Communauté Otomi hñähñu

The Otomí community  is an indigenous town that lives in central Mexico, being the fifth largest indigenous town in the country. Otomí is a term of Nahuatl origin that derives from the word otómitl, which in the language of the ancient Mexicas means “who walks with arrows ». The Otomi community has suffered various fractures over time, which has given variations in the language, as well as differences in the dress and organization of the community. We can distinguish four groups: ñätho (Toluca valley), hñähñu (Mezquital valley), ñäñho (Santiago Mezquititlán in the South of Querétaro) and ñ’yühü (Sierra Norte de Puebla, Pahuatlán).


The Otomies currently occupy a fragmented territory that extends through the states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Veracruz. The main collaborators of this project is the Otomi community of the North of the state of Mexico, southern Querétaro and Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo.


The North Otomí community is located in five municipalities: Acambay, Aculco, Morelos, Chapa de Mota and Amealco. The first four are in the northwest of the State of Mexico and the last one, in the south of the state of Querétaro.


Catholic communal temples are of utmost importance in each of the Otomi communities, as they are considered the place of divinity, as well as the main residence of the protector saints and the founding ancestors. It is there where the festivals and celebrations of the community ritual calendar are concentrated and where the commissions and obligations of the traditional religious office system are directed. In the patron saint festivities, the communities visit their images to the temples of the neighboring towns. This ritual practice is common to the entire region. The saints are transferred in procession to the community temple accompanied by rockets, musicians who play the violin, the drum and the trumpet, as well as the dances of the Apaches or concheros and the shepherdesses, who constitute the most representative groups of the zone.

In the Otomi worldview, “dead” and “anima=soul” are different concepts. When a person dies, after the vigils and after being buried, he leaves his body and becomes animä. As various informants refer, the souls can observe the living and become intercessors between the family and the divinities. In the altars of the family chapels, the ancestors occupy the same level as the saints venerated by the family group. But just as the ancestors protect their descendants, they can also punish them if they do not take care of the chapel or if they perform inappropriate actions. Generally, the shrines of the chapels are adorned with candles and flowers.


Given the cosmogonic importance that the souls have in the beliefs of the Otomi, one of the festivities that more people congregate, in regional terms, is the Day of the Dead festival, which takes place in November. It is also the time to harvest, thank and share the products of the year with the ancestors. The rituals in these celebrations are mainly carried out in family chapels, in the temple and in the cemetery.

For the Otomi, remembering the parents, ancestors and patron saints is an obligation, as well as transmitting this custom to the new generations, because, otherwise, whoever does not will be an ungrateful person.