Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Nahua are Native Americans who trace their ethnic origin and identity to the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs. More commonly, the Nahua refer to themselves as “Mexicano” derived from the ancient Nahuatl word "Mexica." The majority live in Mexico, but pockets of Nahua communities are also found in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Nahua rely primarily on maize, supplemented by other crops, hunting, gathering, fishing, and the raising of some domesticated animals. Most families have secondary occupations. Nahua social organization centers on the nuclear family with additional reliance on non-residential extended families.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle America and the Caribbean --Central Mexico






OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.  In addition to this culture summary, the Nauha Collection (NU46) consists of four documents, covering a variety of historical and community-level ethnographic information on Nahua villagers living in Tepoztlán and one unidentified municipality in Huasteca.  

The most comprehensive document is Alan Sandstrom (no. 4:1991). Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 1970-1990, this book discusses dynamics of culture and ethnic identity among the Nahua.  It argues that the Nahua have continued to exhibit linguistic and cultural features that distinguish them from many other ethnic groups of modern Mexico, despite many years of Spanish conquest and a series of government attempts to incorporate them into the dominant Mestizo culture. The remaining three documents provide first hand accounts of village life and aspects of culture in Tepoztlán municipality as observed over three research periods spanning 1926-1956. The first was 1926-1917 when anthropologist Robert Redfield conducted research on this community (Redfield no, 1: 1930). The second was 1943-1948 when Oscar Lewis, together with a team of graduate students and associate researchers, lived in Tepoztlán for about a year to restudy the community. The last research period was 1956 when Oscar Lewis revisited the community to supplement his previous study by examining major changes that occurred since the first fieldwork. Together, these four documents provide a comprehensive account of culture and society among contemporary Aztec Indian villagers.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document. For additional information on the ancient Aztec and central Mexico, see the Aztec Collection (NU07) and the Central Mexico Postclassic Collection (NU93) in eHRAF Archaeology.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Angelitos - children who die before acquiring speech who may be reborn as "little angels" - use "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)" with  "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

Barrrio as section of community - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Barrio as a religious congregation - use "CONGREGATIONS (794)"

Calpulli - a group of neighboring families often related by kinship and subjected to a single land lord - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" with "REAL PROPERTY (423)"

Compadrazgo – ritual kinship  - use "ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS (608)"

Ejidos - system of landholding based on pre-Hispanic practices - use "REAL PROPERTY (423)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Faena or fagina – compulsory labor contribution to community public work projects - use "PUBLIC WORKS (653)"

Matlanilistli - labor exchange - use "MUTUAL AID (476)" with "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Mecayotl - lineage - use "LINEAGES (613)"

Tetajtlajlamitianij – council of elders - use "LOCAL OFFICIALS (624)"

Tlamatiquetl- "person of knowledge" - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)" with "PRIESTHOOD (793)"

Tlatocan - Supreme Council of the City - use "DELIBERATIVE COUNCILS (646)" with  "CITIES (633)"

Trapiche - a wooden or metal cane pressure used  to squeeze cut stalks and extract the juice - use "APPLIANCES (416)" with  "CONFECTIONERY INDUSTRIES (257)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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