Cultural Overview

Dialects of Nahua or General Aztec belong to the Uto-Aztecan family of languages (Miller, 1983) and include Nahuatl spoken in Tetelcingo, Morelos (Brewer & Brewer, 1971), and Nahuat in the Zacapoaxtla region of the sierra norte de Puebla (Key & Key, 1953). The Tetelcingo dialect is close to classical Nahuatl spoken in the 16th century in the valleys of Mexico, Toluca and Puebla-Tlaxcala. Zacapoaxtla Nahuat lacks "the characteristic lateral release of TL" but is otherwise similar to classical Nahuatl (Karttunen, 1983, p. xxi). This article is based on fieldwork among speakers of Zacapoaxtla Nahuat, and most Nahua words marking important gender and sexuality concepts are in the T rather than the TL dialect.

Contemporary Nahuas are sedentary farmers; they support themselves by growing corn, beans, squash, and chiles, and they live in towns and hamlets. They have preserved their language to different degrees depending on their historical relationship with Spanish-speaking Mexicans, many of whom are mestizos descended from Spaniards and speakers of Native Mexican languages. Geographically isolated groups of Nahuas, like some Nahuat in the sierra norte de Puebla, have remained monolingual. The Nahuas are the subordinate group in rigid systems of ethnic stratification, at the top of which are mestizos who refer to themselves as "people of reason" (gente de razón). Many Nahuas must support themselves by working for very low wages for mestizos whom they call coyomeh, a derogatory term implying people with a lack of culture.

Nahuas have shown remarkable ability to preserve their culture by telling narratives that teach cosmovision and moral discourse that support the social order (Taggart, 1983, 1997). Nevertheless, the political and administrative hierarchy of the Mexican state has replaced the indigenous corporate social structure. The local political unit (altepetl) and kin group (calpulli) changed into the municipio and the barrio (Chance, 1996; Lockhart, 1992). The most enduring indigenous social structural unit is the domestic group which frequently goes through a patrilocal and patrilineally extended family phase during its developmental cycle (Arizpe, 1973; Sandstrom, 1991; Taggart, 1972). The cosmovision and moral discourse contained in the oral narratives are aimed at regulating conduct within the domestic group.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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