These communities can be considered highly modified remnants of Aztec civilization. Because the current Nahua settlements are a result of Spanish Conquest and colonization, it would be imprecise to maintain that they are a direct legacy of Aztec culture. In the first place, most are products of colonial policies of resettling pre-Hispanic populations after the demographic collapse of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Furthermore, during the nineteenth century, when laws freeing communal lands were decreed by liberal governments, the resources of these communities were seriously affected. In many cases, they lost a large share of their lands as a result of the impressive growth of the haciendas during the nineteenth century. Only in some instances, in the first half of the twentieth century, through agrarian reform laws, were they able to recuperate a portion of the lands granted them by the Spanish Crown.
The recovery of Nahua lands was mainly attributable to strong agrarian consciousness and the fact that they joined the Zapatistas during the Mexican Revolution. At the end of the armed conflict, and after decades of bureaucratic proceedings, the Nahua were able to recover the farm and forest lands that belonged to them before the nineteenth-century laws abolishing communal property led to their loss. Now, in the form of ejidos, or communal property, the Nahua control a good portion of the resources that had previously belonged to the haciendas.
To a certain degree, these communities remained isolated until the first decades of the twentieth century. In the area of the Sierra Nevada, they share some cultural traits with Nahua communities in the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, on the other side of the Sierra Nevada. In the Valley of Toluca, they are totally surrounded by Matlantzinca and Otomí groups. By the beginning of the twentieth century, there was evidence of a high degree of sharing between Nahua and Hispanic-colonial cultures. During the middle of the twentieth century, with accelerated urbanization and industrialization, cultural patterns in these communities, which were shaped during the colonial and independence periods, began to change considerably. Nowadays one can observe an accelerated process of homogenization toward forms of national culture.