Otomí of the Valley of Mezquital - Identification

The, term "Otomí" comes from otomitl and, by inference, from totomitl ("one who hunts birds with [bow and] arrow"). Sources on pre-Hispanic culture refer to "Totomihuatzin," who represents birds shot with arrows, and "Totomihuacan," which means "place where those who hunt birds with [bow and] arrow live." The Otomí in the Valley of Mezquital call themselves "Hnahnu," a term made up of the words hña (to speak) and hñu (nose) and signifying "those who speak a nasal language."

Location. The Valley of Mezquital is located in the Mexican state of Hidalgo between 20°11′ and 20°41′ N and 98°50′ and 99°20′ W. The area abuts with Queretaro on the west, with San Luis Potosí on the north, and with Tlaxcala and parts of the states of Mexico and Puebla on the south. The Valley of Mezquital is made up of twentyeight municipios. Those with the highest density of Otomí speakers are Actopan, Alfajayucan, El Cardonal, Chilcuautla, Ixmiquilpan, Nicolás Flores, San Salvador, Santiago de Anaya, Tasquillo, and Zimapan.

Demography. The Mexican census of 1990 registered a total of 313,838 people in the state of Hidalgo, 5 years of age or older, who spoke an indigenous language. Of these, 117,393 were Otomí speakers. In the ten municipios in the Valley of Mezquital that show the highest density of Otomí speakers, the census indicated a total of 80,775 people aged 5 years or more.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Otomí language belongs to the Otopamean Branch of the Otomanguean Language Family. Other languages also forming part of this branch can be grouped into three subbranches: Otomí Mazahua, Matlazinca-Ocuilteca, and Pame-Chichimeca-Jonaz. Among the Otopamean speakers there are two distinct cultural traditions: the Otomí, Mazahua, Matlazinca, and Ocuilteca influenced by the highly developed Mesoamerican culture and the Pame and Chichimeca-Jonaz influenced by hunters-gatherers from northern Mexico. In the Valley of Mezquital there are fourteen variants of spoken Otomí.

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