Identification. There is no agreement about the origin of the name "Mazahua" ("deer people"). Some historians say that it derives from mazatl, the Aztec word for "deer," or from the name of the group's first leader, Mazatl Tecutli ("Lord Deer"). Others say it comes from Nahuatl. The term does not exist in the Mazahua language; but there is the designation "Teetho ñaatho jñaatho." "Teetho" means "real people," and "ñaatho jñaatho" means "those who speak the language."
Location. The Mazahua area is located to the north of the state of México. Its boundaries are with the municipality of Acambay to the north, the Valle de Bravo to the south, and the state of Michoacán to the west. It encompasses approximately eleven municipalities with an area of 3,723 square kilometers, equivalent to 17 percent of the total area of the state. Mazahua also live in some villages in the state of Michoacán, near Ciudad Hidalgo. In the Mazahua area there are also nonindigenous populations, and Otomí Indians live in some municipalities.
Owing to migration, it is now possible to find Mazahua living in the cities of other states, for example in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and Mexico City.
Demography. According to the 1990 census, there are 127,826 Mazahua speakers over the age of 5; 68,070 are women, and 59,756 are men. Of the total, 114,294 live in the state of México, 3,007 in Michoacán, 7,864 in the Federal District, and 444 in the state of Chihuahua; the rest are dispersed over the remaining areas of the country.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Mazahua language is classified within the Otomanguean Language Group and is most closely related to Otomí.