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CULTURE - Indigenous Pride: Who are the Mazahua?

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

With traditional territories in the northwestern corner of the State of Mexico, and small regions in Michoacan and Queretaro, the Mazahua are the largest indigenous group residing where the world's only migrating monarch butterflies spend their winters, annually. "Tetjo ñaa jñatjo" means "those who speak their own language," and is the name the Mazahua give themselves, despite being better-known by the Nahua descriptor, Mazahua. Mazahua means "deer foot," in the Nahuatl language, which is in reference to their agility and skill for tracking and hunting deer. Linguists continue to work on recording and preserving the Mazahua language, but to date, very little has been added to the online database.

Even among Mexican society and anthropologists, the Mazahua remain an unknown cultural group, despite migration resulting in a fairly large presence in Guadalajara and Mexico City. As of 2010, Census records show approximately 116,000 people speak Mazahua, which is 53% of indigenous language speakers in the state of Mexico, where the majority now lives. Interesting to note - Mazahua is the 6th most common spoken language in the cosmopolitan capital.

When you visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere, you will find many Mazahua handicrafts, including pine needle baskets and trivets, napkins and table runners cross-stitched with monarch butterflies. Though most of the items sold at the butterfly reserves are inexpensive, there are also traditional and collectible art forms, including exquisite fabrics finely stitched with animal patterns, and thick wool blankets that are chain-stitched with animal, monarch and flower designs.

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