Communauté Nahua – Huasteca
The Nahuas are the largest indigenous group (in number of people) in Mexico. Their language is Nahuatl.
The Nahuas of the Huasteca are called macehuale or macehualmej.
The Nahuas are the majority indigenous group in the southern part of the Huasteca region. They occupy more than 50 municipalities in the states of San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and Veracruz. Since pre-Hispanic times, they have shared their territory in the south with the Otomies, Tepehuas and Totonacos, and with the Tetek or Huastecos in the north. There is a great cultural diversity within the Nahua community as they coexist with other indigenous communities.
The Nahuas of La Huasteca, like many indigenous Mexicans, base their economy on milpera agriculture, which does not prevent them from carrying out other types of activities such as the cultivation and processing of chilli peppers using smoking and drying techniques of pre-Hispanic origin to obtain chilpoctli, which were highly appreciated during the Aztec era and to this day.
The characteristic activities of the community are those with deep historical roots, such as pottery or the embroidery of cotton and wool clothing. However, they are gradually losing ground in the face of the massive influx of goods and merchandise made with new materials and the increasing scarcity of raw materials needed for handicraft production. However, they manage to maintain certain activities such as the manufacture of clay objects in Huejutla, Hidalgo and cross stitch work in most of the municipalities of Hidalgo and Veracruz. Another activity worth mentioning is the production of piloncillo as the main sugar cane derivative in the south of San Luis Potosí, whose most important commercial destination is the tequila industry in the state of Jalisco. However, it makes nevertheless recall that a part of the resources of the Nahua communities of Huasteca still comes from hunting, fishing and gathering.
Most of the indigenous cultures of the Gulf of Mexico basin – like those of the rest of Mesoamerica – have their origin in myths related to corn. It represents the foundation of the work of the Nahuas of the Huasteca who cultivate corn, prepare nixton, grind the grain and make tortillas. They make offerings to the deities and ask permission to feed on the earth and its fruits to keep the dead and spirits happy so that the life of the community and its members is harmonious. Work, besides strengthening the soul of man, gives him authority and prestige, guaranteeing the existence of social life. That is why ritual activity is of great importance. It is governed by the cycle of growth and maturation of the corn.
Two celebrations stand out for their importance in the ritual life of the community:
–Carnival: which is celebrated just before Lent, is what is called an “investment ritual”; it is a holiday where social norms are disrupted and transgression is allowed to what is forbidden the rest of the year. According to the Nahuas themselves, “it is the devil’s feast, for he too must be content. During carnival, zacahuil is consumed in a ritual way, which is characteristic of the region. It resembles a large tamal and, according to the indigenous peoples themselves, is the representation of a dead man offered to the lord of the underworld. With the carnival begins the ritual period through which the agricultural cycle of the tonalmil, or dry, is closed and the rainy cycle is opened. This festival shows that the Mesoamerican ritual related to agriculture is linked to the most important dates of the Catholic calendar, because once Lent is over, the request for rain is made and the seasonal corn is planted.
-The Xantolo, which is equivalent to the celebration of the Day of the Dead. It is a celebration that lasts several days. It has a more family than community character. Therefore, the ceremonial, far from being public, takes place in the house and in the center of the domestic altar, although at its culminating moment the families gather in the cemetery to deliver their offerings to the deceased and perform a ritual in which all members of the community participate: living and dead. It is important that the “tamales de Todos Santos”, made with the main products of the milpa: corn, beans and chili, are consumed during this festival. It is a way to mark the successful end of the rainy cycle.
The weavers of the Sierra de Zongolica come from various localities located in the Sierra de Zongolica, in the state of Veracruz. Learn more about this group here. Sierra de Zongolica has a municipality of the same name and includes 212 municipalities. It is a central mountainous area of the state, with a very rugged topography and heights above 2000 meters.