ETHNONYMS: Chontal, Chontalpa, Tequistlateco

The Tequistlatec are the largest ethnic group in the municipios of Asunción Tlacolulita, San Miguel Tenango, San Pedro Huamelula, Santa María Ecatepec, and Santiago Astata in southeastern Oaxaca, Mexico. The Instituto Nacional Indigenista estimates that there were 13,880 Tequistlatec in these municipios in 1990. They are relatively acculturated; only 14.7 percent of the population speaks the native language. They are often referred to as the "Chontal," an Aztec word meaning "foreigner."

Two related languages divide the Tequistlatec into separate cultural groups, the Highland Chontal living in the mountains away from the coast at elevations of 1,200 to 2,400 meters, and the Lowland Chontal living in the coastal municipios of San Pedro Huamelula and Santiago Astata at an elevation of 300 meters. The Tequistlatec were probably subjects of the Aztecs and were subjugated by the Spanish. Contact was more intensive with the lowlanders.

The economy is based on subsistence agriculture practiced with the aid of animal-drawn plows. Maize and sugarcane are grown as cash crops. Highland Chontal produce mescal for sale. Land is owned privately or by the village.


Carrasco Pizana, Pedro (1960). Pagan Rituals and Beliefs among the Chontal Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Turner, Paul R. (1972). The Highland Chontal New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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