Nahuatl culture: location, customs and traditions

Nahuatl culture: location, customs and traditions

Nahuatl culture comes from a group of indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. In their origins they lived in different states of Mexico, at which time small populations spread throughout the country and in recent years have appeared in cities such as New York and Houston. The largest community is on the Balsas River.

This culture has had a great impact on Mexican culture. Known foods like chocolate, tortillas, and tacos were produced and consumed by the Nahuatl long before Columbus arrived in America.

Nahuatl customs and traditions

The Nahuatl language and culture remain very important to the cultures and lives of non-indigenous peoples, but they are in serious danger of extinction due to globalization, hence the importance of realizing their value and taking measures for their conservation and study.

Traditional houses

The traditional house of the Nahuatl culture consists of one or two rooms and a large plot of land, is rectangular and built with wooden beams. There is an altar in every house. In areas where the climate is colder, they have walls made of reeds and branches covered with mud.


The religious specialist is the shaman, who is the person with knowledge, can be both male and female. Usually there are ceremonies associated with the Catholic liturgical calendar. A ritual is performed at the winter solstice, ceremonies for the sowing of the harvest, carnival in early spring and the day of the dead in autumn.

Nahuatl culture: location, customs and traditions

Other types of ceremonies include rituals designed to cure disease, summon or stop rains, pilgrimages to holy places, clean newborn children, bless houses, perform divinations, and funerals.

The rite of death

They believe in the existence of the soul and define their destiny after death according to their circumstances. They believe that a person who dies prematurely becomes a disease-causing wind spirit. Those who die for any reason related to water believe that they are heading to some kind of aquatic paradise.


They have the very broad concept of family, since it is not limited only to the nucleus of the family, but extends to grandparents, great-grandparents and even the children of other couples, who are considered siblings instead of half siblings. Nevertheless, infidelity is punished, which forces the man to care for children conceived out of wedlock.

Nahuatl ethnic groups

The most famous historical Nahuatl ethnic groups included the Aztecs and the Tlaxcalans who were enemies of them.. Nahuatl are several ethnic groups in Mesoamerica who speak or used to speak different Nahuatl dialects, mostly understandable:

Speakers of different dialects of central Nahuatl in the current area of ​​Mexico City and in several states of Mexico (State of Mexico, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí and Tlaxcala).

Speakers of the regional variants of Nahuatl in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (in Tabasco and Veracruz); as well as the southern Nahuatl-speaking Pipil (today only in remnants in western El Salvador, previously also in neighboring areas of Guatemala and Honduras); as well as the former Nicarao (from Rivas in Nicaragua to the north of Costa Rica).

Historical lists of Nahuatl tribes, essentially dating back to the Spanish missionary Bernardino de Sahagún (General History of the Coasts of New Spain), are generally limited to ethnic groups in the upper valley of Mexico and its neighboring areas to the south and east. , that is to say, speakers of the so-called “classical Nahuatl”.

  • The Tepaneca, the inhabitants of Tacuba, Azcapotzalco and Coyoacán, who occupy the plain west of the [ex] Great Lake of Mexico.
  • The Acolhuas with the capital Tetzcoco (Texcoco) on the east side of Lake Mexico.
  • The Chalcas (an association of tribes or cities, the Chalcas in Chalco and the Nonohualca in Tlalmanalco) and the Xochimilca (in Xochimilco), the inhabitants of the southern part of the upper valley of Mexico.
  • The Huexotzinca, Tlaxcalteca and Chololteca, the inhabitants of Huexotzinco (Huejotzingo), Tlaxcallan (Tlaxcala) and Cholula, the plateaus to the east of the two great snowfalls that surround the high valley of Mexico to the east;
  • The Tlahuica, with the capital Cuernavaca, who inhabit the warm valleys of the south of the mountain range that borders the upper valley of Mexico.


With about two million people, the Nahuatl-speaking peoples they are the largest indigenous group in Mexico, forming more than twenty percent of the native population of that country. “Nahuas” or “Nahuatl” is a generic label for peoples located mainly in central Mexico that speak dialects of the Aztec language.

The Nahuatl often refer to themselves in their language as “Mexica”. Today the Nahuas are on the periphery of what was once the nucleus of the Aztec Empire. The Nahuatl live in four main regions: the Huasteca, the north of the Sierra de Puebla, the south of the Sierra de Puebla, and Morelos and Guerrero.

The Nahuas of the Huasteca live north of Mexico City in thirty-three contiguous municipalities, whose populations are thirty percent or more indigenous. These municipalities are located in the extreme southeast of the state of San Luis Potosí, in the northern part of Hidalgo and in the neighboring areas of Veracruz.

The number of Nahuatl speakers aged five years or more in the Huasteca area was more than three hundred thousand in the 1990 census. More Nahuas live scattered in other municipalities of the Huasteca.

The Nahuatl of the north of the Sierra de Puebla live in the northern part of the state of Puebla with the exception of one municipality, Acaxochitlán, in Hidalgo. In 1990, there were 194,739 Nahuatl speakers over the age of five in the northern Sierra de Puebla in thirty-four municipalities, each with an indigenous population of more than thirty percent.

The Nahuatl from the south of the Sierra de Puebla live in the mountains of the central west of Veracruz, south of the municipality of Coatepec, in some neighboring municipalities of Puebla, in the mountains of the extreme southeast of Puebla and in a few municipalities of Oaxaca, where The Mazatecs are adjacent.

A population of more than 200,000 speakers over the age of five lived in the region in fifty-six municipalities in 1990, each with an indigenous population of more than thirty percent. The densest population of Nahuas in the southern Sierra de Puebla is found in the border region between Veracruz and Puebla around the Río Tonto and Sierra de Zongolica, south of Orizaba and Córdoba.

The Nahuas of Morelos and Guerrero are a more dispersed group, counting 98,254 speakers aged five years or older in 1990. They are located in municipalities that extend from east to west through southern Puebla to Morelos and from there south to the state of Guerrero, where the Nahua region borders the Tlapaneco and Mixteca regions.

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