Nahuat of the Sierra de Puebla - Orientation

The Nahuat of the Sierra de Puebla, also known as the "Sierra Nahuat," are speakers of an Aztec language who live on the eastern edge of the central Mexican highlands in the northern Sierra de Puebla. Their language is commonly referred to as "Mexicano," which derives from the term "Mexica," an ethnic label applied to Aztec speakers.

Location. The Sierra Nahuat live in nineteen municipios between the Nahuatl speakers of the high plateau and the Totonac on the coastal lowlands. These nineteen municipios, at elevations between 800 and 1,200 meters, are within a triangle marked by Teziutlán, Cuetzalán del Progreso, and Tetela de Ocampo. The municipios occupy a range of ecological niches, all of which have plentiful rainfall supporting luxuriant vegetation and abundant crops. At lower elevations, where there are no winter frosts, maize can be grown throughout the year, as well as coffee, sugarcane, and citrus fruits. At higher elevations, in the winter frost zone, summer maize, apples, plums, avocados, and flowers are grown.

Demography. Approximately 100,000 adults and children —about 40 percent of the region's population—speak Sierra Nahuat as their first language in the home. The other 60 percent are Spanish-speaking Mexicans, who sometimes describe themselves as gente de razón ("people of reason").

Linguistic Affiliation. Sierra Nahuat is the Zacapoaxtla variant (Key and Key 1953) that is close to the Nahuatl spoken by the ancient Aztec of the central Mexican highlands. Karttunen (1983, xxi) defines Sierra Nahuat as "a T-dialect" that, although it has "lost the characteristic lateral release" of the el sound, "lexically is very similar to Colonial Period Nahuatl."

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