HISTORY OF MEXICO
An educational project of the
Houston Institute for Culture
THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF CENTRAL MEXICO, 3
By John P. Schmal
Page 3 of 3
The Federal District in the Twentieth Century
In the following chart, the reader will see the population of the Federal District from the time of the 1930 census to the 2000 census. I have provided comparable statistics for the Mexican Republic for the same years.
It will be noted that during this period, the indigenous-speaking population of the District never reached 2%. However, it is important to understand that these statistics relate only to people who spoke indigenous languages over the age of five. Many more people classified themselves as Indians by culture or blood, but did not speak an indigenous language because they had been at least partially assimilated into Hispanic society.
Five decades later, in the 1970 census, we witness a significant increase in the indigenous speaking population five years of age or more to 68,660 individuals. The largest language groups spoken out of this tally were: the Náhuatl (15,039 persons), Otomí (14,714), Zapoteco (14,109), Mixteco (7,513), Maya (4,341), Mazahua (4,286), and Purépecha (2,148). Already, the migrant population from the south brought forth significant numbers of Mixtecs and Zapotecs from Oaxaca and Maya from Chiapas and Yucatán.
According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in the Federal District amounted to 141,710 individuals. These individuals spoke a wide range of languages, many of which are transplants from other parts of the Mexican Republic. The largest indigenous groups represented in the District were: Náhuatl (37,450), Otomí (17,083), Mixteco (15,968), Zapoteco (14,117), Mazahua (9,631), Mazateco (8,591), and Totonaca (4,782).
With 141,710 indigenous speaking individuals aged five and over living within its boundaries during the 2000 census, the Federal District boasts a large density of Indians. However, the percentages of Indians in individual delegaciones are actually quite small. The southeastern delegación, Milipa Alta - with 3,862 indigenous speakers - has the largest percentage with 4.53%. However, Iztapalapa - with an indigenous population of 32,141 - has the largest absolute number of indigenous speakers, but a smaller percentage (2.04%). Gustavo A. Madero Delegación - in the northeastern sector of the District - has the second largest number of indigenous speakers with 17,023 (1.52%).
The Zapotecs and Mixtecs appear to be evenly distributed through the various delegaciones. Their significant presence in the Federal District is an obvious testament to the migrant nature of the Distrito Federal's population, where 1,827,644 persons - or 21.24% - stated that they were born in another political entity. Of this total, however, natives of Oaxaca - numbering 183,285 - represented 10.03% of the total migrant population. Only the states of México and Puebla have contributed larger numbers of migrants to the District.
Estado de México in the Twentieth Century
The state of México has retained a great number of indigenous speaking peoples. In spite of the effects of assimilation and migration, a significant portion of the state population identify with their Indian cultural and linguistic roots.
In the 1921 Mexican census, the state of México boasted a population of 884,617, of which 372,703 persons claimed to be of pure indigenous background, representing 42.1% of the total. An even larger number - 422,001, or 47.7% - classified themselves as being mixed, while only 88,660 (10%) considered themselves to be white.
Below is a chart, which I have constructed to illustrate the comparative population statistics for the state of México and Mexican Republic for four selected census years:
According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages in the state of México totaled 361,972 individuals. A large range of languages is spoken in the state of México, many of them imported from southern or eastern Mexican states. The most common indigenous languages spoken is the Mazahua tongue, with a total of 113,424 indigenous speakers, representing 31.3% of all the indigenous speakers five years of age and over in the state.
The second most common language is the Otomí, spoken by 104,357 indigenous speakers, and representing 28.8% of the total indigenous speaking population. The most common languages spoken are:
In 1990, a total of 450,000 indigenous language speakers lived in a place other than their place of birth, representing 8.7 percent of the national total. Within this global migratory stream, the most outstanding is the State of Oaxaca with migrants totaling nearly one third of the total (142,000), and Yucatan with slightly over one sixth of the total (82,000). Seen from the perspective of the poles of attraction, the Federal District was the primary destination of migrants (93,000), followed by the State of México (9,000) and Quintana Roo (78,000).
Below, I have illustrated the municipios, which contain the largest percentages of indigenous speaking persons five years of age or more:
The Mazahua Indians - representing the most populous indigenous-speaking group in México - primarily occupy thirteen municipios in the northwestern portion of the state of México. Mazahuas also inhabit some municipios in the center of the state, as well as parts of eastern Michoacán. They are a division of the Oto-Manguean linguistic group and are related by both culture and language to the Otomí, from whom they are descended.
The Mazahua are believed to have been among the original tribes who migrated to central México during the Thirteenth Century. In 1521, Hernán Cortés - after subduing the Mexica - consolidated his power by sending Gonzalo de Sandoval to subdue all resistance among the Aztec neighbors: the Mazahuas, Matlazincas and Otomies. Very quickly, Gonzalo de Sandoval brought the Mazahua Indians under Spanish control, and the Franciscan missionaries played a prominent role in bringing Christianity to their people.
Today, most of the Mazahua are engaged in agricultural pursuits, specifically the growing of maize, pumpkin, maguey and frijol. In the years since the Conquest, the Mazahua population has evolved and its cultural elements, social organization, and religion have developed into a hybrid culture drawing from several cultural elements. No one is certain about the origin of the word Mazahua, but some have suggested that it is derived from the Náhuatl term, mázatl, meaning "deer."
The Mazahua make up a significant portion of the population of several municipios in the state. In the municipio of Atlacomulco, the population of Mazahua speakers five years of age and over in 2000 consisted of 10,709 individuals, making up 17.1% of the population of the municipio. In the municipio of Donato Guerra, 5,419 Mazahuas represented 24% of the population of the municipio. In Ixtlahuaca, 19,203 Mazahuas represented 19.8% of the total population.
The Otomí are the second largest linguistic group in México state. They call themselves "Hñahñu," the word Otomí having been given to them by the Spanish. Otomí are a very diverse indigenous group, living in many communities throughout Central México and speaking a great variety of dialects, some of which are not mutually intelligible. Like the Mazahuas, they belong to the Oto-Manguean linguistic group. Significant numbers of Otomies occupy 14 of the 121 municipios in the state of México, most of these municipios being located in the northwest (Atlacomulco-Timilpan) and in the center (Toluca-Lerma).
Although the Náhuatl-speaking population is the most populous group in the entire Mexican Republic, they are ranked third place in the state of México, with more than 15% of the total indigenous-speaking population.
The influence of migrant labor is particularly significant to the state of Mexico. Out a total population of 13,096,686 in the 2000 census, 5,059,089 individuals - or 38.6% - were born in another political entity than the state of México. The primary states contributing to México's migrant population were - in numerical order - the Federal District (more than 3 million people), Puebla (295,889 migrants), Oaxaca (256,786), Hidalgo (256,718), and Michoacán (231,811). Oaxaca's significant contribution amounted to 5.1% of the migrant pool, which explains why the Mixteco and Zapoteco languages from Oaxaca are the fourth and fifth most common indigenous groups in the state.
The Mazateco speakers represented the sixth largest group in 2000. Speakers of this language are mainly migrants from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. They are also classified as a division of the Oto-Manguean linguistic group. The Totonaca speakers - numbering more than 8,000 individuals in 2000 - are descendants of Cortés' coastal allies in Veracruz and it is likely that many of these people are from the eastern seaboard area. The Mixe, Chinanteco, and Tlapaneco peoples are primarily found in Guerrero and Oaxaca.
Nearly five hundred years after the conquest and destruction of the Aztec Empire, the culture, language and spirit of the Náhuatl, Otomí, Mazahua and other indigenous peoples remains intact within the central Hispanic culture to which most of them also belong. It is worth noting that, although the Mexica capital Tenochtitlán was occupied after an eighty-day siege, many of the indigenous peoples of Central México quietly submitted to Spanish tutelage. In this way, they were given an opportunity to retain some elements of their original culture, while becoming an integral and important part of a new society.
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Copyright © 2003 by John P. Schmal. All Rights Reserved. Read more articles by John Schmal.
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John Schmal is an historian, genealogist, and lecturer. With his friend Donna Morales, he coauthored "Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico" (Heritage Books, 2002) and "The Dominguez Family: A Mexican-American Journey" (Heritage Books, 2004). He has degrees in History (Loyola-Marymount University) and Geography (St. Cloud State University) and is a board member of the Society of Hispanic Historical Ancestral Research (SHHAR). He is an associate editor of SHHAR's online monthly newsletter, www.somosprimos.com. John is presently collaborating with illustrator Eddie Martinez on a manuscript entitled "Indigenous Mexico: Past and Present."
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