African Mexicans

As in the rest of the New World, the majority of Africans who settled in Mexico came as slaves. Mexico was the first mainland nation to receive large numbers of slaves; from 1528 to 1620 perhaps as many as a thousand slaves per year arrived from West Africa in Veracruz, on the Gulf Coast.


Identification. The name "Amuzgo" comes from a Nahuatl word to which various interpretations have been given.


The name "Anguilla" refers to a 96-square-kilometer dependent island territory of the United Kingdom, located in the northeast Caribbean at 18°03′ N, 63°04′ W. Anguillans speak English and are mostly of African descent.

Antiguans and Barbudans

Identification. The country Antigua and Barbuda includes two of the Leeward Islands located in the eastern Caribbean Sea.



Identification. The Awakateko are an indigenous Mayan ethnic group residing in the municipio of Aguacatan in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala.


Identification. The name "Bahamas" derives from baja mar (Spanish: shallow water).


Identification. Barbadians are people born on the island of Barbados and people born elsewhere who have at least one Barbadian parent who maintains cultural ties to this island nation.


Bermuda is a self-governing British dependency located in the southern North Atlantic Ocean at 32°18′ N, 64°47′ W. It is an archipelago of approximately 150 islands, which have a total land area of 53 square kilometers.

Blacks of Costa Rica

Blacks constitute 3 percent of the population of Costa Rica, but nearly 24 percent of the population of the province of LimĂłn, on the Atlantic coast. The ancestors of most Costa Rican Blacks did not arrive in Costa Rica to work as slaves on plantations, as in other parts of the Americas and the Caribbean; they came much later, as free people in search of employment.

Boruca, Bribri, and Cabécar

ETHNONYMS: For the Boruca ("village within the ashes"): Brunca, Brunka (name of the tribal group and the language, which also refers to ash); for the Bribri: Talamanca, Viceita, Se'ie ("like ourselves"), Bribriwak ("owners of mountainous territory"); for the Cabécar: Bianco, Talamanca, Kabekirwak ("owners of kbek," the quetzal bird).


Identification. The Bugle (pronounced "boo-glay") are a small, little-known Native American group who live in the interior of northwestern Panama.


Identification. "Cahita" refers to Cahitan speakers, members of the three modern ethnic or "tribal" groups in southern Sonora and northern Sinaloa, Mexico.

Carib of Dominica

Identification. The Carib of Dominica constitute much of what remains of the Native American occupants of the Lesser Antilles at the time of Columbus.

Cattle Ranchers of the Huasteca

Identification and Location. The Spanish conquerors who landed in Mexico in the sixteenth century introduced new domesticated animals such as horses, donkeys, and cows.

Cayman Islanders

The Cayman Islands are an English-speaking British crown colony situated in the northwest Caribbean. Its three small islands lie between 19°15′ and 19°45′ N and 79°40′ and 81°30′ W.


Identification. The Chatino are an indigenous group of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.


ETHNONYMS: The Chinantec are subdivided by dialect, habitat, and culture into at least four main groups. "Huhmei," "Wa-hmi," and "Dzah-hmi" are the ethnonyms used by groups inhabiting central, eastern, and western subregions, respectively.

Chinese in the English-Speaking Caribbean

Identification. Conventional wisdom has it that the overseas Chinese cling to their ancestral traditions and reject the forces of acculturation.

Chinese of Costa Rica



Identification. "Ch'ol" is a term that applies to the speakers of an American Indian language spoken in southern Mexico; they refer to it simply as lak t'an ("our language").

Chontal of Tabasco

Identification. The word "Chontal" is derived from the Nahuatl word for "foreigner" or "stranger," chontalli.


The overwhelming majority of the Ch'orti' (52,000), a highland Maya Indian people, live in the Chiquimula Department of Guatemala. The remaining 4,000 or so live in the department of Copán in Honduras.


Identification. The Chuj are a Mayan people living in northwestern Guatemala, in the department of Huehuetenango.


Identification. The Cora are an ethnic group who live almost exclusively in the state of Nayarit, Mexico.

Costa Ricans


The label "Creole" is used in the Caribbean and Middle America with considerable imprecision. Today it usually means a person or group of African or African and some other—such as Indian or European—ancestry.

Creoles of Nicaragua

Identification. The Creoles of Nicaragua are an Afro-Caribbean population of mixed African, Amerindian, and European ancestry, most of whom live in Nicaragua.


Identification and Location. Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands in the West Indies.


Aside from a few brief and superficial treatments, published ethnographic material on the Cuicatec is based on field studies made prior to 1970. Unless otherwise indicated, the information presented here is based on ethnographic work that was done in the 1950s and 1960s, during which period the most thorough research was conducted.


ETHNONYMS: Curaçaoënaar (Dutch: an islander by birth), Korsou (Papiamento), Kurasoleño (Papiamento), Yu di Korsou (Papiamento: child of Curaçao).


Identification. "Dominicans" is the term used to describe the people of the Dominican Republic.

East Indians in Trinidad

Emberá and Wounaan

French Antillians

The French Antilles is a group of islands (total area, 1,880 square kilometers) in the Caribbean that are governed by two separate French départments d'outremer. The department of Guadeloupe governs the islands of Guadeloupe (16°15′ N, 61°30′ W), Saint Barthélemy (17°55′ N, 63°50′ W), Marie Galante (15°57′ N, 61°20′ W), the French part of Saint Martin (Sint Maarten) and the nearby smaller islands of Les Saintes and La Désirade through a prefect appointed in Paris; the total 1994 population in this department is 428,000.


Identification. The term "Garifuna," or on Dominica, "Karaphuna," is a modern adaptation of the name applied to some Amerindians of the Caribbean and South America at the time of Columbus.


Grenada is an island nation of 84,000 people (1992) located at 12° 10′ N and 61°40′ W, making it the most southerly of the Windward Islands. It maintains a nearly constant average temperature of 29° C year-round, and precipitation is generally plentiful (150 centimeters in the lowlands to more than 350 centimeters on the windward mountainsides).


"Guadeloupe" is the name given to a group of four islands, which together are administered by the French government as the department of Guadeloupe. The main island of Guadeloupe is situated at 16° 15′ N and 61°30′ W, and the other three islands—Saint Barthélemy, Marie Galante, and Les Saintes—are located to the south and east.



Identification. The Republic of Haiti is the second-oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, and it is the only one with a French-Creole background and an overwhelmingly African culture.


The Huave are a peasant people who occupy five villages and dozens of hamlets on the Pacific coast of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico (approximately 16°30′ N, 95° W). The speakers of the Huave language numbered 11,955 in 1990.


Identification. The Huichol are a Mexican Indian group located in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Durango.

Indians of Baja California

The native peoples of Baja California are found today above the 30th parallel in Baja California, Mexico, and southern California in the United States. The five distinct groups, with population estimates for the 1980s, are the Cocopa (Cocopá, Cocopah, Cucapá, Kikima, Kokwapá, Kwikapa), about 800; the Digeuño (Diagueno, Diegueño, Digueno, Kumeyaay, Tipai-Ipai), 350 to 400 in Baja California; the Kiliwi (Kaliwa, Kiliwa, Quiligua), about 60; the Paipai (Akwa'ala), about 250; and the Tipai (Campo), about 185.

Italian Mexicans

Identification. People of Italian descent living in Mexico have, since the late nineteenth century, become generally assimilated into mainstream society.



The 55,000 to 80,000 Ixil Indians are a highland Maya tribe living in the mountains of the Quiché and Huehuetenango departments of Guatemala. They inhabit the northern slopes of the Altos Cuchumatanes range and a middle area between it and the Chama Mountains at the edge of the tropical rain forest to the north.


The Jakalteko are a western Maya Indian group. Estimates of their population vary from 16,000 to more than 32,000.




The 8,600 or more Jicaque Indians live in Honduras. Their social and cultural situation today is the result of events that took place in the nineteenth century.


The 445,000 or more Kaqchikel are a Quichean Maya people who live in the Guatemala departments of Chimaltenango, Quiché, Guatemala, Sololá, Escuintla, and Sacatepéquez. Following are the names and locations of the ten major subgroups of the Kaqchikel, each of which speaks a separate sister language: Central (Chimaltenango Department), Eastern (near Guatemala City), Northern (central highlands), Santa Maria de Jesus (southeast of Antigua Guatemala), Santo Domingo Xenacoj (west of Guatemala City), South Central (west of Guatemala City), Southern (south of Antigua Guatemala), Acatenango Southwestern (municipio of Acatenango), Yepocapa Southwestern (municipio of Yepocapa), and Western (San José Chacaya and Santa Cruz La Laguna).


The K'iche' are one of the largest surviving Maya groups. They live in the midwestern highlands of Guatemala.


Identification. The Mexican Kikapu originated in the regional frontier that divided the United States from Canada.

Kittsians and Nevisians

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is an independent nation formed by two islands in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles; its population was 40,923 in 1991. Saint Kitts (originally, Saint Christopher's island) is located at 17°17′ N and 62°43′ W; Nevis is at 17°8′ N and 62°37′ W.


Identification. The Kuna are one of Panama's three major groups of indigenous peoples.


"Ladino" is a term that was applied to the Old Castilian or Romance language to differentiate it from Latin, from which it was derived and of which it was considered to be a degenerate form. During the time that Muslims were in Spain, the term was applied to Muslims who spoke Castilian.


Some 300 Lakandon Maya live in Chiapas, Mexico, at 16°00′ to 17°15′ N and 91°36′ to 92°05′ W. The two main subgroups, the Northern and Southern Lakandon, live in tropical rain forests at an elevation of 900 meters and in jungle at an elevation of about 100 meters, respectively.


The contemporary Lenca are descendants of South American Chibchan peoples who migrated to El Salvador and Honduras during the eleventh century. They live in the forests of the volcanic mountains of western Honduras, predominantly in the departments of Intibucá, La Paz, and Lempira.


The Maleku are a group of fewer than 200 Indians living in the middle of Costa Rica, near the border with Nicaragua. They have little sense of tribal identity, are very acculturated, and speak Spanish as their mother tongue.


Identification. The Mam are contemporary Maya Indians who speak the Mam language, which is, after K'iche' (Quiché), the secondmost widely spoken of the twenty-one Maya languages currently spoken in Guatemala.



Identification. There is no agreement about the origin of the name "Mazahua" ("deer people").


Identification. The Mazatec, together with other ethnic groups, inhabit the Sierra Madre Occidental in central Mexico.


Identification. The name "Miskito" is of foreign origin.


Identification. The Mixe are one of the major Middle American Indian groups in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.


Identification. Speakers of Mixtec live in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla.



The 10,000 Mopan Indians live in approximately equal numbers in Guatemala and Belize. This Yucatec Maya people lived in Mexico at the time of contact.

Nahua Peoples

Numbering 1,197,328 in the census of 1990, the Nahuatl-speaking peoples are the largest Indian group in Mexico, forming 22.67 percent of the native population of that country. "Nahua" or "Nahuatl" is a generic label for the peoples located mainly in central Mexico who speak dialects of the Aztec language.

Nahua of the Huasteca

Identification. The Nahua are the most populous Native American group living in Mexico.

Nahua of the State of Mexico

Identification. Most of the communities in the state of Mexico in which Nahuatl is still spoken are located in three areas within the neovolcanic axis: on the western slope of the Sierra de Tlaloc to the northeast of the basin of the Valley of Mexico, on the western slopes of the volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatépetl to the southeast of the Valley of Mexico, and on the spurs of Montes de Ocuilan in the western part of the Valley of Toluca.

Nahuat of the Sierra de Puebla

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.

Netherlands Antillians

The Netherlands Antilles is made up of two groups of islands separated by 800 kilometers; it is an autonomous unit of the Netherlands and has political equality with the Netherlands homeland under the constitution. The southern group, consisting of Curaçao and Bonaire, are known informally, together with Aruba, as "the ABCs." (Aruba is a self-governing part of the Netherlands and is not part of the Netherlands Antilles; however, it shares much of its culture with the other islands.) The northern group, consisting of Saint Eustatius (Sint Eustatius; Statia), Saint Martin (Sint Maarten), and Saba, are known informally as the "Three s's." Curaçao (home of the capital city, Willemstad) is located at 12°12′ N and 68°56′ W; Saint Martin at 18°03′ N and 63°05′ W.


Identification. The Ngawbe are the most numerous indigenous population in the Republic of Panama.


The Opata today are a distinct ethnic entity, but their culture is similar to that of the non-Indian people of the area. The Opata live in the western foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, in the Mexican state of Sonora, between Hermosillo and the Chihuahua border.

OtomĂ­ of the Sierra

OtomĂ­ of the Valley of Mezquital

The, term "OtomĂ­" comes from otomitl and, by inference, from totomitl ("one who hunts birds with [bow and] arrow").


As speakers of a language in the Otopamean Family, the Pame are linguistically related to the OtomĂ­ and the Mazahua. Present-day Pame are the descendants of the nomadic Chichimec, who lived to the north of the Aztec Empire, in central Mexico.


Pima Bajo

Identification. The Pima Bajo, or Lower Pima of northern Mexico, are related to other Piman-speaking groups living in southern Arizona.


The Pipil are a contemporary Indian group living along the southern coast of western El Salvador. They are the descendants of the Aztec-related Pipil who migrated from central Mexico to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.


The approximately 26,000 speakers of Popolocan live in twenty towns and hamlets in southern Puebla, Mexico, between 18° 00′ and 19° 00′ N and 97° 00′ and 98° 30′ W, where they are almost completely surrounded by Mixtec and Nahua Indians. They are linguistically and culturally related to the Chocho of Oaxaca.


The 1990 Mexican census tallied 29,203 Popoluca speakers living in southern Veracruz. They are culturally and linguistically similar to the Mixe and Zoque Indians of nearby Chiapas and Oaxaca.


The Poqomam are a member of the Poqom group, which includes the Poqomchi' Indians in northern Guatemala. The Poqomam language belongs to the Poqom Language Group, which is part of the greater Quichean Maya Group.


The Poqomchi' are a Mayan group living south of the Q'eqchi' in the Guatemalan departments of Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz. Their language is closely related to that of the Poqomam, and they share many cultural traits with the Q'eqchi'.

Puerto Ricans

Identification. The people of Puerto Rico weave their distinctive ethnic identity from three historical traditions: Spanish colonial, Afro-Caribbean, and North American.


The Q'anjob'al are one of a number of Mayan groups living in Guatemala. Specifically, they inhabit the Cuchumatan Mountains in the department of Huehuetenango.


The Q'eqchi' are a Central American Mayan group who speak a number of different dialects of the Q'eqchi' language. Located largely within the department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, there are also lesser populations of Q'eqchi' Indians in the departments of Peten, Izabal, and Baja Verapaz, as well as parts of the Toledo District of southern Belize.


The nearly 700 Rama Indians live in the Atlantic-coast region of Nicaragua, in the departments of Zelaya Norte, Zelaya Sur, and RĂ­o San Juan. Only 15 or 20 people now speak the Rama language, although many more speak Rama Cay Creole.


Identification. Rastafarianism is a Black-nationalist religious movement; founded in Jamaica, which affirms that the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is the returned messiah, Jesus Christ; that God is Black; and that like the children of Israel, all people of African descent in Jamaica and throughout the Americas, live in enforced exile.

Saint Lucians

Identification.Although Saint Lucians regard themselves as West Indians, their Saint Lucian identity is primary.



The 4,000 to 5,000 Sipakapense Indians are a Maya Indian group who live in the vicinity of Sipacapa, San Marcos Department, Guatemala. Most speak Spanish as well as the Sipakapense language.



Identification. In Spanish colonial records the Tarahumara are usually designated as "Tarahumaes" and "Tarahumaras," the names that non-Tarahumara continue to apply to them.


During the past seven centuries, the Phurhépecha or Tarascans have inhabited and defined a territorial homeland that territory corresponds roughly to the physiographic region known as the Tarascan Subprovince in the Neovolcanic Axis of west-central Mexico. It is now a cultural mosaic of Tarascan-Mexican and Hispano-Mexican (mestizo) towns, but the Tarascan ethnic core is still predominant in three contiguous subareas of the zone—the island and shoreline communities of Lake Pátzcuaro, the highland forests to the west of Lake Pátzcuaro (called the Sierra Phurhépecha or Meseta Tarasca) and a small valley of the Río Duero to the north of the Sierra Phurhépecha (called "La Cañada de los Once Pueblos" in Spanish and "Eráxamani" in Phurhépecha).


Identification. The Tepehua are a farming people occupying mountainous regions of eastern Hidalgo and northern Veracruz in Mexico.

Tepehuan of Chihuahua

Identification and Location. Both Northern and Southern Tepehuan refer to themselves as "Ă’dami." Although the etymology of the name "Tepehuan" is still a matter of contention, the word almost certainly stems from tepetl, the Nahuatl word for "mountain." The Northern Tepehuan are scattered over sparsely settled high woodlands and canyons in the southwestern corner of the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Tepehuan of Durango

Identification and Location. The Sierra Madre Occidental range cuts a north-south swath through northern Mexico, splitting the states of Chihuahua and Durango into eastern and western parts.


The Tequistlatec are the largest ethnic group in the municipios of AsunciĂłn Tlacolulita, San Miguel Tenango, San Pedro Huamelula, Santa MarĂ­a Ecatepec, and Santiago Astata in southeastern Oaxaca, Mexico. The Instituto Nacional Indigenista estimates that there were 13,880 Tequistlatec in these municipios in 1990.


The slightly more than 1,000 Teribe Indians live along the Teribe, San Juan, and Changuinola rivers in the western Panamanian province of Bocas del Toro. Nearly all of them speak the Teribe language, which belongs to the Chibchan Family.


The Tlapanec live southeast of Chilpancingo, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The 1990 census listed 68,483 speakers of the Tlapanec language.


Identification. The Tojolab'al take their name from their language: Tojolab'al (tojol: legitimate/true; ab'al: word/language).


Identification. The word "Totonaco" is recognized as the name of this Amerindian ethnic group by its own members.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians

Identification. The name "Trinidad and Tobago" is a conjunction of the names of the two islands that comprise this independent state.


Identification. The Triqui are an indigenous Mexican group who live in the southwestern part of the state of Oaxaca.

Turks and Caicos Islanders

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British dependency consisting of forty islands—only eight of which are inhabited—located at the southern end of the Bahamas and north of Hispaniola. The total land area of these low coral and limestone islands is 430 square kilometers; only 2 percent of the land is arable.


The Tzeltal are an American Indian group concentrated in the central highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Contiguous Indian groups are the Tzotzil to the west, the Ch'ol to the north and northeast, and the Tojolab'al to the southeast.

Tzotzil and Tzeltal of PantelhĂł

Identification. The indigenous Tzotzil- and Tzeltal-speaking highland Maya Indians share the municipio of Pantelhó—which means "bridge over water" in Tzotzil— with an equal number of Tzeltal Maya and a small group of Ladinos; the latter two groups include both recent immigrants and long-term residents.

Tzotzil of Chamula

Tzotzil of San Andres LarraĂ­nzar

Identification. "Batz'i vinik"—"real men" or "real people" —is the label Andreseros use to distinguish themselves from Ladinos, the Spanish-speaking Mexicans of the area.

Tzotzil of San Bartolomé de los Llanos

Tzotzil of Zinacantan

Identification. Zinacantan is one of twenty-one Tzotzil-speaking municipios in the state of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico.


Identification. The Tz'utujil are a Mayan population inhabiting Guatemala's central highland region.


The 2,000 Uspantec, of whom 1,000 still speak the Uspantec language, are Quichean Maya Indians who live in the Quiché Department of Guatemala. The K'iche' Maya conquered the Uspantec in the fifteenth century.

Virgin Islanders

The Virgin Islands are two groups of islands governed by two separate powers, the United States and the United Kingdom. The British Virgin Islands are known by that name, while the U.S.


Identification. The Wasteko are Mayan-language speakers who live in San Luis PotosĂ­ and Veracruz, Mexico, distant from other Mayan groups in Guatemala, Belize, and southern Mexico.


The 3,500 Xinca Indians live in the communities of Taxisco, Chiquimulilla, and Guazacapan in Santa Rosa Department, in southeastern Guatemala. As a tribal group or social entity, they cannot be said to exist any longer; only individuals who call themselves Xinca still exist.


Identification. The Yaqui, an indigenous people of southeast Sonora, Mexico, belong to a larger ethnic group known as the "Cahita." The great majority of the Yaqui nowadays live in the same region, but other Yaqui groups have settled in Arizona owing to the great Yaqui migration at the beginning of the twentieth century.


Identification. The term "Maya" is of indeterminable antiquity and today is usually used by the Yukateko to refer only to their language, not to themselves.


Identification. The Spanish name "Zapoteco" stems from the Nahuatl name for the Zapotee, "Tsapotecatl," which, in turn, was derived from the name of a fruit, the zapote, that was common in the region.


Identification. The name "Zoque" is applied to different groups who today live in the states of Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, in southeastern Mexico.