Huasteca culture location, characteristics and religion

Huasteca culture: location, characteristics and religion

Being linked to the Mayan people, la Huasteca culture was made up in pre-Hispanic times by around 6 ethnic communities that lived in the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico. This civilization managed to be recognized throughout Mexico as one of the most representative and traditional communities in this country, despite the fact that they never managed to establish a political center or a larger city in common.

However, the Huastecas managed to survive foreign interference and neighboring enemies, a reason that allowed them to preserve until today their identity as a culture manifested through their history, language, religion and customs.

Origin and history

Archaeological evidence estimates that the Huasteca culture settled for the first time in the Gulf of Mexico region between 1500 BC. C. and 900 a. It is also believed that these settlements were the result of the migrations carried out by the Mayan peoples.

For pre-colonial times, the Huastec dwelling places were populated by various communities. In the south and southwest the Huastecas, Tepehuas, Otomíes and Totonacas were located. While in the north and northwest coexist the Nahuas, Guachichiles, Pames and Chichimecas. The region was known by the name of Xiuhcoac, or “turquoise snake”, where all these peoples formed the Huasteca culture.

During the Aztec heyday from 1454 under the command of Moctezuma, the Aztec people began the conquest of the Huasteca region. Wars persisted with the following Aztec rulers: Axayácatl, Tizoc, and Ahuizotl, where the Aztec triumph was completed in 1506.

From that date everything the Huasteco territory was under Aztec power and it is from there that a process of intercultural influence began, where customs, ideas and modes of expression began to change.

Now in the colonial period after the fall of Tenochtitlán in 1521, the Spanish began the colonization of the towns of the Gulf Coast. Hernán Cortés sent expeditions to subdue them, however, the Spaniards encountered violence from the native peoples. This forced Cortés himself and his army of Indian allies to attack them again in October 1522.

Huasteca culture location, characteristics and religion

From that year on, the Huasteca area succumbed to Spanish power. Subsequently, Cortés decided to establish settlements in these territories, distributing large tracts of land among his officers. But these, disappointed by not finding gold or silver mines, began to enslave the natives.

At that time, the slave trade was prohibited by the Spanish Crown. However, this did not prevent them from being sold and shipped to the Caribbean. This action considerably depopulated the entire Huasteca region.


The extensive territory known as the Huasteca area unfolds in the south from the Cazones river in Veracruz to the Soto la Marina river in Tamaulipas in the north. The Gulf Coast is its natural limit to the west and occupies important areas in the states of San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Hidalgo and Puebla. This territory presents a great ecological variation between: coasts, plains, plains and mountains.

Obviously, the Huasteca culture chose to look for tropical climates that on various occasions became somewhat extreme, since their places of permanence never exceeded 1000 meters above sea level.


Nahuatl belongs to the UtoAzteca family and is related to several languages ​​spoken in Mexico and North America, this was the language spoken by the Aztecs (Mexica-Tenochca), Toltecs, Tlaxcalans and many other pre-Hispanic peoples and from the contact era . Speakers of this are generally concentrated in the mountainous region of central Mexico.

Linguists divide the Nahuatl spoken in the Huasteca region into 3 dialects, being the eastern, western and T, although they are likely 95 percent mutually intelligible, where:

● The western dialect that is practiced primarily in San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and a small area of ​​Veracruz.

● The eastern Huastec Nahuatl that is practiced in the eastern limit of Hidalgo, Veracruz and the northern limit of Puebla.

● The T dialect (called Nahuatl, unlike Nahuatl) is represented by an island of speakers located around the city of Huejutla de Reyes in Hidalgo.


The most significant subsistence economic activity of this culture was agriculture, where its main crops were: corn, chili, sugar cane, beans and coffee. In addition, they were cultivated: pumpkins, onions, tomatoes, papayas, citrus fruits, tobacco and coriander.

The surplus of its agricultural production was exchanged with other nearby cultures. In the same way, the Huastecas used to resort to fishing, raising turkeys, chickens, pigs and cattle as a form of sustenance and commercialization.


Their beliefs were based on different gods, a very common characteristic in all Mesoamerican culture, these are found in three planes of the universe: the heavenly, the earthly and the underworld. These gods could manifest themselves through different forms (human, animal or object), in their totality they were linked to natural phenomena, life, death, agriculture, the sun, the moon and more. Among its most prominent gods, there are:

● Tlazoltéotl

● Teteoinan

● Xochiquetzal

● Cipac

● Ehécatl

According to their beliefs, mystical beings live in nature who are their protectors. Now if these beings do not get the respect they demand, they present themselves as health complications or family misery. Nowadays, Huasteca culture contains a syncretic mix of ancestral beliefs and Catholicism.

Artistic manifestation

Among the works of the Huasteca culture are the vessels and sculptures. The Huastec sculptures were mostly large pieces with male and female representations carved in sand stone, in the same way carvings of animals such as snakes and birds were made.

In his art, stone vessels and tube platforms also stand out, usually these items were made with shells and were shaped like human heads.

Body modifications

In its beginnings, the Huasteca culture was characterized by the practice of cranial deformation for religious reasons, in turn the lobes were pierced as an ornamental form. Among the ornaments that they used mainly were shells and bones.

Customs and traditions

The Huasteca culture is one of the few cultures that has preserved its pre-Hispanic traditions and customs, among them we can find: the Xantolo or festival of the dead, which is one of the most transcendental celebrations of this culture where candles and incenses are lit every November 1st at the altar of a deceased person, and then the next day his burial place is surrounded with flowers.

The Huastecas have the conception that the deceased spend the entire month of November with their relatives. For this reason, on the last day of the month they decorate the altar with lots of fresh fruit and flowers to say goodbye to their deceased.Another pre-Hispanic custom is the practice of healing rites, which are made by healers who are able to come into contact with batik, these are supernatural beings that steal the shadow or the soul of humans and it is through the healer that the person is healed by recovering the soul.

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