ESSAYS AND RESEARCH ON

INDIGENOUS MEXICO

By John P. Schmal

TABLE OF CONTENTS

   

POWER POINT SLIDE PRESENTATIONS 
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IndigenousMexico.pdf   

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Finding Your Roots in Mexico.pdf

PDF 44-page file, click to view
Researching YourRootsinNorthernMexico.pdf  

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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

STUDIES
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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
RACIAL AND CULTURAL IDENTITY IN MEXICO: 2015
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
   Indigenous Coahuila de Zaragoza

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
INDIGENOUS JALISCO: FROM THE SPANISH CONTACT TO 2010

AGUASCALIENTES 
 
AGUASCALIENTES: THE GEOGRAPHIC CENTER OF MEXICO

 
THE AZTEC EMPIRE 
The Mexica: From Obscurity to Dominance
The History of the Tlaxcalans
The Defeat of the Aztecs
  Indigenous Guerrero: A Remnant of  the Aztec Empire

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
Indigenous Nayarit Resistance in the Sierra Madre
 Indigenous Chihuahua
Indigenous Durango 

  EASTERN MEXICO  
The Indigenous Veracruz
Indigenous Tamulipas 
Indigenous San Luis Potosi

  CENTRAL MEXICO  
The Indigenous Guanajuato
The Indigenous Michoacan

  SURNAME SERIES  
Bobadilla
Ledesma
Lozano
Orozco

 

 

THE MEXICAN CENSUS 

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

 
 

The Indigenous Languages of Mexico : A Present-Day Overview

By John P. Schmal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

INDIGENOUS MEXICO STATISTICS: THE 2010 CENSUS

By John P. Schmal

 

 

The 2010 Census

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

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

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

Most Spoken Languages

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

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

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

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

Mexico’s Indigenous Languages (1970 to 2010)

Indigenous Language

1970 Census

1990 Census

2000 Census

2010 Census

2010 Census (%)

Náhuatl

799,394

1,197,328

1,448,936

1,544,968

23.08%

Maya

454,675

713,520

800,291

786,113

11.74%

Mixtec Languages

233,235

386,874

446,236

476,472

7.12%

Tzeltal

99,412

261,084

284,826

445,856

6.66%

Zapotec Languages

283,345

403,457

452,887

450,419

6.73%

Tzotzil

95,383

229,203

297,561

404,704

6.04%

Otomí

221,062

280,238

291,722

284,992

4.26%

Totonaca

124,840

207,876

240,034

244,033

3.64%

Mazateco

101,541

168,374

214,477

223,073

3.33%

Chol

73,253

128,240

161,766

212,117

3.17%

Huasteco

66,091

120,739

150,257

161,120

2.41%

Mazahua

104,729

127,826

133,430

135,897

2.03%

Chinantec Languages

54,145

109,100

133,374

133,438

1.99%

Mixe

54,403

95,264

118,924

132,759

1.98%

Purépecha

60,411

94,835

121,409

124,494

1.86%

Tlapaneco

30,804

68,483

99,389

120,072

1.79%

Tarahumara

25,479

54,431

75,545

85,018

1.27%

Zoque

27,140

43,160

51,464

63,022

0.94%

Tojolabal

13,303

36,011

37,986

51,733

0.77%

Amuzgo

13,883

28,228

41,455

50,635

0.76%

Chatino

11,773

29,006

40,722

45,019

0.67%

Huichol

6,874

19,363

30,686

44,788

0.67%

Chontal

N.A.

36,267

38,561

42,306

0.63%

Popoluca

27,818

31,254

38,477

41,091

0.61%

Mayo

27,848

37,410

31,513

39,616

0.59%

Tepehuano

5,617

18,469

25,544

35,873

0.54%

Cora

6,242

11,923

16,410

20,078

0.30%

Huave

7,442

11,955

14,224

17,554

0.26%

Yaqui

7,084

10,984

13,317

17,116

0.26%

Cuicateco

10,192

12,677

13,425

12,785

0.19%

Other Languages

63,997

308,768

179,699

248,067

3.71%

Mexican Republic

3,111,415

5,282,347

6,044,547

6,695,228

100.00%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State

Number of Persons Who Speak an Indigenous Languages*

%

Most Commonly Spoken Language

%

Second Most Commonly Spoken Language

Oaxaca

1,165,186

34.2%

Zapotec

31.1%

Mixteco

Yucatán

537,516

30.3%

Maya

98.7%

Chol

Chiapas

1,141,499

27.2%

Tzeltal

37.9%

Tzotzil

Quintana Roo

196,060

16.7%

Maya

89.6%

Tzotzil

Guerrero

456,774

15.1%

Náhuatl

27.5%

Mixteco

Hidalgo

359,972

15.1%

Náhuatl

65.8%

Otomi

Campeche

91,094

12.3%

Maya

78.2%

Chol

Puebla

601,680

11.7%

Náhuatl

72.6%

Totonaco

San Luis Potosí

248,196

10.7%

Náhuatl

55.5%

Huasteco

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave

644,559

9.4%

Náhuatl

53.6%

Totonaca

Nayarit

49,963

5.1%

Huichol

47.7%

Cora

Chihuahua

104,014

3.5%

Tarahumara

77.8%

Tepehuanes

Michoacán de Ocampo

136,608

3.5%

Purépecha

83.1%

Náhuatl

Tabasco

60,526

3.0%

Chontal de Tabaco

60.8%

Chol

Estado de México

376,830

2.8%

Mazahua

30.7%

Otomí

Tlaxcala

27,653

2.6%

Náhuatl

83.7%

Totonaca

Sonora

60,310

2.5%

Mayo

46.4%

Yaqui

Durango

30,894

2.1%

Tepehuanes

80.0%

Huichol

Morelos

31,388

2.0%

Náhuatl

61.4%

Mixteco

Baja California Sur

10,661

1.9%

Náhuatl

27.9%

Mixteco

Querétaro

29,585

1.8%

Otomí

80.8%

Náhuatl

Baja California

41,005

1.5%

Mixteco

37.2%

Zapoteco

Distrito Federal

122,411

1.5%

Náhuatl

27.5%

Mixteco

Nuevo León

40,137

1.0%

Náhuatl

53.9%

Huasteco

Sinaloa

23,426

0.9%

Mayo

47.2%

Náhuatl

Jalisco

51,702

0.8%

Huichol

33.1%

Náhuatl

Tamaulipas

23,296

0.8%

Náhuatl

42.9%

Huasteco

Colima

3,983

0.7%

Náhuatl

35.5%

Mixteco

Zacatecas

4,924

0.4%

Huichol

19.1%

Náhuatl

Guanajuato

14,835

0.3%

Otomi

21.6%

Chichimeca Jonaz

Aguascalientes

2,436

0.2%

Náhuatl

16.0%

Mazahua

Coahuila de Zaragoza

6,105

0.2%

Náhuatl

15.2%

Kikapú

Mexican Republic

6,695,228

6.7%

Náhuatl

23.1%

Maya

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

 Indigenous Speakers 3 Years and Over

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

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

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

 

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

 

Mexicans Considered Indigenous

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

 

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

 

State

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

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

Yucatán

29.6%

62.7%

Oaxaca

33.8%

58.0%

Quintana Roo

16.2%

33.8%

Chiapas

27.3%

32.7%

Campeche

12.0%

32.0%

Hidalgo

14.8%

30.1%

Puebla

11.5%

25.2%

Guerrero

15.2%

22.6%

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Lave

9.3%

19.9%

San Luis Potosí

10.6%

19.2%

Tlaxcala

2.6%

17.1%

Morelos

1.9%

15.5%

Querétaro

1.8%

15.1%

Michoacán de Ocampo

3.5%

14.6%

Colima

0.7%

13.3%

Sonora

2.5%

11.9%

Estado de México

2.7%

11.3%

Tabasco

2.9%

10.7%

Nayarit

5.2%

10.1%

Chihuahua

3.5%

8.4%

Baja California Sur

1.8%

7.1%

Baja California

1.4%

5.7%

Distrito Federal

1.5%

5.2%

Jalisco

0.8%

4.8%

Sinaloa

0.9%

4.6%

Guanajuato

0.3%

4.3%

Aguascalientes

0.2%

4.2%

Tamaulipas

0.8%

3.9%

Durango

2.2%

3.8%

Zacatecas

0.4%

2.9%

Nuevo León

0.9%

1.9%

Coahuila de Zaragoza

0.2%

1.9%

Mexican Republic

6.6%

14.9%

 


Tasa de Monolingüismo (Rate of Monolingualism)

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

 

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

 

Principle Languages

2000 Census – Rate of Monolingualism (Percent)

2010 Census – Rate of Monolingualism (Percent)

Amuzgo

46.1

41.4

Tzeltal

41.4

36.9

Tzotzil

40.6

36.7

Tlapaneco

32

28.5

Cora

31.5

27.8

Chatino

30.3

27

Chol

29.8

22.4

Mixtec Languages

23

21.3

Tojolabal

30.2

20.4

Mixe

25

19.6

Mazateco

25.5

19.5

Huave

16.3

17.2

Total

16.9

15.2

Tepehuano

19.9

14.9

Huichol

15.5

14

Totonaca

16.4

12.9

Tarahumara

18

12.5

Chinantec Languages

13.4

11.6

Náhuatl

13.8

10.5

Zapotec Languages

11

9

Purépecha

12.9

7.8

Huasteco

10

7.4

Maya

8.2

6.6

Zoque

9.4

6.5

Yaqui

6

5.1

Otomí

5.9

4.4

Cuicateco

7.7

4.1

Mazahua

1.9

1.1

Mayo

0.7

0.3

Mexican Republic

16.9

15.2

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

 

 

Highest Rates of Monolingualism

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Future

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

 

Sources:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Copyright © 2011, by John P. Schmal.  


 

RACIAL AND CULTURAL IDENTITY IN MEXICO: 2015

By John P. Schmal

 

Mexico’s 2015 Intercensal Survey

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

 

Considered Indigenous Classification

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Oaxaca

65.7%

5

Hidalgo

36.2%

2

Yucatán

65.4%

6

Chiapas

36.1%

3

Campeche

44.5%

7

Puebla

35.3%

4

Quintana Roo

44.4%

8

Guerrero

33.9%

 

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

 

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

 

The Indigenous-Speaking Population

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Oaxaca

32.2%

5

Hidalgo

14.2%

2

Yucatán

28.9%

6

Campeche

11.5%

3

Chiapas

27.9%

7

Puebla

11.3%

4

Quintana Roo

16.6%

8

San Luis Potosí

10.0%

5

Guerrero

15.3%

 

 

 

 

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

 

Afromexican Population

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

 

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

 

Rank

State

Percent

Rank

State

Percent

1

Guerrero

6.5%

6

Baja California Sur

1.5%

2

Oaxaca

4.9%

7

Nuevo León

1.5%

3

Veracruz

3.3%

8

Jalisco

0.8%

4

Estado de México

1.9%

9

Quintana Roo

0.6%

5

Distrito Federal

1.8%

 

 

 

 

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

 

Principal Indigenous Languages

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

 

Language

Primary State /States of Origin

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

Náhuatl

Multiple – Central Mexico

23.4%

Maya

Multiple – Yucatán Peninsula

11.6%

Tzeltal

Chiapas

7.5%

Mixteco

Oaxaca & Guerrero

7.0%

Tzotzil

Chiapas

6.6%

Zapoteco

Oaxaca

6.5%

Otomí

Multiple - Central Mexico

4.2%

Totonaco

Puebla & Veracruz

3.6%

Ch’ol

Chiapas

3.4%

Mazateco

Oaxaca, Veracruz & Puebla

3.2%

Other Languages

Various

22.9%

 

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

 

Mexican Migration from Place of Origin

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

 

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

 

Ø  Quintana Roo (54.1%)

Ø  Baja California (44.1%)

Ø  Baja California Sur (39.6%)

Ø  Estado de México (33.7%)

Ø  Colima (28.7%)

Ø  Morelos (27.3%)

Ø  Querétaro (25.4%)

Ø  Campeche (24.0%)

Ø  Tamaulipas (23.1%)

Ø  Nuevo León (21.2%)

 

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

 

Migration and Indigenous Languages

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

 

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in Mexico

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

 

Linguistic and Ethnic Identity in Mexico (2015)

State

Percentage of the Total Population That  Consider Themselves to be Indigenous

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

Percentage of the Total Population That Consider Themselves to be Afrodescendants

Oaxaca

65.7%

32.2%

4.9%

Yucatán

65.4%

28.9%

0.3%

Campeche

44.5%

11.5%

0.4%

Quintana Roo

44.4%

16.6%

0.6%

Hidalgo

36.2%

14.2%

0.1%

Chiapas

36.1%

27.9%

0.1%

Puebla

35.3%

11.3%

0.1%

Guerrero

33.9%

15.3%

6.5%

Veracruz

29.3%

9.2%

3.3%

Morelos

28.1%

2.0%

0.4%

Michoacán

27.7%

3.6%

0.1%

Tabasco

25.8%

2.7%

0.1%

Tlaxcala

25.2%

2.7%

0.1%

San Luis Potosí

23.2%

10.0%

0.0%

Nayarit

22.2%

5.4%

0.1%

Estados Unidos Mexicanos

21.5%

6.5%

1.2%

Colima

20.4%

0.6%

0.1%

Querétaro

19.2%

1.7%

0.1%

Sonora

17.8%

2.4%

0.1%

Estado de México

17.0%

2.7%

1.9%

Baja California Sur

14.5%

1.5%

1.5%

Sinaloa

12.8%

1.4%

0.0%

Aguascalientes

11.7%

0.3%

0.0%

Chihuahua

11.3%

2.7%

0.1%

Jalisco

11.1%

0.8%

0.8%

Guanajuato

9.1%

0.2%

0.0%

Distrito Federal

8.8%

1.5%

1.8%

Baja California

8.5%

1.5%

0.2%

Durango

7.9%

2.4%

0.0%

Zacatecas

7.6%

0.3%

0.0%

Coahuila de Zaragoza

6.9%

0.2%

0.1%

Nuevo León

6.9%

1.2%

1.5%

Tamaulipas

6.3%

0.7%

0.3%

 

Sources:

 

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

Online:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 


 

MEXICO’S 1921 CENSUS: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

By John P. Schmal (© 2007)

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

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

States With the Largest "Indígena Pura" Population

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


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

The Most Indigenous State: Oaxaca

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Most Indigenous State: Puebla

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

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

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

The Third Most Indigenous State: Veracruz

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

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

The Fourth Most Indigenous State: México

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

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

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

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

6. Hidalgo – 245,704 persons (39.49%)

7. Chiapas – 200.927 persons (47.64%)

8. Jalisco – 199,728 persons (16.76%)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

States With the Largest "Indígena Mezclada Con Blanca" Population

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

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

6. México – 422,001 (47.71%)

7. Puebla – 403,221 (39.34%)

8. Sinaloa – 335,474 (98.30%)

9. Zacatecas – 326,615 (86.10%)

10. Hidalgo – 320,250 (51.47%)

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

The State With the Largest Mezclada Population: Jalisco

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

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

Guanajuato: The Second Largest Mezclada Population

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

Sinaloa: The State with the Largest Percentage of Mezclada

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

Zacatecas: A State Without Indigenous Speakers

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

States With the Largest Blanca Population

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

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

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

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

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

Coahuila

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

Tamaulipas

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

San Luis Potosí

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


The Overview

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

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

State

Indígena Pura (% of Total State Population)

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca (% of State Population)

Blanca (% of State Population)

Extranjeros sin distinción de razas (% of State Population)

Aguascalientes

16.70%

66.12%

16.77%

0.41%

Baja California

7.72%

72.50%

0.35%

19.33%

Baja California Sur

6.06%

59.61%

33.40%

0.93%

Campeche

43.41%

41.45%

14.17%

0.60%

Coahuila

11.38%

77.88%

10.13%

0.61%

Colima

26.00%

68.54%

4.50%

0.12%

Chiapas

47.64%

36.27%

11.82%

4.27%

Chihuahua

12.76%

50.09%

36.33%

0.82%

District Federal

18.75%

54.78%

22.79%

3.26%

Durango

9.90%

89.10%

0.01%

0.15%

Guanajuato

2.96%

96.33%

0.54%

0.15%

Guerrero

43.84%

54.05%

2.07%

0.04%

Hidalgo

39.49%

51.47%

8.83%

0.21%

Jalisco

16.76%

75.83%

7.31%

0.10%

México

42.13%

47.71%

10.02%

0.14%

Michoacán

20.93%

70.59%

6.90%

0.08%

Morelos

34.93%

61.24%

3.59%

0.22%

Nayarit

18.32%

66.04%

5.24%

0.24%

Nuevo León

5.14%

75.47%

19.23%

0.08%

Oaxaca

69.17%

28.15%

1.43%

0.11%

Puebla

54.73%

39.34%

5.66%

0.22%

Querétaro

19.40%

80.15%

0.30%

0.11%

Quintana Roo

13.08%

26.90%

9.63%

13.64%

San Luis Potosí

30.60%

61.88%

5.41%

0.24%

Sinaloa

0.93%

98.30%

0.19%

0.58%

Sonora

13.78%

40.38%

41.85%

2.05%

Tabasco

18.50%

53.67%

27.56%

0.27%

Tamaulipas

13.80%

69.36%

13.54%

2.69%

Tlaxcala

54.70%

42.44%

2.53%

0.08%

Veracruz

35.06%

47.97%

9.84%

0.82%

Yucatán

43.31%

33.83%

21.85%

0.91%

Zacatecas

8.54%

86.10%

5.26%

0.10%

The Mexican Republic***

29.16%

59.33%

9.80%

0.71%

Classifications:

Indígena Pura (Pure Indigenous Origins)

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca (Indigenous Mixed with White)

Blanca (White)

Extranjeros sin distinction de razas (Foreigners without racial distinction)

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

About the Author

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


 

INDIGENOUS MEXICO STATISTICS: THE 2005 CONTEO

By John P. Schmal

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

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

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

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

3. Mixtec Languages (423,216 – 7.04%)

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

5. Tzeltal (371,730 – 6.18%)

6. Tzotzil (329,937 – 5.49%)

7. Otomí (239,850 – 3.99%)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Chol (161,794 speakers – 16.9%)

4. Zoque (43,936 speakers – 4.6%)

5. Tojolabal (42,798 – 4.5%)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

State

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

2000 Census – Percentage

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

2005 Conteo – Percentage

Aguascalientes

1,244

0.2

2,713

0.3

Baja California

37,685

1.9

33,604

1.4

Baja California,Sur

5,353

1.4

7,095

1.6

Campeche

93,765

15.5

89,084

13.3

Coahuila de Zaragoza

3,032

0.2

5,842

0.3

Colima

2,932

0.6

2,889

0.6

Chiapas

809,592

24.7

957,255

26.1

Chihuahua

84,086

3.2

93,709

3.4

Distrito Federal

141,710

1.8

118,424

1.5

Durango

24,934

2.0

27,792

2.1

Guanajuato

10,689

0.3

10,347

0.2

Guerrero

367,110

13.9

383,427

14.2

Hidalgo

339,866

17.3

320,029

15.5

Jalisco

39,259

0.7

42,372

0.7

México

361,972

3.3

312,319

2.6

Michoacán de Ocampo

121,849

3.5

113,166

3.3

Morelos

30,896

2.3

24,757

1.8

Nayarit

37,206

4.6

41,689

5.0

Nuevo León

15,446

0.5

29,538

0.8

Oaxaca

1,120,312

37.2

1,091,502

35.3

Puebla

565,509

13.1

548,723

11.7

Querétaro Arteaga

25,269

2.1

23,363

1.7

Quintana Roo

173,592

23.1

170,982

19.3

San Luis Potosí

235,253

11.7

234,815

11.1

Sinaloa

49,744

2.2

30,459

1.3

Sonora

55,694

2.9

51,701

2.5

Tabasco

62,027

3.7

52,139

3.0

Tamaulipas

17,118

0.7

20,221

0.8

Tlaxcala

26,662

3.2

23,807

2.5

Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave

633,372

10.4

605,135

9.5

Yucatán

549,532

37.4

538,355

33.5

Zacatecas

1,837

0.2

3,949

0.3

Mexican Republic

6,044,547

7.2

6,011,202

6.7

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

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

Primary Languages

1970

1990

2000

2005

2005 - % of all Indigenous Languages Spoken

Náhuatl

799,394

1,197,328

1,448,936

1,376,026

22.89%

Maya

454,675

713,520

800,291

759,000

12.63%

Mixtec Languages

233,235

386,874

446,236

423,216

7.04%

Zapoteco Languages

283,345

403,457

452,887

410,901

6.84%

Tzeltal

99,412

261,084

284,826

371,730

6.18%

Tzotzil

95,383

229,203

297,561

329,937

5.49%

Otomí

221,062

280,238

291,722

239,850

3.99%

Totonaca

124,840

207,876

240,034

230,930

3.84%

Mazateco

101,541

168,374

214,477

206,559

3.44%

Chol

73,253

128,240

161,766

185,299

3.08%

Huasteco

66,091

120,739

150,257

149,532

2.49%

Chinanteca Languages

54,145

109,100

133,374

125,706

2.09%

Mixe

54,403

95,264

118,924

115,824

1.93%

Mazahua

104,729

127,826

133,430

111,840

1.86%

Purépecha

60,411

94,835

121,409

105,556

1.76%

Tlapaneco

30,804

68,483

99,389

98,573

1.64%

Tarahumara

25,479

54,431

75,545

75,371

1.25%

Zoque

27,140

43,160

51,464

54,004

0.90%

Amuzgo

13,883

28,228

41,455

43,761

0.73%

Tojolabal

13,303

36,011

37,986

43,169

0.72%

Chatino

11,773

29,006

40,722

42,791

0.71%

Chontal

ND

36,267

38,561

36,578

0.61%

Popoluca

27,818

31,254

38,477

36,406

0.61%

Huichol

6,874

19,363

30,686

35,724

0.59%

Mayo

27,848

37,410

31,513

32,702

0.54%

Tepehuano

5,617

18,469

25,544

31,681

0.53%

Cora

6,242

11,923

16,410

17,086

0.28%

Huave

7,442

11,955

14,224

15,993

0.27%

Yaqui

7,084

10,984

13,317

14,162

0.24%

Cuicateco

10,192

12,677

13,425

12,610

0.21%

Other Languages

63,997

308,768

179,699

278,685

4.64%

Total Indigenous Speakers in Mexico

3,111,415

5,282,347

6,044,547

6,011,202

100%

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

Copyright © 2008, by John P. Schmal.


 

EXTRANJEROS IN MEXICO (1895-2000)

By John P. Schmal (© 2007)

Immigration to Mexico

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

Extranjeros in Mexico’s 1895 Census

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

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

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1900

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

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

    3 Guatemala (5,820)

    4. France (3,970)

    Extranjeros in 1910

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1921

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

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1930

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1940

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

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1950

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

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

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1960

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1970

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

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

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

Extranjeros in 1980

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

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

Extranjeros in 2000

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

1. United States (343,591 natives)

2. Guatemala (23,957)

3. Spain (21,024)

4. Cuba (6,647)

5. Argentina (6,465)

6. Colombia (6,215)

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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




Mexico
and Its Religions

By John P. Schmal

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

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

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

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

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

The 1900 Census

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 1930 Census

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

 

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

 

The 1950 Census

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

 

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

 

The 2000 Census

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

 

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 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

 

Indigenous Coahuila de Zaragoza

By John P. Schmal  

The state of Coahuila is located in the northern reaches of the Mexican Republic. Bordered by the United States (Texas) on its northern border, Coahuila also touches the state of Chihuahua on its west, Durango on the southwest, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí on the south, and Nuevo León on the east. As the third largest Mexican state, Coahuila is made up of 151,595 square kilometers, which is equal to 7.7% of the national territory.   

Politically, the State of Coahuila – with its capital in Saltillo -- is divided into thirty-eight municipios.  With a population of 2,748,391 people in 2010, Coahuila has the 17th largest population in the Mexican Republic, which is roughly 2.4% of the Mexican population.  

The distribution of Coahuila’s population is roughly 90% urban and 10% rural, compared to a 78% urban and 22% rural distribution, nationally.  Its largest cities are:  

  • Saltillo (648,929 inhabitants)
  • Torreon (577,477 inhabitants)
  • Monclova (200,110 inhabitants)
  • Piedras Negras (143,915 inhabitants)
  • Ciudad Acuna (126,238 inhabitants)

The state was named Coahuila de Zaragoza: after the ethnic tribal group Coahuiltec and General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862), who was known for his defeat of the French invasion force at Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  

Political Chronology

From 1575, the present-day area of Coahuila was part of Spain’s Nueva Vizcaya province. On January 23, 1691, Coahuila became a part of the Province of Coahuila and Texas, and later became part of Nueva Vizcaya (until 1787). After that, Coahuila had become a separate province as part of the “Provincias Internas,” a colonial, administrative district of the northern Spanish Empire.  

In 1822, Mexico became an independent republic. The Constitution of 1824 created Nuevo León, Coahuila and Texas as a single state.  Nuevo León was detached on May 7, 1824, after Coahuila and Texas had adopted a new constitution on March 11, 1827.  Later, on November 14, 1835, Coahuila was separated from Texas and given statehood on its own.  

Coahuila was occupied by U.S. forces in 1847 and 1848, but stayed a part of Mexico after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) detached a significant part of Northern Mexico and annexed it to the United States. However, from 1856 to 1868, Coahuila and Nuevo León were granted joint statehood. Finally, in 1868, Coahuila earned separate status as the sovereign state of Coahuila de Zaragoza. 

First Contacts with Spaniards

After the Spaniards had conquered Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), they began to gradually expand to the north in search of new territories. The silver rush emerging in Zacatecas (commencing in 1546) inspired an increasing number of Spanish entrepreneurs to move further north. The first Spanish explorers probably wandered into Coahuila sometime after 1535.  Initially, the arid conditions and fierce resistance of the indigenous groups in the region made it difficult for the Spaniards and their Indian allies to establish a permanent settlement.  The Spaniards’ initial interest in Coahuila was focused on the region’s mineral wealth. Various entrepreneurs and explorers entered the area in the hopes of beginning new settlements, where silver or gold could be mined.   

Nearly all of the indigenous people encountered by the Spanish explorers and settlers spoke dialects of Cotoname, a Coahuiltecan language in the Hokan group. But some of the people living in the sparsely inhabited area west of the Sierra were called Tobosos, who probably spoke an Uto-Aztecan language. In the South, the newcomers confronted Coahuiltecan-speaking Cabezas.  

Alberto del Canto, later the magistrate of Saltillo, is believed to have discovered silver at the future site of Monclova in 1577, but his settlement – Minas de la Trinidad – was subsequently abandoned because of Indian hostility.  

Irritilas and Laguneros

According to Peter Gerhard, “The North Frontier of New Spain” (1982), a missionary who knew the Parras region in 1595 wrote that the “original” inhabitants of the area were Yritilas (Irritilas) and Mayranos. Both groups are identified with the people who were later called Laguneros or Salineros, who extended westward to the vicinity of Cerro Gordo.  

Inhabiting the Laguna de Parras (San Pedro), the Laguneros – also known as the Irritilas – were described by the Spaniards as “Lake People,” because they occupied the lakes of the tablelands of Mapimí. They were believed to have been an Aztecoidan branch of the Uto-Aztecan stock, but this is not certain. The Indians lived primarily from fishing, hunting, and gathering, but they probably also sowed maize around the lakeshores as floodwaters receded. They are now extinct.  

Tobosos

The linguist John Reed Swanton regarded the Toboso Indians as a “predatory tribe living in the Seventeenth Century in the Bolsón de Mapimí and extending northward at least to the Río Grande.” From their positions in both Coahuila and Chihuahua, the Tobosos frequently raided Spanish settlements to the east in Coahuila and Nuevo León. Some evidence originally linked the Tobosos with the Athapaskans (Apaches), but more recent research has produced enough evidence to indicate that the Toboso language was probably Uto-Aztecan.  

Guachichiles

The Guachichiles, of all the Chichimeca Indians, occupied the most extensive territory, extending some 100,000 square kilometers from Lake Chapala (Jalisco) in the south to Saltillo (Coahuila) in the north.  Considered both warlike and brave, the Guachichiles roamed through a large section of the present-day state of Zacatecas. The Aztecs used the term “Guachichile” as a reference to “heads painted of red,” a reference to the red dye that they used to paint their bodies, faces and hair. The Guachichil group of tribes is regarded as connected with the present-day Huichol language group (of Jalisco and Nayarit) and has been classified as part of the Aztecoidan division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family.

 

The Guachichiles and their “Chichimeca” cousins, the Zacatecos, waged the 40-year war (1550-1590) known as the “Chichimeca War” against Spanish forces, primarily in the vast region south of Coahuila (Zacatecas, Northern Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Western San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato).  They were never decisively defeated in battle, but were pacified through gifts that included many of the materials used by Spaniards and “civilized” Indians to live and thrive in their Spanish settlements. A detailed discussion of the Chichimeca War is discussed in the article below:  

http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/zacatecas_indig.html  

Zacatecos

The Zacatecos were an indigenous tribe related to the Cazcan of the Aztecoidan family and Uto-Aztecan stock, occupying a large part of the State of Zacatecas and smaller portions of eastern Durango and southern Coahuila.  They were bordered by the Irritilas and Laguneros on the north, the Tepehuán on the west, and the Guachichile on the east. On the south, they were bordered by the Cora and Cazcan. According to David Frye, “Northeastern Mexico,” by 1620, some elements of the Zacatecos had moved farther north to live among indigenous groups in the mission town of Parras in the aftermath of the Chichimeca War.  

Conchos (Northwest Coahuila)

The Conchos have been described in great detail by several researchers.  They were named for the Spanish word for “shells,” a likely reference to the many shellfish found in the Conchos River.  The Concho Indians lived near the junction of the Rio Concho River and Rio Grande Rivers in northern Chihuahua.  However, the Conchos are also believed to have extended their reach into the modern-day state of Coahuila.  

The Conchos were placed by Mason and Johnson in the Taracahitian division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, with two major subdivisions: the Chinarra around the salt lakes and sand dunes of northern Chihuahua, and the Chizo, an eastern subdivision that inhabits the area east of the Concho and near the big bend of the Río Grande.   In 1934, Kroeber placed the Concho in the Cahita-Opata-Tarahumara group, most closely related to Opata and less so with the Tarahumara.  

The Apaches

In the north the Spanish frontier met the Apache southward expansion. In the first half of the seventeenth century, Apaches acquired horses from Spanish colonists of New Mexico and achieved dominance of the Southern Plains. The Apache expansion was intensified by the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680, when the Apaches lost their prime source of horses and shifted south to prey on Spanish settlements in Coahuila. Juan Domínguez de Mendoza recorded the names of numerous Indian groups east of the lower Pecos River that were displaced by Apaches.  

In 1780, the Comanches from the north began to harass the Apaches with raids that reached as far south as Monclova. As a result, the Apaches moved toward the coastal plain of Texas and became known as the Lipan Apaches. The Lipans in turn displaced the last Indian groups native to southern Texas, most of whom went to the Spanish missions in the San Antonio area. By 1790 the Spaniards had turned their attention from the aboriginal groups and focused on containing the Apache invaders in Coahuila, Chihuahua and Texas.  

The Coahuiltecan Tribes

The Coahuiltecan tribes were made up of hundreds of bands of hunter-gatherers who ranged over the eastern part of Coahuila, northern Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and southern Texas south and west of San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek. It is believed that the Coahuiltecans reached all the way to the Gulf coast at the mouth of the Nueces. Northeast of that point they were succeeded by Karankawan tribes. Toward the north, the Coahuiltecans were displaced by the Apache and Comanche. However, some tribes along the lower Rio Grande may have belonged to a distinct family, Tamaulipecan (described in 1864 by Orozco y Berra).  

The Coahuiltecans were tattooed and wore a breechcloth or hide skirt, fiber sandals, and, in bad weather, they covered themselves with animal hides. Animal teeth, bones, feathers, stones, and seeds were worn as jewelry and sometimes woven into their intricately braided hair. Shelter consisted of small temporary huts of brush or grass, sensible structures given their way of life and the climate of the area over which they ranged. It was the practice of the Coahuiltecans (or Coahuiltecos) to move from one traditional campsite to another, following the seasons and herds of migrating animals. During the Spanish colonial period a majority of the Coahuilatecan natives were displaced from their traditional territories by Spaniards advancing from the south and Apaches advancing from the north. A large number of the small tribal groups or bands belonging to the Coahuiltecan stock remain unknown to this day and even their locations – in some cases – are not clear.  

Early Settlements

On July 25, 1577, the Portuguese explorer Captain Alberto del Canto founded San Estevan (later known as La Villa de Santiago del Saltillo) near a mission that had been established four years earlier. Saltillo became the oldest post-conquest settlement in Northern Mexico.  However, in 1581, the Saltillo inhabitants were forced to retreat to Durango and Mazapil by sustained Indian attacks. But after 14 years, the Spaniards were able to return and establish San Esteban de Tlaxcala in 1591.  

In 1578, Francisco de Urdinola established the town of Parras, which was actually abandoned for a few years, but settlers returned there in 1598. Between 1583 and 1585, an expedition led by Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva resulted in the foundation of Nuevo Almadén. Other settlements followed in the Seventeenth Century, but unfortunately, no major concentrations of gold or silver veins were found.  Coahuila's earth's richness is in metalloids such as iron, carbon, fluorite, and others, which would be discovered much later.   

Tlaxcaltecan Settlements

In 1590, Viceroy Luis de Velasco II commanded that 400 families of loyal, converted Tlaxcaltecans Indians (from Tlaxcala in the south) be settled alongside the Chichimec and other nomadic tribes of the northern frontier area. In June 1591, a caravan of 100 wagons and 932 colonists began their journey. These 932 colonists consisted of 690 married individuals, 187 children and 55 single or widowed individuals. On August 5, 1591 the caravan arrived at Cuicillo, where the caravan split up for different destinations. One of the four groups --

245 Tlaxcaltecans led by Capitan Buenaventura Paz -- was sent from San Juan del Rio to parts of Nuevo León, Durango and Coahuila.  

The purpose of the Tlaxcaltecan caravan was to offer the Tlaxcalans an opportunity to serve as examples of “civilized Indians” for the native Indians.  They would play a role in the Christianizing of the nomadic desert tribes. The town of San Estebán de la Nueva Tlaxcala in Coahuila was among the settlements founded for this purpose. In 1674, Fray Juan de Larios conquered a great deal of the territory of Coahuila and established the village of Guadalupe, another Tlaxcalan settlement. Nearby, the city of Monclova was also established in 1674 and soon after it was declared the capital of the area.

 

Missions as a Place of Refuge

In northeastern Coahuila and adjacent Texas, the displacement of Coahuiltecans and other nomadic groups by the Spaniards and Apaches created an unusual ethnic mix. Inevitably, the numerous Spanish missions in the region would provide a refuge for the displaced and declining Indian populations. In the mission system, local Indians mixed with displaced groups from Coahuila, Chihuahua and Texas.  

The number of Indian groups at the missions varied from fewer than twenty groups to as many as 100. Missions in existence the longest usually had more groups, particularly in the north. Mission Indian villages usually consisted of about 100 Indians of mixed groups who generally came from a wide area surrounding a mission. Although survivors of a group often entered a single mission, individuals and families of one ethnic group might scatter to five or six missions. Some Indians never entered a mission.  

The former hunter-gatherers were willing to become part of the mission system for a number of reasons. The irrigation system promised a more stable supply of food than they normally enjoyed. Diseases brought by Europeans had depleted their numbers, making the Coahuiltecans even more vulnerable to their now-mobile enemies. The presidio – frequently located close to a mission -- offered much greater protection from the Apaches.  

The missionaries, along with lay helpers and usually no more than two soldiers and their families, instructed the natives in the Catholic faith and in the elements of Spanish peasant society. The Indians learned various trades, including carpentry, masonry, blacksmithing, and weaving; they also did a great deal of agricultural work.  

Because the missions had an agricultural base, they declined when the Indian labor force dwindled. Missions were distributed unevenly. Some were in remote areas, while others were clustered, often two to five in number, in small areas. A large number of displaced Indians collected in the clustered missions, which generally had a military garrison (presidio) for protection. Eventually, all the Spanish missions were abandoned or transferred to diocesan jurisdictions.  

Classification of the Coahuiltecans

Initially, the Spaniards had little interest in describing the natives or classifying them into ethnic units. There was no obvious basis for classification, and major cultural contrasts and tribal organizations went unnoticed, as did similarities and differences in the native languages and dialects. The Spanish padres referred to each Indian group as a nación, and described them according to their association with major terrain features or with Spanish jurisdictional units. Only in Nuevo León did observers link Indian populations by cultural peculiarities, such as hairstyle and body decoration. Thus, modern scholars have found it difficult to identify these hunting and gathering groups by language and culture.

 

The first attempt at classification of the Coahuila Indians was based on language, but came after most of the Indian groups had become extinct. Over time, Indians from other linguistic groups entered the Texas, Tamaulipas and Coahuila missions.  Eventually, many of the ethnohistorians and anthropologists came to believe that the entire region was occupied by numerous small Indian groups who spoke related languages and shared the same basic culture, the Coahuiltecan culture. By the mid-nineteenth century, Mexican linguists had constructed what is now known as "Coahuiltecan culture" by assembling bits of specific and generalized information recorded by Spaniards for widely scattered and limited parts of the region.  

A majority of the Coahuiltecan Indians lost their identity during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their names disappeared from the written record as epidemics, warfare, migration, dispersion by Spaniards to work at distant plantations and mines, high infant mortality, and general demoralization took their toll. Small remnants of tribes merged with larger remnants of other groups. By 1800 the names of few ethnic units appear in documents, and by 1900 the names of groups native to the region had disappeared.

 

Loss of Ethnic Identity

A majority of the Coahuiltecan Indians lost their identity during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their names disappeared from the written record as epidemics, warfare, migration, dispersion by Spaniards to work at distant plantations and mines, high infant mortality, and general demoralization took their toll. Small remnants merged with larger remnants. By 1800 the names of few ethnic units appear in documents, and by 1900 the names of groups native to the region had disappeared. Missions and refugee communities near Spanish or Mexican towns were the last bastions of ethnic identity. The Indians caused little trouble and provided unskilled labor. Ethnic names vanished with intermarriages. By the end of the eighteenth century, missions closed and Indian families were given small parcels of mission land. Eventually, the survivors passed into the lower economic levels of Mexican society.

 

Population Figures

According to the “Handbook of Texas Online,” estimates of the total Coahuiltecan population in 1690 vary widely. One scholar estimates the total nonagricultural Indian population of northeastern Mexico, which included desert lands west to the Río Conchos in Chihuahua, at 100,000; another scholar (Ruecking, 1953) compiled a list of 614 group names (Coahuiltecan) for northeastern Mexico and southern Texas and estimated the average population per group as 140 and therefore reckoned the total population at 86,000.

 

Kikapú

Kikapú is the only current indigenous language that might be considered indigenous to Coahuila. The Kikapú of Coahuila are part of an Algonquin speaking tribe of northern origin that also lives in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. The Mexican Kikapú live primarily around the town of El Nacimiento de los Kikapúes, located in the municipio of Melchor Múzquiz, Coahuila. According to the INI (2003) and the National Council on Population (Consejo Nacional de Población CONAPO), there were 339 Kikapú speakers in 1995 and only 138 in 2000, but it is likely that many tribal members do not speak the language (but may be considered part of the Kikapú ethnic group).  

The Background of the “Kickapoo Indians”

Before contact with Europeans, the Kickapoo lived in northwest Ohio and southern Michigan in the area between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Beginning in the 1640s, the Algonquin tribes in this region came under attack from the east, first by the Ottawa and Iroquian-speaking Neutrals, and then the Iroquois. By 1658 the Kickapoo had been forced west into southwest Wisconsin.  

About 1700 they began to move south into northern Illinois and by 1770 had established themselves in central Illinois (near Peoria) extending southeast into the Wabash Valley on the western border of Indiana. After wars with the Americans and settlement of the Ohio Valley, they signed treaties during 1819 ceding their remaining land east of the Mississippi River and relocated to southern Missouri (1819-24). Initially, most moved to the lands assigned them, but many remained in central Illinois and refused to leave until they were forcibly removed by the military in 1834.  

Several bands of Kickapoo did not want to stay in Missouri and began wandering south and west, spreading across Oklahoma and Texas all the way to the Mexican border (and beyond). In 1832 the Missouri Kickapoo exchanged their reserve for lands in northeast Kansas. After the move, factions developed, and in 1852, a large group left and moved to Chihuahua in northern Mexico, where some of the Kickapoo had already made their home. The Mexican Kickapoo (known as Kikapú in Mexico) were joined by other tribal members between 1857 and 1863, but  between 1873 and 1878, approximately half of the Mexican Kickapoo returned to Oklahoma in the United States.  

In 2000, the largest concentration of the Kikapú were found in the Coahuila’s north central municipio of Múzquiz, where 106 of the 125 Kikapú speakers lived at the time of the 2000 census.   

Indigenous Coahuila in the Twentieth Century

By the late Nineteenth Century, nearly all the indigenous groups of Coahuila had disappeared.  The 1895 census recorded only 19 indigenous speakers in the entire state.  This number increased slightly to 55 in 1900 and to 263 in 1910.  In 1910, Coahuila had 262 Kikapú speakers, which means that only one indigenous person in the state spoke a language other than Kikapú.  

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 393,480,  

  • 44,779 persons (or 1.1%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background
  • 306,433 persons (or 77.9%) classified themselves as being mixed
  • 39,853 persons (or 10.1%) classified themselves as white.

The 2010 Census

According to the 2010 Mexican census, only 6,105 persons five years of age or more in the State of Coahuila actually spoke an indigenous language. The most represented languages in the State were:  

  • Náhuatl (931 speakers)
  • Kikapú (433 speakers)
  • Mazahua (336 speakers)
  • Zapotec (225 speakers)

With the exception of the Kikapú speakers, the majority of these indigenous speakers were either migrants from other parts of Mexico or the children of migrants who arrived in the State at a later date. In 2010, only 39 residents of Coahuila were monolingual speakers of their indigenous language. In the final analysis, Coahuila ranked at the bottom of all the Mexican states for the number of its indigenous speakers.  

Mexicans Considered Indigenous

The 2010 census 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 in Mexico 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.  

In all, only 14,638 residents of Coahuila in 2010 were classified as indigenous, about 0.5% of the state’s population and more than double the number of indigenous speakers (6,105). The two municipios with the largest number of “indigenous” persons were Saltillo (3,992) and Torreón (3,219), but Múzquiz with 760 indigenous persons had one of the highest percentages of all Coahuila municipios.  

The Future

Most of Coahuila’s indigenous population disappeared, dispersed or assimilated in the Eighteenth Century. While the Kikapú speakers hang on in northern Coahuila, the only other source of indigenous speakers in the State will come from the migrant workers who travel from Oaxaca, Guerrero and other southern states.  

Coahuila is Mexico’s top mining state in large part because of its large coal reserves. Thanks to Coahuila’s coal industry, its export-oriented manufacturing industry (the maquiladora) and Saltillo’s prosperous automobile industry, it is likely that migrants will continue to enter Coahuila’s border, thus bringing an influx of new indigenous speakers from other states.  

Copyright © 2014, by John P. Schmal.  

Sources:  

Alessio Robles, Vito’ “Coahuila y Texas en la Epoca Colonial” (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978).  

Bolton, Herbert Eugene (ed.). “Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706” (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959)  

Campbell, Thomas N. “Coahuiltecans and Their Neighbors,” in “Handbook of North American Indians,” Vol. 10 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1983).  

Campbell, Thomas N. “The Indians of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico: Selected Writings of Thomas Nolan Campbell.” (Austin: Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, 1988).  

Campillo Cuautli, Hector. “Diccionario Ilustrado y Enciclopedia Regional del Estado de Coahuila” (Mexico, D.F.: Fernández Editories, 1987).  

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

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)  

Forbes, Jack D. “Unknown Athapaskans: The Identification of the Jano, Jocome, Jumano, Manso, Suma, and Other Indian Tribes of the Southwest,” Ethnohistory 6 (Spring 1959).  

Frye, David. “The Native Peoples of Northeastern Mexico” in “The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas: Volume II: Mesoamerica: Part 2” (edited by Richard E.W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod (Cambridge University Press, 2000)).  

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

Gibson, Arrell Morgan, “The Kickapoos; Lords of the Middle Border” (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963).

Griffen, William B. “Culture Change and Shifting Populations in Central Northern Mexico” (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1969).  

Hackett, Charles W. (ed.) “Historical Documents Relating to New Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, to 1773” (Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1923-37).  

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

Nielsen, George R, “The Kickapoo People” (Phoenix Indian Tribal Series, 1975).  

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

Ruecking, Freidrich H., “The Economic Systems of the Coahuiltecan Indians of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico (1953).  

Sauer, Carl. “The Distribution of Aboriginal Tribes and Languages in Northwestern Mexico” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1934).  

Swanton, J.R. “Linguistic Material from the Tribes of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico” (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1940).  

 

 

 

  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).

 

 


  INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF ZACATECAS

INDIGENOUS ZACATECAS: FROM CONTACT TO THE PRESENT DAY

By John P. Schmal

The present state of Zacatecas is located at the geographical center of Mexico.  Its shares borders with eight states: Coahuila de Zaragoza (on the north), Durango (on the west), Nayarit (on the southwest, Jalisco and Aguascalientes (on the south), Guanajuato (on the southeast), San Luis Potosí (on the west) and Nuevo León (on the northwest). As the eighth largest state of Mexico, Zacatecas has a square area of 75,284 square kilometers, equal to 3.84% of the national territory. The State of Zacatecas is divided into fifty-eight municipios, with the City of Zacatecas as its capital. Its territory lies wholly within the central plateau and is traversed by Sierra Madre Occidental mountain ranges.  

In 2010, Zacatecas had a population of 1,579,209 people, ranking it No. 25 among the Mexican states in terms of population.  The capital of the State is Zacatecas, which had a population of 129,011 in 2010, representing 8.2% of the state’s total population. Guadalupe is the second largest city in terms of population, followed by Fresnillo and Jerez de García-Salinas.

 

The Zacatecas Economy

The Zacatecas economy primarily depends upon cattle-raising, agriculture, mining, communications, food processing, tourism, and transportation. From 1546 to the present day, Zacatecas has depended upon silver mining for its livelihood. Today, the more than 15 mining districts in Zacatecas yield silver, lead, zinc, gold, phosphorite, wollastonite, fluorite and barium.  

In fact, thanks of Zacatecas, Mexico is the largest producer of silver in the world today, contributing 17 percent of the world’s total output. In fact, Fresnillo Plc. (Public limited company), which owns silver mines throughout Mexico, is the largest producer of silver in the world and its Saucito mine, located 8 km southwest of its Fresnillo mine, is the largest silver producing mine in the world. The Fresnillo mine is number six in world production.  

As of 2016, mining contributes 29.8% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Zacatecas. But of Zacatecas’ 628,000 workers, more than one-quarter (173,368 – or 25.3%) are employed by the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries. Although much of Zacatecas is desert, the primary economic driver of the state is agriculture. Zacatecas farmers are Mexico’s foremost producers of beans, chili peppers and cactus leaves and also grow significant guava, grape and peach crops.

 

Pre-Columbian Zacatecas
The indigenous history of Zacatecas stretches so far into the past that we are unable to say exactly when people settled in 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.”  

First occupied between about 200 and 300 A.D., La Quemada's population probably peaked after 500 A.D., and was abandoned completely by 900 A.D. Some historians believe that La Quemada may 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).  

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.  Located in the municipio of Villanueva, La Quemada’s massive ruins remain one of Zacatecas’ most important archeological sites and is located about 56 km south of the City of Zacatecas on Federal Highway 54 Zacatecas–Guadalajara, in Mexico.  

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 when the Spaniards arrived. Although both Chalchihuites and Le Quemada represented outposts of Mesoamerican settlement, climatic changes eventually led to their abandonment.

 

Early Spanish Exploration

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 did their part to Christianize the native peoples.  

Nuño de Guzmán

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.”  

Taking formal possession of the conquered areas, Guzmán named his conquered territory “Greater Spain.”  However, twelve years later, the Spaniard administration renamed the region as Nueva Galicia (New Galicia).  This new territory initially took in most of the present-day states of Zacatecas, Durango, Coahuila, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, and Nayarit.  

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.

 

The First Guadalajara

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.

La Gran Chichimeca

When the Spaniards started exploring Zacatecas in the 1520s and 1530s, they encountered several nomadic tribes occupying the area which they referred to as La Gran Chichimeca. 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, Tepehuanes and Guachichiles, and they had never been conquered by the Aztecs.  

According to Eugene B. Sego’s Ph.D. dissertation, the Gran Chichimeca could be “roughly perceived by visualizing an imaginary line running west from the present-day site of Querétaro through Lake Chapala and Guadalajara, thence north to Durango, northeast to Saltillo, and then south along the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, to the point of beginning.”  Its southern boundary lay only seventy miles north of Mexico City.  

All of the Chichimeca Indians shared a primitive hunting-collecting culture, based on the gathering of mesquite and tunas (the fruit of the nopal).  However, many of them also lived off of acorns, roots and seeds. Many Chichimec tribes utilized the juice of the agave as a substitute for water when the latter was in short supply. The Chichimecas also hunted a large number of small animals, including frogs, lizards, snakes and worms.  

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.”

 

Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1541)

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-Finger 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 led 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.”

 

The Discovery of Silver (1546)

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, 8,148 feet above sea level.  

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.”

 

Native Tribes of Zacatecas

The various Chichimeca Indians living in the region of present-day Zacatecas 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. 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 Zacatecos married young, with most girls being married by the age of fifteen. Monogamy was their general practice. Most of the Zacatecas Indians smeared their bodies with black clay. This paint helped shield them from the sun's rays but also kept vermin off their skin. In contrast, their fellow tribal group, the Guachichiles painted themselves with red clays.  

Guachichiles. Of all the Chichimec tribes, the Guachichile Indians occupied the largest territory, – an estimated 100,000 square kilometers – from Saltillo, Coahuila in the north to Lake Chapala in eastern Jalisco on the southern end. Their territory extended through parts of eastern Zacatecas, western San Luis Potosí, parts of eastern Jalisco, Aguascalientes and western Guanajuato. Their territory extended westward close to the city of Zacatecas and eastward into sections of San Luis Potosí.   

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.  

Tepehuánes. The Tepehuán Indians occupied the southwestern part of Zacatecas. According to Buelna (1891), they received their name from the Náhuatl term tepetl, "mountain," and huan, "at the junction of.”  The Tepehuanes were located mainly in Durango, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental, but extended into the reaches of what is now western Zacatecas. Unlike the Zacatecas and Guachichiles, the Tepehuanes did not become involved in operations against the Spaniards in the Chichimec War.  The historian Charlotte M. Gradie has discussed in great deal the Tepehuanes and their famous revolt that began in 1616 and ravaged much of Durango for three years.   

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 Guachichile 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 warrior 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.

 

The Turning of the Tide (1585)

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.
 

Peace by Persuasion

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.

 

Peace by Purchase

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.

 

Assimilation and Mestizaje

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. In the meantime, Catholic missionaries had begun 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, Otomí and Tarascan Indians who had also settled in Zacatecas, the Chichimeca Indians were very rapidly assimilated into the more dominant cultures. 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.”

 

The 1921 Census

According to the 1921 Mexican census, the state of Zacatecas contained 379,329 persons in a republic that boasted a total population of 14,334,780.  In all, 32,422 Zacatecas residents (or 8.55%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background, while another 326,615 claimed to be of mixed indigenous and Caucasian background. The 1921 Zacatecas census classifications are summarized in the following table:

 

The 1921 Mexican Census: Racial Classifications in Zacatecas

Racial Classification

No. of Persons

% of Total State Population

Indígena Pura

32,422

8.54%

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca

326,615

86.10%

Blanca

19,930

5.25%

Question Ignored or Other Classifications

362

0.10%

Total Population

379,329

100%

Source:  Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, Annuario de 1930: Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Tacubaya, Distrito Federal, 1932), pp. 48-50.

 

The Huicholes and Tepehuanes who have traditionally occupied portions of far western Zacatecas have survived to this day, but most of them now live in the neighboring states of Durango, Chihuahua, Nayarit and Jalisco. In the 1930 census, only 27 persons in Zacatecas 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. With the exception of the Huichol and Tepehuanes speakers, all indigenous languages spoken in Zacatecas during the twentieth centuries were transplanted languages from states south of Zacatecas (i.e., Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michoacán).

 

Indigenous Languages Spoken in Zacatecas (2000)

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

 

Most of the original 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 alone, but had to be bribed into peace, is a testimony to their tenacity and strength.
 

Indigenous Languages Spoken in Zacatecas (2010)

In the 2010 census, 5,157 indigenous speakers 3 years and older resided in Zacatecas, but almost one-third of these indigenous speakers did not specify which language they spoke, as noted in the following table:

 

The 2010 Census: Indigenous Languages Spoken in Zacatecas

Indigenous Language

Population 3 Years and Older Who Speak an Indigenous Language

Percent of all Indigenous Speakers

Lengua indígena no especificada

1,631

31.6%

Huichol

1,003

19.4%

Náhuatl

503

9.8%

Tepehuano

492

9.5%

Tlapaneco

381

7.4%

Tepehuano de Durango

328

6.4%

Mazahua

151

2.9%

Zapoteco

137

2.7%

Mixteco

111

2.2%

Purépecha (Tarasco)

100

1.9%

All Zacatecas Indigenous Speakers

5,157

100%

Source: INEGI. Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010: Tabulados del Cuestionario Básico: Población de 3 años y más que habla lengua indígena por entidad federativa y lengua

 

The Huichol and Tepehuano languages are spoken by persons who mostly live in Durango and Nayarit, but many of these groups have moved to the larger urban areas of Zacatecas and Jalisco to obtain gainful employment.  

Copyright © 2017 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sources:  

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

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

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

Franz, Allen R. “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.

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

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Superficie de la República Mexicana por Estados. 2015.  

INEGI. Población de las Entidades de México según los Conteos Censos Oficiales y Proyecciones de Población del INEGI (2010).  

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

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.  

Secretaríat de Economía, ProMéxico Trade and Investment: Zacatecas. Online:

http://mim.promexico.gob.mx/work/models/mim/Documentos/PDF/mim/FE_ZACATECAS_vfi.pdf  

Sego, Eugene B. Six Tlaxcalan Colonies on New Spain’s Northern Frontier: A Comparison of Success and Failure. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Dissertation Services, Indiana University, Ph.D. Thesis: 1990, p. 4.  

The Silver Institute, “Silver Production.” Online:

http://www.silverinstitute.org/site/supply-demand/silver-production/

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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).

 

INDIGENOUS JALISCO: FROM THE SPANISH CONTACT TO 2010

By John P. Schmal

Modern Jalisco

The modern state of Jalisco consists of 78,597 square kilometers located in the west central portion of the Mexican Republic and taking up 4.0% of the national territory. As the seventh largest state in Mexico, Jalisco is politically divided into 124 municipios. With a 2010 population of about 7,844,830 inhabitants, Jalisco has the fourth largest population in Mexico with 6.6% of the national population. The capital of Jalisco is Guadalajara, which had a 2010 population of 1,495,182. In addition to being the second largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara’s population represents almost one-fifth of Jalisco’s entire population.

 

Jalisco is a very large state and actually has boundaries with 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.  The name Jalisco comes from the Náhuatl words xali (sand) and ixco (surface). Together, these words mean "sandy surface". Up to 1867, Nayarit was part of Jalisco. In August 1867, Nayarit became the “Military District of Tepic.” It was elevated to the status of a territory separate from Jalisco in 1884, achieving full statehood in 1917.

 

The Jalisco Economy

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Jalisco exceeded one trillion pesos in 2015 and contributed 6.8% of Mexico’s national GDP. In 2015, the five primary contributors to Jalisco’s GDP were: wholesale and retail trade (21.8%); manufacturing (20.5%); real estate, rental and leasing (13.0%); construction (8.6%) and agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting (5.9%).

 

Of Jalisco’s 3.6 million workers during 2016, almost one-in-four (1,402,644, or 39.35%) were employed in the manufacturing and commerce sectors. While 304,996 persons were engaged in agriculture/forestry/ fishing and hunting (8.5%), a slightly larger number (319,730, or 9.0%) were employed in the accommodation and food services.

 

A Wide Range of Topographies

Jalisco is crossed by two large mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Neo-Volcanic Axis.  While the Sierra Madre Occidental runs north to south across western Mexico, the Neo-Volcanic Axis is a long line of ancient volcanoes (many still active) that extends from the Pacific Ocean (north of Guadalajara) eastward to the Gulf of Mexico, just to the south of Veracruz.

 

La Gran Chichimeca

When the Spaniards started exploring Jalisco and Zacatecas in the 1520s and 1530s, they encountered several nomadic tribes occupying the area which they referred to as La Gran Chichimeca. The Aztecs collectively referred to these Indians with the all-encompassing term, Chichimecas. All of the Chichimeca Indians shared a primitive hunting-collecting culture, based on the gathering of mesquite, acorns, roots and seeds, as well as the hunting of small animals, including frogs, lizards, snakes and worms. Within the present-day boundaries of Jalisco, the Caxcanes, Guachichiles, Tecuexes and Guamares were considered to be Chichimecas.

 

With a wide range of topographies, Jalisco became the home to a wide variety of indigenous peoples.  Domingo Lázaro de Arregui, in his “Descripción de la Nueva Galicia” – published in 1621 – noted that 72 native languages were spoken in the Spanish colonial province of Nueva Galicia, which included a large part of Jalisco, as well as Nayarit, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas. However,  according to the author Eric van Young, “the extensive and deep-running mestizaje” (the racial and cultural mixing of Amerindians with Europeans) of Nueva Galicia 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.”

 

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  the Chichimeca nations and their warriors.

 

Nuño de Guzmán

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.”

 

Once Guzmán had consolidated his conquests, he ordered all of the conquered Indians of Jalisco to be distributed among Spanish encomiendas. The individual receiving the encomienda, known as the encomendero, received free labor and tribute from the Indians, in return for which the subjects were commended to the encomendero's care. It was the duty of the encomendero to Christianize, educate and feed the natives under their care. However, as might be expected, such human institutions were prone to abuse and misuse and, as a result, some Indians were reduced to slave labor.

 

Taking formal possession of the conquered areas, Guzmán named his conquered territory “Greater Spain.”  However, twelve years later, the Spaniard administration renamed the region as Nueva Galicia (New Galicia). Reports of Guzmán's brutal treatment of the indigenous people got the attention of the authorities in Mexico City. Two years later, he was returned to Spain in chains to stand trial. He spent some time in prison and died in Spain around 1558.

 

The Mixtón Rebellion (1540-1541)

In the spring of 1540, the Indian population of western Mexico began a fierce rebellion against Spanish rule. The indigenous tribes living along today's Three-Finger 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. 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 gradually suffocated the uprising. By December, 1541, the native resistance had been completely crushed. The aftermath of this defeat, according to Peter Gerhard, led to thousands of deaths. In addition, he writes, “thousands were driven off in chains to the mines, and many of the survivors (mostly women and children) were transported from their homelands to work on Spanish farms and haciendas.” Fortunately, some of these people were allowed to return home a decade later.

 

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.” To function properly, the Zacatecas silver mines “required well-defined and easily traveled routes.” 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 Guachichile 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 present-day northern regions of Jalisco were included in this war zone.

 

Indigenous Allies

The Chichimeca conflict forced the Spaniards to rely heavily upon their Christian 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 Nueva Galicia. In describing this phenomenon, Mr. Powell noted that the “Indians formed the bulk of the fighting forces against the Chichimeca warriors; 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.”

 

By the middle of the Sixteenth Century, the Tarascans, Aztecs, Cholultecans, Otomíes, Tlaxcalans, and the Cazcanes had all joined forces with the Spanish military. By the time the Chichimeca War began in 1550, the Tarascans and Otomíes, in particular, had already developed “considerable experience in warfare alongside the Spaniards.”  As a result, explains Mr. Powell, “They were the first important auxiliaries employed for entradas against the Chichimecas.”

 

Decline through Epidemic Disease

The physical isolation of the Indians in the Americas is the primary reason for which disease caused such havoc with the Native American populations. This physical isolation resulted in a natural quarantine from the rest of the planet and from a wide assortment of communicable diseases. When smallpox first ravaged through Mexico in 1520, no Indian had immunity to the disease.

 

During the first century of the conquest, the Mexican Indians suffered through 19 major epidemics. They were exposed to smallpox, chicken pox, diphtheria, influenza, scarlet fever, measles, typhoid, mumps, influenza, and cocoliztli (a hemorrhagic disease). Peter Gerhard has estimated the total native population of Nueva Galicia in 1520 at 855,000 persons. By 1550, this number had dropped to 220,000.

 

In two decades, the populous coastal region north of Banderas Bay witnessed the greatest population decline. By the late 1530s, the population of the Pacific coastal plain and foothills from Acaponeta to Purificación had declined by more than half. Subsequently, Indians from the highland areas were transported to work in the cacao plantations. When their numbers declined, the Spaniards turned to African slaves. In spite of the epidemics, several areas of Jalisco were less affected by contagious disease.

 

The Caxcanes

One of the primary indigenous groups of Jalisco was the Cazcanes (Caxcanes) who lived in the northern section of the state. They were a partly nomadic people, whose principal religious and population centers were at Teul, Tlaltenango, Juchipila, and Teocaltiche. The language of the Caxcanes Indians was widely spoken in the northcentral portion of Jalisco along the “Three-Fingers Border Zone” with Zacatecas. It is believed that the Caxcanes language was spoken at Teocaltiche, Ameca, Huejúcar, and across the border in Nochistlán, Zacatecas. The language of Cazcanes was very similar to the Nahua dialect spoken by the Mexica and has sometimes been referred to as a corrupt form of Nahua.

 

According to Mr. Powell, the Caxcanes were "the heart and the center of the Indian rebellion in 1541 and 1542." After the Mixtón Rebellion, the Cazcanes became allies of the Spaniards. For this reason, they suffered attacks by the Zacatecas and Guachichiles during the Chichimeca War. As a cultural group, the Caxcanes ceased to exist during the Nineteenth Century. The only person who has published detailed materials relating to the Caxcanes is the archaeologist, Dr. Phil C. Weigand.

 

The Cocas

From Guadalajara in the north to Sayula in the south and from Cocula in the west to La Barca and Lake Chapala in the east, the Cocas inhabited a significant swath of territory in central and southern Jalisco. Zapotitlan, Jocotepec, Cocula and Tepec were all within their domain. When the Spaniards first entered their territory, some of the Coca Indians, guided by their leader Tzitlali, moved away to a small valley surrounded by high mountains, a place they named “Cocolan.”  When the Spaniards arrived in the vicinity of present-day Guadalajara in 1530, they found about one thousand dispersed farmers belonging to both the Tecuexes and Cocas.

 

The late American anthropologist Carolyn Baus de Czitrom studied the Cocas extensively and published a remarkable work about their traditions and way of life. In her landmark work, “Tecuexes y Cocas: Dos Grupos de la Region Jalisco en el Siglo XVI,” Dr. Baus de Czitrom described the Cocas as a very peaceful and cooperative people (“Los cocas era gente dócil, buena y amiga de los españoles.”), which she based largely on the accounts of Tello.

 

Because the Cocas were a peaceful people, the Spaniards, for the most part, left them alone. Some historians believe that the word mariachi originated in the language of the Cocas. Some of the traditions surrounding mariachi are certainly derived from the Coca culture and the five-stringed musical instrument called vihuela was a creation of the Cocas.

 

The Tecuexes

From Magdalena and Tequila in the west to Jalostotitlán and Cerro Gordo in the east, the Tecuexes occupied a considerable area of northern Jalisco. Their southern border extended just south of Guadalajara while their eastern range extended into the northwestern part of Los Altos and included Mexticacan, Tepatitlán and Valle de Guadalupe. The Tecuexes were also studied extensively by Dr. Baus de Czitrom, who reported that the Spaniards considered them to be brave and bold warriors (“Los Tecuexes eran valientes y audaces guerreros.”)

 

The Tecuexes and Cocas both occupied some of the same communities within central Jalisco, primarily in the region of Guadalajara. It seems likely that this coexistence probably led to inter-marital relationships between the Cocas and Tecuexes in some areas and played a role in aligning the two peoples together. However, in other areas such as Lake Chapala, the Tecuexes and Cocas were adversaries.

 

The Tecuexes were frequently at odds with their other neighbors in the north, the Caxcanes. In fact, it is believed that Caxcanes originally invaded the territory of the Tecuexes in the area of Tlatenango, Juchipila, Nochistlán (Zacatecas) and Teocaltiche (Jalisco) during the pre-Hispanic era. The Caxcanes and Tecuexes in this area continued to their hostilities for as many as 260 years until the arrival of the Spaniards.

 

The Spaniards first confronted the Tecuexes in an area north of Lake Chapala. When Guzmán arrived in the area in February 1530, the Tecuexes fled at first, but returned a few days later. Both the Tecuexes and Cocas had heard that Guzmán was on his way and decided to accept the invaders peacefully.  When the Spanish force arrived, most of the leaders of the Cocas and Tecuexes received them in friendship and offered gifts.

 

However, one group of Tecuexes decided to resist and ambushed Guzmán and his men. Because of their superiority in arms, the Spaniards quickly defeated this group. Later, the manipulative Guzmán used an alliance with the Cocas to help subdue the Tecuexes. Like the Caxcanes, the Tecuexes suffered in the aftermath of the Mixtón Rebellion. 

 

The Coras

The Coras inhabited an area that is now located in present-day Nayarit as well as the northwestern fringes of Jalisco. The Cora call themselves Nayarit or Nayariti, a tribe belonging to the Taracahitian division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family. The Cora developed agricultural methods that included the building of terraces to control erosion. Today, the Coras, numbering more than 20,000 people, continue to survive, primarily in Nayarit and to a lesser extent in Jalisco. The Cora Indians have been studied by several historians and archaeologists. One of the most interesting works about the Cora is Catherine Palmer Finerty's “In a Village far From Home: My Life among the Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre” (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000).

 

The Cuyutecos

The Cuyutecos ‒ speaking the Nahua language of the Aztecs ‒ settled in southwestern Jalisco, inhabiting Atenquillo, Talpa, Mascota, Mixtlán, Atengo, and Tecolotlán. The population of this area ‒ largely depleted by the epidemics of the Sixteenth Century ‒ was partially repopulated by Spaniards and Indian settlers from Guadalajara and other parts of Mexico. It is believed the Cuyuteco language may have been a late introduction into Jalisco.

 

The Guachichiles

Of all the Chichimec tribes, the Guachichile Indians occupied the largest territory, – an estimated 100,000 square kilometers – from Saltillo, Coahuila in the north to Lake Chapala in eastern Jalisco on the southern end. Their territory extended through parts of eastern Zacatecas, western San Luis Potosí, parts of eastern Jalisco, Aguascalientes and western Guanajuato. Their territory extended westward close to the city of Zacatecas and eastward into sections of San Luis Potosí.  The present-day Jalisco cities of Lagos de Moreno, Arandas, Ayo el Chico, and Tepatitlán were within the territory of the Guachichiles.

 

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 resistance in the Chichimeca War became legendary. 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. After the end of the Chichimeca War, the Guachichiles were very quickly assimilated and Christianized and no longer exist as a distinguishable cultural entity.

 

The Guamares

The nation of the Guamares took up portions of western Guanajuato, northeastern Jalisco and a small part of Aguascalientes. The author, Gonzalo de las Casas, called the Guamares “the bravest, most warlike, treacherous, and destructive of all the Chichimecas.” The area around San Juan de los Lagos, Encarnación de Díaz and Jalostotitlán in northeastern Jalisco (Los Altos) was primarily occupied by the “Chichimecas Blancos,” a Guamares tribe who used limestone pigments to color their faces and bodies. When Pedro Almíndez Chirinos traveled through here in March 1530 with a force of fifty Spaniards and 500 Tarascan and Tlaxcalan allies, the inhabitants gave him a peaceful reception.

 

The Huicholes

Some historians believe that the Huichol Indians are descended from the nomadic Guachichiles, having moved westward and settled down to an agrarian lifestyle, inhabited a small area in northwestern Jalisco, adjacent to the border with Nayarit. The Huicholes, seeking to avoid confrontation with the Spaniards, became very isolated and thus we able to survive as a people and a culture.

 

In contrast to the Cora Indians, the Huichol were never congregated into nucleated mission settlements and thus, according to Franz (1996), were never converted from their "primitive pagan ways." In his 2001 thesis for the University of Florida, Brad Morris Biglow noted that, while the Cora Indians fought aggressively to resist acculturation, the Huichol response was primarily to “flee” to more remote locations in the Sierra Madre. According to Aguirre Beltran, the Huichol retreat into the Sierra created a “region of refuge” and enabled the Huichol to “resist the acculturative pressures around them.”

 

The isolation of the Huicholes ‒ now occupying parts of northwestern Jalisco and Nayarit ‒ has served them well for their aboriginal culture has survived with relatively few major modifications since the period of first contact with Western culture. Even today, the Huichol Indians of Jalisco and Nayarit currently inhabit an isolated region of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At the time of the Spanish contact, Huichol speakers were living in the northern stretches of what is now called the Three-Fingers Region of Northern Jalisco, in particular Huejuquilla, Tuxpan and Colotlán.

 

The survival of the Huichol has intrigued historians and archaeologists alike. The art, history, culture, language and religion of the Huichol have been the subject of at least a dozen books. Carl Lumholtz, in Symbolism of the Huichol Indians: A Nation of Shamans (Oakland, California: B.I. Finson, 1988), made observations about the religion of the Huichol. Stacy B. Schaefer and Peter T. Furst edited People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996), discussed the history, culture and language of these fascinating people in great detail.

 

The Otomíes

The Otomíes were a Chichimeca nation primarily occupying Querétaro and Guanajuato. However, early on, the Otomíes allied themselves with the Spaniards and Mexica Indians. As a result, writes Mr. Powell, Otomí settlers were “issued a grant of privileges” and were “supplied with tools for breaking land.”  For their allegiance, they were exempted from tribute and given a certain amount of autonomy in their towns. During the 1550s, Luis de Velasco (the second Viceroy of Nueva España) used Otomí militia against the Chichimecas. The strategic placement of Otomí settlements in Nueva Galicia made their language dominant near Zapotitlán, Juchitlán, Autlán, and other towns near Jalisco's southern border with Colima.

 

The Purépecha Indians (Tarascans)

The Purépecha Indians ‒ also referred to as the Tarascans and Porhé ‒ inhabited many parts of present-day Michoacán and boasted a powerful empire that rivaled the Aztec Empire during the Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Centuries. As recently as 2010, the Purépecha numbered over 124,000 speakers. This language, classified as an isolated language, was spoken along the southern fringes of southern Jalisco, adjacent to the border with Colima. Today, the Purépecha language is still the third-most spoken indigenous language in Jalisco.

 

The Tepehuanes

In pre-Hispanic times, the Tepehuán Indians inhabited a wide swath of territory that stretched through sections of present-day Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango and Chihuahua. According to Buelna (1891), they received their name from the Náhuatl term tepetl, "mountain," and huan, "at the junction of.” Unlike the Guachichiles, the Tepehuanes did not become involved in operations against the Spaniards in the Chichimec War. Charlotte M. Gradie’s “The Tepehuán Revolt of 1616: Militarism, Evangelism and Colonialism in Seventeenth Century Nueva Vizcaya” (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000) discussed in great detail the Tepehuanes and their famous 1616-1619 revolt that ravaged much of Durango.  After their rebellion was crushed, the Tepehuán moved to hiding places in the Sierra Madre to avoid Spanish retaliation.

 

Today, the Tepehuán retain elements of their old culture. At the time of the Spanish contact, the Tepehuanes language was spoken in “Three Fingers Region” of northwestern Jalisco in such towns as Tepee, Mezquital and Colotlán. The Tepehuanes language and culture are no longer found in Jalisco, but more than 35,000 Tepehuanes still reside in southern Chihuahua and some parts of Durango and Nayarit.

 

Assimilation and Mestizaje (1590-1620)

The employment of Tarascans, Aztecs and Tlaxcalans for the purpose of “defensive colonization” ‒ discussed earlier in this report ‒ encouraged a gradual assimilation of the Chichimecas and other Jalisco Indians. In the 1590s Náhuatl-speaking colonists from Tlaxcala and the Valley of Mexico settled in some parts of Jalisco to serve, as Mr. Gerhard writes, “as a frontier militia and a civilizing influence.”  As the Indians of Jalisco made peace and settled down to work for Spanish employers, they labored in the fields alongside the Christian, “civilized” Indians. In time, the indigenous Jalisco groups were absorbed into the more dominant cultures from the south (i.e., Aztec, Tlaxcalan, Otomí and Tarascan Indians).

 

By the early Seventeenth Century, writes Mr. Powell, most of the Chichimeca Indians had disappeared as distinguishable cultural entities and “the sixteenth-century land of war thus became fully Mexican in its mixture.”

 

Independence from Spain (1823)

By the early part of the Nineteenth Century, very few people living in Jalisco still spoke indigenous 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).

 

Indigenous Discontent (1825-1885)

Unfortunately, independence 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 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."

 

As Jalisco prepared to enter the Twentieth Century, the indigenous speaking population of the State declined considerably. In the 1895 census, only 4,510 persons spoke an indigenous language, representing 0.38% of the state’s total population. By the time of the 1930 census, this figure would drop to 2,648 (0.21% of the total population).

 

The 1921 Census: Racial Classifications

In spite of the lost language connection, the bond that many Jaliscans 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 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 following table illustrates the racial classifications in the 1921 census:

 

The 1921 Mexican Census: Racial Classifications in Jalisco

Racial Classification

No. of Persons

% of Total State Population

Indígena Pura

199,728

16.76%

Indígena Mezclada con Blanca

903,830

75.83%

Blanca

87,103

7.31%

Question Ignored or Other Classifications

1,296

0.10%

Total Population

1,191,957

100%

Source:  Departamento de la Estadística Nacional, Annuario de 1930: Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Tacubaya, Distrito Federal, 1932), pp. 48-50.

 

The 2000 Census

According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in Jalisco totaled 39,259 individuals, representing only 0.7% of Jalisco’s 5,541,480 inhabitants. The most common of these languages were: 

 

  1. Huichol (10,976 persons)
  2. Náhuatl (6,714)
  3. Purépecha (3,074)
  4. Mixteco (1,471)
  5. Otomí (1,193)
  6. Zapoteco (1,061). 

 

The majority of the indigenous languages spoken in the state were transplanted tongues from other parts of México, with the Huichol language representing the only truly indigenous language of Jalisco. Although the State of Jalisco contains 124 municipios, only 11 of them contained indigenous populations that numbered more than one percent in 2000, including:

 

 

The 2010 Census

The 2010 Mexican census reported that the inhabitants of Jalisco spoke 59 different indigenous languages. However, Jalisco’s 53,695 indigenous speakers represented only 0.8% of the total state population, and Jalisco ranked 26th among the Mexican states and Distrito Federal in the percent of people speaking indigenous languages. The most commonly spoken language categories in Jalisco for the 2010 census were:

 

The 2010 Census: Indigenous Languages Spoken in Jalisco

Indigenous Language

Population 3 Years and Older Who Speak an Indigenous Language

Percent of all Indigenous Speakers

Huichol

18,409

34.3%

Náhuatl

11,650

21.7%

Indigenous Language not Specified

8,810

16.4%

Purépecha (Tarasco)

3,960

7.4%

Mixteco

2,001

3.7%

Zapoteco

1,637

3.0%

Otomí

1,409

2.6%

Huasteco

1,142

2.1%

Mazahua

1,009

1.9%

Totonaca (Totonaco)

458

0.9%

Other Languages

3,210

6.0%

Total

53,695

100.0%

Source: INEGI. Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010: Tabulados del Cuestionario Básico: Población de 3 años y más que habla lengua indígena por entidad federativa y lengua

 

Together the three most common languages represented 63.4% of all indigenous speakers in the state.  The fourth- and fifth-most spoken languages were Mixteco and Zapoteco, both languages indigenous to the State of Oaxaca.

 

In 2010, seven municipios had indigenous language speakers who made up between 2.3% and 75.9% of their entire populations, as shown in the following table:

 

The 2010 Census: Indigenous Speakers in Jalisco by Municipio

Municipio

Speakers of Indigenous Languages 3 Years of Age or More

Percent of Indigenous Speakers 3 Years of Age or More in the Municipio

Most Common Indigenous

Language (s)

Mezquitic

12,540

75.9%

Huichol

Bolaños

4,040

64.4%

Huichol

Huejuquilla el Alto

531

6.5%

Huichol

Villa Guerrero

289

5.5%

Huichol

San Gabriel

537

3.7%

Náhuatl / Purépecha

San Martín de Bolaños

97

3.0%

Huichol

Acatlán de Juárez

504

2.3%

Náhuatl / Huichol

118 Other Municipios

35,157

0.5%

Multiple Languages

State of Jalisco

53,695

0.8%

Multiple Languages

Source: INEGI, 2010 Censo: Población de 3 años y más por entidad y municipio según habla indígena y lengua.

 

As noted in the preceding table, nearly one-quarter (12,540 or 23.4%) of Jalisco’s indigenous speaking population lived in the municipio of Mezquitic, which is in Jalisco’s Three-Fingers Area and has borders with both Nayarit (on the west) and Zacatecas (on the west and east).

 

The municipio with the second largest percentage of indigenous speakers was Bolaños, which is just south of Mezquitic. Both municipios together have over 16,000 indigenous speakers, most of which speak Huichol. The two municipios contain almost one-third of all Jalisco’s indigenous speakers (30.9%).

 

The Huichol People of Today

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 contiguous 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.

 

Stacy B. Schaefer’s Huichol Women, Weavers, and Shamans (2015) quotes the Comisión Nacional Para el Desarrollo de Los Pueblos Indígenas’ (INI) recent report which states the Huichol population nationwide totaled 59,280 in 2011, with 8,791 of this number four years old or younger.

 

The Purépecha (Tarascans)

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. In 2010, most of the Purépecha speakers in Jalisco lived in the municipios of Zapopan, Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara. Because these municipios are not adjacent to Michoacán, it is assumed that these are migrants or the descendants of Purépecha migrants.

 

The Cora People

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 15,380 Cora speakers in 2000 lived in the State of Nayarit, Jalisco’s northwestern neighbor. In 2000, only 162 Cora speakers lived within Jalisco’s borders. By 2010, the number of Cora speakers in Jalisco had dropped to 116.

 

The Others

The Náhuatl, Otomí, Mixtec and Zapotec languages are 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 a large number of Mexican states and are in great demand as agricultural laborers in some of the northern states. The largest number of Náhuatl speakers in 2010 lived in the municipios of Zapopan, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. They are most likely migrants who were attracted to these regions for employment.

 

The Life Blood of Jalisco

As Jalisco moves closer to the third decade of the Twenty-First Century, only the arrival of migrant laborers from other parts of the country will ensure that Jalisco has a small population of people who speak indigenous languages, but almost all of those languages are not truly indigenous to the state itself. 

 

However, many sons and daughters of Jalisco recognize and feel great pride in their distant indigenous ancestors who both greeted and went to war with the Spaniards who arrived there in the Sixteenth Century. Although the Cocas, Tecuexes, Caxcanes, Guachichiles and Chichimecos Blancos no longer exist as cultural groups with living languages and traditions, they are, in fact, The Life Blood of Jalisco.

 

Municipio Histories

At the following link, researchers will find links to each of Jalisco’s municipios. Through this resource, interested readers can learn more about the indigenous people and history of each of their ancestral municipios:

 

http://siglo.inafed.gob.mx/enciclopedia/EMM14jalisco/municipios/municipios.html

 

Copyright © 2017 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved.

 

Primary Sources:

Baus de Czitrom, Carolyn. Tecuexes y Cocas: Dos Grupos de la Region Jalisco en el Siglo XVI. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Departamento de Investigaciones Históricas, No. 112. México: Serie Etnohistoria, 1982.

 

Biglow, Brad Morris. Ethno-Nationalist Politics and Cultural Preservation: Education and Bordered Identities among the Wixaritari (Huichol) of Tateikita, Jalisco. Mexico. Gainesville, Florida: Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Florida, 2001.

 

Deaton, Dawn Fogle, "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.

 

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.

 

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

 

Gorenstein, Shirley S. “Western and Northwestern Mexico,” in Richard E. W. Adams and Murdo J. MacLeod, The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume II: Mesoamerica, Part 1. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 318-357.

 

Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI). XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda 2000. Mexico: INEGI, 2000.

INEGI, Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. Mexico: INEGI, 2013. Website: http://www.beta.inegi.org.mx/proyectos/ccpv/2010/

 

INEGI, “Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. Cuestionario básico.” México: INEGI, 2013. Website: http://www3.inegi.org.mx/sistemas/TabuladosBasicos/Default.aspx?c=27302

 

Kirchhoff, Paul. "The Hunter-Gathering People of North México," in the North Mexican Frontier: Readings in Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971, pp. 200-209.

 

México. Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (CDI). Acciones de Gobierno para el Desarrollo Integral de los Pueblos Indígenas: Informe 2010. CDI: 2011.

 

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

 

Mecham, J. Lloyd. Francisco De Ibarra And Nueva Viscaya. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1968.

 

Muriá, José María. Breve Historia de Jalisco. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994.

 

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

 

Ramírez Flores, José. Lenguas Indígenas de Jalisco. Guadalajara, Jalisco: Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco, Secretaria General de Gobierno, 1980.

 

Schaefer, Stacy B. Huichol Women, Weavers, and Shamans. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 2015.

 

Schaefer, Stacy B. and Furst, Peter T. People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion, and Survival. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1996.

 

Secretaríat de Economía, ProMéxico Trade and Investment: Jalisco. Online:

http://mim.promexico.gob.mx/work/models/mim/Documentos/PDF/mim/FE_JALISCO_vfi.pdf

 

Van Young, Eric. “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

 

Weigand, Phil C. “Considerations on the Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Mexicaneros, Tequales, Coreas, Huicholes, and Caxcanes of Nayarit, Jalisco, and Zacatecas,” in William J. Folan (ed.), Contributions to the Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Greater Mesoamerica. Carbondale, Illinois: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.

 

 


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

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