Nahua Peoples


Numbering 1,197,328 in the census of 1990, the Nahuatl-speaking peoples are the largest Indian group in Mexico, forming 22.67 percent of the native population of that country. "Nahua" or "Nahuatl" is a generic label for the peoples located mainly in central Mexico who speak dialects of the Aztec language. The Nahua usually refer to themselves and their language as "Mexicano." Today the Nahua are located around the periphery of what was once the core of the Aztec Empire. The Nahua live in four major regions: the Huasteca, the northern Sierra de Puebla, the southern Sierra de Puebla, and Morelos and Guerrero.

The Nahua of the Huasteca live to the north of Mexico City in thirty-three contiguous municipios, the populations of which are 30 percent or more indigenous. These municipios are located in the southeastern tip of the state of San Luis Potosí, in the northern part of Hidalgo, and in adjoining areas of Veracruz. The number of Nahua speakers age 5 or older in the Huasteca area was 385,032 in 1990. More Nahua live dispersed in other municipios of the Huasteca.

The Nahua of the northern Sierra de Puebla live in the northern part of the state of Puebla with the exception of one municipio, Acaxochitlán, in Hidalgo. In 1990, the speakers of Nahua over 5 years of age in the northern Sierra de Puebla numbered 194,739 in thirty-four municipios, each with an indigenous population of more than 30 percent. There is also a small group of Nahua, consisting of only 316 speakers over 5 years of age, living in the Jalapa area of Veracruz.

The Nahua of the southern Sierra de Puebla live in the mountains of west-central Veracruz, south of the municipio of Coatepec, in some adjoining municipios of Puebla, in the mountains of the southeastern tip of Puebla, and in a few municipios of Oaxaca, where they adjoin the Mazatec. A population of 203,785 speakers over 5 years of age lived in the region in fifty-six municipios in 1990, each with an indigenous population of more than 30 percent. The densest population of Nahua of the southern Sierra de Puebla is in the border region between Veracruz and Puebla around the Río Tonto and the Sierra de Zongolico, south of Orizaba and Córdoba.

The Nahua of Morelos and Guerrero are a more dispersed group, which numbered 98,254 speakers of 5 years of age or older in 1990. They are located in municipios extending east to west across southern Puebla into Morelos and from there south into the state of Guerrero, where the Nahua region borders the Tlapanec and Mixtec regions.


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