Iztaquimaxtitlan had built to protect themselves from the fierce Tlaxcalan Indians nearby.

Confronting the Tlaxcalans

Finally, Cortés army reached the Tlaxcalan Republic, which was independent enclave deep in the heart of the Mexica Empire that had managed to resist Aztec control. Surrounded on all sides and blockaded by the Aztecs, they had never yielded to them. By the time that Cortez arrived in the Western Hemisphere, the Tlaxcalan Indians had been subjected to continuous warfare and human sacrifice for many decades. Because of their economic isolation, the Tlaxcalans had no cotton with which to make their clothes. Neither did they have any salt. The salt lakes of Alchichica, not far from Tlaxcala, lay close by but they could not benefit from this. No feathers or precious stones made their way into Tlaxcala. They were unable to obtain salt (boiled out of sea water), cotton cloth, or bird feathers.

Tlaxcala was a small, densely populated province. In 1519, the population was about 150,000. Tlaxcala was actually "confederation of four republics," ruling over some 200 settlements. Some historians believe that Tenochtitlán could have overwhelmed Tlaxcala without too much difficulty, and the reason it did not is probably that it wanted a nearby source of victims for the human sacrifices. Therefore the Aztecs maintained an almost perpetual state of war with Tlaxcala, but never actually conquered it. Also, the Aztecs seem to have regarded the frequent battles as a convenient way of testing and training the young Mexica warriors.

This state of perpetual war was very hateful to the Tlaxcalans and by the time that Cortés arrived in Tlaxcala, the confederation represented fertile grounds for an anti-Mexica alliance. However, the Tlaxcalans, very suspicious of the strangers, were in no mood to accommodate the Spaniards and their Indian allies.

After a brief skirmish along the Tlaxcalan frontier, the Spaniards were guaranteed passage through the Tlaxcalan Republic. However, on August 31, at a point ten miles into Tlaxcalan territory, Cortés’ army encountered a hostile force of at least 30,000 Tlaxcalans. Despite the tremendous size of the army, the Spaniards managed to fend them off. Unlike other Indians, the Tlaxcalans seemed to have no fear of the horses and killed two of them. That night, the Spaniards, exhausted from their battle, rested in the open, some twenty miles from the capital city of Tlaxcala.

In the next battle, Cortés claimed that he faced a Tlaxcalan army of 149,000 warriors. In this battle, some sixty Spaniards and several horses were wounded by the enemy. But, on the following day, Cortés led a punitive expedition, burning some ten Tlaxcalan towns (with a total population of over 3,000). Many Indians were killed in this campaign. After a third day of battles, the Spaniards had lost 45 men who died in battle, died of wounds or succumbed to disease.

On September 5, the Spaniards and their Totonac allies were ambushed by an army of 50,000 Tlaxcalan warriors. The Tlaxcalan king, Xicotenga, and his council had hoped that this attack would rid them of the invaders. However, with their advanced technology and tactical advantages, the Spaniards were able to turn the tide against the Tlaxcalans and defeat them. Subsequent battles fought during September also ended in Spanish victory.

Alliance with the Tlaxcalans

Watching the Spaniards prove themselves in battle, King Xicotenga was very impressed and decided to allow Cortés’ army to pass through the confederation. As the Spaniards approached the Tlaxcalan capital on September 18, the Spanish soldiers were welcomed into the town as if they were heroes. For twenty days, Cortés and his army stayed in Tlaxcala. As his men recovered from their wounds, Cortés forged a relationship with Xicotenga and other Tlaxcalan leaders. He found that he was now over halfway from the Gulf of México to Tenochtitlán.

Almost immediately, Xicotenga saw in Cortés a powerful ally who could help the Tlaxcalans destroy the Mexica. Cortés, for his part, told Xicotenga that he was opposed only to the Aztec Empire and that there would be a place for Tlaxcala in Spanish-dominated México.

Within a very short time, the Tlaxcalans would become the most loyal native allies of the Spaniards. Their allegiance with the Europeans would be an enduring partnership, lasting several centuries. The Tlaxcalans were able to provide the Cortés with valuable information about the Mexica capital, Tenochtitlán. Tlaxcalans who had visited the great city in the past were able to draw pictures of the city’s layout, as well as its bridges, causeways and canals. Soon the Spaniards would have a good idea of the layout of the capital and of the fighting style of the Aztec warriors.

On October 23, 1519, Cortés and his army of European mercenaries and indigenous warriors left the Tlaxcalan capital. A thousand Tlaxcalan warriors had been added to the ranks of Cortés force. While Indian laborers carried the cannon and baggage in the center of the formation, Tlaxcalan warriors and Spanish horsemen marched along the flanks and with the rear guard. Although Xicotenga had offered him many more warriors, Cortés did not want a large force of Tlaxcalans that might frighten or enrage the Mexica.

As Cortés traveled westward through mountain towns and villages, many of the Indians living along this path told him of their cruel treatment at the hands of the Aztec overlords. Through these meetings, Cortés began to understand the depth of this hatred and fear. He also recognized that many of these people would be potential allies in a showdown with the Mexica.

Cholula

Cholula, twenty-five miles east of Tlaxcala, was a city of almost 60,000 houses and 430 temples and pyramids. If necessary, the Cholulans could muster together some 25,000 men for war out of a possible total population of 180,000. Xicotenga had warned Cortés that the Cholulans were mere pawns of Moctezuma and the Aztec hierarchy and advised against marching through their territory. But Cortés decided that to advance in this direction regardless of Xicotenga’s admonition.

As the army approached the Cholulan capital, they were greeted by the caciques and given a place to stay. Although the Spanish and indigenous accounts differ on what happened, all agree that a great massacre followed. Through his interpreter, Doña Marina, Cortés had apparently learned of a Cholulan conspiracy sponsored by Moctezuma to ambush and slaughter the Spaniards. Expecting an ambush, Cortés launched a preemptive strike on the Cholulans after having called a meeting of the Cholulan nobles in the courtyard of the temple of Quetzalcóatl. After a confrontation with the Cholulans about their intentions towards the Spanish, Cortés issued an order for the lords to be killed. Quickly and with little mercy, the assembly turned into a full-scale massacre of 3,000 Cholulan noblemen and warriors. In the meantime, Tlaxcalans and Totonacs sacked the town.

Quickly, the Cholulan army launched a counterattack against the Spanish forces. After two hours of battle, both sides agreed to end the fighting. The Cholulans then returned to their homes, while Cortés’ army marched to the east.

Resumption of the Advance

On November 1, 1519, Cortés assembled his army for the resumption of the march to Tenochtitlán. At this time, his Totonac allies from Cempoala had to return home. However, a thousand Tlaxcalans remained in the ranks of his army and they moved on to higher altitudes. On November 2, Cortés forces moved through a mountain pass that lay 13,000 feet above sea level. From this path, the Spaniards could see the smoking volcano Popocatepetl (Smoking Mountain) and Ixtaccihuatl (Mountain of White Woman), which reach 17,887 feet and 17,000 feet, respectively.

From the mountain pass, the Spaniards witnessed for the first time the great splendor of Tenochtitlán as it spread out on the valley floor. Before long, the mountain pass, with the great Valley of México in full view, descended to lower altitudes, eventually bringing Cortés and his forces to an altitude of 7,400 above sea level along the valley floor. As they made their way to Tenochtitlán, the Spaniards met with another tribe of Mesoamericans. The King of Texcoco welcomed the Spaniards into his own and provided his guests with gifts, food, and assistance. Soon after hearing about the Christian religion, many Texcocans, including the king, decided to convert to Catholicism. Before continuing on to the capital, the Spaniards performed several religious services, baptizing the king and other Texcocan nobles.

The Meeting with Moctezuma

On the road to the capital, the army passed through hamlets where they were offered generous bribes from Moctezuma's emissaries to turn back. When Cortés failed to accept the bribes, Moctezuma sent his nephew to welcome four hundred Spaniards and their entourage of 7,000 Tlaxcalan warriors to Tenochtitlán. Finally, on November 8, 1519, the army reached Xoloco, just outside of Tenochtitlán, where they were greeted by hundreds of emissaries of Moctezuma. As they were brought into the city, the Spaniards stared in awe at the architectural precision of the city. Filing across the southern causeway of the capital, Cortés and his men were greeted with much ceremony by a retinue of lords and nobles headed by Moctezuma himself.

The Spaniards were housed in the ancient palace of Atzayacatl, the emperor's father. The wary Moctezuma made great efforts to play the perfect host, showing his unwanted guests around the city and entertaining them with splendid banquets. Some researchers believe that the Aztecs may have thought that the Spaniards were gods or godlike creatures. They also noticed heard about the devastation that took place when the Spaniards won a battle. In any event, they were at least curious to see these strangers who had marched so many miles and fought so many battles against various indigenous groups along the way. In War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, the author Ross Hassig points out that "the Spaniards did not [initially] present themselves as a hostile force." In fact, the arrival of the Spaniards and their indigenous allies coincided with the harvest when Aztec soldiers were unavailable and unprepared for war.

After several days of negotiations and touring, Cortés and his officers took Moctezuma as a hostage. Bringing the King to his barracks, Cortés persuaded him to dispatch messengers to the surrounding communities to collect gold and silver, part of which was sent to the Spanish monarch in the name of Moctezuma and part of which was divided among Cortés’ troops. Moctezuma’s imprisonment continued for eight months.

Arrival of Narvaez

On April 19, 1520, more ships appeared off the coast of México. The governor of Cuba had sent soldiers under Panfilo de Narvaez to arrest Captain-General Cortés for insubordination. Leaving Captain Pedro de Alvarado in charge of his troops, Cortés quickly departed from Tenochtitlán with 266 Spanish soldiers to confront the newly-arrived Spanish force on the Gulf Coast. Although Narvaez’s troops outnumbered Cortés by three to one, Cortés and his small army defeated Narvaez in a battle near Veracruz. After this battle, most of Narvaez's troops joined Cortés who promised them a share of the spoils when Tenochtitlán was brought under Spanish control.

When Cortés returned to Tenochtitlán, he found out that Pedro de Alvarado had provoked an open revolt by massacring 600 Aztec nobles during the Feast of Huitzilopochtli. Fighting quickly broke out in full force the day after Cortés returned, and the sheer numbers of the Aztec army overwhelmed the Captain-General's army, which numbered only 1,250 Spaniards and 8,000 Mexican warriors. His army was forced to retreat back into the barracks but set hundreds of homes on fire before doing so.

The Death of Moctezuma

As the Indians besieged the palace, Cortés ordered Moctezuma to tell his subjects to disperse. Not only did they refuse but the shower of stones they directed against their captive emperor caused injuries that resulted in his death. The hail of stones began when a nobleman defiantly brandished a javelin at Moctezuma. Moctezuma was succeeded as emperor by Cuitlahuac. Moctezuma had been intimidated by Cortés because he believed the Spaniards were representatives of the bearded, fair- skinned god Quetzalcoatl. Cuitlahuac never believed the legend and set out to organize a determined resistance to the Spanish forces. Though he only ruled four months before succumbing to smallpox, Cuitlahuac drove Cortés's men out of Tenochtitlán during the famous Noche Triste ("sad night") of July 1, 1520, depending on which historian you read.

Flight from Tenochtitlán

Cortés and his men were besieged in Tenochtitlán, and on July 1, 1520, Cortés attempted to break out of the city and cross the lake to the mainland by marching down one of the causeways. As the force left the palace at midnight, Cortés had some 1,250 Spanish soldiers and at least 5,000 Tlaxcalan warriors. They had fifty hostages, including Aztec nobles and two of Moctezuma’s daughters.

While he was crossing the bridge leaving the city, the Aztecs fell upon the army and inflicted heavy damage. In the disorder, Spanish soldiers who had been too greedy and filled their pockets with gold were pushed into Lake Texcoco and drowned. The army managed to attain a place of relative safety on a hill past the nearby town of Tlacopan but not without losing about 450 Spanish and 2,000 Mexican soldiers from their ranks.

Plagued by hunger, disease, and the pursuing Aztecs, Cortés’ army fled to Tlaxcala to obtain reinforcements. On July 8, the army came upon a legion of nearly 200,000 Aztecs sent by Cuitlahuac, Moctezuma's brother and successor. There, at the battle of Otumba, the Spanish managed a smashing victory that dissuaded the Aztecs from pursuing the Spaniards and their allies any farther.

By the end of the battle, Díaz wrote, 850 Spaniards, 4,000 Tlaxcalans were lost. Only twenty-four of the 95 horses survived the exodus. All the cannon and nearly all the muskets and crossbows had been lost. None of the Aztec prisoners survived. Even with the many reinforcements that Cortés had brought from the coast, this left only 420 men and 17 horses. All the survivors, including Cortés, were wounded, and very few firearms or ammunition were left. As the battered army approached Tlaxcala, they were greeted by their Indian allies and given refuge.

Reflections on a Narrow Escape

"Reviewing their narrow escape," writes Michael C. Meyer, "many of the Spanish veterans wanted nothing more to do with the Aztecs. It required all of Cortés’ force of personality and subtle blandishments to prevent mass defections and rebellion among his men. Cortés, who seems never to have wavered in his determination to retake Tenochtitlán, began to lay plans for the return."

It goes without saying that the Spaniards would not have survived their ordeal without the help of their Tlaxcalan allies. The Tlaxcalan chiefs called on Cortés during this dismal time and laid out their conditions for further assistance. The Tlaxcalans requested "perpetual exemption from tribute of any sort, a share of the spoils, and control of two provinces that bordered their land." Cortés agreed to these conditions and, as the author Richard Lee Marks wrote, "Spain substantially kept its promise" to the Tlaxcalans "and exempted them from tribute for the entire period of the Spanish rule in México, nearly three hundred years."

Smallpox

The Spaniards, however, also received more important support from another, unexpected ally. "While the Spaniards rested and recuperated" in Tlaxcala, wrote Richard Lee Marks, "it occurred to Cortés and his men to wonder why the great armies from Tenochtitlán were not pursuing them." The Aztecs had not attacked or laid siege to Tlaxcala, giving the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans precious time to heal and recover from their catastrophic defeat. Later, Cortés would learn that an epidemic of smallpox had devastated Tenochtitlán.

While the Spaniards were in Tlaxcala, a great plague broke out here in Tenochtitlán. It began to spread during the thirteenth month and lasted for seventy days, striking everywhere in the city and killing a vast number of our people. Sores erupted on our faces, our breasts, our bellies; we were covered with agonizing sores from head to foot.

At the same time in the Aztec capital, a smallpox epidemic began that killed Cuitlahuac and immobilized much of the population. To replace the king, the caciques of Tenochtitlán chose Cuahtemoc, a nephew of Moctezuma and a brilliant military leader who fiercely believed that his Aztec army, with the help of Huitzilopochtli, could defeat the invaders.

The Aztecs, convinced that the Spaniards would never return to Tenochtitlán, celebrated their fiestas again in the traditional manner, and Cuitlahuac was elected king to succeed his brother Moctezuma.

Brought to the shores of México by an African sailor, "the disease had spread with amazing rapidity through the coastal tribes and up into the highland." The disease spread quickly among the Indians, according to Marks, because they "were in the habit of bathing to alleviate almost any ailment that afflicted them. These baths were either communal or the same bathing water was used consecutively by many. But after someone with an open smallpox sore entered the bath, the disease was transmitted to everyone who followed." The Spaniards, however, never bathed. Although they occasionally washed off the dirt and blood when they had to, "they believed that bathing per se was weakening." And the Tlaxcalans, "always in a state of semi-siege," were not yet exposed to the smallpox.

The illness was so dreadful that no one could walk or move. The sick were so utterly helpless that they could only lie on their beds like corpses, unable to move their limbs or even their heads. They could not lie face down or roll from one side to the other. If they did move their bodies, they screamed with pain.

A great many died from this plague, and many others died of hunger. They could not getup to search for food, and everyone else was too sick to care for them, so they starved to death in their beds.

Some people came down with a milder form of the disease; they suffered less than the others and made a good recovery. But they could not escape entirely. Their looks were ravaged, for wherever a sore broke out, it gouged an ugly pockmark in the skin. And a few of the survivors were left completely blind.

The illness was so dreadful that no one could walk or move. The sick were so utterly helpless that they could only lie on their beds like corpses, unable to move their limbs or even their heads. They could not lie face down or roll from one side to the other. If they did move their bodies, they screamed with pain. A great many died from this plague, and many others died of hunger. They could not getup to search for food, and everyone else was too sick to care for them, so they starved to death in their beds.

The Captain-General's army left Tlaxcala on December 26, 1520 on its march to the Aztec capital. Cortés’ army had been completely rebuilt. With his army of 600 Spanish soldiers and between 110,000 and 150,000 Mexican warriors, Cortés intended to occupy the city of Texcoco and blockade Tenochtitlán from there. With the city sufficiently weakened, his army would cross the lake on thirteen brigantines constructed for this purpose by the Spaniards.

Into the Valley of México

In January 1521 Cortés once again led his force into the Valley of México. They staged a series of raids throughout the countryside and took the Aztec stronghold at Texcoco, from whence they could launch the newly built fleet. The occupation of Texcoco was done without conflict, and from there the army destroyed the town of Iztapalapan and massacred its residents, which sent shockwaves throughout the surrounding area. Having witnesses the military and technological advantages of the Spanish forces, many caciques who had avoided the Spaniards now decided to join their forces with Cortés’ army.

In March 1521, Cortés began with a reconnaissance in force to gain control of communities in the Valley of México adjacent to Tenochtitlán. He got as far as the neighboring settlement of Tacuba before Cuauhtemoc drove the Spaniards and Tlaxcalans back in a determined land and naval counterattack. Then the tide turned again when reinforcements arrived from Hispaniola. While he was preparing a fleet of small brigantines to control the lake during his assault, Cortés was reinforced by fresh troops from Spain.

At the time of the assault on Tenochtitlán, Cortés had gained an additional 200 Spanish soldiers and 50,000 Tlaxcalans. He had over 900 Spaniards, including 18 musketeers and crossbowmen. The cavalry had been beefed up with some ninety horses and their riders. The artillery included fifteen small bronze guns and heavy iron cannon-wall smashers. Within the ranks of this huge army were at least 50,000 Tlaxcalans, and thousands of other supporters. Seventy thousand Indian laborers carried supplies, built roads and carried on our auxiliary chores.

In April 1521 he had 86 horsemen, 118 crossbowmen and harquebusiers, 700 sword and pike men, as well as 18 cannons. In addition he had as many as 75,000 Tlaxcalan allies. It was still a stiff task, for the Aztecs numbered at least 250,000 men, and this time he could not rely on their native superstition to win the fight for him.

The stage was now set for the final assault. The brigantines were launched April 28, 1521, and land operations began a few days later. Cuauhtemoc, realizing that his horseless troops were no match for the Spaniards in open country, decided that it would be better to wage urban warfare against the enemy. Turning Tenochtitlán into an Aztec Stalingrad, he defeated the initial Spanish assault on the city and drove the enemy back to their siege lines outside the gates.

The Assault on Tenochtitlán

To triumphant shouts of 'Castile' and 'Santiago', and to a cacophony of native instruments Cortés launched his brigantines on the lake and began his assault on Tenochtitlán. With his headquarters located at Tlacopan, Cortés had divided his forces into three sections: his deputy, Pedro de Alvarado, took 30 horses, 18 crossbowmen, 150 infantry and 25,000 Tlaxcalans and advanced down the causeway that ran from Tacuba in the northwest; Cristóbal de Olid, with 33 horse, 18 crossbowmen, 150 infantry and 25,000 Tlaxcalans advanced on the causeway from Coyoacan in the southwest; and Gonzalo de Sandoval, with 24 cavalry, 4 harquebusiers, 13 crossbowmen, 150 infantry and 30,000 Indian allies, advanced on the causeway from Iztapalapan in the southeast.

Cortés himself commanded the brigantines in which the rest of the Spanish forces - crossbowmen and harquebusiers - were placed. It was a carefully planned exercise, showing a thorough appreciation of Aztec strengths and weaknesses. Cortés even left one causeway free, so that the Aztecs would have an escape route and would not fight to the death. In the event, few took this route; most preferred to die with their city.

In preparation for the attack, the Captain-General destroyed the aqueducts that supplied water to the capital with only ineffectual Aztec resistance. Two of the three divisions of the army attempted to attack the city across the causeway but met strong Aztec forces and were forced back. The third division, under Cortés, boarded the brigantines and patrolled the water, completely overwhelming the Aztecs' canoes and temporarily gaining control of Lake Texcoco.

The fighting raged back and forth as the Spaniards and their allies (now joined by 50,000 Texcocoans and later 150,000 of the Aztecs themselves) attempted to break the Aztec defense from both land and sea. They did so a few times but were steadily pushed back by the now starving inhabitants of Tenochtitlán. Cortés was increasingly distressed at his army's inability to break the Aztec spirit.

After nearly three months of such fighting, the Captain-General ordered a full-scale assault on Tenochtitlán. All three divisions crossed the causeway backed up by the brigantines and a fleet of Mexican canoes. Each division marched down one of the principal boulevards that all converged in Tlatelolco Square. They steadily pushed the Aztecs backwards; and when the Aztec king sounded the retreat, the captains pushed on towards their fleeing prey. When Cuahtemoc's horn sounded again, the Aztecs turned around and fell on the Spaniards, capturing sixty-two of them and sacrificing them in front of the Spaniards in an attempt to destroy their morale. Cortés ordered the retreat.

Five days passed, and famine and disease had devastated the Aztecs. Cortés knew this and appealed to Cuahtemoc to surrender, but the king felt that dying for one's country would be better than being enslaved by the Spaniards. He answered in the form of an attack on the entrenched army. The Aztecs charged from the walls of the city to meet their enemy, but were quickly forced into a retreat by the firing of artillery and musketry. Cortés’ army charged after the Aztecs, forcing them back, until the Spaniards and their allies controlled around three-quarters of the city. Everywhere they went they left a trail of destruction--burned or pulled-down homes and temples--regardless of whether or not there were wounded men, women, or children inside.

Still, the Aztec king refused to surrender. Cortés proposed a banquet at which the two sides could meet to negotiate, but the king sent his nobles and didn't come himself. The next morning, Cuahtemoc agreed to meet the Captain-General at the marketplace; but when Cortés and his entourage arrived, they found the Aztec soldiers waiting for them. An enormous battle ensued; and both sides took heavy losses, the total number of deaths in that individual battle numbering more than 40,000.

The Surrender

The next morning, August 13, 1521, Cortés’ army once again marched into the city. Another battle began, similar in scale to the one the day before, but Cortés ordered a cease-fire as three canoes were sighted fleeing across the lake. Cuahtemoc, who was riding in one of the canoes, was apprehended and brought to the Captain-General.

The Aztecs fought valiantly under leadership of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtemoc, whose name translates as "falling eagle" or alternately "setting sun." Ravaged by diseases introduced by the Spaniards, deprived of fresh water and food supplies from the mainland, they withstood an 80-day siege, surrendering August 13, 1521, only after their captured leader grasped the dagger in Cortés' belt and pleaded, "I have done all that I could." 

Cortés consoled him and asked him to command his warriors to surrender. Cuahtemoc immediately climbed onto a high tower and shouted to them to cease fighting, for everything had fallen to the enemy. Of the 300,000 warriors who had defended the city, 60,000 were left. When they heard their king, they laid down their arms and the nobles came forward to comfort him.

The siege of Tenochtitlán, according to the histories, paintings and chronicles, lasted exactly eighty days. Thirty thousand men from the kingdom of Texcoco were killed during this time, of the more than 200,000 who fought on the side of the Spaniards. Of the Aztecs, more than 240,000 were killed. Almost all of the nobility perished: there remained alive only a few lords and knights and the little children. Albert Marrin, the author of Aztecs and Spaniards: Cortés and the Conquest of México," writes that "what had taken centuries to build, would be destroyed in just thirty months."

Tenochtitlán Becomes México

The conquerors banished the Aztecs from their city and began to clear the city. The Aztec homes, now in shambles, were torn down and new homes for the conquistadors were built by reluctant Mexican laborers. Over the next four years, Hernán Cortés was appointed Governor, Captain-General, and Chief Justice of the province of New Spain. He passed this time presiding over the reconstruction of Tenochtitlán, which he renamed México (later México City in the present-day country of México), and bringing colonists from Spain to make their homes there.

The key to the Spanish conquest of México was the dissension among the different peoples of the Aztecs' empire. The Mexica overlords had made no attempts to assimilate the other cultures to their own and thus provided the basis for a full scale revolt against them which Cortés incited. While the Aztecs were really unable to unify their empire, the Spanish managed to succeed where their predecessors in the area had failed.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Davies, Nigel. The Aztecs: A History. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma, 1980.

Hassig, Ron. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

Marks, Richard Lee. Cortés: The Great Adventurer and the Fate of Aztec México. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Meier, Matt S. and Feliciano Rivera. The Chicanos: A History of Mexican Americans. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Meyer, Michael C. and Sherman, William L. The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Prescott, William H. History of the Conquest of México, Volume 1. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Compnay, 1873.

Smith, Michael E. The Aztecs. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1996.

 

 



SOUTHERN MEXICO


 

CAMPECHE: ON THE EDGE OF THE MAYAN WORLD

By John P. Schmal

 

Located in the southwestern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula along the Gulf of Mexico, the State of Campeche was named after the ancient Mayan Kingdom of Ah Kin Pech (Canpech). Campeche is bounded on the north and northeast by the State of Yucatán, on the east by the State of Quintana Roo, on the southeast by the nation of Belize, on the southwest by the State of Tabasco, and on the south by the Petén Department of Guatemala. Campeche also shares 404 kilometers (251 miles) of coastline with the Gulf of Mexico on its west and northwest.

With a total area of 56,798 square kilometers (21,924 square miles), Campeche is Mexico’s eighteenth largest state and occupies 2.9% of the national territory. With a population of 690,689 in the 2000 census, Campeche was ranked thirtieth among the Mexican states in terms of population. The territory of Campeche is politically divided into ten municipios. The capital city is Campeche, which had a population of 216,897 in 2000.

The Mayan World

For about two thousand years, the Mayan culture prospered through most of present-day Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras and the five Mexican states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas. In all, the territory occupied by the Mayan Indians was probably about 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) in area and is sometimes referred to collectively as El Mundo Maya (The Mayan World).

The Mayas made a living through agriculture, hunting and fishing. They were also skilled weavers and temple builders who left a treasure trove of archaeological sites for later generations to admire. The Mayan Linguistic Group is one of the largest in the Americas and is divided into approximately 69 languages, including the Huastec, Yucatec, Western Maya, and Eastern Maya groups.

For thousands of years, the Yucatec Maya has been the dominant Mayan language throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, including Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. The language was documented in the ancient hieroglyphs of the Pre-Columbian Mayan civilizations at several archaeological sites and may be as much as 5,000 years old. Even at the time of the 2000 census, 799,696 individuals in the entire Mexican Republic still spoke this language. (This number does not include the other major Mayan linguistic groups, such as the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Huasteca, and the Chol, all of which thrive in several other Mexican states).

The Mayan ethnohistorian, Ralph L. Roys, has written that sixteen native Mayan states occupied most of the Yucatán Peninsula in the early Sixteenth Century and that this population was "remarkably uniform in language, customs, and fundamental political ideas." Some of the sixteen "provinces" were "true political units," while others were "loose confederations of autonomous communities, as well as groups of independent and mutually hostile states whose ruling families had a common lineage."

Professor Roys and other historians have indicated that most of present-day Campeche was ruled over by four native states when the Spaniards first arrived in 1517: Acalán-Tixcel, Chanputún (Champotón), Canpech (Ah Kin Pech), and Ah Canul. While Acalán was primarily occupied by the Chontal Indians, the other three states were Yucatec Mayan nations.

 

Acalán-Tixchel

The Chontal Indians of Acalán-Tixchel primarily occupied the territory that now includes the eastern part of the State of Tabasco and the southwest Campeche Municipio of Palizada. In all, this kingdom included at least 76 communities. It is believed that Chontalli was a Náhuatl term meaning "foreigner." The Chontal of Tabasco speak one of the 69 Mayan languages and have a close relation to the Yucatec Maya and Chol on the east and the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Kanjobal, and Chuj of Chiapas on the west.

The original inhabitants of the present-day Palizada Municipio were the Chontal Indians living in the Acalán-Tixchel Province, literally "the place of canoes." However, at some point before the Spanish contact, Náhuatl-speaking merchants had settled at Xicallanco and Chanputún, driving out the Chontal. At the time of contact, an Aztec pochteca ruled over the important trading colony at Xicallanco and the surrounding area, while small Chontal communities were scattered along the lower Mamantel and Candelaria rivers. Living in the regions east of Acalán-Tixchel were a Yucatec Mayan people who were known as the Cehache or Mazateca, inhabiting the border region between what is now Campeche and the Petén District of Guatemala.

Chanputún (Champotón)

Northeast of Acalán-Tixchel, along the present-day central coastline of Campeche, was the Yucatec Mayan Province of Chanputún (Champotón), which ran from present-day Champotón northward to Tichac (Sihochac) and extended some distance inland. Apparently named for its principal town (now known as Champotón), Chanputún represented the southwestern extension of the Yucatec Mayan cultural region. The Aztecs referred to the entire region of Champotón and Campeche as the "Province of Cochistan."

Canpech (Ah Kin Pech)

Canpech probably earned its name from its principal town, the present-day city of Campeche (which was the Spanish pronunciation of the word). Cardinal Juan de Torquemada gives the Mayan name as Kinpech, which has also been reconstructed as Ah Kin Pech, but the colonial Maya manuscripts only refer to it as Canpech. Ah Kin Pech, in the Mayan language, means "the place of serpents and ticks."

Ah Canul

The Mayan Province of Ah Canul, with Calkiní as its primary town, extended about 145 kilometers (56 miles) along the western coastal plain from the Homtún River (slightly north of Campeche) to Punta Kipté on the northern coastline of Yucatán State. Ralph L. Roys wrote that "the Province of Ah Canul was one of the largest native states in the northern and more thickly populated half of the Yucatan peninsula." From the west coast it extended inland "for an average distance of about 50 km."

Ah Canul included the present-day Campeche municipios of Tenabo, Hecelchakán, and Calkiní. The Province also extended into western Yucatán State, where it included the present-day cities of Kinchil, Umán, and Hunucma within its boundaries.

First Contact with Spaniards

On March 22, 1517, a Spanish naval force, under the command of Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba, sailing from Cuba, arrived off the shores of the Yucatán Peninsula, eventually passing south along the coastline of Campeche. The expedition stopped at a village named Lázarus, near the present-day site of Campeche, which was then part of the Canpech Province. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo (a member of the expedition), crewmembers stopped briefly at this location to look for water and were approached by a group of fifty natives. Soon after, however, Mayan priests told the Spaniards to leave the area or face death, and they complied by departing.

The Spanish force moved south along the Campeche coastline and – ten days later, the Spaniards landed again near Champotón, where a cacique named Moch-Cuouh ruled. Shortly after the arrival of the Spaniards, the Mayans attacked in force, killing more than fifty men. With their manpower reduced by half, the expedition was forced to return to Cuba. Córdoba himself received multiple wounds from ten arrows and died shortly after his return to Cuba.

In April 1518, another expedition of four ships and 300 men under the command of Juan de Grijalva left Cuba for the Yucatán. This expedition landed near Campeche at the river Lagartos, but was soon attacked by the Mayan inhabitants and left the region.

In 1525, Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Tenochtitlán, passed through a small portion of Campeche. During this time, Cortés made an alliance with Paxbolonacha, the ruler of Acalán. This accommodation initiated a gradual incorporation of the Chontal Mayan into the Spanish empire. Cortés’ account of his journey through Acalán served as motivation for Francisco de Montejo to lead a second expedition to Acalán and the Yucatán area.

The Conquest of Campeche (1527-1541)

In December 1526, a wealthy nobleman from Salamanca, Spain, Francisco de Montejo was granted a royal contract (capitulación) to raise an army and conquer the Yucatán Peninsula. In 1527, Montejo landed with a crew of 500 Spanish soldiers at Cozumel (in present-day Quintana Roo) to commence with the conquest. Accompanied by his son – known as "El Mozo" (The Youthful) – and his nephew ("Sobrino"), Montejo crossed the Yucatán from east to west, eventually reaching the Campeche coastline near Kin Pech.

The resistance of the Mayan provinces kept the Spanish forces in check for several years. In 1529, Montejo subdued the natives of Xicallanco, Copilco, and Hueyatastla in the south. After working to subdue the Chontal of Acalán and the Zoque of the highlands of Tabasco, Montejo later moved to the coastal region of Campeche where he was able to establish friendly relations with the natives of Champotón in 1530. By early 1531, Montejo controlled both Champotón and Campeche. Campeche became Montejo’s primary base of operations as he sent his lieutenant Alonso de Avila to explore and conquer the Mayan provinces in the central and eastern sections of the peninsula.

While Avila made his way through the interior of the Yucatán, Montejo was able to consolidate his control over the province of Ah Canul north of Campeche, while the younger Montejo moved through several Mayan provinces. As a result, researchers France Scholes and Ralph Roys observed that "by the end of 1532 a considerable part of northern Yucatan had apparently accepted Spanish suzerainty."

By the summer of 1534, however, Montejo the Younger’s position in the Yucatán became precarious. With a depleted force, he departed his headquarters at Dzilam and retreated to join his father at Campeche. At the end of 1534, the older Montejo and his forces evacuated Campeche altogether, withdrawing to Tabasco. Campeche would not return to Spanish rule until 1541. A contributing factor to the failure of the Montejos to hold their positions was the loss of men who decided to go to Peru to find greater spoils in the conquest of the Inca Empire.

In 1537, Spanish forces under Alonso de Avila returned to Campeche and were able to establish a base at San Pedro de Champotón in present-day Campeche. During this period, the young settlement, according to France Scholes and Ralph Roys, "maintained a very uncertain existence."

In 1540, Montejo the Younger arrived in Champotón to resume the conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula. By this time, Scholes and Roys explain, the indigenous inhabitants of the area had "became increasingly restive." At the end of 1540, Montejo moved the settlement at Champotón to Campeche, which ultimately became the first permanent Spanish settlement in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Forming alliances with some of the local chieftains during 1541, the Montejos were able to subdue native forces in the provinces of Canpech and Ah Canul, bringing the present-day municipios of Tenabo, Hecelchakan and Calkiní under control. Later in the year, Montejo founded the "Villa and Puerto de San Francisco de Campeche." From Campeche, Montejo moved on to the rest of the Yucatán Peninsula, where he won several battles and broke the power of the Mayan resistance, founding the city of Mérida on January 6, 1542.

Once effective control had been established, the City of Campeche served a "strategic role as a trade and administrative center." The first Franciscan missionaries arrived in Campeche perhaps as early as 1537, followed three years later by the founding of the first mission in Campeche. In the new few years, the Franciscans also moved into Champotón and Acalán.

Consolidation

Even before pacifying the native peoples of Campeche, Francisco Montejo and his lieutenants began to distribute the inhabitants through encomiendas, which were royal grants of indigenous inhabitants that licensed a Spanish encomendero to receive their labor and tribute. Unfortunately, the encomiendas became subject to abuse and were frequently enforced through brutality and cruelty. The Indians of Campeche, Champotón, and Acalán-Tixchel were distributed in encomiendas to the Spanish residents of Salamanca in 1530-1531, and they were reassigned in 1537.

Disease also took its toll on the indigenous people of Campeche. At contact, the populations of Champotón and Acalán probably numbered about 110,000. But smallpox decimated several communities in 1519 or 1520. An assessment of Champotón in 1549 suggested that there were about 2,000 Indian inhabitants left. A similar assessment of the Acalán encomienda in 1553 suggested about 4,000 Indians living in that province.

Ah Canul, which is located in a dryer climate than the rest of Campeche, was less affected by plagues than most other areas of Campeche and the Yucatán. It is estimated that the population at contact was 35,000 and that this dropped to 13,000 in 1548. After this, however, immigration from other areas helped rebuild the native population of Ah Canuel.

Political Events

After independence, Campeche was essentially a part of Yucatán, which proclaimed its sovereignty in August 1822. But Yucatán and Campeche were both re-incorporated into Mexico in February 1824. Yucatán became a state within the Mexican Republic on October 3, 1824. On May 31, 1841, Yucatán declared its independence from Mexico. The state was re-incorporated into Mexico in December 1843, but independence was restored in December 1846. In August 17, 1848, Yucatán and Campeche were once again reincorporated into the Mexican Republic.

On August 7, 1857, Campeche was split off from Yucatán and declared as a district of Yucatán. On May 18, 1858, Campeche was created as the District of Campeche and the Isla de Carmen. Subsequently, upon approval of the Congress, Campeche was declared an "Estado Libre y Soberano de Campeche" (Free and Sovereign State of Campeche) of the Mexican Federation on April 29, 1863. From May 1864 to January 10, 1867, Campeche was reincorporated into Yucatán before returning to permanent statehood.

Indigenous Campeche (1895-1910)

In the 1895 census, Campeche was reported to have 39,212 persons aged 5 years or more who spoke an indigenous language, representing 44.5% of the population. During the same census, Campeche’s Spanish-speaking population numbered 48,671. After this census, the number of indigenous speaking persons in Campeche dropped steadily, in 1900 to 35,977 indigenous speakers and in 1910 to 28,280. The majority of the indigenous speakers in 1910 communicated in the Mayan language (26,998 speakers). Fifty-one Yaquis were also tallied, possibly Porfiriato exiles from Sonora.

The Mayan Speakers in the 1910 Census

In Mexico’s 1910 census, 227,883 persons were classified as speakers of the Yucatec Mayan language, representing 11.62% of the 1,960,306 indigenous-speaking population in the entire country. Mayan speakers were represented in 14 Mexican states, but only four states had significant numbers of them.

Yucatán contained the largest number of Mayan speakers. A total of 199,073 Mayan speakers lived in that state, representing 87.36% of all the Yucatec Mayan speakers in the country. Campeche had the second largest number of Mayan speakers with 26,998, which represented 11.85% of all Mayan speakers. Two other states had significant numbers of Maya speakers: Quintana Roo (1,120) and Chiapas (638).

The 1921 Census

In the unique 1921 Mexican census, residents of each state were asked to classify themselves in several categories, including "indígena pura" (pure indigenous), "indígena mezclada con blanca" (indigenous mixed with white) and "blanca" (white). Out of a total state population of 76,419, 33,176 persons (or 43.4%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background. Slightly fewer – 31,675, or 41.5% – classified themselves as being mixed, while a mere 10,825 (14.2%) claimed to be white. When compared to the other Mexican states, Campeche had the sixth largest "indígena pura" population.

Although a significant number of people in Campeche claimed to be of pure indigenous heritage, a much smaller number – 23,410 – were classified as speakers of indigenous languages five years of age and more, representing 35.9% of the state population. All but five of these persons were Mayan Indians, while four spoke the Amuzgo language.

Indigenous Campeche (1930-1980)

In the 1930 census, the number of indigenous speakers five years of age and over in the state of Campeche climbed to 31,324, representing 43.65% of the state’s population five years of age and over. The fact that 16,233 indigenous speakers were monolingual and unable to speak Spanish (representing 51.82% of the indigenous-speaking population) was indicative that some natives of Campeche successfully avoided assimilation into the central Hispanic culture.

Over the next four decades, Campeche’s indigenous-speaking population continued to grow, even though its percentage of the population dropped significantly from 43.65% in 1930 to 27.09% in 1970. The Mayan language was, by far, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Campeche at the time of the 1970 census. At least 55,346 persons out of the 57,031 indigenous speakers spoke Mayan, representing 97.05% of all indigenous speakers in Campeche. The Chol language, in second place, was spoken by only 411 individuals, followed by Otomí (320) and Tzeltal (206).

Native Peoples of Campeche in 2000

According to the 2000 census, 185,938 residents of Campeche were classified as "Indígena," representing 26.9% of Campeche’s total population (690,689). In contrast, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages amounted to 93,765 individuals, who made up only 15.45% of Campeche’s population five years and older. These individuals spoke more than fifty Indian languages, some of which were transplants from Central America or other parts of the Mexican Republic. Although most of the indigenous speakers were bilingual, 5,308 persons were registered as monolingual.

According to the estimates of INEGI and CONAPO, Campeche had four municipios that contained an indigenous population greater than 50 percent. In three of those four municipios, persons speaking indigenous languages also represented at least half the population of the municipio. At the same time, only two municipios contained populations that were less than ten percent indigenous. And, while Campeche’s overall indigenous-speaking population represented 15.5% of the total state population five or more years of age, five municipios had indigenous-speaking populations that were less than ten percent.

Calkiní, the municipio in the northwest corner of Campeche along the border of Yucatán, boasted the largest number of indigenous inhabitants in 2000. According to census statistics, 42,008 persons were classified as "Indígena," representing 89.6% of the population of the municipio. Calkiní also contained 26,558 inhabitants 5 years of age or older who spoke some indigenous language, representing 63.16% of the municipio’s population and 28.3% of Campeche’s entire indigenous-speaking population of 93,765. Almost all of these individuals (26,453) spoke the Maya language.

The Maya Indians

In the year 2000, speakers of Yucatec Maya continued to represent the dominant language in the entire Yucatán Peninsula, with 547,098 (68.7%) in Yucatán, 163,477 (20.5%) in Quintana Roo, and 75,874 (9.5%) in Campeche. The 75,874 individuals 5 years of age and over who spoke the Mayan language in Campeche represented only 9.53% of the 796,314 Mayans who resided in the entire Mexican Republic in 2000 but also represented 80.9% of all indigenous language speakers in the state.

The Mayan language family has a strong presence in seven Mexican states (Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz) and is the second most common language group in all of Mexico.

The Mayan Language is the dominant indigenous language in all but three of Campeche’s municipios. In the 2000 census, four of the municipios had at least 10,000 Mayan speakers: Calkiní (26,453), Hopelchén (14,961), Campeche (12,463), and Hecelchakán (11,396). Adjacent to the Mayan-dominant Yucatán state, Calkiní contained 34.9% of all the Mayan speakers in Campeche in 2000.

The Chenes Region of Campeche (Hopelchen, and part of Campeche) contains a highly traditional and conservative Mayan population, which due to its relative isolation, has a significant number of Mayan monolingual speakers. In 2000, the 2,626 monolingual speakers in Campeche Municipio represented 9.9% of the entire indigenous-speaking population. In Hopelchen, 1,045 monolingual speakers represented 7.0% of those who spoke Indian tongues.

 

The Chol Indians

Some two thousand or more years ago, the Chol Indians inhabited the region which is now known as Guatemala and Honduras. Over time, they split into two main groups, the Chol migrating gradually to the region of present day Chiapas, and the Chortis staying in the region of Guatemala. The Choles of the present day call themselves "Winik" ("Man") and primarily occupy northern Chiapas, adjacent to the states of Tabasco and Campeche.

The Chol Indians of Campeche numbered 8,844 in the 2000 census and accounted for 9.4% of the indigenous-speaking population of the state. The small number of Chol living in Campeche, in fact, represented only 5.47% of the 161,766 Choles who lived in the entire Mexican Republic. According to Ethnologue.com, the Chol belong to the Chol-Chontal subfamily of the Mayan Linguistic Group. The Chontal of Tabasco are, in fact, a very closely related language as are the Chortí of Guatemala. The Chol are the dominant indigenous language in three southern Campeche municipios: Calakmul (4,253 speakers in 2000), Escárcega (1,804), and Candelaria (1,388).

The Kanjobal Indians

A total of 1,896 individuals five years of age or more in Campeche spoke the Kanjobal language in 2000, representing 2.0% of the population five years of age and older that spoke indigenous languages. The Kanjobal of Campeche represented 21.03% of the 9,015 Kanjobal-speakers living in the entire Mexican Republic in 2000. The Municipio of Champotón in southeastern Campeche contained 1,567 of the 1,896 Kanjobal-speakers in Campeche, but even in this municipio, they still only represented the second largest linguistic group (after the Mayans).

The Kanjobal Language belongs to the Kanjobalan-Chujean subfamily of the Mayan Linguistic Family. This subfamily includes the Chuj, Jacalteco, Kanjobal, Motozintleco (Mocho, Tuzanteco), and Tojolabal languages. Most of the languages of this subfamily straddle the border between Chiapas and Guatemala. Ethnologue reported that in 1998, 48,500 persons in Guatemala spoke the Kanjobal language, which represented 82.8% of the worldwide population of 58,600 at that time. The presence of Kanjobal as a language of Campeche is not unusual considering that the non-native population numbered 26.4% in 2000. In all, 14,262 speakers of indigenous languages in Campeche were born in other states or countries.

The Tzeltal Indians

The 1,706 individuals who spoke the Tzeltal language in Campeche in 2000 represented only 0.6% of the 284,826 Tzeltal-speakers in the entire Mexican Republic. According to the 2000 census, 278,577 persons five years of age or more who spoke the Tzeltal language lived in the State of Chiapas, representing 97.8% of the total population in the Republic.

The Mame Indians

The Mame language is not a common language in Campeche, largely because it is primarily a language of Guatemala, where as many as 200,000 people probably speak the language. In the Mexican Republic, however, Mame was spoken by only 7,680 individuals aged 5 or over in 2000. Mames inhabit small portions of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Chiapas, mainly in the southeastern frontier zones adjacent to Guatemala and principally in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. The majority of Mame speakers are immigrants from Guatemala who settled in refugee camps in recent decades.

Other Languages

Speakers of other indigenous languages in Campeche at the time of the 2000 census included the Tzotzil (552 speakers), Náhuatl (468), Zapoteco (468), Kekchi (366), and the Jacalteco (53). The Kekchi and Jacalteco, like the Mame language, are languages indigenous to Guatemala.

The Jacalteco language appears to be another language that is primarily spoken by migrants and refugees from Guatemala. According to the 2000 census, only 53 persons aged 5 and over spoke the Jacalteco language in Campeche, most of them inhabiting Champotón Municipio. The state of Chiapas, in contrast, had 453 persons of the same age range who spoke the language. But the language is most common in Guatemala, where approximately 20,000 people speak the language today.

The 2005 Conteo

The number of indigenous speakers five years of age and older actually decreased from 93,765 to 89,084 between the 2000 census and the 2005 census count. As such, the percentage of indigenous speakers dropped from 15.5% to 13.3%. It is expected that some immigration from Guatemala, Chiapas and the Yucatán will probably continue to contribute new speakers of Indian languages to the State. However, the number of actual indigenous speakers, as a portion of the total population, will probably continue its decline.

In spite of this, Campeche itself is a wonderful representation of the ancient Mayan world. With archaeological sites at Calakmul, Edzná, Balamkú, Becán, Chicanná, Dzbilnocac, Hochob, Xpuhil, Campeche can offer any tourist a glimpse into the life of the Mayan people when their culture was at its zenith. In this sense of the word, Campeche will always be indigenous and will always be Mayan.

© 2007, John P. Schmal. All rights reserved.

Primary Sources:

Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2003).

Peter Gerhard, The Southeast Frontier of New Spain (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

Raymond G. Gordon, Jr. (ed.), "Ethnologue: Linguistic Lineage for Maya, Yucatán," (Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, 2005). Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_lang_family.asp?code=yua [Accessed February 27, 2006].

Ralph L. Roys, The Political Geography of the Yucatan Maya (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1957).

France V. Scholes and Ralph L. Roys, The Maya Chontal Indians of Acalán-Tixchel: A Contribution to the History and Ethnography of the Yucatan Peninsula (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968, 2nd edition).

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).

 


OAXACA: A LAND OF DIVERSITY

By John P. Schmal

 

The Mexican state of Oaxaca, located along the Pacific Ocean in the southeastern section of the country, consists of 95,364 square kilometers and occupies 4.85% of the total surface area of the Mexican Republic. Located where the Eastern Sierra Madre and the Southern Sierra Madre come together, Oaxaca shares a common border with the states of Mexico, Veracruz and Puebla (on the north), Chiapas (on the east), and Guerrero (on the west).

The name Oaxaca was originally derived from the Náhuatl word, Huayacac, which roughly translated means The Place of the Seed in reference to a tree commonly found in Oaxaca. As the fifth largest state of Mexico, Oaxaca is characterized by extreme geographic fragmentation. With extensive mountain ranges throughout the state, Oaxaca has an average altitude of 1,500 meters (5,085 feet) above sea level, even though only about 9% of this is arable land. With such a large area and rough terrain, Oaxaca is divided into 571 municipios (almost one-quarter of the national total). 

Oaxaca's rugged topography has played a significant role in giving rise to its amazing cultural diversity. Because individual towns and tribal groups lived in isolation from each other for long periods of time, the subsequent seclusion allowed sixteen ethnolinguistic groups to maintain their individual languages, customs and ancestral traditions intact well into the colonial era and – to some extent – to the present day. For this reason, Oaxaca is – by and large – the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s thirty-one states. The Zapotec (347,000 people) and the Mixtec (241,000 people) are the two largest groups of Indians, but they make up only two parts of the big puzzle.

 

Even today, it is believed that at least half of the population of Oaxaca still speaks an indigenous dialect. Sixteen different indigenous groups have been formally registered as indigenous communities, all perfectly well defined through dialect, customs, food habits, rituals, cosmogony, etc. However, the historian María de Los Angeles Romero Frizzi suggests that "the linguistic categorization is somewhat misleading" partly because "the majority of indigenous peoples in Oaxaca identify more closely with their village or their community than with their ethnolinguistic group." 

In addition, Ms. Romero writes, some of the language families - including Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mazateco - "encompass a variety of regional languages, making for a more diverse picture than the number sixteen would suggest." When the Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Oaxaca in 1521, the inhabitants had split into hundreds of independent village-states. By the time of the 1900 Mexican Federal Census, 471,439 individuals spoke indigenous languages, representing 49.70% of the state population and 17.24% of the national population.

Then in the unique 1921 census, 25,458 residents of Oaxaca claimed to be of "pure indigenous" descent, equal to 3.96% of the state population. Another 328,724 persons were listed as "indigenous mixed with white" (called mestizo or mezclada). And in the 1930 census, 56.4% of Oaxaca’s population spoke indigenous languages.

By the time of the 1990 census, 1,018,106 persons aged five or more speaking indigenous languages made up 39.12% of the total state population and 19.3% of the national total of Indian-language speakers. This, however, did not count another 190,715 children aged 0 to 4 years of age, living with indigenous speakers. And an additional 383,199 Oaxaca residents were classified as having an indigenous identity (but not speaking an Amerindian language). Once you had added up all these figures, you will find that 1,592,020 persons of indigenous identity lived in the state, representing 52.72% of the total state population and 18.27% of the total indigenous population of the Mexican Republic.

Even in the 2000 census, 1,120,312 indigenous speaking persons aged five and older represented 37.11% of the state population five and over. Out of this total, 477,788 persons were classified as monolingual, representing 11.02% of the state population five years of age and older and 19.56% of the indigenous-speaking language.

Oaxaca's two largest indigenous groups are the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. The roots of these two indigenous groups stretch very deeply into the early Mesoamerican era of Oaxaca. Living in their mountain enclaves and fertile valleys, many of the early occupants of Oaxaca harvested corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chili, squash, pumpkin and gourds and fished the rivers for a wide range of fish. Their primary sources of meat were tepezuintle, turkey, deer, jabali, armadillo and iguana. 

Without a doubt, the Oto-Manguean language family is the largest linguistic group in the state of Oaxaca, represented by at least 173 languages. The author Nicholas A. Hopkins, in his article "Otomanguean Linguistic Prehistory," states that glottochronological studies of the Oaxaca Indian groups indicate that the first diversification of this group of languages had begun by 4400 B.C. It is believed that nine branches of the Oto-Manguean family were already distinct by 1500 B.C., and that some of this linguistic differentiation actually took place in the Valley of Tehuacán. Both the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs belong to this linguistic family.

The Zapotec Indians, a sedentary, agricultural city-dwelling people, are believed to be among the earliest ethnic groups to gain prominence in the region. As a matter of fact, the Zapotecs have always called themselves Be'ena'a, which means The People. The implication of this terminology is that the Zapotecs believe that they are "The True People" or "The people of this place." Unlike many other Mesoamerican Indians groups, the Zapotecs have no legend of migration and their legends claim that their ancestors emerged from the earth or from caves, or that they turned from trees or jaguars into people. Upon death, they believe, they would return to their former status. 

It is this belief that gave rise to the term Be'ena Za'a (Cloud People), which was applied to the Central Valley Zapotecs. In the pre-Hispanic era, Aztec merchants and soldiers dealing with these people translated their name phonetically into Náhuatl: Tzapotecatl. When the Spaniards arrived, they took this word and transformed it into Zapoteca. The Mixtecs, a sister culture of the Zapotecs, also received their "Aztec" name due to their identity as "Cloud People" (Ñusabi), but in their case the Náhuatl translation was literal, as Mixtecatl translates directly as "Cloud Person." In their art, architecture, hieroglyphics, mathematics, and calendar, the Zapotecs appeared to have shared cultural affinities with the ancient Olmec and the Mayan Indians. 

The Zapotec Indians may have emerged as the dominant group in Oaxaca as early as 100 B.C. Their most famous cultural center was Monte Albán, which is considered one of the most majestic ceremonial centers of Mesoamerica. Built in a mountain range overlooking picturesque valleys, Monte Albán is a complex of pyramids and platforms surrounding an enormous esplanade. This center was dedicated to the cult of the mysterious Zapotec gods and to the celebration of the military victories of the Zapotec people. The pinnacle of Monte Albán's development probably took place from 250 A.D. to 700 A.D., at which time Monte Albán had become home to some 25,000 people and was the capital city of the Zapotec nation.

However, sometime around A.D. 800, Monte Albán was suddenly abandoned. Some archaeologists have suggested that this move took place because the local resources of food and the fertility of the slopes had been severely depleted. However, the Zapotec culture itself continued to flourish in the valleys of Oaxaca and the Zapotecs moved their capital to Zaachila. From about 950 to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1521, there was minimal life at Monte Alban, except that the Mixtecs - who arrived in the Central Valleys between 1100 and 1350 - reused old tombs at the site to bury their own dignitaries. 

At about the same time that the Mixtecs arrived in Oaxaca, the Zapotec culture went into decline. Soon, the Mixtecs conquered Zapotecs and other indigenous groups. The Mixtecs originally inhabited the southern portions of what are now the states of Guerrero and Puebla. However, they started moving south and eastward, eventually making their way to the Central Valley of Oaxaca. In their newly adopted land, the Mixtecs became prolific expansionists and builders, leaving behind numerous as yet unexplored sites throughout the region. 

However, the Mixtecs' prominence in the Valley of Oaxaca was short-lived. By the middle of the Fifteenth Century, a new power appeared on the horizon. The Aztec Empire, centered in Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), was in the process of building a great empire that stretched through much of what is now southern Mexico. In the 1450s, the Aztec armies crossed the mountains into the Valley of Oaxaca with the intention of extending their hegemony into this hitherto unconquered region.

Soon, both the Zapotecs and Mixtecs would be struggling to keep the Aztecs from gaining control of their trade routes to Chiapas and Guatemala. After a series of long and arduous battles, the forces of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Ilhuicamina triumphed over the Mixtecs in 1458. In spite of their subservience to the Aztec intruders, the Mixtecs were able to continue exercising regional authority in the Valley. In 1486 the Aztecs established a fort on the hill of Huaxyácac (now called El Fortín), overlooking the present city of Oaxaca. This location thus became the seat of an Aztec garrison that was charged with the enforcement of tribute collection from the restive subjects of this wealthy province.

 

The ascendancy of the Aztecs in Oaxaca would only last a little more than three decades. In 1521, as the Zapotecs, Mixtecs and other vassals of the Aztecs worked the fields and paid tribute to their distant rulers, news arrived that strange invaders with beards and unusual weapons had arrived from the eastern sea. As word spread throughout Mesoamerica, many indigenous groups thought that the arrival of these strangers might be the fulfillment of ancient prophesies predicting the downfall of the Aztecs. 

Then, in August 1521, came the news that the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán had fallen to a combined force of Spanish and Indian soldiers under the command of a white-skinned, red-haired man named Hernán Cortés. Word of this conquest spread quickly, causing the inhabitants over a large area to speculate on what was to come next.

In addition to the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, fourteen other indigenous groups have lived and flourished throughout the present-day state of Oaxaca. While they never achieved the numbers and influence attained by the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, they, nevertheless, represent an important factor in the historical and cultural panorama of Oaxaca.  These indigenous groups are described below:

Amuzgos. As a part of the Oto-Manguean language family, the Amuzgo Indians inhabit the border region of southeastern Guerrero and southwestern Oaxaca. Speaking three primary dialects, an estimated 28,000 Amuzgos were registered in the 1990 Mexican census. However, only twenty percent of this number were living in Oaxaca, with the majority residing in Guerrero.

 

The Amuzgos call themselves Tzjon non, which means People of the Textiles.  In 1457, the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Illhuicamia partially conquered these people. However rebellions against Aztec rule took place in 1494 and 1504-7. Although the uprisings were suppressed, the Aztecs never totally subjugated the Amuzgos. Today, the Amuzgos of Oaxaca live in Putla and San Pedro Amuzgos. For the 2000 census, 4,819 individuals aged five or more claimed to speak the Amuzgo language, representing 0.43% of Oaxaca’s total indigenous figure. This makes the Amuzgo language the thirteenth most common linguistic group of all Oaxaca’s indigenous tongues.

 

Chatinos. The Chatino nation, boasting an area of 3,071 square miles (7,677 square kilometers) is located in southwestern Oaxaca. The Chatinos belong to the Oto-Manguean language group and speak seven main dialects. Historical researchers believe that they were one of the first indigenous groups to inhabit the State of Oaxaca. In his book, Historia de Oaxaca, the historian José Antonio Gay speculates that they arrived in a scarcely-populated area (now in the municipio of Juquila) from a "distant land" long before the arrival of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs.

The Chatinos call themselves Kitse cha'tnio, which means Work of the Words. The Chatinos were a military-oriented group who made war against both the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. However, the Mixtecs eventually defeated them some years before the arrival of the Spaniards.  In 2000, the Chatinos represented sixth most common indigenous tribe of Oaxaca, represented by 40,004 persons aged five and over who spoke the language (3.57% of the population).

Chinantecos. The Chinantecos, numbering more than 104,000 people, presently inhabit the Chinantla region of north central Oaxaca near the border of Veracruz. As a division of the Oto-Manguean linguistic group, the Chinantecos speak as many as 14 different dialects. The Chinantecos of San Juan Lealao in northeast Oaxaca, who speak a divergent variety of the language, call themselves Dsa jmii (Plains people) and refer to their language as Fah jmii (Plains language). 

The Chinantecos presently inhabit an area in which archaeologists have located temples that were apparently used as ceremonial centers, and where prisoners were supposedly sacrificed during the most important celebrations of the year. Historians believe that the Indians living in this region were struggling to maintain their independence against sudden and numerous attacks by the Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Mixes and Aztecs. The latter, led by Moctezuma I, finally conquered the Chinantla region during the Fifteenth Century, forcing its inhabitants to pay tribute and participate in the religious practices in honor of the Aztec deities.  In the 1970 census, 52,313 persons five years of age and older living in Oaxaca spoke the Chinanteco language, which is the fourth largest ethnic group (7.72%), behind the Zapotecs, Mixtecs, and Mazatecos. However, between 1970 and 2000, the number of Chinanteco speakers rose dramatically to 104,010, equivalent to 9.28% of Oaxaca’s total indigenous population.

Chocho. Living in the northern zone of "Mixteca Alta" (Upper Mixteca), near Oaxaca's border with Puebla, the Chocho people (also known as Chochones and Chocholtecas) call themselves Runixa ngiigua, which means Those Who Speak The Language. Inhabiting a region that is rich in archaeological sites, this tribe belongs to the Oto-Manguean family. 

The land of Chochones was conquered by the Mixtecs, followed, in 1461, by an invasion of the Aztecs led by Moctezuma Ilhuicamina. The Aztec conquest of the Mixtecs and Chochos was economic in nature. The subjects were forced to pay tribute to the Aztecs but were allowed to maintain their traditions and political autonomy.

Chontales. Chontal is the name of two very distinct languages spoken in the states of Tabasco and Oaxaca. This group's physical separation, enhanced by its different geographical and climactic conditions, has propitiated its division into Coastal and Mountain groups. Chontal Tabasco is a member of the Mayan language family and Chontal Oaxaca a member of the Hokan language family, which is more widely represented in the Southwestern United States and the border states of Baja California and Sonora. The Chontales of Oaxaca refer to themselves Slijuala xanuc, which means Inhabitants of the Mountains.

The origins of the Oaxacan Chontal population have not been conclusively determined, but some archaeologists believe that they originally came from Nicaragua. Warfare may have motivated them to move north, through what is now Honduras, Yucatán and Tabasco. Eventually, they settled down in both Oaxaca and Tabasco. Founded in 1374, the Kingdom of the Chontals eventually came into conflict with the Zapotecs. After a series of ongoing confrontations, the Zapotecs finally defeated them. Under Spanish rule, the Chontales carried on a formidable resistance for some time. In the 2000 census, 4,610 Chontal de Oaxaca were tallied at 4,610, representing 0.41% of the state’s total indigenous speaking population. Today, the Chontal Oaxaca inhabit the southernmost region of Oaxaca and speak two major dialects.

 

Cuicateco. Cuicateco territory, located in northwestern Oaxaca, occupies an approximate area of 3,243 square miles. Little is known about the Cuicateco people, due to the destruction of maps, codex and other written testimony by the Spanish about the Mixteca and Zapotec cultures, with which they were intimately related. However, archaeological research conducted in some of the ruins in the region they currently inhabit, have led some historians to speculate that the Cuicateco are descended from Toltecan immigrants, who dispersed with the fall of Tula in 1064. 

Because they inhabited the fertile lowlands of the Cuicatlan River, the Cuicateco nation was a frequent target of other Indian groups. After fighting off numerous invasions, they eventually came into the orbit of the Mixtec nation. However, when the Aztecs arrived in 1456, the Cuicatecos formed an alliance with them, seeking to free themselves of Mixtec oppression. By the time of the Spanish arrival, their population numbered 60,000. However, in the 2000 census, only 12,128 persons five years of age or more claimed to speak the Cuicateco language, representing more than one percent of Oaxaca’s total indigenous population, living primarily in northwestern Oaxaca.

Huave. Although the origins of the Huave nation have not been indisputably determined, some historians believe that this group came from a distant land, possibly from Nicaragua or even as far away as Peru. It is believed that the Huave arrived by sea, traveling along the coast as they sought out a new home. Finally, they reached the Tehuantepec coast, inhabited by the Mixe nation, who did not oppose their settlement.

Eventually, the Huave nation conquered a large expanse of Oaxacan territory, known today as Jalapa del Marques. However, Aztec armies under the command of Moctezuma I invaded and conquered both the Zapotec and Huave kingdoms, forcing both to pay tribute. Then, the Zapotecs, taking advantage of their weakened condition, invaded the territory of the Huaves and obliged them to flee the Jalapa del Marques Valley for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (now in southeastern Oaxaca) where they still live today, occupying a small strip of coastline just east of the city of Tehuantepec. Today, the 13,678 Huave speakers of Oaxaca – who represent 1.2% of the total indigenous population of Oaxaca’s indigenous people in the 2000 census – call themselves Mero ikooc, which means The True Us. As small as their group is, they are actually the eighth-most common language spoken.

Ixcatecos. The Ixcateco Indians inhabit only the town of Santa Maria de Ixcatlán in the municipio of the same name, in the north part of the state. Living in one of the most arid, eroded and poorest regions of the country, the Ixcatecos are the only remnants of the pre-Hispanic Ixcateco nation, which once occupied another seven communities. These towns were probably abandoned because of the lack of water and agricultural failure. Due to the inaccessibility of their territory, the Ixcatecos remained an independent nation until the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II overwhelmed them early in the Sixteenth Century. 

Mazatecos. Occupying the northernmost region of the state, the Mazatecos occupy two environmentally and culturally well-defined regions: the upper Sierra Madre Oriental mountains and the Papaloapan Basin. The Mazatecos call themselves Ha shuta enima, which means People of Custom. Some historians, in their interpretation of the Quauhtinchan Annals, believe that the Mazatecos descend from the Nonoalca-Chichimecas, who migrated south from Tula early in the Twelfth Century.

In recent decades, the Mazatecos Indians have represented one of the largest linguistic groups in Oaxaca. With 93,376 individuals aged five and older speaking Mazatec in 1970, this linguistic group was used by 13.79% of indigenous speakers. These numbers increased significantly in the 2000 census, when 174,352 Mazateco speakers were tallied, representing 15.6% of the total indigenous speaking population of Oaxaca. A significant number of Mazatecos also occupy Veracruz and Puebla.

Mixes. Although they represent the fourth largest of Oaxaca's ethnic groups, the Mixes are an isolated ethnic group that inhabits the northeastern part of Oaxaca, close to the border with Veracruz. This region consists of 19 municipios and 108 communities. The Mixes call themselves Ayuuk, which means The People. Some historians believe that the Mixes may have migrated from present-day Peru in search of Zempoaltepetl, a pagan god, and the Hill of Twenty Gods. Another theory claims that they came from the tropical zone of the Gulf of Mexico. 

What is known is that the Mixes arrived in Oaxaca, on successive excursions, from 1294 to 1533. They immediately came into conflict with both the Mixtecs and Zapotecs, with whom they fought many battles. Later on, however, they allied themselves with the Zapotecs against the Aztecs. And, with the arrival of the Spaniards from Tenochtitlán, their stubborn resistance continued. In the 2000 census, 105,443 persons aged five or more were classified as speakers of one or more of the seven distinct dialects of the Mixe. The Mixe thus represented 9.4% of the total indigenous speaking population, with approximately 38,000 of these people classified as monolingual, making them the Mexican indigenous group with the highest rate of monolingualism.

Mixtecs. Today, the Mixtec Indians, who were discussed earlier in this article, inhabit a geographic region of more than 40,000 square kilometers in northwestern Oaxaca and smaller portions of Puebla and Guerrero. The Mixtec territory is divided into three subregions: the Upper Mixteca, Lower Mixteca and the Coast Mixteca. The Upper Mixteca, covering 38 municipios, is the most populated region. The Lower Mixteca covers another 31 municipios in northwestern Oaxaca. In 1970, 168,725 persons aged five or more spoke the Mixtec language, representing 24.9% of Oaxaxa’s indigenous population. The 2000 census tallied 241,383 Mixtec speakers, representing 21.6% of the states’ indigenous-speaking population.

Today, the Mixtecs call themselves Ñuu Savi, the People of the rain. The Mixtecan language family, as one of the largest and most diverse families in the Oto-Manguean group, includes three groups of languages: Mixtec, Cuicatec, and Trique. 

Popoloco. The term Popoloca was applied by the Aztecs to all those nations that did not speak a tongue based on Náhuatl, more or less understandable among them. Therefore, the term had the connotation of stranger or foreigner and, at the same time, a derogatory denotation for "barbaric", "stuttering" and "unintelligent". The Spaniards continued using the term in the same manner. The Popoluca call themselves Homshuk, which means God of Corn. Today, the Popolca population is divided in three fractions speaking six primary dialects, with no geographical continuity evident. 

Tacuates. The Tacuates, who speak a variant of the Mixtec language, occupy two of Oaxaca's municipios. It is believed that their name evolved from the Náhuatl word, Tlacoatl, which was derived from tlal (Land) and coal (serpent, snake). The implication is that the Tacuates lived in the land of the serpents.

Trique. The Triques inhabit a 193-square-mile area in the southern Sierra Madre Mountains in the westernmost part of Oaxaca. Historians believe that the Triques, long ago, had fled from some distant land, seeking refuge from warring neighbors. Once in Oaxaca, they were defeated by both the Zapotecs and Mixtecs. Then, in the Fifteenth Century, the Aztec armies defeated them decisively and forced them to pay tribute. In the 2000 census, 15,203 inhabitants of Oaxaca aged five and over spoke the Trique language, making it the eighth month common tongue in the state.

Zapotecs. The Zapotecs, who were discussed in greater detail above, are the largest indigenous group of Oaxaca and presently occupy 67 municipios of Oaxaca. The Zapotec language is the most widely spoken language of Oaxaca. In 1970, there were 246,138 Zapotec speakers, representing 36.3% of Oaxaca’s total indigenous-speaking population. While that population has increased significantly to 347,020 in the 2000 census, the percentage of Zapotec speakers actually dropped to 31%. Of the 173 living Oto-Manguean tongues, sixty-four are Zapotecan. 

Zoque. The Zoque tribe, also called Aiyuuk, is closely related to the Mayan-Chique family. The Zoque call themselves O'deput, which means People of the Language. The main nucleus of the Zoques is in Chiapas, where approximately 15,000 speak the language. The Oaxaca branch of the tribe probably does not amount to more than 10,000 people. Many of their customs, social organizations, religion beliefs, and way of life were identical to those of the Mixe community, with whom they probably share a common origin in Central America.

The Encounter (1521). When the Zapotec leaders heard that the powerful Aztec Empire had been overcome by the strangers from the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to send a delegation to seek an alliance with this new powerful force. Intrigued by this offer, Hernán Cortés promptly sent representatives to consider their offer.

On November 25, 1521, Francisco de Orozco arrived in the Central Valley to take possession of this land in the name of Cortés. A wide alluvial plain of about 700 square kilometers, the Valley of Oaxaca had a native population of about 350,000 at this time. Soon, both the Zapotec and Mixtec caciques of the Oaxaca Valley submitted to Orozco. Thus, writes the historian William B. Taylor, "Peaceful conquest spared the Valley of Oaxaca the loss of life and the grave social and psychological dislocations experienced by the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico."

Francisco de Orozco did meet with some resistance in Antequera, but by the end of 1521, his forces had subdued the indigenous resistance. Cortés friends' Pedro de Alvarado and Gonzalo de Sandoval also arrived in Oaxaca to search for gold in the Sierras. Their reports led Cortés to seek the title of Marqués del Valle of Oaxaca in 1526, so that he might reserve some of the land's wealth for his own well-being.

In the course of the next decade, dramatic changes took place in the Valley. Starting in 1528, Dominican friars established permanent residence in Antequerea. After the Bishopric of Oaxaca was formally established in 1535, Catholic priests arrived in ever-increasing numbers. Armed with a fiery zeal to eradicate pagan religions, the Catholic missionaries persevered in their work. Settlers arriving from Spain brought with them domestic animals that had hitherto never been seen in Oaxaca: horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, mules and oxen. 

However, while little resistance was encountered in the Mixteca Alta or the Mazateca-Cuicateca of northern Oaxaca and in the three central valleys of Oaxaca, Mr. Spores wrote that "principal pockets of opposition were Tututepec on the Pacific coastal plain, the Zapotec Sierra, and Tehuantepec." 

The Mixes of the Sierra, adept in their native mountainous terrain, resisted the Spanish intrusions onto their lands from the very start. Mr. Spores wrote that the Mixes of the Sierra, "sometimes in alliance with Zapotecs and Zoques, were a difficult foe. They fiercely resisted the Spaniards not only during the initial encounter and conquest of 1522-23 but throughout most of the first century of the colony's existence." 

In 1570, the Mixes rebelled and, as Mr. Spores writes, "rampaged through the Sierra Zapoteca, burning and looting Zapotec communities and threatening to annihilate the Spaniards in [the presidio of] Villa Alta." The Spaniards, however, in alliance with 2,000 Mixtecs from Cuilapa and Aztecs living in Analco, were able to contain the rebellion. Following this defeat, the Mixes "elected to retreat to the remoteness of their mountain villages rather than risk inevitable destruction. There they remained throughout the colonial period, and it is there that they may be found today." Antonio Gay, in fact, stated that the Spaniards "never emerged victorious over the Mixes."

In the decades following the Spanish encounter, a series of devastating epidemics wreaked havoc on the native population of all Mexico. Before the first century had ended, some nineteen major epidemics had come and gone. The exposure of the Oaxacan Indians to smallpox, chicken pox, diphtheria, influenza, scarlet fever, measles, typhoid, mumps, influenza, and cocoliztli (a hemorrhagic disease) took a huge toll. As a result, Ms. Romero has written that the native population declined from 1.5 million in 1520 to 150,000 people in 1650.

It is interesting to note that while only 9 percent of Oaxaca's land is arable, the Indians continued to dominate landholding in all areas of Oaxaca throughout the entire colonial period. However, Mr. Spores noted that occasionally Spanish merchants and officials attempted "to take advantage of their politically and economically superior status." This, in turn, "provoked conflict with the Indians." But such "Indian resistance in Oaxaca was sporadic."

In summarizing Indigenous Oaxaca's "responses to abuse, exploitation, dissatisfaction, and deprivation," Mr. Spores writes that "overwhelmingly" the dominant response was "to resort to the administrative-judicial system for rectification or to yield to colonial control." Continuing, Mr. Spores concluded that "only rarely, and under the most trying circumstances, did natives turn to violent confrontation, massive passive resistance, or revitalistic movements as mechanisms for redressing grievances or resolving conflict." Finally, on February 3, 1824, the state of Oaxaca was founded within the newly-independent Mexican Republic, after 303 years of Spanish rule.

No discussion of Indigenous Oaxaca can be complete without mentioning Benito Juárez. Born on March 21, 1806 in the village of San Pablo Guelato in the jurisdiction of Santa Tomás Ixtlan, to Zapotec parents (Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García), Juárez became one of Mexico's greatest heroes. 

Trained as a lawyer, he was eventually elected Governor of Oaxaca and the President of the Mexican Republic. Juárez ruled over Mexico during a time of great dissension and polarization. As President, he initiated liberal reforms in education and civil rights and made separation of church and state the law of the land. When revolution drove him from Mexico City, he set up his government elsewhere. When France invaded Mexico, Juárez displayed a tenacity of will that inspired all of Mexico. Moving from one city to the next, he never surrendered to the European occupiers. Like his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, he united a nation that was at war with itself.

However, for the people of Oaxaca, Benito Juárez is both a legend and a symbol. Juárez became the first and only full-blooded Indian man to take office as Mexico's President. The people of Oaxaca will always look to Benito Juárez as the man who proved that a person of indigenous roots is capable of achieving greatness.

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal.

Sources:

Adams, Richard E.W., Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Oklahoma City: Un of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Ethnologue.com, Languages of Mexico. From Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 14th edition, Online: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=Mexico   July 28, 2001.

Frizzi, María de Los Angeles Romero, "The Indigenous Population of Oaxaca From the Sixteenth Century to the Present," in Richard E.W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume II, Mesoamerica, Part 2. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Gay, José Antonio, Historia de Oaxaca. Distrito Federal, Mexico: Porrúa, 1982.

Hopkins, Nicholas A., "Otomanguean Linguistic Prehistory," in J. Kathryn Josserand, Marcus Winter, and Nicholas Hopkins (eds.), Esays in Otomanguean Culture History – Vanderbuilt University Publications in Anthropology No. 31 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 1984), pp. 25-64.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Tabulados Básicos. Estados Unidos Mexicanos. XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda, 2000. (Mexico, 2001).

Taylor, William B., Landlord and Peasant in Colonial Oaxaca. Stanford, California: Stanford Un Press, 1972.

Zwollo, Juan Antonio Ruiz, Oaxaca's Tourist Guide: Indigenous Villages. 1995-2000. Online: http://oaxaca-travel.com/guide/indigenous   July 20, 2001


Indigenous Yucatán

By John P. Schmal

The state of Yucatán is located in the northern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. Surrounded by the states of Campeche (southwest) and Quintana Roo (southeast) and by the Gulf of Mexico (north), Yucatán consists of 43,380 square kilometers (16,749 square miles), or 2% of Mexico’s total land area. Yucatán is about half the size of Maine and shares a 342-kilometer coastline with the Gulf of Mexico.

Politically, Yucatán is divided into 106 municipios. Its capital is Mérida (with a population of about 734,153 in 2005), which is ranked twelfth among the most populous Mexican metropolitan regions. The greater Yucatan Peninsula consists of 197,600 square kilometers (76,300 square miles) and includes parts of Belize and Guatemala.

The Mayan World

It is believed that human beings have probably inhabited the area of present-day Yucatán for 7,000 years or more. For the last few thousand years, the Mayan Indians have inhabited the entire Yucatán Peninsula, as well as the surrounding regions. The Mayan culture flourished for many centuries with the people making a living through agriculture, hunting and fishing. The Mayan archaeological sites left behind testify to a people who were skilled at weaving and the creation of pottery and other artifacts. Hundreds of pyramids, temples and other structures scattered throughout the Yucatán stand as testimony to the Mayan’s skill in construction of complex buildings.

The physical "boundaries" of the ancient Mayan empire spanned across a region that now includes parts of five nations. In the South, the Mayan world consisted of modern day Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and western Honduras. The northern reaches of Mayan territory included large portions of five Mexican states, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas. In all, the territory occupied by the Maya was probably 500,000 square kilometers in area, and is sometimes referred to collectively as El Mundo Maya (The Mayan World).

The Early Mayans

The Mayans studied the stars and, in their study of astronomy, were able to develop their own calendar. They were gifted architects who built temples and pyramids, but they were also farmers who provided sustenance for their communities. The "Classic Period" took place from 300 to 900 A.D. and covered most of the area presently recognized as El Mundo Maya. It was followed by the "Post-Classic Period" which lasted from about 1000 AD to 1500 AD.

Sixteen Mayan States

The Maya ethnohistorian, Ralph L. Roys, wrote that at the time of the Spanish arrival in Yucatán, the Peninsula was "occupied by… sixteen native states… The inhabitants seem to have considered themselves a single people and each of these territorial divisions was called a cuchcabal (literally ‘jurisdiction’), which the Spaniards translated [as] province." According to Dr. Roys, apparently the entire area had been ruled from a government center at Mayapan until the middle of the fifteenth century, when a great revolution destroyed the capital city. After the revolution, the land was split up into sixteen states, which was what the Spaniards found when they arrived in 1517. [Ralph L. Roys, "The Political Geography of the Yucatan Maya" (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1957), pp. 3-4]

Roys remarked that "the population of the Yucatán peninsula was, for so large an area, remarkably uniform in language, customs, and fundamental political ideas. Almost everywhere horticulture and agriculture followed the same pattern." With the exception of Acalan in present-day Tabasco, all sixteen provinces spoke the Mayan language (In Acalan, they spoke the Chontal language of Tabasco)

The Mayan Languages

The Mayan language group has been divided into several groups: the Huastec, Yucatec, Western Maya, and Eastern Maya linguistic groups. The Huastec represent a northern extension of the Mayan people who settled in present-day Veracruz. The Western Maya language group consists of several significant language groups (Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Tojolabal, Chuj, Kanjobal, Jacaltec, Chontal and Motozintlec), most of which are spoken in Chiapas and Guatemala. The Yucatec language was and is spoken throughout much of the Yucatán Peninsula, which presently includes three Mexican states (Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo) and the northern parts of both Belize and Guatemala.

First Contacts with the Spaniards

Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first navigator to visit the coast of Yucatán Peninsula in 1508. A second expedition, led by Juan de Valdivia, was shipwrecked along the coast in 1511. Most of the men who made it ashore were killed by natives. But two men, Geronimo de Aguilar and Gonzalo Guerrero, were captured by the Maya. While Guerrero became a member of the Mayans and married the daughter of a chieftain, Aguilar was rescued by Hernán Cortés as he passed along the coast in 1519 and became an interpreter for the Spaniards in their confrontations with the Mayans and other tribes.

Francisco de Cordoba’s expedition to the area in 1517 had several bloody engagements with the local inhabitants and was followed a year later by an expedition under the command of Juan de Grijalva who landed near Cozumel and took formal possession of the land for Spain. A year later, Hernán Cortés lead a new campaign that eventually made its way to the heart of the Aztec Empire and ended in the conquest of Tenochtitlán (in 1521). After the conquest of the Aztecs, Pedro de Alvarado, one of Cortés’ chief lieutenants, began his conquest of the Mayans in late 1523. Most of Alvarado’s campaign concentrated on the Quiché Maya and Cakchiquel that lived in what is now Guatemala.

The Montejo Campaigns (1527-1547)

In December 1526, a wealthy nobleman Francisco de Montejo was granted a royal contract (capitulación) to raise an army and conquer the Yucatán Peninsula. In 1527, commanding three ships and several hundred Spanish soldiers, Montejo left Spain, destined for the Yucatán. Montejo’s force arrived at Cozumel in September 1527 and proceeded inland. Early in 1528, the Spaniards fought a large battle at Aké, 10 miles north of Tizimin (which is about 160 kilometers from Mérida). Both sides suffered an incredible number of casualties. Soon after, Montejo left the Yucatán with a greatly reduced force.

Montejo made plans for another expedition to Yucatán. This time, he would be accompanied by his son – who was called "El Mozo" (The Youthful) – and his nephew ("Sobrino"). The second attempt to conquer the indigenous peoples of the Yucatán took place from 1531 to 1535. For awhile, the younger Montejo had subdued portions of northern Yucatán. However, news of the great riches found by Pizarro and his soldiers in Peru (1528-1532) led to many desertions among the Spanish force in Yucatán. The elder Montejo became the Captain General of Honduras in 1535, but lost his claim to that territory in 1539.

In 1540, Francisco de Montejo "El Mozo" returned to the Yucatán to begin the third attempt to conquer the area, a task that would take six years. By this time, the Mayans had been reduced and weakened by smallpox and other diseases. El Mozo started by setting up a headquarters in Campeche, with a force of almost 400 soldiers. Once he had established his position, he summoned many of the Mayan rulers to his base. By the end of 1541, many of the chieftains had submitted to the Spanish crown. Conflict between several native groups – promoted by the Spaniards – brought about a further weakening of the Mayans.

Forming alliances with some of the local chieftains (such as the Pech and the Xiu) during 1541, the Montejos were able to subdue the native settlements in the provinces of Canpech and Ah Canul, bringing the present-day municipios of Tenabo, Hecelchakan and Calkini under control. Later in the year, Montejo founded "La Villa and Puerto de San Francisco de Campeche" to further enhance the Spanish occupation of the area. However, the Spanish encomiendas (royal grants) caused great suffering among the local people and – at times – galvanized resistance to the newcomers; as a result, complete conquest of the region eluded the Spanish administrators.

In late 1541, Montejo decisively defeated the Mayans in a bloody battle at Tihoo. A few months later, on January 6, 1542, Francisco de Montejo "El Mozo" established the city of Mérida, which was built on the site of a Mayan city that was known as Ichcaanzihó or "The City of Five Hills" (the hills were actually pyramids). This area had been one of the primary centers of Mayan culture for many centuries. But this point, Scholes and Roys wrote that "from here the forces of occupation, strengthened by new recruits, moved into the northern, central, and eastern parts of the Maya country."

The last holdouts were several Mayan chiefdoms in the eastern part of the peninsula. They were finally subdued after a failed four-month uprising that began in November 1546, and the conquest of the Yucatán was finally considered complete by 1547. Only the Itzá people – living in the region of Lake Petén in present-day northern Guatemala – remained independent. The Itzá kingdom did not submit to Spanish rule until March 13, 1697 when the island capital in Lake Petén was stormed by Spanish troops.

The Colonial Period

The history of the indigenous peoples of the Yucatán between 1546 and Mexican independence is an exceptionally complex story. In 1545, the first Franciscan friars entered the Yucatán to initiate missionary work among the indigenous people. By 1593, over 150 Franciscan monks had been engaged in missionary work in the Peninsula. In some areas, the conversion was successful; in other areas, the loyalty to Christianity was so weak that during rebellions, the indigenous religions would be embraced once again.

Because the Mayan lands were offered as land grants to Spanish noblemen and to the Catholic Church, some Mayans became, in effect, slave labor. Although the Spanish Crown outlawed Indian slavery in the Yucatán in royal edicts of 1549 and 1551, many elements of the Mayan population were, in fact, forced to work under horrible conditions.

At many points during the Seventeenth Century the Mayans rebelled against Spanish rule, some times to protest their difficult work conditions. Sixteenth Century rebellions took place in 1610-33, 1636-44, 1653, 1669, 1670 and 1675. Of all these, the revolt that took place from 1636 to 1644 was the most wide-ranging and serious, resulting in a temporary revival of the old indigenous religious rites.

The Revolt of 1761

Sporadic revolts continued into the Eighteenth Century. In early November 1761, Jacinto Canek became the leader of a new rebellion. Jacinto had adopted the name Canek to suggest that he had a relation to the previous kingdom of the Itzás. After organizing a force of 1,500 Mayans, Canek’s force was confronted by a well-armed Spanish force of 500 soldiers on November 26, 1761 in the plaza of Cisteil (near present-day Sotuta).

In the hand-to-hand fighting, the Spanish forces gained the upper hand. Ultimately, the village was burned and it is believed that as many as 500 Indians perished in the blaze. Canek himself escaped with a small guard, fleeing to Huntulchac. There he assembled a force of about 300 men who had also escaped from Cisteil. But Canek and about 125 followers were then apprehended at Sibac. Canek and eight other organizers of the rebellion were executed in December 1761 –a month after the uprising had begun.

Political Developments (1787-1824)

In 1787, the area of the present-day state of Yucatán was made part of the Intendencia of Valladolid, a part of the colony of Nueva España. But with Mexican independence, Yucatán became a part of the new nation as of September 28, 1821. Yucatán proclaimed its own sovereignty in August 1822 but was re-incorporated into Mexico in February 1824, becoming a state within the Mexican Republic on October 3, 1824.

Separatist Activities in Yucatán (1838-1847)

During the mid-1830s, the authorities in Yucatán became discontent with the central government in Mexico City. Finally, in May 1838, an insurrection started in Tizimín, with the rebels advocating for Yucatecan independence. On May 31, 1841, Yucatán once again declared its independence from Mexico in opposition to President Antonio López de Santa Anna and his administration that had ignored earlier concessions he made to the State. Governor Santiago Méndez ordered all Mexican flags removed from Yucatecan buildings.

Santa Anna refused to recognize Yucatán's independence, and he barred Yucatecan ships and commerce from Mexican ports and ordered Yucatán's ports blockaded. He sent an army to invade Yucatán in 1843. Although the Yucatecans defeated the Mexican force, the loss of economic ties to the Mexican Republic had a negative effect on Yucatecan commerce. Yucatán's governor Miguel Barbachano y Tarrazo decided to use the victory as an opportunity to return to negotiations with Santa Anna's government from a position of strength. It was then agreed that Yucatán would be returned to Mexico so long as various assurances of the right to self rule and adherence to the 1825 Constitution within the Peninsula were observed by Mexico City. The treaty reincorporating Yucatán into Mexico was signed in December 1843. Ultimately, Miguel Barbachano would serve as the Governor of Yucatán for five terms between 1841 and 1853.

Caste War of Yucatán (1847–1849)

In 1847, while the Mexican dictator Santa Anna was preoccupied with his war with the United States, Yucatan's Liberal leadership – consisting primarily of Ladinos (mestizos) and Yucatecos (citizens of Yucatán of European descent) – declared independence from Mexico. The Mayan Indians were brought into the revolt by promises of land reform and the abolition of debt labor, church dues and the aguardiente tax. But after providing the Indians with arms and military training, the Merida administration balked on their promises and the Mayan troops in Valladolid began to riot.

The revolt gained momentum and quickly spread across the entire state which – at that time – included the area that now includes three states: Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. Eventually the homes, shops, plantations and government offices of wealthy ladinos were sacked. This revolt – which became known as the "La Guerra de las Castas" or "The War of the Castes"– was primarily directed against the Yucatecos who held most of the political and economic control in the region. The Yucatecos – primarily concentrated in the northwest part of the state – were nearly driven into the sea by the successful Mayan revolt.

Within three months of the beginning of the rebellion, indigenous forces under General Cecilio Chi – a veteran of the Mexican army – had conquered roughly four-fifths of the peninsula from Spanish/Mexican rule. Only the walled cities of Campeche and Mérida and portions of the southwest remained under European control.

As the Mayan army advanced on Mérida during the spring of 1848, the Yucatecos were preparing to evacuate the city. However, when things looked most bleak for the Yucatecos, the Maya suddenly broke off their attack and returned to their fields to plant their corn, in observance of Mayan tradition. The maize planting season had arrived. It has been claimed that the appearance of flying ants after a heavy rain was the traditional signal to mark the beginning of the planting season.

The Mayans felt a strong responsibility to provide food for their families, but, during the summer months, the Yucatecos were able to regroup. At the same time, Yucatán was once again officially reunited with Mexico on August 17, 1848. Now that the state had once again become part of the Mexican Republic, fresh guns, money and troops from Mexico arrived and, by 1849, the Yucatecos had amassed sufficient supplies and reinforcements from abroad to reclaim the land back from the Maya. When General Chi was murdered, the rebellion collapsed.

The Beginning of the Talking Cross Uprising (1850-1858)

In 1850, a new threat to Yucatán’s stability materialized. The Mayans in the southeast (now Quintana Roo) were inspired to renew their struggle through the apparition of the "Talking Cross." It was said that in a remote refugee settlement known as Chan Santa Cruz (Small Holy Cross), the Mayans believed that God was communicating with them through a wooden cross which impelled them to once again raise their weapons against the Europeans. The cultists called themselves "Cruzob" – the Spanish word for cross with the Maya plural suffix. With the help of arms supplied by the British (who occupied neighboring British Honduras – now Belize), the Maya declared war against the Yucatecos again.

The new rebellion was infused with religious significance and Chan Santa Cruz became the political and religious center of the resistance. The city – which is located in present day Quintana Roo – was later renamed Felipe Carrillo Puerto after a native-born politician who was assassinated in 1924. The United Kingdom recognized the Chan Santa Cruz Maya as a de facto independent country, in large part because of the thriving trade between the rebel government and British Honduras.

The Separation of Campeche (1858-1863)

But military pressure on the Cruzob rebellion was distracted when Yucatán’s troops responded to a new separatist revolt in the poorer Yucatán region of Campeche (in the southwestern part of the peninsula). On May 3, 1858, Campeche was formally separated from Yucatán, although it was not recognized as a separate sovereign territory until 1863 by President Benito Juarez.

Operations against the Cruzob

In 1860, the Mexican Colonel Pedro Acereto, with a force of 3,000, reached the Cruzob stronghold at Chan Santa Cruz, but was compelled to retire with the loss of 1,500 men killed after a disastrous battle with the Mayans. Hostilities continued for many years as the Cruzob continued to hold onto their position. Mexican forces once again occupied Chan Santa Cruz in 1871, but were also forced to retire thereafter.

The Cruzob continued to survive on through their trade with the Belizeans. In 1887, the Mayan even considered asking for the protection of the Queen of England. However that proposal was declined and actually led to talks between the Mexican and British governments in resolving the Mayan insurgency and the territorial status of Quintana Roo and Chan Santa Cruz.

In January 1898, Admiral Othón P. Blanco was commissioned by the Mexican Government to secure the border between the Mayan territory and British Honduras. A customs post was established at the mouth of the Hondo River (the present-day boundary between Mexico and Belize) in an attempt to stop the supply of weapons to the Mayan forces. The city of Cayo Obispo (now known as Chetumal) was founded by Blanco in pursuit of this objective.

The Caste War Ends (1901)

On May 4, 1901, a Mexican Government force under General Ignacio Bravo occupied Chan Santa Cruz, dispersing many of the Cruzob rebels in the region now known as Quintana Roo. The rebels had put up a fierce resistance but eventually fled into the swamps. A year later, on November 24, 1902, by a decree of President Porfirio Díaz, the territory of Quintana Roo was carved out of the southeastern section of Yucatán and named after a famous lawyer, Andrés Quintana Roo, a native of Mérida who had played a role in Mexico’s struggle for independence.

Even after the victory of 1901, peace was not assured and in 1910, Mexican troops put down another serious rebellion in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. It was also during the early years of the Twentieth Century that Yaquis from the states of Sinaloa and Sonora were exiled by the Díaz regime to Yucatán. By the time of the 1910 census, the Mexican census recorded that 1,072 persons who spoke Yaqui – a language native to northwestern Mexico – were living in the state of Yucatán.

The 1921 Census

According to the 1921 Mexican census, the state of Yucatán contained 358,221 persons in a republic that boasted a total population of 14,334,780. A total of 155,155 residents of the state were classified as being of pure indigenous background ("indígena pura"), representing 43.31% of the state population.

Another 121,189 residents of Yucatán were classified as "indígena mezclada con blanca" – or mixed – representing 33.8% of the state’s population. The Yucatecos – classified as "blanca" in the census – numbered 78,249 individuals and comprised 21.8% of the states’ population.

The 1930 Census

However, the 1930 census did not classify people by their ethnic identity, but by the languages they spoke. And in 1930, when 335,445 persons aged 5 and over lived in Yucatán, 242,298 of them (or 72.23%) were classified as speakers of indigenous languages. When viewed in the context of the 1921 census, it might be assumed that many mixed/mestizo inhabitants of Yucatán were speaking indigenous languages, in addition to the "indígena pura" persons.

The 2000 Census

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in the state of Yucatán totaled 549,532 individuals – equal to 37.3% of the state’s total population of 1,472,683.

By far, the most common indigenous language spoken in Yucatán in 2000 was the Mayan language, which was spoken by 547,098 residents of the state. This meant that 99.56% of the indigenous speakers in Yucatán were Mayan speakers. The other languages spoken in the State were: Chol (474 speakers), Zapoteco (319), Mixe (283), and Tzeltal (222). In the 2000 census, 12 of Yucatán’s 106 municipios had populations with indigenous speaking populations of 95% or more. Eighteen municipios had populations of 90% or more.

An Archaeological Treasure

Today, Yucatán is no longer a Mayan kingdom and is now part of the large and diverse Mexican Republic. According to Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) and Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (INALI), the people of Mexico belong to 62 official ethnolinguistic groups (grupos etnolinguísticos) that speak 364 language variants. Sixty-one of the ethnolinguistic groups are indigenous and include several Mayan groups.

The evidence of the Mayans and their rich culture remains throughout Yucatán. Archaeological sites can be found throughout the State of Yucatán… and its neighboring states. Tulum, Xel-Ha, Cobá, Mayapan, Uxmal, El Rey and Xcaret are just a few of the many places left for tourists to visit and appreciate.

Dedication: I dedicate this to the members of Federación de Clubes Yucatecos-USA, Mundo Maya Foundation and Casa Yucatan-USA, who bring the spirit of Yucatán to Los Angeles and the United States. It has been estimated that 90,000 Yucatec Maya live in the United States today.

Copyright 2010 by John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved.

Primary Sources:

Departmento de la Estadística Nacional, "Annuario de 1930" (Tacubaya, Distrito Federal, 1932).

Dumond, Don E., "The Machete and the Cross: Campesino Rebellion in Yucatan" (University of Nebraska Press, 1997).

Gerhard, Peter, "The Southeast Frontier of New Spain" (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993, rev. ed.).

Naturalight Productions Ltd,, "Caste War (1847-1904)" Copyright ©2010. Online:

http:// www.northernbelize.com/hist_caste.html

Patch, Robert W. Patch, "Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1648-1812" (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993).

Reed, Nelson, "The Caste War of Yucatan" (Stanford University Press, 1964)

Roys, Ralph Loveland, "The Political Geography of the Yucatan Maya" (Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1957).

Roys, Ralph Loveland, "The Indian Background of Colonial Yucatan" (Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1943)

Restall, Matthew, "The Maya World: Yucatec Culture and Society, 1550-1850" (Stanford University Press, 1997)

Rugeley, Terry, "Yucatan's Maya Peasantry and the Origins of the Caste War" (University of Texas Press, 1996).

 


THE MIXTECS AND ZAPOTECS:

Two Enduring Cultures of Oaxaca

By John P. Schmal

The Mexican state of Oaxaca, located along the Pacific Ocean in the southeastern section of the country, consists of 95,364 square kilometers and occupies 4.85% of the total surface area of the Mexican Republic. Located where the Eastern Sierra Madre and the Southern Sierra Madre come together, Oaxaca shares a common border with the states of Mexico, Veracruz and Puebla (on the north), Chiapas (on the east), and Guerrero (on the west).

As the fifth largest state of Mexico, Oaxaca is characterized by extreme geographic fragmentation. With extensive mountain ranges throughout the state, Oaxaca has an average altitude of 1,500 meters (5,085 feet) above sea level, even though only about 9% of this is arable land. With such a large area and rough terrain, Oaxaca is divided into 571 municipios (almost one-quarter of the national total). 

Oaxaca's rugged topography has played a significant role in giving rise to its amazing cultural diversity. Because individual towns and tribal groups lived in isolation from each other for long periods of time, the subsequent seclusion allowed sixteen ethnolinguistic groups to maintain their individual languages, customs and ancestral traditions intact well into the colonial era and – to some extent – to the present day. Although Oaxaca’s ethnic groups are well-defined through dialect, customs, food habits, and rituals, the historian María de Los Angeles Romero Frizzi has suggested that the simplistic "linguistic categorization" of the ethnic groups is "somewhat misleading," primarily because "the majority of indigenous peoples in Oaxaca identify more closely with their village or their community than with their ethnolinguistic group." 

For this reason, Oaxaca is – by and large – the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s thirty-one states. The two largest linguistic groups in this large collection are the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, whose roots stretch very deeply into the early Mesoamerican era of Oaxaca. Living in their mountain enclaves and fertile valleys, many of their pre-Hispanic ancestors harvested corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chili, squash, pumpkin and gourds. Some of the early inhabitants also hunted turkey, deer, armadillo and iguana or fished in Oaxaca’s many ocean-bound streams and rivers.

It is no surprise that the Mixtecs and Zapotecs were neighbors as they both belong to the Oto-Manguean language family, which remains the largest linguistic group in the state of Oaxaca and in the Mexican Republic, represented by approximately 174 languages (according to Ethnologue.com). The author Nicholas A. Hopkins, in his article "Otomanguean Linguistic Prehistory," states that glottochronological studies of the Oaxacan Indian groups indicate that the first diversification of this group of languages had begun by 4400 B.C. It is believed that nine branches of the Oto-Manguean family were already distinct by 1500 B.C., and that some of this linguistic differentiation actually took place in the Valley of Tehuacán. It is widely recognized that the Mixtecos and Zapotecos are actually kindred peoples, looking back to a common origin several thousand years ago.

These two groups are not only the largest indigenous groups within this part of Mexico; they also exhibit a wide range of diversity within their own ethnic populations. Ms. Romero has observed that some of Oaxaca’s language families – including the Zapotec and Mixtec tongues – "encompass a variety of regional languages, making for a more diverse picture than the number sixteen would suggest."

By the time the Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Oaxaca in 1521, the Zapotec and Mixtec inhabitants of this large mountainous region had split into hundreds of independent village-states. The Zapotec ethnic group is so diverse that there are actually 64 separate Zapotec languages that have evolved over the last few thousand years, each language diverging as the Zapotec communities became isolated from one another over time. The Mixtec ethnic group is also very diverse, speaking approximately 57 different languages. Almost four centuries after the conquest, at the time of the 1900 Mexican Federal Census, 471,439 inhabitants of Oaxaca were still speaking Indian languages, representing 49.70% of the state population and 17.24% of the national indigenous-speaking population.

Most archaeological evidence indicates that the Zapotecs were one of the earliest ethnic groups to gain prominence in the region now called Oaxaca. The Zapotec Indians have always called themselves Be'ena'a, which means The People. The implication of this terminology is that the Zapotecs believe that they are "The True People" or "The people of this place." Unlike many other Mesoamerican Indians groups, the Zapotecs have no legend of migration from another land. Instead, their legends claim that their ancestors emerged from the earth or from caves, or that they turned from trees or jaguars into people. It is, therefore, not surprising that they would refer to themselves as the rightful original inhabitants of their lands.

Some of the Zapotecs eventually became known as the Be'ena Za'a (Cloud People), a name primarily applied to the Central Valley Zapotecs. In the pre-Hispanic era, Aztec merchants and soldiers dealing with these people translated their name phonetically into Náhuatl: Tzapotecatl. When the Spaniards arrived, they took this word and transformed it into Zapoteca. The Mixtecs, the sister culture of the Zapotecs, also received their "Aztec" name due to their identity as "Cloud People" (Ñusabi), but in their case the Náhuatl translation was literal, as Mixtecatl translates directly as "Cloud Person."

The early Zapotecs were a sedentary, agricultural city-dwelling people who worshipped a pantheon of gods. In their art, architecture, hieroglyphics, mathematics, and calendar, the Zapotecs appeared to have shared some cultural affinities with the ancient Olmec and the Mayan Indians. The Zapotec culture developed in the mountainous area at and near Monte Albán, roughly parallel to the Olmec civilization, which was in decline as the Zapotecs were in ascendance. The Zapotecs developed a calendar and a basic form of writing through carvings. By 200 B.C. the Zapotecs were using the bar and dot system of numerals used by the Maya.

Politically and militarily, the Zapotec Indians became dominant in the area around 200 B.C., extending their political and economic influence into the coastal regions and establishing valuable trading links with the Mayans to the south. Sometime between the third and eighth centuries A.D., the Zapotec culture peaked. However, soon after, the Mixtecs began to dominate the region, displacing the Zapotecs in many areas.

Located above the Valley of Oaxaca, six miles away from the capital city, the Zapotec ceremonial center, Monte Albán, was built in a mountain range overlooking great valleys and remains one of the most majestic of the sites of Pre-Historic Mexico. This architectural wonder is a complex of pyramids and platforms surrounding an enormous esplanade, where there is also an extraordinary astronomical observatory. Monte Albán was dedicated to the cult of mysterious gods and to the celebration of the military victories of the Zapotec people.

The pinnacle of Monte Albán's development probably took place from 250 A.D. to 700 A.D., by which time Monte Albán had become home to some 25,000 people and was the capital city of the Zapotec nation. For reasons still not entirely clear, the site was gradually abandoned after A.D. 700.

Some archaeologists have suggested that the decline of Monte Albán may have taken place because local resources of wood had become depleted and that its once-fertile slopes had become barren. However, the Zapotec culture itself continued to flourish in the valleys of Oaxaca and the Zapotecs moved their capital to Zaachila. From about 950 to the arrival of the Spanish in 1521, there was minimal life at Monte Albán, except that Mixtecs arriving in the Central Valleys between 1100 and 1350 reused old tombs at the site to bury their own dignitaries.

The Mixtecs originally inhabited the southern portions of what are now the states of Guerrero and Puebla. However, they started moving south and eastward, eventually making their way to the Central Valley of Oaxaca. In their newly adopted land, the Mixtecs became prolific expansionists and builders, gradually encroaching onto the territories of the Zapotecs. But, the Mixtecs' prominence in the Valley of Oaxaca was short-lived.

By the middle of the Fifteenth Century, a new power appeared on the horizon. The Aztec Empire, centered in Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), was in the process of building a great empire that stretched through much of what is now southern Mexico. In the 1450s, the Aztec armies crossed the mountains into the Valley of Oaxaca with the intention of extending their hegemony into this hitherto unconquered region.

Soon, both the Zapotecs and Mixtecs would be struggling to keep the Aztecs from gaining control of their trade routes to Chiapas and Guatemala. After a series of long and arduous battles, the forces of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Ilhuicamina triumphed over the Mixtecs in 1458. In 1486, the Aztecs established a fort on the hill of Huaxyácac (now called El Fortín), overlooking the present city of Oaxaca. This location would become the seat of an Aztec garrison that enforced tribute collection from the Mixtecs and Zapotecs.

The ascendancy of the Aztecs in Oaxaca would last a little more than a few decades. In 1521, as the Zapotecs, Mixtecs and other vassals of the Aztecs worked the fields and paid tribute to their distant rulers, news arrived that strange invaders with beards and unusual weapons had arrived from the eastern sea. As word spread throughout Mesoamerica, many indigenous groups thought that the arrival of these strangers might be the fulfillment of ancient prophesies predicting the downfall of the Aztecs. 

Then, in August 1521, came the news that the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán had fallen to a combined force of Spanish and Indian soldiers under the command of a white-skinned, red-haired man named Hernán Cortés. Word of this conquest spread quickly, causing the inhabitants over a large area to speculate on what was to come next.

When the Zapotec leaders heard that the powerful Aztec Empire had been overcome by the strangers from the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to send a delegation to seek an alliance with this new powerful force. Intrigued by this offer, Hernán Cortés promptly sent representatives to consider their offer.

When the powerful Aztecs were overcome, the Zapotecs sent delegations seeking alliances with the Spaniards. Cortés promptly sent Pedro de Alvarado and Gonzalo de Sandoval to the Pacific and into the Sierra looking for gold. Pedro de Alvarado (1486-1541) explored the Oaxaca region in search of the source of the Aztec gold and find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean.  He didn't find a waterway but reported some good locations for ports.  

On November 25, 1521, Francisco de Orozco arrived in the Central Valley with a force of 400 Aztecs to take possession in the name of Cortés. A wide alluvial plain of about 700 square kilometers, the Valley of Oaxaca had a native population of about 350,000 at this time. Soon, both the Zapotec and Mixtec caciques of the Oaxaca Valley submitted to Orozco. Thus, writes the historian William B. Taylor, "Peaceful conquest spared the Valley of Oaxaca the loss of life and the grave social and psychological dislocations experienced by the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico."

Francisco de Orozco did meet with some resistance in Antequera, but by the end of 1521, his forces had subdued the indigenous resistance. Cortés friends' Pedro de Alvarado and Gonzalo de Sandoval also arrived in Oaxaca to search for gold in the Sierras. Their reports led Cortés to seek the title of Marqués del Valle of Oaxaca in 1526, so that he might reserve some of the land's wealth for his own well-being.

In the course of the next decade, dramatic changes took place in the Valley. Starting in 1528, Dominican friars established permanent residence in Antequerea. After the Bishopric of Oaxaca was formally established in 1535, Catholic priests arrived in ever-increasing numbers. Armed with a fiery zeal to eradicate pagan religions, the Catholic missionaries persevered in their work. Settlers arriving from Spain brought with them domestic animals that had hitherto never been seen in Oaxaca: horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, mules and oxen. 

In the decades following the Spanish encounter, a series of devastating epidemics wreaked havoc on the native population of Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico. Before the first century had ended, some nineteen major epidemics had come and gone. The exposure of the Oaxacan Indians to smallpox, chicken pox, diphtheria, influenza, scarlet fever, measles, typhoid, mumps, influenza, and cocoliztli (a hemorrhagic disease) took a huge toll. As a result, Ms. Romero has written that the native population declined from 1.5 million in 1520 to 150,000 people in 1650. But, over time, the population of Oaxaca rebounded. On February 3, 1824, the state of Oaxaca was founded within the newly independent Mexican Republic, after 303 years of Spanish rule.

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in Oaxaca amounted to 1,120,312 individuals, which represented 39.12% of the total population of the state. Today, the Mixtec Indians are one of the most important linguistic groups of southern Mexico, occupying an extensive territory of about 40,000 square kilometers (189 municipios) in western and northern Oaxaca and extending into Eastern Guerrero and Puebla. The Mixtec territory is divided into three subregions: the Upper Mixteca, Lower Mixteca and the Coastal Mixteca.

The Mixteca Alta or Highland Mixtec (Upper Mixteca) occupy approximately 38 municipios in the mountains west of the valley of Oaxaca. For most of Mixtec history the Mixteca Alta was the dominant political force, with the capitals of the Mixtec nation located in the central highlands. The valley of Oaxaca itself was often a disputed border region, sometimes dominated by the Mixtec and sometimes by the neighboring people to the east, the Zapotec.

The Lower Mixteca (Mixteca Baja) or Lowland Mixtec region takes in another 31 municipios to the north and west of these highlands in northwestern Oaxaca. The Mixteca de la Costa or Coastal Mixtec live in the southern plains and the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

In the 2000 census, the Mixteco Indians in Oaxaca numbered 241,383, or 55.19% of the 437,373 Mixtecos in the entire Mexican Republic. If you count the various subsidiary Mixtec languages, the total Mixtec-speaking population of the Mexican Republic in 2000 included 444,498 individuals. Today, the Mixtecs are spread throughout the entire nation, in large part because of their good reputation in the agricultural industry. The chart below illustrates the population of Mixtec speakers in both Oaxaca and the Mexican Republic.  

Name of Language

Number of Persons Speaking Language 5 Years or Older in Oaxaca

Percentage as a Portion of Mexican Republic Totals

Number of Persons Speaking Language 5 Years or Older in Mexican Republic

Mixteco

241,383

55.13%

437,873

Mixteco de La Mixteca Baja

2,049

55.26%

3,708

Mixteco de la Mixteca Alta

578

20.29%

2,848

Mixteco de la Costa

15

45.45%

33

Mixteco de la Zona Mazateca

4

23.53%

17

Mixteco de Puebla

0

0.00%

19

All Mixtecs

244,029

54.90%

444,498

Source: XII Censo General de Población y Vivenda, 2000, Instituto de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI).

The Zapotec ethnic group remains the largest indigenous group of Oaxaca and presently occupies 67 municipios of Oaxaca. Several major Zapotec linguistic groups are classified by region as follows:

The Zapotecos de Valles Centrales (Zapotecos of the Central Valleys) are spread through the districts of Tlacolula, Ejutla, Ocotlán, Centro, Zaachila, Zimatlán and Etla, an area that actually consists of three intermontaine areas. The Oaxaca Valleys are located in the central part of the state. This is a zone of wide plains suitable for agriculture. The region borders the Mixteca on the west, the Gorge on the northwest, the Juárez Mountain Range on the north, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on the east, and the Sierra Madre Range on the south.

The Zapoteco Sureño (Zapotecos of the Southern Mountains) occupy the southern mountain region. The Zapoteco Istmo (the Zapotecos of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) live in Tehuantepec and Juchitán of southeastern Oaxaca. The term Zapotec comprises a great many language varieties, most of which are identified by the area or towns where they are spoken. In the 2000 census, 377,936 individuals five years of age or more spoke some kind of Zapoteco language in Oaxaca. This represented 83.45% of all the Zapotec speakers in the entire Mexican Republic, who numbered 421,796. Like their Mixtec brothers, the Zapotecs have migrated to many parts of the country. These populations are illustrated as follows:

 

Name of Language

Number of Persons

Speaking Language

5 Years or Older in Oaxaca in 2000

Percentage as a

Portion of Mexican Republic Totals in 2000

Number of Persons Speaking Language

5 Years or Older in Mexico in 2000

Zapoteco

347,020

82.27%

421,796

Zapoteco Sureño

25,357

99.85%

25,396

Zapoteco Vallista

3,154

99.21%

3,179

Zapoteco del Istmo

562

87.27%

644

Zapoteco del Ixtlán

1,829

98.97%

1,848

Zapoteco del Rincón

14

73.68%

19

Zapoteco de Cuitztla

0

0.00%

4

Zapoteco de Vijano

0

0.00%

1

All Zapotecs

337,936

83.45%

452,887

Source: XII Censo General de Población y Vivenda, 2000, Instituto de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI).

Increasingly, large numbers of Zapotecs and Mixtecs are traveling to locations throughout the Mexican Republic and the United States to secure gainful employment. Zapotecs and Mixtecs, in fact, are favored laborers in the two Baja states. In the 2000 census, the two largest linguistic groups in Baja California Norte were the Mixtecos (11,962 speakers) and the Zapotecos (2,987 speakers). In the 2000 census, 41,014 persons in Baja California claimed Oaxaca as their birthplace.

Already, in the 1970s, Baja had become a major zone of attraction for Mixtec farm laborers, with Ensenada and Tijuana as the primary destinations. In the last two decades, Baja California growers almost exclusively recruited Oaxacans laborers for their agricultural labor needs.

Indigenous speakers from Oaxaca have also made their way to the United States in large numbers. It is believed that in the last 20 years, more than 100,000 Zapotecs and Mixtecs have immigrated to the United States. According to the researcher Sarah Poole, it has been estimated that by the year 2010, Mixtecs and Zapotecs will comprise 20% of the agricultural labor force in the United States, in particular California.

Wherever they go, Mixtec and Zapotec laborers are usually regarded as newcomers. But, these two peoples have endured a long cultural journey, stretching back several thousand years. The Mixtecs and Zapotecs, in fact, built successful civilizations long before the Aztecs came into prominence. They are, without a doubt, enduring cultures.

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Adams, Richard E.W., Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Oklahoma City: Un of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Clark Alfaro, Víctor. Los Mixtecos en la Frontera (Baja California). Mexicali, Baja California: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, 1991.

Ethnologue.com, Languages of Mexico. From Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 14th edition, Online: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=Mexico   July 28, 2001.

Frizzi, María de Los Angeles Romero, "The Indigenous Population of Oaxaca From the Sixteenth Century to the Present," in Richard E.W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume II, Mesoamerica, Part 2. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Garduño, Everardo. Mixtecos en Baja California: El Caso de San Quintín. Mexicali, B.C., México: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1989.

Gay, José Antonio. Historia de Oaxaca. Distrito Federal, Mexico: Porrúa, 1982.

Hopkins, Nicholas A., "Otomanguean Linguistic Prehistory," in J. Kathryn Josserand, Marcus Winter, and Nicholas Hopkins (eds.), Esays in Otomanguean Culture History – Vanderbuilt University Publications in Anthropology No. 31. Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 1984, pp. 25-64.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Tabulados Básicos. Estados Unidos Mexicanos. XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda, 2000. Mexico, 2001.

Poole, Sarah. The Changing Face of Mexican Migrants in California: Oaxacan Mixtecs and Zapotecs in Perspective. Center for Latin American Studies and Trans Border Institute Border Brief. Online: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~latamweb/images/TBI_CLAS-Brief_OAX.pdf

Taylor, William B., Landlord and Peasant in Colonial Oaxaca. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1972. 


CHIAPAS - FOREVER INDIGENOUS
By John P. Schmal

During the last decade, the State of Chiapas - long a neglected and oppressed region of the Mexican Republoic - has been thrust onto the world stage and into the media spotlight. The attention given to the political situation in Chiapas has initiated a great interest in the plight of the indigenous people of that state. But an understanding of the present-day situation in this southern state requires a review of its history and its complex ethnic diversity.

While many Mexican states flourished during the Spanish colonial period, in large part because of their mineral wealth or agricultural potential, Chiapas - far to the south and seeming to be without mineral resources - languished in poverty and discontent. The mestizaje and assimilation that took place in most Mexican states transformed the identity of the Mexican Indian into the Mexican mestizo. And, with independence, the Mexican mestizo became the citizen of the Mexican Republic.

The process of mestizaje, however, was not as widespread or pervasive in Chiapas as it had been in the north. As a result, the indigenous identity of the Chiapas Indian - while altered - did not evolve to the same extent. While many of the other Mexican states witnessed the assimilation, exploitation, and cultural demise of their indigenous groups, many of Chiapas' ethnic groups have maintained their ancient cultures, traditions and customs. As such, Chiapas questioned its position as part of México, but never totally embraced its Mayan neighbor to the south, Guatemela. In essence, the State has retained one indisputable identity: Chiapas is forever indigenous.

On its southwestern border, El Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas (The Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas) shares a long coastline with the Pacific Ocean. Chiapas also borders the states of Tabasco (on the north), Veracruz-Llave (on the northwest), Oaxaca (on the west) and the nation of Guatemala (on the southeast). Altogether, Chiapas occupies 73,724 square kilometers, taking up 3.8% of México's national territory and ranking eighth among the Mexican states in terms of area. Politically, the State is divided into a total of 111 municipios (the Mexican equivalent of counties), with its capital at Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

The name Chiapas is believed to have been derived from the ancient city of Chiapan, which in Náhuatl means the place where the chia sage grows. Chiapas itself is merely one portion of the large region that was inhabited by the Mayan Indians. The ancient Mayan culture flourished across a large portion of present-day Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras and the five Mexican states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas. In all, the territory occupied by the Maya was probably about 500,000 square kilometers in area and is sometimes referred to collectively as El Mundo Maya (The Maya World).

For at least two thousand years, the culture of the Mayan Indians flourished throughout Mesoamerica. The Mayas made a living through agriculture, hunting and fishing. They were also skilled weavers and temple builders who left a treasure trove of archaeological sites for later generations to admire. The Mayan Linguistic Group is one of the largest in the Americas and is divided into a multitude of Mayan languages, including the Huastec, Yucatec, Western Maya, and Eastern Maya groups.

While Yucatec is the dominant language spoken in northern Guatemala, Belize and the Mexican states of the Yucatán Peninsula (Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán), the Western Maya language group is the dominant tongue in Chiapas. The most common of the Western Maya languages are the Tzeltal and Tzotzil. However, other Western Maya languages spoken in Chiapas include Chontal, Chol, Tojolabal, Chuj, Kanjobal, Acatec, Jacaltec, and Motozintlec.

The first contact between Spaniards and the people of Chiapas people came in 1522, when Hernán Cortés dispatched tax collectors to the area after the Aztec Empire was conquered and dismantled. Soon after, in 1523, Luis Marín, one of Cortés' officers, arrived in Chiapas to begin the Spanish conquest in that area. Although Marín was able to pacify some of the indigenous groups, his forces met with fierce resistance from the Tzotzil Indians in the highlands.

Marín was not able to bring the natives of Chiapas under complete control after three years. To finish the job, the Spaniards dispatched a new military expedition under the command of Diego de Mazariegos. But, faced with capture and slavery, many indigenous warriors preferred death to the loss of freedom. In the Battle of Tepetchia, many Indians jumped to their deaths in Cañon del Sumidero, rather than submit to the foreign invaders.

Gradually, however, the indigenous resistance weakened and Spanish control was established through most of Chiapas. By the end of 1528, the conquest of Chiapas was complete, with both the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indians subdued. On March 31, 1528, Captain Mazariegos established the Ciudad Real in the Valley of Jovel. Ciudad Real - which was later renamed San Cristóbal de las Casas - would be the capital of the province for 364 years.

The Spanish colonial administration quickly introduced the encomendero system into Chiapas, virtually reducing the indigenous population to slavery and bondage. Forced to pay tribute twice a year, the Chiapas natives carried an undercurrent of resentment from one generation to another, leading to the revolt of the Tzeltal communities in Los Altos in 1712. Soon, the Tzoltziles and Choles joined the Tzeltales in rebellion, but within a year, the government was able to extinguish the rebellion.

According to an 1814 census, roughly 130,000 people inhabited Chiapas. This population was made up of 105,352 Indians, 21,477 mestizos, and 3,409 Spaniards. During the late Eighteenth Century, a number of Spanish and mestizo farmers and ranchers had made their way to Chiapas. These newcomers became an elite group of wealthy landowning families who steadily expanded their holdings, gradually depriving the Indian communities of their traditional lands before and after independence.

In 1821, México became an independent country. On September 1, 1821, Chiapas declared its acceptance of México's Plan de Iguala, expecting that that neighboring Guatemala would do the same thing. And on September 3, 1821, Chiapas officially declared its separation from the Spanish empire. However, during 1823, Guatemala became part of the United Provinces of Central America, which united to form a federal republic that would last from 1823 to 1839. With the exception of the pro-Mexican Ciudad Real, many Chiapanecan towns and villages favored a Chiapas independent of México and some favored unification with Guatamala. At the same time, the elite classes of Chiapas openly pushed for incorporation into México. In July 1824, the Soconusco District of southwestern Chiapas split off from Chiapas, announcing that it would join the Central American Federation.

In September 14, 1824, following a referendum on either joining Federal Republic of Central America or México, the government of Chiapas endorsed the state's incorporation into México. But, the Soconusco District maintained its neutral status for eighteen years until 1842, when Oaxacan forces under General Santa Anna occupied the province. After the completion of the military occupation, Santa Anna declared that Soconusco had been reincorporated into the Mexican Republic. Guatemala did not recognize this action until 1895.

However, even after the reincorporation of Soconusco, the Mayan states of México continued to forge a separate path from the rest of the country. The predominantly Mayan state of Yucatán rose in rebellion in 1839 and declared independence from México on May 31, 1841. Reincorporated into México in December 1843, the state declared independence again in 1846, although it was reincorporated soon after. From 1847 to 1855, the "Caste War" ravaged the Yucatán Peninsula, causing many Caucasian inhabitants to flee. Discontent of a similar kind brewed in the highlands of Chiapas, where the Mexican Government feared and suspected the emergence of a second "caste war." From 1868 to 1872, the Tzotzil rebelled, but Government control was eventually reestablished.

Well into modern times, Chiapas has boasted a significant indigenous-speaking population. In the 1895 federal census, 120,942 people five years of age and over who lived in Chiapas were classified as indigenous-language speakers, accounting for 37.8% of the total population of the state (315,599). Five years later, at the turn of the century, the indigenous population of Chiapas - numbered at 129,843 - constituted 36% of the state's total population (360,799).

In the unusual 1921 Mexican census, residents of each state were asked to classify themselves in several categories, including "indígena pura" (pure indigenous), "indígena mezclada con blanca" (indigenous mixed with white) and "blanca" (white). Out of a total state population of 421,744, 200,927 persons (or 47.6%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background. Another 152,956, or 36.3%, classified themselves as being mixed, while a mere 49,836 (11.8%) claimed to be white.

Although 47.6% of Chiapas residents claimed to be of pure indigenous heritage, a much smaller number of persons were classified as speakers of indigenous languages. A total of 98,105 persons five years of age and older spoke at least twenty-five indigenous languages in 1921, representing 27.4% of the state population five years of age and older. The most spoken languages in this census were the Tzetzal (25,839 speakers), Tzotzil (20,803), Zoque (11,592), Chol (10,330), Mame (6,158), Chontal (1,454), and Zapoteco (1,145).

By the time of the 1990 census, 716,012 inhabitants of Chiapas 5 years of age or more spoke any one of the fifty-seven indigenous languages found in Chiapas. Another 169,593 children between the ages of 0 and 4 were tallied in these indigenous-speaking households. Another 244,221 persons were classified as Indians but could not speak an indigenous language. The end result leads us to the conclusion that in 1990, there were 1,129,826 persons classified as Indian or indigenous speakers, which represented 35.19% of the total state population (3,210,496). In addition, this large number of Indian people represented 12.97% of the total indigenous population of the Mexican Republic.

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages amounted to 809,592 individuals. The largest indigenous groups represented in Chiapas were: Tzotzil (291,550), Tzeltal (278,577), Chol (140,806), Zoque (41,609), Tojolabal (37,677), Kanjobal (5,769), and Mame (5,450).

The ethnic distribution of Chiapas is very complex and represents a dynamic, ever-changing phenomenon. Even today, out of Chiapas' 111 municipios, ninety-nine have significant indigenous populations, the majority of which are Mayan-speaking groups, closely related to one another. In the 2000 census, thirteen municipios of Chiapas contained indigenous populations that comprised at least 98% of the total population of the municipio. In all, twenty-two municipios had indigenous populations over 90% and 36 municipios had populations exceeding 50%.

The largest concentration of indigenous speaking individuals is living in five of Chiapas' nine regions: Los Altos, Selva, Norte, Fronteriza, and Sierra. The remaining four regions (Centro, Frailesca, Soconusco, and Costa) have populations that are considered to be dominantly mestizo. The major groups of Chiapas are discussed below:

Tzotzil Maya (Batsil winik'otik)
The Tzotzil Indians call themselves Batsil winik'otik, which means "true men" in their language. Their closely related cousins, the Tzeltales, refer to themselves as winik atel, or "working men." Both groups speak a language, which they call batsil k'op (true or legitimate language). The Tzeltal and Tzotzil languages form the Tzeltalan subdivision of the Mayan language family. Lexico-statistical studies indicate that these two languages probably became differentiated from one another around 1200 A.D.

In the 2000 census, a total of 291,550 people 5 years of age and over spoke the Tzotzil language, representing 36.0% of the total indigenous population of Chiapas. The only indigenous group whose numbers approach that figure were the Tzeltal, who numbered 278,577, representing another 34.41%. Together, the two indigenous groups were represented by 570,127 individuals 5 years of age and older, accounting for more than 70% of the total indigenous population and 14.54% of the total state population (3,920,892).

Today, the Tzotzil live in almost every municipio of Chiapas, but are most prominent in ten municipios in the Los Altos region. The traditional Tzotzil territory is to the northwest and southwest of the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the highland region of central Chiapas.

The Tzotziles of Los Altos are organized into barrio communities, each of which has its own social and cultural identity. Each barrio has its unique patron saint as its protector and the benefactor of its population. The Tzotzil are engaged primarily in agricultural pursuits, growing chiefly corn (maize), beans, and squash. As the economy of Chiapas has become more diversified in recent decades, the Tzotzil have begun to expand from their traditional areas into northern urban areas.

The Tzeltal (Winik Atel)
The Tzeltal call themselves Winik atel, which means "Working Men" in their language. The Tzeltal (Winik Atel) are repsented by 278,577 people five years of age or more in the state of Chiapas. This figure represents a significant 34.41% of the total indigenous figure of the state. The Tzeltal language is concentrated in twenty of Chiapas¹ 111 municipios.

Under Spanish rule, the Tzeltal people were subjected to the encomendero system and forced to pay an oppressive tribute twice a year. For centuries, the Tzeltales were forced to labor in the mines, mills and haciendas of Chiapas for meager wages. Like the Tzotales, the Tzeltal are presently engaged primarily in agriculture and cultivate corn, beans, chili, squash, yucca, sweet potato, potato and chayote. In the Tzeltal region, the identity of the community is also very prominent and significant. Each Tzeltal community constitutes a distinct social and cultural unit, with its own dialect, leaders, customs and religious rites.

Choles (Winik)
The Chol language, with 140,806 speakers five years of age and older in the 2000 census, is spoken by 17.39% of Chiapas' total indigenous population and is the third most common native language in that state. The Choles call themselves "Winik," a Mayan word that means "man." For centuries, the Choles have referred to themselves as "the miliperos," the people whose lives and existence have revolved around the cultivation of maize, their most sacred food.

Some two thousand or more years ago, the Choles lived in the region now known as Guatemala and Honduras. Over time, they split into two main groups, the Chol migrating gradually to the region of present day Chaipas, and Chortís staying in the region of Guatemala. The Choles of today are closely related to both the Chontal in Tabasco and the Chortí of eastern Guatemala.

The Choles are especially common in the northwest part of Chiapas and inhabit an area that is contiguous with the neighboring state of Tabasco. The fundamental economic activity of the Chooles is agriculture. They primarily cultivate corn and frijol, as well as sugar cane, rice, coffee, and some fruits.

Zoques (O'deput)
The Zoques of Chiapas call themselves "O'de püt," which signifies "people of the language," or "word of man," which may be construed to imply "authentic" or "true." According to the census of 1990, the total number of Zoque speakers in México five years of age and older numbered 43,160. Of this number, 34,810 lived in the state of Chaipas and were distributed through 57 municipios. By the year 2000, the population of the Zoques had dropped to 41,609 individuals five years of age or older, representing 5.14% of Chiapas' indigenous-speaking language. The municipios, in which the Zoques are predominant, stretch across 3,000 square kilometers of northern Chiapas.

Tojolabales (Tojolwinik'otik)
The Tojolabales call themselves Tojolwinik'otik, which means "legitimate or true men." According to oral tradition, the Tojolabales came north from Guatemala. At the time of the 2000 census, 37,667 residents of Chiapas spoke Tojolabal, making up 4.65% of the indigenous population. In 1980 the army massacred fifty Tojolabal Indians who had occupied a finca (large farm) forty miles from Comitan.

Kanjobal
The Kanjobal speakers of Chiapas mainly live along the border of Chiapas and Guatemala. Although most Kanjobal live in Guatemala, 5,769 Chiapas residents five years of age and older spoke the language at the time of the 2000 census. It is believed that a significant number of these Kanjobal-speakers may have been born in Guatemala and immigrated to Chiapas, maintaining strong cultural ties to the neighboring nation.

Mames
The Mame language is one of the most ancient Mayan languages. The Mames primarily inhabit Guatemala, but 5,450 Mame speakers were tallied in Chiapas in the 2000 census. Most of these individuals lived in Fronteriza, Sierra, and Soconusco.

Events in 1994
The Zapatista movement first came to the attention of the world when their rebel forces occupied the Chiapan towns of San Cristobal de las Casas, Las Margaritas, Altamirano and Ocosingo on January 1, 1994, the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was due to begin operation. They read their proclamation of revolt to the world and then laid siege to a nearby military base, capturing weapons and releasing many prisoners from the jails. The Mexican army responded savagely, pushing the rebel forces back into the rural highlands of Los Altos.

The Zapatistas, however, brought to the surface long-standing issues about the indigenous people, their poverty and their ties to the land. According to México's National Population Council, today Chiapas is the poorest state in México. Ninety-four of its 111 municipalities live on the poverty line. In Ocosingo, Altamirano and Las Margaritas - the towns where the Zapatista Army first came into prominence in 1994 - 48% of the adults are illiterate. Eighty percent of the families earn less than $245 a month and seventy percent have no electricity.

This is amazing because, in recent decades, Chiapas has become recognized as one of the most resource-rich states in all of México. The agricultural production of coffee, corn and cocoa, the growth of cattle-ranching, hydroelectric power, and timber harvested from the Lacandona rainforest have given Chiapas a new economic clout with its sister states. Chiapas produces 35% of México's coffee, which traditionally has been the state's primary cash crop. However, the production of bananas, cacao and corn make also made Chiapas México's second largest agricultural producer overall.

It has also been determined that Chiapas has rich petroleum reserves, giving it a higher level of status in the international economy. Oil production began during the 1980s and Chiapas has become the fourth largest producer of crude oil and natural gas among the Mexican states. Thirty-five percent of México's electricity is generated from Chiapas' hydropower. And because Chiapas contains many archaeological remains of the Maya past, it has also become a magnet for international tourism.

In light of Chiapas' economic potential and indigenous poverty, the Zapatistas have explained to the world that they are struggling for work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice, peace, cultural recognition, information, and security. Furthermore, they have dedicated themselves to the cause of protecting the environment and combating corruption. The issues that the Zapatistas have with the Mexican Federal Government are too complex to discuss in the context of this article. However, the following website provides some background to events in Chiapas, especially those issues relating to the Zapatistas:

http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico/situdx.html

The Chiapas of the Twenty-First Century is a land in turmoil. Torn between its indigenous past and a world hungry for its rich natural resources, the State is witnessing population movements that will change the ethnic demography that existed for so many centuries. However, even with all the changes, the plight of the indigenous campesino has essentially remained the same. The Chiapas of the future will witness a battle between those who demand change and those who wish to preserve the social structures that have endured since 1526.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

 

Recommended Reading:

Alvarez, Fernando, "Peasant Movements in Chiapas," Bulletin of Latin American Research 7,2 (1988): 277-298.

Benjamin, Thomas, "A time of Reconquest: History, the Maya Revival and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas," American Historical Review 105,2 (4/00):417-50.

Hayden, Tom (ed.), The Zapatista Reader. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002).

INEGI, Resultados Definitivos del XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda.

Lyon, Stephen. Zapata Lives!: Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Weinberg, Bill, Homage to Chiapas: the New Indigenous Struggles in México. London: VERSO, 2000.

Recommended Websites:

"The Situation in Chiapas"
http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico/situdx.html

"About the Zapatistas"
http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/nave/zaps.html


NORTHWEST MEXICO

Indigenous Baja: Living on the Edge of Existence

By John P. Schmal

The Baja California Peninsula is located in the northwestern portion of the Mexican Republic. This body of land extends approximately 775 miles (1,250 kilometers) from Tijuana in the north to Cabo San Lucas in the south and is separated from the rest of Mexico by the Gulf of California (also called the sea of Cortés). Occupying the northern half of the peninsula, the state of Baja California shares its northern boundary with two American states, California and Arizona, and is also bordered on its northeast by the Mexican state of Sonora. On its western flank, the state also shares a long coastline with the Pacific Ocean.

Baja California occupies a total area of 69,921 square kilometers (26,990 square miles), which makes up 3.7% of Mexico’s national territory. On Baja California’s southern border is another Mexican state, Baja California Sur, which occupies a total area of 71,428 square kilometers (25,751 square miles), taking up 3.7% of the national territory.

The story of the indigenous peoples of the Baja Peninsula is a sad one. Living in an arid environment, their susceptibility to the ravages of war and disease was accentuated by their already marginal existence. The vast majority of the Baja Indians have disappeared and those that have survived in the north are represented by as few as a dozen individuals or as many as a few hundred. Ironically, most of the Mexican indigenous languages spoken in the two Bajas are actually tongues brought to the Peninsula by migrant workers from other states, in particular Oaxaca.

Early Contacts Between Spaniards and Indigenous Inhabitants

In 1532 – a decade after the destruction of the Aztec Empire – the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés sent an expedition commanded by his cousin, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, to explore the Baja California Peninsula and other locations along the Pacific coastline of northwest México. A second expedition to the area left Santiago, Colima, on October 29, 1533. The voyage was a disastrous failure, but mutineers from this expedition explored the area now called La Paz.

In April 1535, Cortés himself led a third expedition of three ships that landed near present-day La Paz on May 3, 1535, where he formally took possession of the land for the King of Spain. Cortés founded a small colony in the area, but the local Indians remained very hostile towards the visitors. By November 1535, more than 70 of Cortés’ men had died from starvation or skirmishes with the indigenous population.

Early in 1536, Cortés posted 30 Spaniards to man the small colony and sailed back for Mexico. A fourth expedition led by Francisco de Ulloa in June 1539 found that the small colony had been destroyed. Other expeditions followed, but they frequently encountered large groups of natives who strongly resisted their intrusions. For this reason, the colonization and settlement of the Baja Peninsula was a very slow process, complicated by the hostility of the indigenous groups and the great distance from sources of supply, as well as by inhospitable weather conditions.

Indigenous Groups at Contact

At the time of contact, Baja California Norte was primarily inhabited by several indigenous groups belonging to the Yuman language branch of the Hokan linguistic family. Most of these early inhabitants lived by hunting and fishing, but some of them also gathered acorns, seeds, prickly pears, apples, pine nuts and other small edible plants found in the harsh desert environment.

The northernmost aboriginal Baja Californians spoke several closely-related Yuman languages, most notably the Kiliwa, Paipai, Kumeyaay (Kumiai), and Cocopá (Cucapá) tongues. Using the controversial technique of glottochronology, it has been estimated that the initial separation of the Yuman family into different languages occurred perhaps 2,500 years ago. The Cocopá and Kumiai languages are believed to be very closely related to each other, separated by perhaps about one thousand years of independent development.

Pai Pai

The Pai Pai Indians – also known as Akwa'ala – occupied the northern Sierras in the interior of the northern Baja California Peninsula. Their original territory included the lower Colorado River Valley in the present day municipios of Ensenada and Mexicali, as well as adjacent areas in western Arizona, southern California, and northwestern Sonora.

Kumeyaay (Kumiai)

The Kumiai (Kumeyaay) Indians were hunters, gatherers and fishers who inhabited coastal, inland valley, and mountain regions along the present-day Baja California border region with the United States. The traditional Kumeyaay territory originally extended from around Escondido in California to the northern part of the present day municipio of Ensenada. Occupying the southern section of present-day San Diego County in California, the Kumeyaay inhabited the region near the San Diego Presidio when it was founded in 1769. The Kumeyaay in the vicinity of San Diego were also referred to as the Diegueño by the Spaniards.

Cochimí

The Cochimí Indians inhabited a considerable part of the central Baja Peninsula, from north of Rosario to the vicinity of Loreto in east central Baja California. Like many of the other Baja tribes, the Cochimí Indians survived by fishing in the coastal areas and gathering fruits and seeds for sustenance in other areas.

Cucapás (Cocopá)

The Cucapás, living in the desert region along the Colorado River in the frontier zone of Baja California Norte and Sonora, fished and hunted deer, rabbit, moles, mountain lion and coyote. They also collected a wide variety of desert products, including cactus flowers, potatoes, and wild wheat.

Kiliwa

The Kiliwa Indians were hunters who inhabited northeastern Baja California. The Kiliwa lived along the eastern slope of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir and ranged down the Gulf Coast. Their habitat also extended into the Colorado Desert.

Guaycura (Guaicura or Waicuri)

The Guaycuras lived in the middle part of the lower Baja peninsula, inhabiting the Magdalena Plains from Loreto down to and including the La Paz area.

Pericú

The Pericú occupied the southern tip of the peninsula around San José del Cabo and several large Gulf islands, including Cerralvo, Espíritu Santo, San José, and Santa Catalina.

The Colonization of Baja California Sur

In 1596, King Felipe II of Spain ordered the colonization of the Baja California Peninsula. Six years later, Sebastián Vizcaíno made his famous voyage to Baja, exploring the present-day site of Cabo San Lucas, where he was confronted by a force of 800 native warriors. Vizcaíno managed to build a fort at La Paz, but after a skirmish with local natives, the post had to be abandoned by the Spaniards.

In 1683, Admiral Isidro Atondo y Antillón led a state-sponsored expedition to Baja and established a settlement at La Paz. However, according to Mr. Laylander, the settlement "was abandoned after a few months because of escalating conflicts with the native inhabitants." Another post was established at San Bruno, north of Loreto, but was also abandoned in 1685 "because of meager local resources and uncertain outside supplies."

In October 1697, Jesuit missionaries started arriving in the southern Baja peninsula with the intention of establishing missions. On October 19, 1697, Father Juan María de Salvatierra established the first permanent mission in Baja California Sur, dedicating it with the name of Our Lady of Loreto de Concho, near present-day Loreto, Baja California Sur. Between 1697 and 1767, Jesuit missionaries would establish sixteen missions throughout the length of the Baja Peninsula.

The Jesuit missions played an integral role in the Christianizing of the indigenous peoples. However, to accomplish their objectives, the missionaries resettled and congregated many of their converts in rancherías that were located close to the missions. Although this practice was effective in enforcing religious instruction, tribute collection, and the organization of a work force, the concentration of the natives had a devastating effect on the aboriginal groups and made them more susceptible to smallpox, typhus, measles and other infectious diseases.

Don Laylander, in "The Linguistic Prehistory of Baja California," has written that "the linguistic map of Baja California underwent dramatic changes during the historic period, culminating in the extinction of many of its aboriginal languages. Before extinction, prehistoric lifeways were altered in a myriad of ways, through such factors as externally-introduced epidemic diseases, military conflicts, and the relocation of populations to mission settlements." The most serious epidemic was the typhus epidemic of 1742-1744, which probably killed 8,000 Indians. During the following decades, entire tribes disappeared, while small bands of Pericú, Guaycura, and Cochimí – struggled to survive in the south.

The Revolts of 1734-1744

The most serious rebellion in the southern part of the Baja Peninsula took place in 1734-1737. This uprising of the Pericú and Guaycuras engulfed several missions in the southern part of the peninsula, most of which had to be abandoned. In January 1735, indigenous forces ambushed the Manila Galleon that had stopped at San José del Cabo for supplies. "The revolt and its subsequent suppression," according to Don Laylander, "hastened the disorganization and declines of the southern aboriginal groups. To suppress the revolt, the Jesuits were forced to call in outside military assistance." In 1742, King Felipe V authorized the use of royal funds to suppress the revolt. The arrival of a military force from Sinaloa helped to restore order and reestablish control of the southern Baja lands. The last scattered resistance to the Spaniards did not end until 1744.

The Expulsion of the Jesuits

In June 1767, King Carlos III of Spain expelled all the Jesuit missionaries from México. Eventually, the Dominicans continued the missionary efforts of the Jesuits, especially in the territories of the Cochimí, Kiliwa, Paipai, and Kumeyaay. However, by this time, southern Baja’s indigenous populations had declined to the point of no return. Don Laylander explains that "in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the role of aboriginal peoples in the peninsula’s history has become increasingly marginal. In the central and southern portions of the peninsula, culturally distinct aboriginal populations had disappeared before 1900."

The Kiliwa were one of the few Baja groups that was able to hang on, albeit precariously. In 1840, the Kiliwa, who lived in Baja’s northeast corner, successfully rebelled against the Dominicans and fled into quiet isolation. This seclusion enabled the Kiliwa to survive into the Twentieth Century. In 1938, University of California Berkeley anthropologist, Peveril Meigs, searched the entire Baja Peninsula for surviving bands. At that time, he located and did studies on a small band of about fifty Kiliwa living in the east-facing canyons of northern Baja’s mountains.

Political Chronology

In January 1824, after the Mexican Republic was constituted, the central government organized and oversaw the Territory of Baja. Twenty four years later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – which ended the Mexican-American War – divided the territory of California, with the northern half, called Alta California, being ceded to the United States, while the southern half remained with Mexico as Baja California.

On April 26, 1850, two partidos (secondary administrative divisions) were created as Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. On December 14, 1887, the status of both partidos was changed to distritos (districts), and on January 1, 1888, the northern part of the peninsula became known as the Northern District of Baja California. On December 30, 1930, the separate territories of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur were created, effective February 7, 1931. The northern territory became a state on January 16, 1952, while the southern Baja State achieved statehood on October 24, 1974.

Indigenous Groups of the Twentieth Century

By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the aboriginal population of the entire Baja Peninsula had been severely depleted. Up until the 1910 census, the population statistics for Baja California Sur and Baja California Norte were tallied together as one jurisdiction. According to the 1895 Mexican census, some 2,150 individuals spoke indigenous languages in Baja California. However, this tally dropped to 1,111 at the time of the 1900 census.

The indigenous speaking population for the Baja territories dropped further in 1910 to 711, representing only 1.36% of the total population. Although most of the indigenous speakers spoke languages indigenous to other states, 96 Cochimí speakers were counted. Yaqui-speaking individuals (primarily from the state of Sonora) were tallied at 65, while Otomí speakers from central México numbered 40.

The 2000 Census

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years of age and more in the northern state of Baja California who spoke indigenous languages amounted to 37,685 individuals. These individuals spoke at least forty-five languages from Mexico and United States but represented only 1.87% of the total state population 5 years of age and older (2,010,869).

Interestingly, the great majority of the indigenous-speakers in Baja California Norte in 2000 were actually transplants from other parts of the Mexican Republic. The largest language groups represented were the Mixteco (11,962 speakers), Zapoteco (2,987), Náhuatl (2,165), and Purépecha (2,097), and Triqui (1,437), all languages that are indigenous to other parts of the Mexican Republic.

Transplanted Languages

As a matter of fact, 2000 census statistics indicate that 1,025,754 of the 2,487,367 residents of Baja California Norte were, in fact, natives of other entities, representing a total migrant population of 41.2%. In the 2000 census, 41,014 persons in Baja claimed Oaxaca as their birthplace, and it is likely that most of the 11,962 Mixtecos and 2,987 Zapotecos living in the state were probably natives of that state. Already, in the 1970s, Baja had become a major zone of attraction for Mixtec farm laborers, with Ensenada and Tijuana as their primary destination points. Baja California growers almost exclusively recruited Oaxacans laborers for their agricultural labor needs. An additional 89,083 residents of Baja claimed Michoacán de Ocampo as their birthplace, possibly explaining the substantial number of Purépecha-speaking individuals living in the state (2,097).

Native Baja California Tribes in 2000

Unfortunately, the Indian groups indigenous specifically to Baja California never recovered from their initial declines of the Seventeenth Century and are few in number. The primary native speakers of indigenous languages in Baja California Norte in the 2000 census were the Pai-Pai (193 speakers); Kumiai (159); Cucapá (82); Cochimí (80), and Kiliwa (46 people). All of these tribes were of the Yuman Linguistic family whose ancestors had probably migrated to the Baja Peninsula thousands of years earlier.

The Pai Pai, living in the Santa Catarina community of the Ensenada municipio in the north, had become bilingual and concerns have been expressed that their language is nearly dead.

Estimates of the Kumiai population in Mexico at the end of the Twentieth Century put their numbers at 600. However, by 2000, the Mexican census recorded only 159 persons five years of age and older who actually spoke the Kumiai language in the state and all but 13 of these also spoke Spanish and were thus bilingual. Most of the Kumiai lived near Tecate.

The Cochimí culture – located primarily in the central and southern parts of Baja California – also declined dramatically by beginning of the Nineteenth Century. By 2000, only 80 Cochimí speakers were registered as inhabitants of the northern Baja state, most of them living in the municipios of Ensenada, Mexicali, and Tecate. In the 2000 census, only 46 persons were classified as speakers of the Kiliwa language. Readers who are interested in studying more detailed information about the nearly extinct indigenous languages of Baja California can learn more by accessing the Ethnologue website at the following link:

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=MX

Indigenous Speakers of Baja California Sur

In the 2000 census, the government classified 5,353 inhabitants 5 years of age or more as speakers of more than fifty Indian languages. However, these indigenous speakers represented a mere 0.22% of the total population of the same age group. The primary groups were the Mixteco (1,955), Náhuatl (987), Zapoteco (606), and Amuzgo (126), Trique (113), and Purépecha (106), all imports from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Michoacán and Guerrero.

Oaxaca Migrants

In the same census, it was reported that 137,928 of the residents of Baja Sur (out of the total population of 424,041) were born in other political entities, indicating that migrants represented 32.5% of the total population of the state. Today, the Mixteco and Zapoteco Indians are the only significant indigenous languages spoken in Baja California Sur. It is likely that most of the 1,955 Mixtecos and 606 Zapotecos living in Baja were probably born in Oaxaca. In the 2000 census, 8,083 persons in Baja Sur claimed Oaxaca as their birthplace, while another 8,564 listed Michoacán as their birthplace, the original home of the Purépecha language.

The use of Oaxacan migrant labor in Baja California Sur has been a well-established practice since the 1970s. For more than thirty years, many Baja California growers have recruited Oaxacans almost exclusively, with La Paz as a major destination for most Mixteco laborers.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Homer Aschmann, "The Central Desert of Baja California: Demography and Ecology," Ibero-Americana 42 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959).

Don Laylander, "The Linguistic Prehistory of Baja California," in Gary S. Breschini and Trudy Haversat, "Contributions to the Linguistic Prehistory of Central and Baja California," Archives of California Prehistory Number 44 (Salinas, California: Coyote Press, 1997).

William C. Massey, "Tribes and Languages of Baja California," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, V (Autumn 1949): 272-307.

William C. Massey, "Brief Report on Archaeological Investigations in Baja California," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, III (Winter 1947): 344-359.

Peveril Meigs, "The Kiliwa Indians of Lower California," Ibero-Americana, 15 (Berkeley, California: University of California, 1939).


The Yaqui Indians: Four centuries of resistance

By John P. Schmal

Over the years, I have met many Americans who have proudly stated that they had a Yaqui grandmother or Yaqui great-grandfather or are in some way descended from the Yaqui Indians of Mexico's northwest coastal region.  Many Mexican Americans have indigenous roots from various parts of Mexico, but the assimilation and mestizaje that took place in many northern and central states of Mexico has obscured any cultural or linguistic identity with specific tribes.  However, the Yaqui Indians - and their cousins, the Mayo Indians - have held tightly to their ethnic and linguistic identity in a way that many other indigenous groups have not.

Although many cultural, spiritual and linguistic traits of Mexico's Amerindians have been preserved in the southern states. It is difficult to find indigenous tribes in northern Mexico who have continued to practice at least some of their ancient practices.  The Tarahumara, Tepehuanes, Huicholes, Yaquis and Mayos stand in that rare breed of Native Americans that has held onto many aspects of their original culture.  The story of the Yaquis and their resistance is a truly dynamic story that reminds that the spirit of a people cannot be conquered if a people truly believe in their unique destiny.

The story of the Yaquis and their Mayo cousins takes us to the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The State of Sinaloa, with a surface area of 58,487 square kilometers (22,582 square miles), is basically a narrow strip of land running along the Pacific Ocean. The state of Sonora, which lay north of Sinaloa, consists of 182,554 square kilometers (70,484 square miles) and has a common border with Arizona and New Mexico. The following paragraphs analyze the various confrontations and wars that the Yaquis and Mayos waged to protect their native lands and customs from imperialism.

First Contact: 1531.
In December 1529, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán left Mexico City with an expedition of 300 Spaniards and 10,000 Indian allies (Tlaxcalans, Aztecs and Tarascans).  Guzmán, a lawyer by profession, had already gained a reputation as a ruthless and cruel administrator when he served as Governor of Panuco on the Gulf Coast.  Traveling through Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Sinaloa, Guzmán left a trail of devastation and terror wherever he went.

In March 1531, Guzmán's army reached the site of present-day Culiacán (now in Sinaloa), where his force engaged an army of 30,000 warriors in a pitched battle. The indigenous forces were decisively defeated and, as Mr. Gerhard notes, the victors "proceeded to enslave as many people as they could catch."

However, before long, however, reports of Guzmán's brutal treatment of the Indians reached the authorities in Mexico City.  In 1536, the Viceroy of Nueva España Antonio de Mendoza arrested Guzmán and imprisoned him.  He was returned to Spain in chains where he was put on trial and died in obscurity and disgrace.

The indigenous people confronted by Guzmán in his 1531 battle belonged to the Cáhita language group, and were most likely the Yaqui Indians. Speaking eighteen closely related dialects, the Cáhita peoples of Sinaloa and Sonora numbered about 115,000 and were the most numerous of any single language group in northern Mexico. These Indians inhabited the coastal area of northwestern Mexico along the lower courses of the Sinaloa, Fuerte, Mayo, and Yaqui Rivers.

During his stay in Sinaloa, Guzmán's army was ravaged by an epidemic that killed many of his Amerindian auxiliaries. Finally, in October 1531, after establishing San Miguel de Culiacán on the San Lorenzo River, Guzmán returned to the south, his mostly indigenous army decimated by hunger and disease. But the Spanish post at Culiacán remained, Mr. Gerhard writes, as "a small outpost of Spaniards surrounded on all sides by the sea by hostile Indians kept in a state of agitation" by the slave-hunting activities of the Guzmán's forces.

Epidemic Disease - Sinaloa and Sonora (1530-1536). 
Daniel T. Reff, the author of "Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764," explains that "viruses and other microorganisms undergo significant genetic changes when exposed to a new host environment, changes often resulting in new and more virulent strains of microorganisms." The Indians of the coastal region, never having been exposed to Spaniards and their diseases previously, provided fertile ground for the proliferation of smallpox and measles. It is believed that as many as 130,000 people died in the Valley of Culiacán during the Measles Pandemic of 1530-1534 and the Smallpox Plague of 1535-1536.

As the Spaniards moved northward they found an amazing diversity of indigenous groups. Unlike the more concentrated Amerindian groups of central Mexico, the Indians of the north were referred to as "ranchería people" by the Spaniards. Their fixed points of settlements (rancherías) were usually scattered over an area of several miles and one dwelling may be separated from the next by up to half a mile. The renowned anthropologist, Professor Edward H. Spicer (1906-1983), writing in "Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960," stated that most ranchería people were agriculturalists and farming was their primary activity.

Hurdaide's Offensive in Sinaloa (1599-1600). 
In 1599, Captain Diego de Hurdaide established San Felipe y Santiago on the site of the modern city of Sinaloa. From here, Captain Hurdaide waged a vigorous military campaign that subjugated the Cáhita-speaking Indians of the Fuerte River - the Sinaloas, Tehuecos, Zuaques, and Ahomes. These indigenous groups, numbering approximately 20,000 people, resisted strongly.

Initial Contact with the Mayo Indians (1609-1610). 
The Mayo Indians were an important Cáhita-speaking tribe occupying some fifteen towns along the Mayo and Fuerte rivers of southern Sonora and northern Sinaloa. As early as 1601, they had developed a curious interest in the Jesuit-run missions of their neighbors. The Mayos sent delegations to inspect the Catholic churches and, as Professor Spicer observes, "were so favorably impressed that large groups of Mayos numbering a hundred or more also made visits and became acquainted with Jesuit activities." As the Jesuits began their spiritual conquest of the Mayos, Captain Hurdaide, in 1609, signed a peace treaty with the military leaders of the Mayos.

Spanish Contact with the Yaqui Indians (1610). 
At contact, the Yaqui Indians occupied the coastal region of Sinaloa along the Yaqui River. Divided into eighty autonomous communities, their primary activity was agriculture. Although the Yaqui Indians had resisted Guzmán's advance in 1531, they had welcomed Francisco de Ibarra who came in peace in 1565, apparently in the hopes of winning the Spaniards as allies in the war against their traditional enemies, the Mayos.

In 1609, as Captain Hurdaide became engaged with the pacification of the Ocoronis (another Cáhita-speaking group of northern Sinaloa), he reached the Yaqui River, where he was confronted by a group of Yaquis. Then, in 1610, with the Mayo and Lower Pima Indians as his allies, Captain Hurdaide returned to Yaqui territory with a force of 2,000 Indians and forty Spanish soldiers. He was soundly defeated. When he returned with another force of 4,000 Indian foot soldiers and fifty mounted Spanish cavalry, he was again defeated in a bloody daylong battle.

Conversion of the Mayo Indians (1613-1620).
In 1613, at their own request, the Mayos accepted Jesuit missionaries. Soon after, the Jesuit Father Pedro Mendez established the first mission in Mayo territory. In the first fifteen days, more than 3,000 persons received baptism. By 1620, with 30,000 persons baptized, the Mayos had been concentrated in seven mission towns.

Conversion of the Yaqui Indians (1617-1620).
In 1617, the Yaquis, utilizing the services of Mayo intermediaries, invited the Jesuit missionaries to begin their work among them. Professor Spicer noted that after observing the Mayo-Jesuit interactions that started in 1613, the Yaquis seemed to be impressed with the Jesuits. Bringing a message of everlasting life, the Jesuits impressed the Yaquis with their good intentions and their spirituality. Their concern for the well being of the Indians won the confidence of the Yaqui people. In seeking to protect the Yaqui from exploitation by mine owners and encomenderos, the Jesuits came into direct conflict with the Spanish political authorities. From 1617 to 1619, nearly 30,000 Yaquis were baptized. By 1623, the Jesuits had reorganized the Yaquis from about eighty rancherías into eight mission villages.

Detachment of the Province of Sinaloa and Sonora (1733). 
In 1733, Sinaloa and Sonora were detached from Nueva Vizcaya and given recognition as the province of Sonora y Sinaloa. Ms. Deeds commented that this detachment represented a recognition of "the growth of a mining and ranching secular society in this northwestern region."

Rebellion of the Yaqui, Pima, and Mayo Indians - Sinaloa and Sonora (1740). 
The Yaqui and Mayo Indians had lived in peaceful coexistence with the Spaniards since the early part of the Seventeenth Century. Ms. Deeds, in describing the causes of this rebellion, observes that the Jesuits had ignored "growing Yaqui resentment over lack of control of productive resources." During the last half of the Seventeenth Century, so much agricultural surplus was produced that storehouses needed to be built. These surpluses were used by the missionaries to extend their activities northward into the California and Pima missions. The immediate cause of the rebellion is believed to have been a poor harvest in late 1739, followed in 1740 by severe flooding which exacerbated food shortages.

Ms. Deeds also points out that the "increasingly bureaucratic and inflexible Jesuit organization obdurately disregarded Yaqui demands for autonomy in the selection of their own village officials." Thus, this rebellion, writes Ms. Deeds, was "a more limited endeavor to restore the colonial pact of village autonomy and territorial integrity." At the beginning of the revolt, an articulate leader named El Muni emerged in the Yaqui community. El Muni and another Yaqui leader, Bernabé, took the Yaquis' grievances to local civil authorities. Resenting this undermining of their authority, the Jesuits had Muni and Bernabé arrested.

The arrests triggered a spontaneous outcry, with two thousand armed indigenous men gathering to demand the release of the two leaders. The Governor, having heard the complaints of both sides, recommended that the Yaqui leaders go to Mexico City to testify personally before the Viceroy and Archbishop Vizrón. In February 1740, the Archbishop approved all of the Yaqui demands for free elections, respect for land boundaries, that Yaquis be paid for work, and that they not be forced to work in mines.

The initial stages of the 1740 revolt saw sporadic and uncoordinated activity in Sinaloa and Sonora, primarily taking place in the Mayo territory and in the Lower Pima Country. Catholic churches were burned to the ground while priests and settlers were driven out, fleeing to the silver mining town at Alamos. Eventually, Juan Calixto raised an army of 6,000 men, composed of Pima, Yaqui and Mayo Indians. With this large force, Calixto gained control of all the towns along the Mayo and Yaqui Rivers. 

However, in August 1740, Captain Agustín de Vildósola defeated the insurgents. The rebellion, however, had cost the lives of a thousand Spaniards and more than 5,000 Indians. After the 1740 rebellion, the new Governor of Sonora and Sinaloa began a program of secularization by posting garrisons in the Yaqui Valley and encouraging Spanish residents to return to the area of rebellion. The Viceroy ordered the partition of Yaqui land in a "prudent manner." The Yaquis had obtained a reputation for being courageous warriors during the rebellion of 1740 and the Spanish handled them quite gingerly during the late 1700s. As a result, the government acquisition of Yaqui lands did not begin began until 1768.

Mexico Wins Independence – 1822.
Mexico won independence from Spain. Following independence, Nueva Vizcaya in 1824 was divided into the states of Chihuahua and Durango.

Yaqui, Mayo and Opata Rebellions of 1825-1833.

After Mexico gained independence in 1822, the Yaquis became citizens of a new nation. During this time, there appeared a new Yaqui leader. Ms. Linda Zoontjens, the author of A Brief History of the Yaqui and Their Land, referred to Juan de la Cruz Banderas as a "revolutionary visionary" whose mission was to establish an Indian military confederation. Once again, the Mayo Indians joined their Yaqui neighbors in opposing the central authorities. With a following of 2,000 warriors, Banderas carried out several raids. But eventually, Banderas made an arrangement with the Government of Sonora. In exchange for his "surrender," Banderas was made the Captain-General of the Yaqui Militia.

By early 1832, Banderas had formed an alliance with the Opatas. Together, the Opatas and Yaquis were able to field an army of almost 2,500 warriors, staging repeated raids against haciendas, mines and towns in Sonora. However, the Mexican army continued to meet the indigenous forces in battle, gradually reducing their numbers. Finally, in December 1832, volunteers tracked down and captured Banderas. The captive was turned over to the authorities and put on trial. A month later, in January 1833, Banderas was executed, along with eleven other Yaqui, Mayo and Opata leaders who had helped foment rebellion in Sonora.

The Yaqui people, after the capture and execution of Banderas, subsided into a tense, uneasy existence. Some, during periods of food shortage, would take up "peaceful" residence outside the presidios, to ask for rations. Others undertook low-level raiding.

The Resistance of the Yaqui Indians (1838-1868). 
After the death of Banderas, the Yaqui Indians attempted to forge alliances with anyone who promised them land and autonomy. They would align themselves with the Centralists or Conservatives as long as those groups protected their lands from being encroached upon. But when General José Urrea took power in 1841, he oversaw the division of Yaqui lands from communal plots into private plots.

Governor Ignacio Pesqueira of Sonora drew up a list of preventative measures to be used against the Yaquis, Opatas and their allies. These orders called for the execution of rebel leaders. In addition, hacienda owners were required to make up lists of all employees, including a notation for those who were suspected of taking part in rebellious activity against the civil government. These measures were ineffective in dealing with the growing unrest among the Yaqui and Opatas.

In 1867 Governor Pesqueira of Sonora organized two military expeditions against the Yaquis under the command of General Jesus Garcia Morales. The expeditions marched on Guaymas and Cócorit, both of which lay in the heart of Yaqui territory. These expeditions met at Medano on the Gulf Coast near the Jesuit-founded Yaqui town of Potam. The two expeditions, totaling about 900 men, did not meet with any organized resistance. Instead, small parties of Yaquis resisted their advance. By the end of the year, the Mexican forces had killed many Yaquis. The troops confiscated much livestock, destroyed food supplies, and shot most of the prisoners captured.

Yaqui Insurgencies - Sonora (1868-1875).
During these years, the Yaquis regained their strength and periodically attacked Mexican garrisons in their territory. In March 1868, six hundred Yaquis arrived near the town of Bacum in the eastern Yaqui country to ask the local field commander for peace terms. However, the Mexican officer, Colonel Bustamante, arrested the whole group, including women and children. When the Yaquis gave up forty-eight weapons, Bustamante released 150 people but continued to hold the other 450 people. Taking his captives to a Yaqui church in Bacum as prisoners of war, he was able to identify ten of the captives as leaders. All ten of these men were shot without a trial.

Four hundred and forty people were left languishing in the church overnight, with Bustamante's artillery trained on the church door to discourage an escape attempt. However, during the night a fire was started in the church. The situation inside the church turned to chaos and confusion, as some captives desperately tried to break down the door. As the Yaquis fled the church, several salvos fired from the field pieces killed up to 120 people.

In 1875, the Mexican government suspected that a Yaqui insurrection was brewing. In an attempt to pacify the Yaquis, Governor Jose J. Pesqueira ordered a new campaign, sending five hundred troops from the west into the Yaqui country. A force of 1,500 Yaquis met the Mexican troops at Pitahaya. In the subsequent battle, the Yaquis are believed to have lost some sixty men.

Cajeme and the Yaqui Rebellions During the Porfiriato (1876-1887).
During the reign of Porfirio Díaz, the ongoing struggle for autonomy and land rights dominated Yaqui-Mexican relations. An extraordinary leader named Cajeme now took center stage in the Yaquis' struggle for autonomy. Cajeme, whose name meant "He who does not drink," was born José María Leyva. He learned Spanish and served in the Mexican army. Although Cajeme's parents were Yaqui Indians, he had become very Mexicanized.

Cajeme's military service with the Mexican army was so exemplary that he was given the post of Alcalde Mayor of the Yaqui River area. Soon after receiving this promotion, however, Cajeme announced his intention to withdraw recognition of the Mexican Government if they did not grant the Yaquis self-government. Cajeme galvanized a new generation of Yaquis and Mayos and led his forces against selected towns in Yaqui Country.

Mexican Offensives Against the Yaquis (1885-1901).
Dr. Hatfield, in studying the struggle over Indian lands, wrote, "Rich Yaqui and Mayo valley lands possessed a soil and climate capable of growing almost any crop. Therefore, it was considered in the best national interest to open these lands to commercial development and foreign investors." During the 1880s, the Governor of Sonora, Carlos Ortiz, became concerned about his state's sovereignty over Indian lands. In the hopes of seizing Indian Territory, Ortiz withdrew his state troopers from the border region where they had been fighting the Apache Indians. In the meantime, Cajeme's forces began attacking haciendas, ranches and stations of the Sonora Railroad in the Guaymas and Alamos districts.

With rebel forces causing so much trouble, General Luis Torres, the Governor of Sonora, petitioned the Federal Government for military aid. Recognizing the seriousness of this rebellion, Mexican President Porfirio Díaz authorized his Secretary of War to begin a campaign against the Sonoran rebels. In 1885, 1,400 federal troops arrived in Sonora to help the Sonoran government put down the insurrection. Together with 800 state troops, the federal forces were organized into an expedition, with the intention of meeting the Yaquis in battle.

During 1886, the Yaquis continued to fortify more of their positions. Once again, Mexican federal and state forces collaborated by making forays into Yaqui country. This expedition confiscated more than 20,000 head of livestock and, in April 1886, occupied the Yaqui town of Cócorit. On May 5, the fortified site of Anil was captured after a pitched battle. After suffering several serious military reverses, the Yaqui forces fell back to another fortified site at Buatachive, high in the Sierra de Bacatet, to make a last stand against the Mexican forces.

Putting together a fighting force of 4,000 Yaquis, along with thousands of Yaqui civilians, Cajeme prepared to resist. On May 12, after a four-day siege, Mexican troops under General Angel Martinez attacked Buatachive. In a three-hour battle, the Mexican forces killed 200 Yaqui soldiers, while capturing hundreds of women and children. Cajeme and a couple thousand Yaquis managed to escape the siege.

After this staggering blow, Cajeme divided his forces into small bands of armed men. From this point on, the smaller units tried to engage government troops in small skirmishes. Although Cajeme asked the Federal authorities for a truce, the military leaders indicated that all Yaqui territory was part of the nation of Mexico. After a few months, expeditions into the war zone led to the capture of four thousand people. With the end of the rebellion in sight, General Luis Torres commenced with the military occupation of the entire Yaqui Nation.

With the end of hostilities, Mexican citizens began filtering into Yaqui territory to establish permanent colonies. On April 12, 1887, nearly a year after the Battle of Buatachive, Cajeme was apprehended near Guaymas and taken to Cócorit where he was to be executed before a firing squad in 1887. After being interviewed and photographed by Ramon Corral, he was taken by steamboat to Medano but was shot while trying to escape from the soldiers.

Government forces, searching for and confronting armed Yaquis, killed 356 Yaqui men and women over a period of two years. A comprehensive search for the Yaqui holdouts in their hiding places forced the rebels into the Guaymas Valley where they mingled with Yaqui laborers on haciendas and in railroad companies. As a result, the Mexican Government accused owners of haciendas, mining and railroad companies of shielding criminal Yaqui fugitives. Circulars were issued which forbade the owners from giving money, provisions, or arms to the rebels. During this time, some Yaquis were able to slip across the border into Arizona to work in mines and purchase guns and ammunition. The Mexican border guards were unable to stop the steady supply of arms and provisions coming across the border from Arizona. Eventually, Mexico's Secretary of War ordered the recruitment of Opatas and Pimas to hunt down the Yaqui guerillas.

In 1894-95, Luis Torres instituted a secret police system and carried out a meticulous survey of the entire Sierra de Bacatete, noting locations of wells supplying fresh water as well as all possible entrances and exits to the region. Renegade bands of Yaquis, familiar with the terrain of their own territory, were able to avoid capture by the government forces. During the campaign of 1895-97, captured rebels were deported to southern Mexico to be drafted into the army.

In 1897, the commander of the campaign forces, General Torres initiated negotiations with the Yaqui leader Tetabiate, offering the Yaquis repatriation into their homeland. After a number of months of correspondence between the guerilla leader and a colonel in one of the regiments, a place was set for a peace agreement to be signed. On May 15, 1897, Sonora state officials and the Tetabiate signed the Peace of Ortiz. The Yaqui leader, Juan Maldonado, with 390 Yaquis, consisting of 74 families, arrived from the mountains for the signing of the peace treaty.

In the six years following the signing of peace, Lorenzo Torres, the Governor of Sonora, made efforts to complete the Mexican occupation of Yaqui territory. Ignoring the terms of the peace treaty, four hundred Yaquis and their families defied the government and assembled in the Bacatete Mountains. Under the command of their leader Tetabiate, the Yaquis sustained themselves by making nighttime raids on the haciendas near Guaymas.

In the meantime, Federal troops and army engineers, trying to survey the Yaqui lands for distribution, found the terrain to be very difficult and were constantly harassed by defiant rebel forces. The government could not understand the Yaqui refusal to divide their land and become individual property owners. Their insistence of communal ownership based on traditional indigenous values also supported their objection to having soldiers in their territory. However, resentful of the continuing military occupation of their territory, the Yaqui colonies of Bácum and Vícam took up arms in 1899. Large detachments of rebel Yaqui forces confronted troops on the Yaqui River and suffered large casualties. Afterwards, a force of three thousand fled to the sierras and barricaded themselves on a plateau called Mazocoba where they were defeated by government troops.

When Tetabiate and the rebel forces fled to the Sierras, the government sent out its largest contingent to date with almost five thousand federal and state troops to crush this latest rebellion. Laws restricting the sale of firearms were reenacted and captured rebels were deported from the state. On January 18, 1900, three columns of his Government forces encountered a party of Yaquis at Mazocoba in the heart of the Bacatete Mountains. The Yaquis, mostly on foot, were pursued into a box canyon in a rugged portion of the mountains.

After a daylong battle, the Yaquis ceased fighting. The soldiers had killed 397 men, women, and some children, while many others had committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs. Roughly a thousand women and children were taken prisoner. By the end of 1900, there were only an estimated 300 rebels holding out in the Bacatete Mountains. Six months later, Tetabiate was betrayed and murdered by one of his lieutenants and the Secretary of War called off the campaign in August 1901.

Deportation of Yaqui Indians (1902-1910). 
After the turn of the century, the Mexican federal government decided on a course of action for clearing Yaquis out of the state of Sonora. Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky was placed in charge of Federal Rural Police in the state with orders to round up all Yaquis and arrange to deport them southward. Between 1902 -1908, between eight and possibly as many as fifteen thousand of the estimated population of thirty thousand Yaquis were deported.

The years 1904 through 1907 witnessed an intensification of guerilla activities and corresponding government persecution. The state government issued passports to Yaquis and those not having them were arrested and jailed. The Sonoran Governor Rafael Izábel was so intent on pacifying the Yaquis that he conducted his own arrests. These arrests included women, children as well as sympathizers. "When Yaqui rebellion threatened Sonora's mining interests," writes Dr. Hatfield, "Governor Rafael Izábel deported Yaquis, considered superior workers by all accounts, to work on Yacatán's henequen plantations."

In analyzing the Mexican Government's policy of deportation, Dr. Hatfield observed that deportation of the Yaquis resulted from "the Yaquis' determination to keep their lands. Yaqui refusal to submit to government laws conflicted with the Mexican government's attempts to end all regional hegemony. The regime hoped to take Yaqui lands peacefully, but this the Yaquis prevented."

The bulk of the Yaquis were sent to work on hennequen plantations in the Yucatán and some were sent to work in the sugar cane fields in Oaxaca. Sonoran hacendados protested the persecution and deportation of the Yaquis because without their labor, their crops could not be cultivated or harvested. In the early Nineteenth Century, many Yaqui men emigrated to Arizona in order to escape subjugation and deportation to southern Mexico. Today, some 10,000 Yaqui Indians live in the United States, many of them descended from the refugees of a century ago.

The Yaquis Indians Today. 
Dr. Hatfield, in looking back on the long struggle of the Yaqui against the federal government, writes "A government study published in 1905 cited 270 instances of Yaqui and Mayo warfare between 1529 and 1902, excluding eighty-five years of relative peace between 1740 and 1825." But from 1825 to 1902, the Yaqui Nation was waging war on the government almost continuously.

By 1910, the Yaquis had been almost entirely eliminated from their homeland.  In the 1910 census, 5,175 persons classified as speakers of the Yaqui language five years of age and older lived within the Mexican Republic.   However, by 1930, the Yaqui population had dropped to 2,134.  It is very likely that many persons of Yaqui heritage may have denied that they spoke the language or belonged to the ethnic group.

The Yaquis fought their last major battle with Mexican forces in 1927.  However, in 1939, Mexican President Cardenas granted the Yaqui tribe official recognition and title to roughly one-third of their traditional tribal lands.

Even today, the Yaquis have managed to maintain a form of autonomy within the Mexican nation.  In the 2000 Mexican census, Sonora had a total of 55,694 persons who were classified as speakers of indigenous languages five years of age and over.  This group represented only 2.85% of the entire population of Sonora.  The population of persons speaking the Yaqui language, however, was only 12,467.

The Yaqui identity endures in the present day, but is in danger of extinction.  "They are threatened continually by the expansion of the Mexican population, as landless Mexicans invade their territory or intermarry with Yaquis and start to take over some of the lands," said Joe Wilder, Director of the University of Arizona's Southwest Center. "The Yaquis are at once deeply admired by Sonorans and deeply despised," said Wilder, noting that the Yaqui deer dancer is the official state symbol.

To many Americans, the Yaqui Indians represent an enduring legacy of the pre-Hispanic era.  Because the mestizaje and assimilation of many Mexican states was so complete and widespread, the Yaqui Indians are seen as a rare vestige of the old Mexico.

© 2008, John P. Schmal.

Sources:

Susan M. Deeds, "Indigenous Rebellions on the Northern Mexican Mission Frontier: From First-Generation to Later Colonial Responses," in Susan Schroeder, Native Resistance and the Pax Colonial in New Spain. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1998, pp. 1-29.

Shelley Bowen Hatfield, "Chasing Shadows: Indians Along the United States-Mexico Border 1876-1911." Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

Oscar J. Martínez, "Troublesome Border." Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988.

Cynthia Radding, "The Colonial Pact and Changing Ethnic Frontiers in Highland Sonora, 1740-1840," in Donna J. Guy and Thomas E. Sheridan (eds.), "Contested Ground: Comparative Frontiers on the Northern and Southern Edges of the Spanish Empire," pp. 52-66. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1998.

Daniel T. Reff, "Disease, Depopulation and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764." Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1991.

Robert Mario Salmon, "Indian Revolts in Northern New Spain: A Synthesis of Resistance (1680-1786)." Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991.

Edward H. Spicer, "Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960." Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1997.

Edward H. Spicer, "The Military History Of The Yaquis From 1867 To 1910: Three Points Of View." <Online: http://usaic.hua.army.mil/History/Html/spicer.html . September 12, 2001.

Linda Zoontjens, "Brief History of the Yaqui and their Land." Online: http://sustainedaction.org/Explorations/history_of_the_yaqui.htm . July 8, 2001

 


NORTHWEST MEXICO: FOUR CENTURIES OF INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE

by John P. Schmal

The Sixteenth-Century Spanish province of Nueva Vizcaya took up a great deal of territory, most of which today corresponds with four Mexican states. This large chunk of northwestern Mexico, which consists of 610,000 square kilometers (372,200 square miles), witnessed almost four hundred years of indigenous resistance against the Spanish Empire and the Mexican Federal Government.

The State of Sinaloa, with a surface area of 58,487 square kilometers (22,582 square miles), is basically a narrow strip of land running along the Pacific Ocean. The state of Sonora, which lay north of Sinaloa, consists of 182,554 square kilometers (70,484 square miles) and has a common border with Arizona and New Mexico. Inland from Sinaloa and Sonora we will find Mexico's largest state, Chihuahua. With a surface area of 245,612 square kilometers (94,831 square miles), Chihuahua is divided into two main regions: the mountain area of the Sierra Madre in the west and the vast desert basins in the west and north. Durango, with a surface area of 123,520 square kilometers (47,691 square miles), lay to the south of Chihuahua and the east of Sinaloa.

From the First Contact in 1531 up until the Twentieth Century, the indigenous people of Nueva Vizcaya waged many wars of resistance against the federal authorities in Mexico City. The insurrections and conflagrations that raged on endlessly for so long can be classified into four main categories:

1) Confrontation at first contact. Some indigenous tribes decided to attack or oppose the Spaniards as soon as they arrived in their territory. These rebellions were an attempt to maintain pre-Hispanic cultural elements and to reject the introduction of a new culture and religion.

2) First-Generation Indian rebellions. Indigenous groups that had come under Spanish rule and embraced Christianity fall in this category. Such rebellions took place within the first generation of contact and usually represented an attempt to restore pre-Hispanic social and religious elements.

3) Second-Generation Indian rebellions. These rebellions took place in populations that had already been under Spanish rule for decades or even centuries. However, the two likely goals for such insurgencies were sharply divergent from one another. In the case of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, for example, the Indians sought to completely obliterate all traces of Spanish culture and Christian symbolism from Pueblo society. However, other second-generation revolts, such as the Yaqui Rebellion of 1740, sought to make changes within the Spanish system. Usually the goal of such insurgencies was to gain autonomy, address grievances, or maintain land ownership.

4) Indian attacks on other indigenous groups. Indigenous groups who attacked other indigenous groups may have done so for a number of reasons. Some attacks were the manifestation of traditional enmity between indigenous neighbors. Other attacks may have been designed to seek revenge on indigenous groups who had become Christian or cooperated with the Spaniards. Raids on Spanish and Amerindian settlements was usually carried out in order to seize materials such as food, clothing, horses, cattle, and arms.

First Contact: 1531. In December 1529, the professional lawyer turned Conquistador, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, led an expedition of 300 Spaniards and 10,000 Indian allies (Tlaxcalans, Aztecs and Tarascans) into the coastal region of what is now called Sinaloa. Before arriving in the coastal region, Guzmán's army had ravaged through Michoacán, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Nayarit, provoking the natives to give battle everywhere he went. The historian Peter Gerhard, in The North Frontier of New Spain, observed that Guzmán's army "engaged in wholesale slaughter and enslavement."

In March 1531, Guzmán's army reached the site of present-day Culiacán (now in Sinaloa), where his force engaged an army of 30,000 warriors in a pitched battle. The indigenous forces were decisively defeated and, as Dr. Gerhard notes, the victors "proceeded to enslave as many people as they could catch." The indigenous people confronted by Guzmán belonged to the Cáhita language group. Speaking eighteen closely related dialects, the Cáhita peoples of Sinaloa and Sonora numbered about 115,000 and were the most numerous of any single language group in northern Mexico. These Indians inhabited the coastal area of northwestern Mexico along the lower courses of the Sinaloa, Fuerte, Mayo, and Yaqui Rivers.

During his stay in Sinaloa, Guzmán's army was ravaged by an epidemic that killed many of his Amerindian auxiliaries. Finally, in October 1531, after establishing San Miguel de Culiacán on the San Lorenzo River, Guzmán returned to the south, his mostly indigenous army decimated by hunger and disease. But the Spanish post at Culiacán remained, Dr. Gerhard writes, as "a small outpost of Spaniards surrounded on all sides but the sea by hostile Indians kept in a state of agitation" by the slave-hunting activities of the Spaniards. Nuño de Guzmán was eventually brought to justice for his genocidal actions.

Epidemic Disease - Sinaloa (1530-1536). Daniel T. Reff, the author of Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764, explains that "viruses and other microorganisms undergo significant genetic changes when exposed to a new host environment, changes often resulting in new and more virulent strains of microorganisms." The Indians of the coastal region, never having been exposed to Spaniards and their diseases previously, provided fertile ground for the proliferation of smallpox and measles. It is believed that as many as 130,000 people died in the Valley of Culiacán during the Measles Pandemic of 1530-1534 and the Smallpox Plague of 1535-1536.

The Expedition of Coronado. In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition of 225 cavalrymen, sixty-two foot soldiers, and 1,000 Indian warriors and slaves to the north. Seeking the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Coronado's expedition journeyed through what is today called Sinaloa, Sonora, Arizona, New Mexico and Kansas. In 1542, Coronado returned to Mexico, empty-handed.

Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1542). While Coronado's force was in the north, a massive rebellion of the indigenous people throughout Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Nayarit took place. For the better part of two years, the rebellion continued in this area called Nueva Galicia. However, eventually, the Spanish military authorities, with the help of Tlaxcalan, Tarascan, and Mexica warriors in their ranks, crushed the rebellion. A second rebellion, the Chichimeca War, centered in Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and parts of Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, and Durango, started in 1550. This protracted guerilla war would be waged until the last decade of the Sixteenth Century.

Francisco de Ibarra. From 1563 to 1565, Francisco de Ibarra traveled through parts of Nueva Vizcaya, constructing settlements of a permanent nature. It was Ibarra who gave this area its name, after his home province of Vizcaya in Spain. The first capital of the province, Durango, founded in July 1563, was similarly named for his birthplace. Francisco de Ibarra's expedition was responsible for some of the first European observations on the Acaxee, Xixime, and Tepehuán groups of Durango.

By the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, Spanish authorities had organized many of the Indians in Durango and Sinaloa into encomiendas. Although encomienda Indians were supposed to provide labor "for a few weeks per year," the historian Ms. Susan M. Deeds explains that "they often served much longer and some apparently became virtual chattels of Spanish estates." She goes on to say that the Jesuits' "systematic congregation of Indians into villages" starting in the 1590s encouraged the development of encomiendas by making Indians more accessible to their encomenderos." In practice, Mrs. Deeds concludes, encomiendas usually resulted in the "tacit enslavement of Indians."

As the Spaniards moved northward they found an amazing diversity of indigenous groups. Unlike the more concentrated Amerindian groups of central Mexico, the Indians of the north were referred to as "ranchería people" by the Spaniards. Their fixed points of settlements (rancherías) were usually scattered over an area of several miles and one dwelling may be separated from the next by up to half a mile. The renowned anthropologist, Professor Edward H. Spicer (1906-1983), writing in Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960, stated that most ranchería people were agriculturalists and farming was their primary activity.

Hurdaide's Offensive in Sinaloa (1599-1600). In 1599, Captain Diego de Hurdaide established San Felipe y Santiago on the site of the modern city of Sinaloa. From here, Captain Hurdaide waged a vigorous military campaign that subjugated the Cáhita-speaking Indians of the Fuerte River - the Sinaloas, Tehuecos, Zuaques, and Ahomes. These indigenous groups, numbering approximately 20,000 people, resisted strongly.

Acaxee Revolt - Northwestern Durango and East Central Sinaloa (1601). The Acaxee Indians lived in dispersed rancherías in the gorges and canyons of the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwestern Durango and eastern Sinaloa. Once the Jesuit missionaries started to work among the Acaxees, they forced them to cut their very long hair and to wear clothing. The Jesuits also initiated a program of forced resettlement so that they could concentrate the Acaxees in one area.

In December 1601, the Acaxees, under the direction of an elder named Perico, began an uprising against Spanish rule. The author Susan Deeds, writing in "Indigenous Rebellions on the Northern Mexican Mission Frontier from First-Generation to Later Colonial Responses," states that the Acaxee Revolt "was characterized by messianic leadership and promises of millennial redemption during a period of violent disruption and catastrophic demographic decline due to disease." Claiming to have come from heaven to save his people from the false doctrines of the Jesuits, Perico planned to exterminate all the Spaniards. Although he promised to save his people from the Catholic missionaries and their way of life, his messianic activity included saying Mass, and performing baptisms and marriages.

Ms. Deeds observes that the Acaxee and other so-called first generation revolts represented "attempts to restore pre-Columbian social and religious elements that had been destroyed by the Spanish conquest." In the following weeks, the Acaxees attacked the Spaniards in the mining camps and along mountain roads, killing fifty people. After the failure of negotiations, Francisco de Urdiñola led a militia of Spaniards and Tepehuán and Concho allies into the Sierra Madre. Susan Deeds writes that "the campaign was particularly brutal, marked by summary trials and executions of hundreds of captured rebels." Perico and 48 other rebel leaders were executed, while other rebels were sold into slavery.

Xiximes Revolt - Northwestern and western Durango (1610). The Xixime Indians, referred to as "wild mountain people," inhabited the mountain country of western Durango, inland from Mazatlán. The Xiximes were the traditional enemies of the Acaxees and, according to Jesuit accounts, the "the most bellicose of all Nueva Vizcayan Indians." When Guzmán's scouts entered these foothills in 1531, Dr. Gerhard writes that they had "found the natives and the terrain so inhospitable that they soon retreated." However, in 1565, Francisco de Ibarra marched against the Xiximes and subdued them.

The first Xixime rebellion was a short-lived outbreak in 1601. A second uprising in 1610 coincided with the outbreak of a smallpox epidemic in an Acaxee village near the Acaxee-Xixime border. Seeing the Spaniards as the likely source of the disease, the Xiximes had begun to stockpile stores of arrows in stones fortifications. Seeking an alliance with the Tepehuanes and Acaxees, the Xixime leaders promised immortality to all warriors who died in battle.

After the summer rains subsided, Governor Urdiñola led a large force of 200 armed Spaniards and 1,100 Indian warriors into Xixime territory. Utilizing "scorched-earth tactics," Urdiñola's "relentless pursuit resulted in the surrender of principal insurgent leaders, ten of whom were hanged." After the revolt was completely suppressed, the authorities brought in Jesuit missionaries, bearing gifts of tools, seed and livestock. With the help of Spanish soldiers, the missionaries congregated the Xiximes from 65 settlements into five new missions.

Initial Contact with the Mayo Indians (1609-1610). The Mayo Indians were an important Cáhita-speaking tribe occupying some fifteen towns along the Mayo and Fuerte rivers of southern Sonora and northern Sinaloa. As early as 1601, they had developed a curious interest in the Jesuit-run missions of their neighbors. The Mayos sent delegations to inspect the Catholic churches and, as Professor Spicer observes, "were so favorably impressed that large groups of Mayos numbering a hundred or more also made visits and became acquainted with Jesuit activities." As the Jesuits began their spiritual conquest of the Mayos, Captain Hurdaide, in 1609, signed a peace treaty with the military leaders of the Mayos.

Spanish Contact with the Yaqui Indians (1610). At contact, the Yaqui Indians occupied the coastal region of Sinaloa along the Yaqui River. Divided into eighty autonomous communities, their primary activity was agriculture. Although the Yaqui Indians had resisted Guzmán's advance in 1531, they had welcomed Francisco de Ibarra who came in peace in 1565, apparently in the hopes of winning the Spaniards as allies in the war against their traditional enemies, the Mayos.

In 1609, as Captain Hurdaide became engaged with the pacification of the Ocoronis (another Cáhita-speaking group of northern Sinaloa), he reached the Yaqui River, where he was confronted by a group of Yaquis. Then, in 1610, with the Mayo and Lower Pima Indians as his allies, Captain Hurdaide returned to Yaqui territory with a force of 2,000 Indians and forty Spanish soldiers. He was soundly defeated. When he returned with another force of 4,000 Indian foot soldiers and fifty mounted Spanish cavalry, he was again defeated in a bloody daylong battle.

Conversion of the Mayo Indians (1613-1620). In 1613, at their own request, the Mayos accepted Jesuit missionaries. Soon after, the Jesuit Father Pedro Mendez established the first mission in Mayo territory. In the first fifteen days, more than 3,000 persons received baptism. By 1620, with 30,000 persons baptized, the Mayos had been concentrated in seven mission towns.

Conversion of the Yaqui Indians (1617-1620). In 1617, the Yaquis, utilizing the services of Mayo intermediaries, invited the Jesuit missionaries to begin their work among them. Professor Spicer noted that after observing the Mayo-Jesuit interactions that started in 1613, the Yaquis seemed to be impressed with the Jesuits. Bringing a message of everlasting life, the Jesuits impressed the Yaquis with their good intentions and their spirituality. Their concern for the well being of the Indians won the confidence of the Yaqui people. In seeking to protect the Yaqui from exploitation by mine owners and encomenderos, the Jesuits came into direct conflict with the Spanish political authorities. From 1617 to 1619, nearly 30,000 Yaquis were baptized. By 1623, the Jesuits had reorganized the Yaquis from about eighty rancherías into eight mission villages.

Tepehuanes Revolt - Western and Northwestern Durango, Southern Chihuahua (1616-1620). The Tepehuanes occupied an extensive area of the Sierra Madre Mountains from the southern headwaters of the Rio Fuerte to the Rio Grande de Santiago in Jalisco. Much of their territory lay in present-day Durango and Chihuahua. The first Jesuits, bearing gifts of seeds, tools, clothing and livestock, went to work among the Tepehuanes in 1596. Between 1596 and 1616, eight Jesuit priests had converted the majority of the Tepehuanes.

It is likely that the epidemics that struck the Tepehuanes population in 1594, 1601-02, 1606-07, and 1612-1615 became a catalyst for this rebellion. This apparent failure of the Jesuit God to save their people from famine and disease, writes Charlotte M. Gradie, the author of The Tepehuán Revolt of 1616: Militarism, Evangelism, and Colonialism in Seventeenth-Century Nueva Vizcaya, caused the Tepehuanes culture to undergo "enormous stress from various factors associated with Spanish conquest and colonization." This stress convinced the Tepehuanes to embrace a return to their traditional way of life before the arrival of the Spaniards.

This "reinstatement of traditional religious beliefs and deities," writes Ms. Gradie, would ensure that the Spaniards would never again enter Tepehuán territory. One of the leaders of the revolt, Quautlatas, spoke a message of hope, telling his listeners that they should not accept the Christian God, but instead return to worshipping their former gods.

On the night of November 16, 1616, the Tepehuán rose in rebellion, taking the Spaniards completely by surprise. Entering Atotonilco, the Indians killed ten missionaries and 200 civilians. That same night they surrounded to Santiago Papasquiaro, where the Christians resisted 17 days. The Tepehuanes Indians had limited success in trying to enlist the aid of the Conchos Indians who lived around the Parras mission, on the northern edge of the Tepehuán territory. On the other hand, they had considerable success in getting the Acaxees and Xiximes to attack Spanish mines and settlements in western Nueva Vizcaya. However, when the Tepehuanes advanced on the recently converted Acaxee pueblos of Tecucuoapa and Carantapa, the 130 Acaxee warriors decided to side with the Spaniards and decisively defeated their Tepehuán neighbors. Because the loyalties of the Acaxees and Xiximes were divided, the Spaniards were able to extinguish their uprising more rapidly.

Ms. Charlotte M. Gradie writes that "native allies [of the Spaniards] were crucial in mounting an effective defense against the Tepehuanes and in putting down the revolt." On December 19, Captain Gáspar de Alvear led a force of sixty-seven armed cavalry and 120 Concho allies into the war zone to confront the insurgents. The hostilities continued until 1620 and laid waste to a large area. When Mateo de Vesga became Governor of Nueva Vizcaya in 1618, he described the province as "destroyed and devastated, almost depopulated of Spaniards." By the end of the revolt, at least a thousand allied Indians had died, while the Tepehuanes may have lost as many as 4,000 warriors. Professor Spicer regards the Tepehuán revolt as "one of the three bloodiest and most destructive Indian attempts to throw off Spanish control in northwestern New Spain." Following the revolt, the Tepehuanes fled to mountain retreats to escape Spanish vengeance. Not until 1723 would the Jesuits return to work among them.

Tarahumaras - Western and Eastern Durango; Southern Chihuahua (1621-1622).

Occupying an extensive stretch of the Sierra Madre Mountains, the Tarahumara Indians were ranchería people who planted corn along the ridges of hills and in valleys. During the winters, they retreated to the lowlands or the deep gorges to seek shelter. Some of them lived in cave excavations along cliffs or in stone masonry houses. The Tarahumara received their first visit from a Jesuit missionary in 1607. But the ranchería settlement pattern of both the Tepehuanes and Tarahumara represented a serious obstacle to the efforts of the missionaries who sought to concentrate the Amerindian settlements into compact communities close to the missions.

In January 1621, the Tepehuanes from the Valle de San Pablo y San Ignacio, with some Tarahumara Indians, attacked estancias in the Santa Bárbara region. They looted and burned buildings and killed Spaniards and friendly Indians. Three separate Spanish expeditions from Durango were sent after the Indian rebels. With the death of their military and religious leaders, however, the Tarahumara rebels could no longer carry on an organized resistance.

The Silver Strike at Parral - Chihuahua (1631). As early as 1567, the silver mines at Santa Bárbara were established in the territory of the Conchos Indians. However, in 1631, a vast new silver strike was made at Parral in what is now southern Chihuahua. The strike in Parral led to a large influx of Spaniards and Indian laborers into this area of Tarahumara country north of Santa Bárbara. However, the steadily increasing need for labor in the Parral mines, according to Professor Spicer, led to the "forcible recruitment, or enslavement, of non-Christian Indians."

Revolt of the Tobosos, Salineros and Conchos - Eastern and Northwestern Durango; Southern Chihuahua (1644-1652). In Indian Assimilation in the Franciscan Area of Nueva Vizcaya, the anthropologist Professor William B. Griffen, commenting on the establishment of the silver mines at Parral in 1631, notes that the "influx of new people and the resulting development of Spanish society no doubt placed increased pressure upon the native population in the region." Griffen also cites "a five-year period of drought, accompanied by a plague," which had occurred immediately preceding the uprising as a contributing factor. The large area of southern Chihuahua inhabited by the Conchos Indians included the highway between the mining districts of Parral, Cusihuiriachic, and Chihuahua.

Very abruptly, in 1644, nearly all of the general area north and east of the Parral district of Chihuahua was aflame with Indian rebellion as the Tobosos, Cabezas, and Salineros rose in revolt. In the spring of 1645, the Conchos - long-time allies of the Spaniards - also took up arms against the Europeans. Professor Griffen wrote that the Conchos had "rather easily become incorporated into the Spanish empire. In the 1600s they labored and fought for the Spaniards, who at this time often lauded them for their industry and constancy." But now, the Conchos established a confederation of rebellious tribes that included the Julimes, Xiximoles, Tocones, and Cholomes. On June 16, 1645, Governor Montaño de la Cueva, with a force of 90 Spanish cavalry and 286 Indian infantry auxiliaries, defeated a force of Conchos. By August 1645, most of the Conchos and their allies had surrendered and return to their work.

Revolt of the Tarahumara (1648-1652). The 1648 rebellion began with an organized insurgency in the little Tarahumara community of Fariagic, southwest of Parral. Under the leadership of four caciques (chiefs), several hundred Tarahumara Indians moved northward, attacking missions along the way. The mission of San Francisco de Borja was destroyed before a Spanish expedition from Durango met the Indians in battle and captured two of their leaders.

The short-lived rebellion of 1648 was followed by more outbreaks in 1650 and 1652. According to Professor Spicer, relations between the Tarahumara and the Spanish settlers had grown tense in recent years as "the Spaniards appropriated farming sites, assumed domineering attitudes over the Indians, and attempted to force the Indians to work for them." The Villa de Aguilar and its associated mission of Papigochic became the targets of Tarahumara attacks in both 1650 and 1652. A contingent of Tarahumara under Tepórame attacked and laid waste to seven Franciscan establishments in Concho territory. Eventually, the Spanish forces defeated the insurgents and executed Tepórame.

Revolt of the Salineros, Conchos, Tobosos, and Tarahumaras - Northeastern Durango; Southern and Western Chihuahua (1666-1680). In 1666, some of the western Conchos rose in rebellion following a drought, famine and epidemic. But in the following year, the rebellion spread to the Tobosos, Cabezas, and Salineros. Although Spanish forces were sent to contain the rebellion, the turmoil continued for a decade. Professor Jack D. Forbes, the author of Apache, Navaho, and Spaniard, writes that "the Nueva Vizcaya region was a land of continual war in the early 1670's." By 1677, in fact, Nueva Vizcaya was in great danger of being lost. However, in a series of campaigns, the Spaniards killed many of the enemy and captured up to 400 Indians. But even after these battles, the Conchos, Tobosos, Julimes and Chisos continued to wage war against the European establishment.

Developments in New Mexico. By 1626, the Franciscan missionaries in the Spanish province of New Mexico claimed to have converted some 34,000 Indians. By 1630, the colony at Santa Fe consisted of 250 Spaniards and 750 people of Indian and Spanish mixture. Starting around 1660, drought and crop failure started to plague New Mexico with increasing frequency. Tensions increased between the Indian population and the Spaniards, who had forbade the Pueblos from performing their rainmaking ceremonies. By 1680, epidemics had reduced the Pueblo Indian population by fifty percent from 1630.

The Great Northern Revolt of the Pueblos, Salineros, Conchos, Tobosos and Tarahumaras - New Mexico, Northeastern Durango, Southern and Western Chihuahua (1680 - 1689). In 1680, Pope, a Pueblo Indian medicine man, having assembled a unified Pueblo nation, led a successful revolt against Spanish colonists in New Mexico. Beginning at dawn on August 11, 1680, the insurgents killed twenty-one Franciscan missionaries serving in the various pueblos. At least 400 Spanish colonists were murdered in the first days of the rebellion. On August 15, Indian warriors converged on Santa Fe. They cut off the water supply to the 2,000 men, women and children there, and they sang, "The Christian god is dead, but our sun god will never die." The Spaniards counterattacked, causing the Pueblos to pull back momentarily. Then, on August 21 the Spaniards and mestizos trapped inside of Santa Fe fled, making their way southward down the Rio Grande to El Paso al Norte Mission, which had been built in 1659.

Once the Spaniards had been expelled, Pope initiated a campaign to eradicate Spanish cultural elements, disallowing the use of the Spanish language, and insisting that Indians baptized as Christians be bathed in water to negate their baptisms. Religious ceremonies of the Catholic Church were banned and the Indians were stopped from verbally using the names of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints.

The Pope Revolt, in addition to driving the Spaniards from the Santa Fe-Albuquerque region for more than a decade, also provided the Pueblo Indians with three to five thousand horses. Almost immediately, they started breeding larger herds, with the intention of selling horses to the Apache and Comanche Indians. As a result, the widespread use of the horse revolutionized Indian life. While mounted Indians found that buffalo were much easier to kill, some tribes - such as the Comanche - met with great success when they used the horse for warfare.

The revolt in New Mexico jostled many of the indigenous tribes of Nueva Vizcaya into action. As the rebellion spread, hundreds were killed but the Spanish military, caught woefully off-guard, could only muster small squads for the defense of the settlements in Chihuahua and Sonora. During the power vacuum in New Mexico and Nueva Vizcaya following the 1680 revolt, the Apache Indians started to push far to the southwest, arriving at the gates of Sonora to attack Spanish and Opata settlements. Then, in 1684, as the Spaniards nursed their wounds at their new headquarters in El Paso, more rebellions popped up across all of northern Chihuahua. From Casas Grandes to El Paso, Conchos, Sumas, Chinarras, Mansos, Janos, and Apachean Jócomes all took up arms.

In November 1684, Governor Joseph de Neyra of Nueva Vizcaya reported that the indigenous rebels had taken 40,000 head of livestock from the northern frontier area. Unrest in the province continued into the following year as the Viceroy called for the construction of a presidio of fifty men near Casas Grandes (Chihuahua). In July 1688, the Janos and Jócome Indians once again attacked Casas Grandes. However, in a retaliatory raid a month later, a large Spanish force defeated the Janos, Jócomes, and Sumas, killing 200 warriors and capturing many women and children. Eventually the rebellion was put down, resulting in the execution of fifty-two Indians at Casas Grandes and twenty-five more in the Sonora mission area.

Uprisings of the Tarahumara Indians and other Sierra Madre Indians - Chihuahua (1690-1698). A general uprising of the Tarahumara and other tribes in 1690 and 1691 took place. The Tarahumara Indians at the northern mission of Tepómera rebelled and killed their missionaries. The Indians participating were led to believe that their leaders had the power to make Spanish guns useless. In addition, the Tarahumara were told that any of their warriors killed in battle would rise again after three days. However, within months, Spanish troops arrived from Parral and were able to kill the primary leader, ending the rebellion.

Epidemics of measles and smallpox broke out among the Tarahumara in 1693 and 1695. During this time, a belief developed that the ringing of church bells spread measles and smallpox. This may have contributed to two more uprisings in 1696 and 1698. The Tarahumara country from Sisoguichic in the south to Yepómera in the north was in open revolt. Units from several presidios were utilized in bringing the rebellious Tarahumara under control one more time.

The Reconquest of New Mexico (1692). The Pueblos lived as a free and independent people for twelve years. However, in 1692, missionaries and Spanish government officials focused on working together to invade New Mexico once again. By this time, Pope had died and the Pueblos had disbanded and returned to their old ways, which included each pueblo being autonomous from the others. Governor Diego de Vargas saw that the time was ripe for the Spaniards to return to New Mexico.

Pulling together a re-colonizing expedition of one hundred soldiers, seventy families, and eighteen Franciscan friars, together with some Indian allies, de Vargas left El Paso for Santa Fe on October 4, 1693. Pledging an end to the abuse that the Spaniards had inflicted on the Pueblo Indians up to 1680, Vargas' forces surrounded Santa Fe and then cut off the water supply. By 1694, Vargas had ended all effective resistance in New Mexico.

Pueblo Revolt of 1696 - New Mexico. On June 4, 1696, the Pueblo Indians attempted another revolt that resulted in the killing of five missionaries and twenty-one settlers. After a few churches were burned down, Spanish forces defeated the insurgents. Unlike the Revolt of 1680, this rebellion had been poorly planned and lasted only six months. Although the Pueblos had been subdued, the Hopi, Navajo and Apache tribes in New Mexico and Chihuahua continued to elude Spanish rule.

Rebellion of the Conchos - Chihuahua (1696). In this year, the Concho Indians attacked Nacori not far from the borders of the Tarahumara country a hundred miles south of Janos. Lieutenant Solis marched against the Conchos and captured three of their leaders. He executed all three, and the Conchos ceased hostilities

Detachment of the Province of Sinaloa and Sonora (1733). In 1733, Sinaloa and Sonora were detached from Nueva Vizcaya and given recognition as the province of Sonora y Sinaloa. Ms. Deeds commented that this detachment represented recognition of "the growth of a mining and ranching secular society in this northwestern region."

Rebellion of the Yaqui, Pima, and Mayo Indians - Sinaloa and Sonora (1740). The Yaqui and Mayo Indians had lived in peaceful coexistence with the Spaniards since the early part of the Seventeenth Century. Ms. Deeds, in describing the causes of this rebellion, observes that the Jesuits had ignored "growing Yaqui resentment over lack of control of productive resources." During the last half of the Seventeenth Century, so much agricultural surplus was produced that storehouses needed to be built. These surpluses were used by the missionaries to extend their activities northward into the California and Pima missions. The immediate cause of the rebellion is believed to have been a poor harvest in late 1739, followed in 1740 by severe flooding which exacerbated food shortages.

Ms. Deeds also points out that the "increasingly bureaucratic and inflexible Jesuit organization obdurately disregarded Yaqui demands for autonomy in the selection of their own village officials." Thus, this rebellion, writes Ms. Deeds, was "a more limited endeavor to restore the colonial pact of village autonomy and territorial integrity." At the beginning of the revolt, an articulate leader named El Muni emerged in the Yaqui community. El Muni and another Yaqui leader, Bernabé, took the Yaquis' grievances to local civil authorities. Resenting this undermining of their authority, the Jesuits had Muni and Bernabé arrested.

The arrests triggered a spontaneous outcry, with two thousand armed indigenous men gathering to demand the release of the two leaders. The Governor, having heard the complaints of both sides, recommended that the Yaqui leaders go to Mexico City to testify personally before the Viceroy and Archbishop Vizrón. In February 1740, the Archbishop approved all of the Yaqui demands for free elections, respect for land boundaries, that Yaquis be paid for work, and that they not be forced to work in mines.

The initial stages of the 1740 revolt saw sporadic and uncoordinated activity in Sinaloa and Sonora, primarily taking place in the Mayo territory and in the Lower Pima Country. Catholic churches were burned to the ground while priests and settlers were driven out, fleeing to the silver mining town at Alamos. Eventually, Juan Calixto raised an army of 6,000 men, composed of Pima, Yaqui and Mayo Indians. With this large force, Calixto gained control of all the towns along the Mayo and Yaqui Rivers.

However, in August 1740, Captain Agustín de Vildósola defeated the insurgents. The rebellion, however, had cost the lives of a thousand Spaniards and more than 5,000 Indians. After the 1740 rebellion, the new Governor of Sonora and Sinaloa began a program of secularization by posting garrisons in the Yaqui Valley and encouraging Spanish residents to return to the area of rebellion. The Viceroy ordered the partition of Yaqui land in a "prudent manner." The Yaquis had obtained a reputation for being courageous warriors during the rebellion of 1740 and the Spanish handled them quite gingerly during the late 1700s. As a result, the government acquisition of Yaqui lands did not begin began until 1768.

Pima Rebellion of 1751-1752. The Pima Indians have lived for many centuries in scattered locations throughout what are today the western two-thirds of southern Arizona and northern Sonora. While the Pimas Altos (Upper Pima Indians) lived in the north, their linguistic brethren, the Pima Bajo (Lower Pima) lived farther south in lower Sonora.

During the 1740s, the Pima Indians began to feel agitated by the presence of the Spaniards in their territory. In November 1751, under the leadership of a Pima leader, Captain-General Luís Oacpicagigua, the Pima rose in revolt. Within a few days more than a hundred settlers, miners, and ranchers were killed. Churches were burned, and two priests were also killed. However, on January 4, 1752, approximately 2,000 northern Pimans attacked less than one hundred Spaniards, only to be repulsed with a loss of forty-three dead. The Pima Revolt lasted only four months, ending with the surrender of Luís Oacpicagigua, who offered himself in sacrifice and atonement for his whole people, endeavoring to spare them the consequences of their uprising.

Apache Offensives in Sonora and Chihuahua (1751-1774). The word "Apache" comes from the Yuma word for "fighting-men". It also comes from a Zuni word meaning "enemy". Cynthia Radding, the author of The Colonial Pact and Changing Ethnic Frontiers in Highland Sonora, 1740-1840, refers to the Apaches as "diverse bands" of hunter-gatherers "related linguistically to the Athapaskan speakers of Alaska and western Canada." The Apaches were composed of six regional groups: (1) the Western Apaches (Coyotero) of eastern Arizona; (2) the Chiricahua of southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora; (3) the Mescalero of southern New Mexico; (4) the Jicarilla of Colorado, northern New Mexico and northwestern Texas; (5) the Lipan Apache of New Mexico and Texas; and (6) the Kiowa Apache of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The first Apache raids on Sonora appear to have taken place during the early part of the late Seventeenth Century. In fact, to counter the early Apache thrusts into Sonora, presidios were established at Janos (1685) in Chihuahua and at Fronteras (1690) in northern Opata country. The Apache depredations continued into the Eighteenth Century and prompted Captain Juan Mateo Mange in 1737 to report that "many mines have been destroyed, 15 large estancias along the frontier have been totally destroyed, having lost two hundred head of cattle, mules, and horses; several missions have been burned and two hundred Christians have lost their lives to the Apache enemy, who sustains himself only with the bow and arrow, killing and stealing livestock. All this has left us in ruins."

In the 1750s, the fiercest of all Apache tribes, the Chiricahua, began hunting and raiding along the mountainous frontier regions of both Sonora and Chihuahua. In 1751, the Sonorans mounted a punitive campaign against the Chiricahua, capturing two of their leaders. In 1753 and 1754, the Apaches once again attacked the settlements and ranches near Valle de San Buenaventura and Casas Grandes. As a result, another expedition of 190 Sonorans, 140 Opata allies, and 86 Spanish troops from Chihuahua went out in search of the marauders during 1756. When Apache raiders hit the region south of San Buenaventura in late 1760, an expedition of 100 Spanish troops and 130 Indian auxiliaries attacked the raiders.

In March 1771, several bands of Apaches struck numerous locations near Chihuahua City and Parral. On April 21, Bernardo de Galvez, leading a force of 110 men, fought a battle with 250 Apaches, killing fifty-eight of the enemy. In the spring of 1774, Apaches attacked many places in Chihuahua. On September 27, they invaded the Janos jurisdiction and engaged the Spaniards in battle. Once the battle had ended, the Spaniards followed them in hot pursuit until two days later, when they were ambushed by 100 Apaches who killed the Spanish commander and several soldiers.

The pressure of constant warfare waged against these nomads led the Spanish military to adopt a policy of maintaining armed garrisons of paid soldiers (presidios) in the problem areas. By 1760, Spain boasted a total of twenty-three presidios in the frontier regions. But the Apaches, responding to these garrisons, developed "important adaptations in their mode of subsistence, warfare, and social organization. They became highly skilled horsemen whose mobility helped them elude presidio troops.

Professor Robert Salmon, the author of Indian Revolts in Northern New Spain: A Synthesis of Resistance (1680-1786) writes that the continuing Indian attacks eventually "broke the chain of ineffective presidios established to control them." As the end of the Eighteenth Century approached, the Apaches represented a major threat to the continued Spanish occupation of Sonora and Chihuahua. And, as Professor Salmon concludes, "Indian warriors exacted high tolls in commerce, livestock, and lives." The damage caused by Apache raids was calculated in hundreds of thousands of pesos, and many ranches, farms and mining centers throughout Chihuahua had to be abandoned.

Professor Griffen mentions that the Apache raiders in Chihuahua "displaced or assimilated other groups of hunter-gatherers known as the Sumas, Mansos, Chinarras, Sumanos, Jócomes, and Janos." As a result, Ms. Radding observes, the Spaniards, Pimas, and Opatas found it necessary to form "an uneasy, but necessary, alliance against the Apaches." The Opata Indians controlled the major river valleys of Central Sonora.

Comanche Raids into Chihuahua (Second Half of the Eighteenth Century). The Comanche Indians had begun raiding Spanish settlements in Texas as early as the 1760s. Soon after, the Comanche warriors began raiding Chihuahua, Sonora, Coahuila, Durango and Nuevo León. T. R. Fehrenbach, the author of Comanches: The Destruction of a People, writes that "a long terror descended over the entire frontier, because Spanish organization and institutions were totally unable to cope with war parties of long-striking, swiftly moving Comanches."

Mounting extended campaigns into Spanish territory, the Comanches avoided forts and armies. T. R. Fehrenbach states that these Amerindians were "eternally poised for war." They traveled across great distances and struck their victims with great speed. "They rampaged across mountains and deserts," writes Mr. Fehrenbach, "scattering to avoid detection surrounding peaceful villages of peasants for dawn raids. They waylaid travelers, ravaged isolated ranches, destroyed whole villages along with their inhabitants."

Seri Offensives (1757-1766). At the time of contact, the Seri Indians lived along the arid central coast of Sonora and shared boundaries with the Yaqui on the south and the Pima and Pápago on the east and north. The first known battle between the Seris and the Spaniards took place in 1662. A century later, on November 3, 1757, a war party of Seris and rebel northern Pimans struck the settlement of San Lorenzo (Sonora), killing thirty-two persons. This brazen affront called for military reprisal, and the Spaniards collected troops to chase the offenders back to the coastal area.

In 1760, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza took over command of the Tubac Presidio in Southern Arizona and embarked into Seri country near the Gulf of California. In 1761, presidios were denuded of troops in order to supply personnel and materials for the offensive. A force of 184 Spanish soldiers, 217 allied Indians and twenty citizens went on the offensive against the Seris. They succeeded in slaying forty-nine Seris and capturing sixty-three, while recovering 322 horses.

The Jesuits are Banished (1767). In 1767 King Carlos III, for political reasons, abruptly banished the Jesuits from all his realms. Hundreds of mission establishments, schools and colleges had to be turned over to other missionary orders or converted to other uses. The Franciscans who took over the missionary effort in Sonora and Chihuahua inherited all the woes that had frustrated the Jesuits: restless neophytes, Apache hostility, disease, encroaching settlers, and lack of government support.

The Sonora Campaign (1767-1771). The Sonora Expedition of 1767 was led by Colonel Domingo Elizondo. The expedition was the result of demands by settlers in Sonora who had for decades suffered raids by warring ranchería groups of that province. Pacification of rebel Indian warriors of the coastal region was the main objective of the expedition that was comprised of an extraordinary 1,100 men. This expedition represented the greatest military effort yet seen in this Spanish frontier province.

During 1768, Colonel Elizondo's forces split up in an attempt to drive the Seri Indians into one area where a decisive battle could be fought. This mission failed to achieve its objective. The Indians, now well-trained in the art of hit-and-run and ambush style warfare, avoided direct confrontations with large Spanish armies. In 1771, after thirty-eight months of fighting, the Central Government in Mexico City put a stop to the Sonora Campaign, which was regarded as both costly and unsuccessful.

Peace Negotiations with the Apaches and Comanches (1777 - 1796). In 1777-78, Teodoro de Croix, the Commandant General of the Interior (frontier) provinces of Nueva España, called together three great conferences to discuss the Apache problem. "The Apache problem had existed on the frontier since the Spanish entered the country," writes Mr. Fehrenbach, "and each year it grew worse. The Apaches had five thousand warriors, armed with bows, lances, and firearms. They attacked only by surprise and only when they had the advantage."

Croix determined that it would take an army of at least 3,000 soldiers to confront and eliminate the Apache threat. He thus came to the conclusion that an alliance with the Comanches - the dreaded enemies of the Apaches - would bring about a resolution of the Apache problem. However, bogged down with "bureaucratic delays and obfuscation," de Croix was never able to get the money or men to implement this plan.

In 1779, Juan Bautista de Anza, the commander of the Tubac Presidio, gathered together an army of 600 men, which included 259 Amerindian auxiliaries and Spanish civilians, and marched north to the Colorado Plateau, in search of Comanches. Having estimated the Comanche population at 30,000 warriors spread across a large area, Anza attacked and surprised several bands of Comanches during 1783-84. Mr. Fehrenbach writes that Anza, operating with native allies and utilizing Indian tactics, earned the respect of the Comanches.

Finally, in 1785, the Comanches started negotiations with Anza. The following year, a peace treaty was signed in which several of the Comanche tribes pledged to assist the Spaniards against the Apaches. Through this agreement, Mr. Fehrenbach observed, "the Comanches could now ride openly into Spanish settlements [and] New Mexican traders could move safely on the Comanche plains."

In 1786, the Viceroy of Nueva España, Bernardo de Galvez, instituted a series of reforms for the pacification of the frontier. His Instrucción of that year called for the formation of peace establishments (establecimientos de paz) for Apaches willing to settle down and become peaceful. Oscar J. Martínez, the author of Troublesome Border, described Spain's new policy of "pacification by dependency" toward the indigenous peoples. "Henceforth," writes Mr. Martínez, "Spaniards would endeavor to make treaties with individual bands, persuade them to settle near military stations where they would receive food rations, give them low-quality weapons for hunting, encourage trade, and use 'divide and conquer' tactics where appropriate."

Soon, several Apache bands were induced to forgo their raiding and warfare habits in exchange for farmlands, food, clothing, agricultural implements and obsolete hunting arms. Mr. Martínez concludes: "The Spaniards hoped that these measures would result in the establishment of a dependency relationship, which is precisely what materialized, and for nearly twenty-five years peaceful relations came to exist between the two groups."

In February 1786, the Spaniards established a general peace with the Comanches. At the same time, the level of Apache hostilities in both Chihuahua and Sonora decreased, giving way to small-scale skirmishes. However, the peace policy did not last and Apaches began a new series of raids. In eighteen months of action between April 19, 1786 and December 31, 1787, Apaches caused the deaths of 306 people and took thirty prisoners. In the same period, the Spanish forces had killed 326 Apaches and captured 365 prisoners.

Eventually, however, the Apaches were brought back to the peace table. In the years to follow, peaceful Apaches settled down at Janos, Bacoachi, Carrizal, San Buenaventura and Namiquipa. By 1796, Antonio Cordero y Bustamante was reporting that this policy had met with considerable success on the frontier. However, Professor William B. Griffen, the author of Apaches at War and Peace: The Janos Presidio, 1750-1858, writes that "because of high administrative costs, and apparently because of restricted funds on the frontier due to the war with France," Spanish authorities started removing the peaceful Apaches from the presidios and urged them to return to the hinterland but to continue to keep the peace.

Mexico Wins Independence - 1822. Mexico won independence from Spain. Following independence, Nueva Vizcaya in 1824 was divided into the states of Chihuahua and Durango.

Apache Depredations in Mexico (1820-1835). During the late Eighteenth Century and early Nineteenth Century, the establecimientos de paz (establishments of peace) had helped to pacify the Apaches. Dr. Shelley Bowen Hatfield, the author of Chasing Shadows: Indians Along the United States-Mexico Border 1876-1911, observed, "Due to the maintenance of the establecimientos, Apache raids had diminished by 1800, to the point that Spanish frontier settlement could resume."

However, during Mexico's War for Independence (1810-1821), the rations guaranteed by the Spaniards almost disappeared, leading to a resumption of raiding in the frontier states. As a matter of fact, during the 1820s, the Apaches had returned to a state of war with Mexico. An estimated five thousand Mexicans in the frontier regions died at the hands of the Apaches between 1820 and 1835. Sonora and Chihuahua both adopted Apache extermination policies, offering significant amounts of money for an adult male Apache's scalp.

War with the Comanche Indians - 1820s. In the 1820s, the newly independent Mexican Republic was so preoccupied with political problems that it failed to maintain an adequate defense in its northern territories. Comanches ended the peace that they had made with the Spaniards and resumed warfare against the Mexican Federal Government. By 1825, they were making raids deep in Texas, New Mexico, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Chihuahua and Durango.

"Such conditions were permitted to continue in the north," writes Mr. Fehrenbach, "because independent Mexico was not a homogeneous or cohesive, nation it never possessed a government stable or powerful enough to mount sustained campaigns against the Amerindians." As a result, Comanche raiders killed thousands of Mexican soldiers, ranchers and peasants south of the Rio Grande.

Yaqui, Mayo and Opata Rebellions of 1825-1833. After Mexico gained independence in 1822, the Yaquis became citizens of a new nation. During this time, there appeared a new Yaqui leader. Ms. Linda Zoontjens, the author of A Brief History of the Yaqui and Their Land, referred to Juan de la Cruz Banderas as a "revolutionary visionary" whose mission was to establish an Indian military confederation. Once again, the Mayo Indians joined their Yaqui neighbors in opposing the central authorities. With a following of 2,000 warriors, Banderas carried out several raids. But eventually, Banderas made an arrangement with the Government of Sonora. In exchange for his "surrender," Banderas was made the Captain-General of the Yaqui Militia.

By early 1832, Banderas had formed an alliance with the Opatas. Together, the Opatas and Yaquis were able to field an army of almost 2,500 warriors, staging repeated raids against haciendas, mines and towns in Sonora. However, the Mexican army continued to meet the indigenous forces in battle, gradually reducing their numbers. Finally, in December 1832, volunteers tracked down and captured Banderas. The captive was turned over to the authorities and put on trial. A month later, in January 1833, Banderas was executed, along with eleven other Yaqui, Mayo and Opata leaders who had helped foment rebellion in Sonora.

The Yaqui people, after the capture and execution of Banderas, subsided into a tense, uneasy existence. Some, during periods of food shortage, would take up "peaceful" residence outside the presidios, to ask for rations. Others undertook low-level raiding.

Confrontations with Comanches - Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango (1834-1853). In 1834, Mexico signed its third peace treaty with the Comanches of Texas. However, almost immediately Mexico violated the peace treaty and the Comanches resumed their raids in Texas and Chihuahua. In the following year, Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango reestablished bounties for Comanche scalps. Between 1848 and 1853, Mexico filed 366 separate claims for Comanche and Apache raids originating from north of the American border.

A government report from 1849 claimed that twenty-six mines, thirty haciendas, and ninety ranches in Sonora had been abandoned or depopulated between 1831 and 1849 because of Apache depredations. In 1852, the Comanches made daring raids into Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora, and Durango and even Tepic in Jalisco, some 700 miles south of the United States-Mexican border.

The Yaqui Indians (1838-1868). After the death of Banderas, the Yaqui Indians attempted to forge alliances with anyone who promised them land and autonomy. They would align themselves with the Centralists or Conservatives as long as those groups protected their lands from being encroached upon. But when General José Urrea took power in 1841, he oversaw the division of Yaqui lands from communal plots into private plots.

Governor Ignacio Pesqueira of Sonora drew up a list of preventative measures to be used against the Yaquis, Opatas and their allies. These orders called for the execution of rebel leaders. In addition, hacienda owners were required to make up lists of all employees, including a notation for those who were suspected of taking part in rebellious activity against the civil government. These measures were ineffective in dealing with the growing unrest among the Yaqui and Opatas.

In 1867 Governor Pesqueira of Sonora organized two military expeditions against the Yaquis under the command of General Jesus Garcia Morales. The expeditions marched on Guaymas and Cócorit, both of which lay in the heart of Yaqui territory. These expeditions met at Medano on the Gulf Coast near the Jesuit-founded Yaqui town of Potam. The two expeditions, totaling about 900 men, did not meet with any organized resistance. Instead, small parties of Yaquis resisted their advance. By the end of the year, the Mexican forces had killed many Yaquis. The troops confiscated much livestock, destroyed food supplies, and shot most of the prisoners captured.

Apache Depredations - Chihuahua and Sonora (1836-1852). In 1836, the famous Chiricahua leader, Cochise, took part in the signing of a peace treaty at Arizpe, Sonora. The peace did not last for too many years. From 1847 into the 1850s, Sonora was laid to waste by the Chiricahuas, whose leader was Miguel Narbona, who died in 1856.

Geronimo, the legendary Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apaches, led his people in raids against the United States military and Mexican federal forces. Born sometime around 1823, Geronimo's real name was Goyahkla ("He Who Yawns"). In 1851, Geronimo was leading a party from the Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico into Mexico to trade at Casas Grandes in Chihuahua. His mother, wife, and three children were with him. His band set up a village on the outskirts of Casas Grandes.

One day he and some others were returning from town and found that their village had been attacked by Mexican troops. The sentinels had been killed, the ponies stolen, weapons taken, supplies destroyed, and many women and children had been killed. Among the murdered were his mother, wife, and children. From this day forward, Geronimo was a changed person. He is said to have become bitter and quarrelsome and determined to oppose the nations he saw as his enemies.

Over the next few months he met with other Apache leaders, including Cochise, the leader of the Chiricahuas. Within four months of the massacre, Geronimo and the other leaders prepared for revenge. In January 1852, near Arizpe, Sonora, Geronimo battled about a hundred Mexican irregular soldiers.

Yaqui Insurgencies - Sonora (1868-1875). During these years, the Yaquis regained their strength and periodically attacked Mexican garrisons in their territory. In March 1868, six hundred Yaquis arrived near the town of Bacum in the eastern Yaqui country to ask the local field commander for peace terms. However, the Mexican officer, Colonel Bustamante, arrested the whole group, including women and children. When the Yaquis gave up forty-eight weapons, Bustamante released 150 people but continued to hold the other 450 people. Taking his captives to a Yaqui church in Bacum as prisoners of war, he was able to identify ten of the captives as leaders. All ten of these men were shot without a trial.

Four hundred and forty people were left languishing in the church overnight, with Bustamante's artillery trained on the church door to discourage an escape attempt. However, during the night a fire was started in the church. The situation inside the church turned to chaos and confusion, as some captives desperately tried to break down the door. As the Yaquis fled the church, several salvos fired from the field pieces killed up to 120 people.

In 1875, the Mexican government suspected that a Yaqui insurrection was brewing. In an attempt to pacify the Yaquis, Governor Jose J. Pesqueira ordered a new campaign, sending five hundred troops from the west into the Yaqui country. A force of 1,500 Yaquis met the Mexican troops at Pitahaya. In the subsequent battle, the Yaquis are believed to have lost some sixty men.

Cajeme and the Yaqui Rebellions During the Porfiriato (1876-1887). During the reign of Porfirio Díaz, the ongoing struggle for autonomy and land rights dominated Yaqui-Mexican relations. An extraordinary leader named Cajeme now took center stage in the Yaquis' struggle for autonomy. Cajeme, whose name meant "He who does not drink," was born José María Leyva. He learned Spanish and served in the Mexican army. Although Cajeme's parents were Yaqui Indians, he had become very Mexicanized. Cajeme's military service with the Mexican army was so exemplary that he was given the post of Alcalde Mayor of the Yaqui River area. Soon after receiving this promotion, however, Cajeme announced his intention to withdraw recognition of the Mexican Government if they did not grant the Yaquis self-government. Cajeme galvanized a new generation of Yaquis and Mayos and led his forces against selected towns in Yaqui Country.

Apache Attacks in Chihuahua (1878-1886). From 1878 to 1886, Geronimo and his small band of Apaches escaped from captivity several times. In September 1881, on the run from the American military, Geronimo led a raiding party of seventy Chiricahua, along with their families, across the Rio Grande where they struck ranches throughout the state of Chihuahua. In November, the raiding party moved on to Sonora. He was captured soon after, but escaped American captivity again in 1884, when led 144 of his followers to freedom. As a free man, Geronimo led raids on pack trains, stealing supplies, arms, and ammunition. On a few occasions, the Apaches also attacked stagecoaches, frequently killing the settlers.

Early in 1883, Apaches staged raids in the Arizpe, Moctezuma, Sahuaripa, and Ures districts of Sonora. In May 1885, after escaping one more time, Geronimo led 134 warriors back to his old haunts in Mexico's Sierra Madre. On March 27, 1886, General George Crook managed to arrange a two-day parley with Geronimo in Mexico's Cañon de los Embudos. Geronimo agreed to surrender and accept a two-year imprisonment at Fort Marrion, 2,000 miles away in Florida. However, once across the American border, Geronimo and several of his followers escaped.

Soon after, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles replaced General Crook. With 5,000 troops and 400 Apache scouts on his payroll, General Crook traveled 1,645 miles in five months in search of Geronimo. Finally, on August 23, 1886, Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, leading 25 men and two Apache scouts through the Sierra Madre, located Geronimo, along with twenty men and fourteen women and children. The Apache leader agreed to talk to General Miles and joined Gatewood on the journey north. This would be Geronimo's final surrender. In October 1886, Geronimo arrived in Florida, thus ending his life on the run. Eight years later, Geronimo and his followers were moved to a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Mexican Offensives Against the Yaquis (1885-1901). Dr. Hatfield, in studying the struggle over Indian lands, wrote, "Rich Yaqui and Mayo valley lands possessed a soil and climate capable of growing almost any crop. Therefore, it was considered in the best national interest to open these lands to commercial development and foreign investors." During the 1880s, the Governor of Sonora, Carlos Ortiz, became concerned about his state's sovereignty over Indian lands. In the hopes of seizing Indian Territory, Ortiz withdrew his state troopers from the border region where they had been fighting the Apache Indians. In the meantime, Cajeme's forces began attacking haciendas, ranches and stations of the Sonora Railroad in the Guaymas and Alamos districts.

With rebel forces causing so much trouble, General Luis Torres, the Governor of Sonora, petitioned the Federal Government for military aid. Recognizing the seriousness of this rebellion, Mexican President Porfirio Díaz authorized his Secretary of War to begin a campaign against the Sonoran rebels. In 1885, 1,400 federal troops arrived in Sonora to help the Sonoran government put down the insurrection. Together with 800 state troops, the federal forces were organized into an expedition, with the intention of meeting the Yaquis in battle.

During 1886, the Yaquis continued to fortify more of their positions. Once again, Mexican federal and state forces collaborated by making forays into Yaqui country. This expedition confiscated more than 20,000 head of livestock and, in April 1886, occupied the Yaqui town of Cócorit. On May 5, the fortified site of Anil was captured after a pitched battle. After suffering several serious military reverses, the Yaqui forces fell back to another fortified site at Buatachive, high in the Sierra de Bacatet, to make a last stand against the Mexican forces.

Putting together a fighting force of 4,000 Yaquis, along with thousands of Yaqui civilians, Cajeme prepared to resist. On May 12, after a four-day siege, Mexican troops under General Angel Martinez, attacked Buatachive. In a three-hour battle, the Mexican forces killed 200 Yaqui soldiers, while capturing hundreds of women and children. Cajeme and a couple thousand Yaquis managed to escape the siege.

After this staggering blow, Cajeme divided his forces into small bands of armed men. From this point on, the smaller units tried to engage government troops in small skirmishes. Although Cajeme asked the Federal authorities for a truce, the military leaders indicated that all Yaqui territory was part of the nation of Mexico. After a few months, expeditions into the war zone led to the capture of four thousand people. With the end of the rebellion in sight, General Luis Torres commenced with the military occupation of the entire Yaqui Nation.

With the end of hostilities, Mexican citizens began filtering into Yaqui territory to establish permanent colonies. On April 12, 1887, nearly a year after the Battle of Buatachive, Cajeme was apprehended near Guaymas and taken to Cócorit where he was to be executed before a firing squad in 1887. After being interviewed and photographed by Ramon Corral, he was taken by steamboat to Medano but was shot while trying to escape from the soldiers.

Government forces, searching for and confronting armed Yaquis, killed 356 Yaqui men and women over a period of two years. A comprehensive search for the Yaqui holdouts in their hiding places forced the rebels into the Guaymas Valley where they mingled with Yaqui laborers on haciendas and in railroad companies. As a result, the Mexican Government accused owners of haciendas, mining and railroad companies of shielding criminal Yaqui fugitives. Circulars were issued which forbade the owners from giving money, provisions, or arms to the rebels. During this time, some Yaquis were able to slip across the border into Arizona to work in mines and purchase guns and ammunition. The Mexican border guards were unable to stop the steady supply of arms and provisions coming across the border from Arizona. Eventually, Mexico's Secretary of War ordered the recruitment of Opatas and Pimas to hunt down the Yaqui guerillas.

In 1894-95, Luis Torres instituted a secret police system and carried out a meticulous survey of the entire Sierra de Bacatete, noting locations of wells supplying fresh water as well as all possible entrances and exits to the region. Renegade bands of Yaquis, familiar with the terrain of their own territory, were able to avoid capture by the government forces. During the campaign of 1895-97, captured rebels were deported to southern Mexico to be drafted into the army.

In 1897, the commander of the campaign forces, General Torres initiated negotiations with the Yaqui leader Tetabiate, offering the Yaquis repatriation into their homeland. After a number of months of correspondence between the guerilla leader and a colonel in one of the regiments, a place was set for a peace agreement to be signed. On May 15, 1897, Sonora state officials and the Tetabiate signed the Peace of Ortiz. The Yaqui leader, Juan Maldonado, with 390 Yaquis, consisting of 74 families, arrived from the mountains for the signing of the peace treaty.

In the six years following the signing of peace, Lorenzo Torres, the Governor of Sonora, made efforts to complete the Mexican occupation of Yaqui territory. Ignoring the terms of the peace treaty, four hundred Yaquis and their families defied the government and assembled in the Bacatete Mountains. Under the command of their leader Tetabiate, the Yaquis sustained themselves by making nighttime raids on the haciendas near Guaymas.

In the meantime, Federal troops and army engineers, trying to survey the Yaqui lands for distribution, found the terrain to be very difficult and were constantly harassed by defiant rebel forces. The government could not understand the Yaqui refusal to divide their land and become individual property owners. Their insistence of communal ownership based on traditional indigenous values also supported their objection to having soldiers in their territory. However, resentful of the continuing military occupation of their territory, the Yaqui colonies of Bácum and Vícam took up arms in 1899. Large detachments of rebel Yaqui forces confronted troops on the Yaqui River and suffered large casualties. Afterwards, a force of three thousand fled to the sierras and barricaded themselves on a plateau called Mazocoba where they were defeated by government troops.

When Tetabiate and the rebel forces fled to the Sierras, the government sent out its largest contingent to date with almost five thousand federal and state troops to crush this latest rebellion. Laws restricting the sale of firearms were reenacted and captured rebels were deported from the state. On January 18, 1900, three columns of his Government forces encountered a party of Yaquis at Mazocoba in the heart of the Bacatete Mountains. The Yaquis, mostly on foot, were pursued into a box canyon in a rugged portion of the mountains.

After a daylong battle, the Yaquis ceased fighting. The soldiers had killed 397 men, women, and some children, while many others had committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs. Roughly a thousand women and children were taken prisoner. By the end of 1900, there were only an estimated 300 rebels holding out in the Bacatete Mountains. Six months later, Tetabiate was betrayed and murdered by one of his lieutenants and the Secretary of War called off the campaign in August 1901.

Deportation of Yaqui Indians (1902-1910). Following the Battle of Mazocoba and the killing of Tetabiate, Mexican forces continued to patrol the Bacatetes. The Mexicans pursued Yaqui rebels wherever there were alleged to be. The government also put pressure on Seri Indians to kill and cut off the hands of Yaquis who had sought refuge on Tiburon Island.

Meanwhile the federal government had decided on a course of action for clearing Yaquis out of the state of Sonora. Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky was placed in charge of Federal Rural Police in the state with orders to round up all Yaquis and arrange to deport them southward. Between 1902 -1908, between eight and possibly as many as fifteen thousand of the estimated population of thirty thousand Yaquis were deported.

The years 1904 through 1907 witnessed an intensification of guerilla activities and corresponding government persecution. The state government issued passports to Yaquis and those not having them were arrested and jailed. The Sonoran Governor Rafael Izábel was so intent on pacifying the Yaquis that he conducted his own arrests. These arrests included women, children as well as sympathizers. "When Yaqui rebellion threatened Sonora's mining interests," writes Dr. Hatfield, "Governor Rafael Izábel deported Yaquis, considered superior workers by all accounts, to work

on Yacatán's henequen plantations."

In analyzing the Mexican Government's policy of deportation, Dr. Hatfield observed that deportation of the Yaquis resulted from "the Yaquis' determination to keep their lands. Yaqui refusal to submit to government laws conflicted with the Mexican government's attempts to end all regional hegemony. The regime hoped to take Yaqui lands peacefully, but this the Yaquis prevented."

The bulk of the Yaquis were sent to work on henequen plantations in the Yucatán and some were sent to work in the sugar cane fields in Oaxaca. Sonoran hacendados protested the persecution and deportation of the Yaquis because without their labor, their crops could not be cultivated or harvested. In the early Nineteenth Century, many Yaqui men emigrated to Arizona in order to escape subjugation and deportation to southern Mexico. Today, some 10,000 Yaqui Indians live in the United States, many of them descended from the refugees of a century ago.

The Yaquis Indians Today. Dr. Hatfield, in looking back on the long struggle of the Yaqui against the federal government, writes "A government study published in 1905 cited 270 instances of Yaqui and Mayo warfare between 1529 and 1902, excluding eighty-five years of relative peace between 1740 and 1825." But from 1825 to 1902, the Yaqui Nation was waging war on the government almost continuously.

By 1910, the Yaquis had been almost entirely eliminated from their homeland. However, today, there are some 25,000 Yaquis living in the world. Many of the indigenous peoples discussed earlier no longer exist as cultural entities. They were destroyed by disease, enslavement and warfare or they were assimilated with other Indians. The Apaches are one the indigenous groups who have survived to the present. It was estimated that 30,000 were living in 1989.

The four-century battle of the indigenous people against the Spaniards and their allies is a long story that would fill volumes. However, I have attempted to depict the highlights of this extraordinary and ongoing campaign. In the bibliography below, you will be able to find very good sources for further studies into this subject.

Copyright © 2008 by John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part without the express permission of John P. Schmal is strictly prohibited.

Sources:

Susan M. Deeds, "Indigenous Rebellions on the Northern Mexican Mission Frontier: From First-Generation to Later Colonial Responses," in Susan Schroeder, Native Resistance and the Pax Colonial in New Spain. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1998, pp. 1-29.

Dr. Henry F. Dobyns, Tubac Through Four Centuries: An Historical Resume and Analysis. Online: http://www.library.arizona.edu/images/dobyns/welcome.html . September 8, 2001.

T. R. Fehrenbach, Comanches: The Destruction of a People. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.

Jack D. Forbes, Apache, Navajo, and Spaniard. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994 (2nd ed.)

Charlotte M. Gradie, The Tepehuan Revolt of 1616: Militarism, Evangelism, and Colonialism in Seventeenth-Century Nueva Vizcaya. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000.

William B. Griffen, Apaches at War and Peace: The Janos Presidio, 1750-1858. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

William B. Griffen, Indian Assimilation in the Franciscan Area of Nueva Vizcaya. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Shelley Bowen Hatfield, Chasing Shadows: Indians Along the United States-Mexico Border 1876-1911. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

Oscar J. Martínez, Troublesome Border. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988.

Cynthia Radding, "The Colonial Pact and Changing Ethnic Frontiers in Highland Sonora, 1740-1840," in Donna J. Guy and Thomas E. Sheridan (eds.), Contested Ground: Comparative Frontiers on the Northern and Southern Edges of the Spanish Empire, pp. 52-66. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1998.

Daniel T. Reff, Disease, Depopulation and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1991.

Robert Mario Salmon, Indian Revolts in Northern New Spain: A Synthesis of Resistance (1680-1786). Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991.

Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1997.

Edward H. Spicer, The Military History Of The Yaquis From 1867 To 1910: Three Points Of View. <Online: http://usaic.hua.army.mil/History/Html/spicer.html . September 12, 2001.

Linda Zoontjens, Brief History of the Yaqui and their Land. Online: http://sustainedaction.org/Explorations/history_of_the_yaqui.htm . July 8, 2001


An Entire Frontier in Flames:

The Regional Implications of the Pueblo Revolt (1680-1696)

By John P. Schmal

Many people from New Mexico are familiar with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and how it drove the Spanish and mestizo population out of the region for several years. What many people do not know is that the Pueblo Revolt was actually part of a larger regional rebellion against Spanish rule.

While actions of the Pueblos in New Mexico may have been the catalyst that ignited the revolt, it has become known by many historians as "The Great Northern Revolt of the Pueblos, Salineros, Conchos, Tobosos and Tarahumares." This revolt, lasting from 1680 into the 1690s was waged in New Mexico, Northeastern Durango, Southern and Western Chihuahua, and also affected parts of Sonora, Coahuila and Texas.

In 1680, Pope, a Pueblo Indian medicine man, having assembled a unified Pueblo nation, led a successful revolt against Spanish colonists in New Mexico. Beginning at dawn on August 11, 1680, the insurgents killed twenty-one Franciscan missionaries serving in the various pueblos. At least 400 Spanish colonists were murdered in the first days of the rebellion. On August 15, Indian warriors converged on Santa Fe. They cut off the water supply to the 2,000 men, women and children there, and they sang, "The Christian god is dead, but our sun god will never die." The Spaniards counterattacked, causing the Pueblos to pull back momentarily. Then, on August 21 the Spaniards and mestizos trapped inside of Santa Fe fled, making their way southward down the Rio Grande to El Paso al Norte Mission, which had been built in 1659.

Once the Spaniards had been expelled, Pope initiated a campaign to eradicate Spanish cultural elements, disallowing the use of the Spanish language, and insisting that Indians baptized as Christians be bathed in water to negate their baptisms. Religious ceremonies of the Catholic Church were banned and the Indians were stopped from verbally using the names of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints.

The Pope Revolt, in addition to driving the Spaniards from the Santa Fe-Albuquerque region for more than a decade, also provided the Pueblo Indians with three to five thousand horses. Almost immediately, they started breeding larger herds, with the intention of selling horses to the Apache and Comanche Indians. As a result, the widespread use of the horse revolutionized Indian life. While mounted Indians found that buffalo were much easier to kill, some tribes – such as the Comanche – met with great success when they used the horse for warfare.

The revolt in New Mexico jostled many of the indigenous tribes of Nueva Vizcaya (Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora) into action. As the rebellion spread, hundreds were killed but the Spanish military, caught woefully off-guard, could only muster small squads for the defense of the settlements in Chihuahua and Sonora. During the power vacuum in New Mexico and Nueva Vizcaya following the 1680 revolt, the Apache Indians started to push far to the southwest, arriving at the gates of Sonora to attack Spanish and Opata settlements. Then, in 1684, as the Spaniards nursed their wounds at their new headquarters in El Paso, more rebellions popped up across all of northern Chihuahua. From Casas Grandes to El Paso, Conchos, Sumas, Chinarras, Mansos, Janos, and Apachean Jocomes all took up arms.

In November 1684, Governor Joseph de Neyra of Nueva Vizcaya reported that the indigenous rebels had taken 40,000 head of livestock from the northern frontier area. Unrest in the province continued into the following year as the Viceroy called for the construction of a presidio of fifty men near Casas Grandes (Chihuahua). In July 1688, the Janos and Jocome Indians once again attacked Casas Grandes. However, in a retaliatory raid a month later, a large Spanish force defeated the Janos, Jocomes, and Sumas, killing 200 warriors and capturing many women and children. Eventually the rebellion was put down, resulting in the execution of fifty-two Indians at Casas Grandes and twenty-five more in the Sonora mission area.

A general uprising of the Tarahumara and other tribes in 1690 and 1691 also took place in Chihuahua. The Tarahumara Indians at the northern mission of Tepomera rebelled and killed their missionaries. The Indians participating were led to believe that their leaders had the power to make Spanish guns useless. In addition, the Tarahumara were told that any of their warriors killed in battle would rise again after three days. However, within months, Spanish troops arrived from Parral and were able to kill the primary leader, ending the rebellion.

Epidemics of measles and smallpox broke out among the Tarahumara in 1693 and 1695. During this time, a belief developed that the ringing of church bells spread measles and smallpox. This may have contributed to two more uprisings in 1696 and 1698. The Tarahumara country from Sisoguichic in the south to Yepomera in the north was in open revolt. Units from several presidios were utilized in bringing the rebellious Tarahumara under control one more time.

The Reconquest of New Mexico (1692).
The Pueblos lived as a free and independent people for twelve years. However, in 1692, missionaries and Spanish government officials focused on working together to invade New Mexico once again. By this time, Pope had died and the Pueblos had disbanded and returned to their old ways, which included each pueblo being autonomous from the others. Governor Diego de Vargas saw that the time was ripe for the Spaniards to return to New Mexico.

Pulling together a re-colonizing expedition of one hundred soldiers, seventy families, and eighteen Franciscan friars, together with some Indian allies, de Vargas left El Paso for Santa Fe on October 4, 1693. Pledging an end to the abuse that the Spaniards had inflicted on the Pueblo Indians up to 1680, Vargas? forces surrounded Santa Fe and then cut off the water supply. By 1694, Vargas had ended all effective resistance in New Mexico.

On June 4, 1696, the Pueblo Indians attempted another revolt that resulted in the killing of five missionaries and twenty-one settlers. After a few churches were burned down, Spanish forces defeated the insurgents. Unlike the Revolt of 1680, this rebellion had been poorly planned and lasted only six months.

The Revolts of the late Seventeenth Century led the Spaniards to design a more mobile force that could wage war against swift, fast-moving Indian raiders. Although New Mexico saw some respite from war, Chihuahua continued to suffer the ravages of constant raids well into the Nineteenth Century.

The Pueblo Revolt represents an important event in New Mexico's history, but the regional implications of this revolt are equally important.

Sources:

Jack D. Forbes, Apache, Navajo, and Spaniard. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994 (2nd ed.)

William B. Griffen, Indian Assimilation in the Franciscan Area of Nueva Vizcaya. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Oakah L. Jones, Jr., Los Paisanos: Spanish Settlers on the Northern Frontier of New Spain. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Robert Mario Salmon, Indian Revolts in Northern New Spain: A Synthesis of Resistance (1680-1786). Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991.

Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1997.


 

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