The structure of local political offices is established by state law. In this structure, each community is a delegación (delegation) belonging to a municipio. The highest local official in a community is the delegado (delegate). In addition, there is a series of subordinate officials to assist the delegate; these offices are held by people of the community for three years. The main functions of the delegate are to represent the community's interests before the municipal and state authorities and to seek help in providing for the community's most pressing public needs, which include roads and schools, government-operated electrical and telephone services, a safe public water supply, a functioning sewer system, and a bus-company franchise.
As these Nahua communities are not strategic groups in state and federal economic and political thinking, in most cases their petitions for help are delayed for several years, sometimes for decades. Governmental authorities thus make rendering these services contingent on unconditional community support of the government party (Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI]), for example at political rallies and, above all, during elections.
Within each delegación, there are several sources of friction. Members of the communities accuse their local officials of not working sufficiently hard to satisfy their needs. When support is finally obtained to implement some type of public works, the state government contributes only the materials essential to its implementation; the community must contribute the necessary labor. The ability of the delegate to mobilize community members is made evident when he calls on them to provide the required labor.
Although local officials traditionally judged cases of petty crime (e.g., fights, thefts), nowadays problems of this type are referred to the municipio capital, where formal legal resources are available for resolving them. Presently, local authorities only function as advocates.
There are also officials in charge of the agricultural affairs of a community who are totally independent of the delegate's authority. The natural resources and the agricultural and wooded lands of all the communities within the Nahua area of the state of Mexico are under communal and/or ejido control. These forms of land tenure are regulated by the federal agrarian-reform laws, which stipulate that local ejido and communal property must be administered locally by the community. The most important function of the agricultural officials is to resolve conflicts related to use of community resources.
The election of local authorities, civil as well as agricultural, is done with full independence from the government authorities themselves. Generally, it is through the system of religious cargos that the community evaluates a potential candidate's capacity for occupying one of the offices, basing their judgment on how he has moved through the system. Important criteria are honesty, an interest in community affairs, and an ability to speak and read Spanish.
These communities are not exempt from the problem of having corrupt officials. When their dishonesty is not serious enough to threaten the economic and social stability of the community, the officials become the butt of jokes and ridicule throughout the community. On the other hand, should their corrupt acts seriously threaten the stability of the community, for example putting at risk the community's agricultural and forest resources, the people will not hesitate to use violence to remove them.