Social and Political Organization. The pre-Hispanic social and political organization of the Sierra Nahuat is unclear. Today communities throughout the northern Sierra de Puebla have a political and administrative organization that may have developed from a pre-Hispanic structure, according to the process Lockhart (1992) described for the Nahua of central Mexico. The pre-Hispanic Nahua had a cellular corporate organization consisting of the ethnic state ( āltepētl ), its cālpolli (localized kin group) or tlaxilacālli (house of lords), and member households. The Spanish introduced the town council ( cabildo ) as the governing body of the ethnic state, which eventually broke into cellular units now called municipios and barrios. Rank became less marked among Nahua families, and the term for "commoner" ( mācēhualli ) came to mean "Indian." Contemporary Sierra Nahuat call themselves "Mācēhualmeh," they are governed by a town council, and organized into municipios and barrios, which only remotely resemble the pre-Hispanic altepetl and calpolli.
Social Control and Conflict. The formal agents of social control are municipio judges, who listen to disputes and handle cases of petty crime. Those accused of more serious offenses appear before judges in the regional capitais. Spanish-speaking Mexicans generally control the regional and local town councils and use their power to maintain their economic and social position. Some parts of the northern Sierra de Puebla have experienced extensive peasant insurgency. In 1978 the Unión Campesina Independiente (U.C.I.) organized Sierra Nahuat in Huitzilan de Serdán. To control insurgency, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) sponsored a second peasant group called the Antorcha Campesina (Peasant Torch). The U.C.I, and Antorcha fought bloody battles from which the latter emerged victorious and took over the town council and school. Both groups have appeared in other parts of Mexico.