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Otomi people

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Title: Otomi people  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Querétaro, Amate, Huixquilucan de Degollado, Otompan, Acambay, State of Mexico
Collection: Ethnic Groups in Mexico, Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, Mexican Plateau, Otomi, World Digital Library Related
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Otomi people

Hñähñu, Hñähño, Ñuhu, Ñhato, Ñuhmu
Otomi dancers from San Jeronimo Acazulco in Mexico state performing the traditional Danza de los Arrieros
Total population
Mexico:approx >300,000
Regions with significant populations
Mexico: Hidalgo, EdoMex, Querétaro, Puebla, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Tlaxcala, Michoacán
Otomi, Spanish
Predominantly Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Mazahua, Pame, Chichimeca Jonaz, Matlatzinca

The Otomi people (; Spanish: Otomí Spanish: ) is an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the central altiplano (Mexican Plateau) region of Mexico.


  • Overview 1
  • Etymology 2
  • Language 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Otomi woman selling traditional Otomi embroidered cloths in Tequisquiapan.

The two most populous groups are the Highland or Sierra Otomí living in the mountains of La Huasteca and the Mezquital Otomí, living in the Mezquital Valley in the eastern part of the state of Hidalgo, and in the state of Querétaro. Sierra Otomí usually self identify as Ñuhu or Ñuhmu depending on the dialect they speak, whereas Mezquital Otomi self-identify as Hñähñu (pronounced ).[1] Smaller Otomi populations exist in the states of Puebla, Mexico, Tlaxcala, Michoacán and Guanajuato.[2] The Otomi language belonging to the Oto-Pamean branch of the Oto-Manguean language family is spoken in many different varieties some of which are not mutually intelligible.

One of the early complex cultures of Mesoamerica, the Otomi were likely the original inhabitants of the central Mexican altiplano before the arrival of Nahuatl speakers around ca. 1000 CE, but gradually they were replaced and marginalized by Nahua peoples. In the early colonial New Spain period, Otomi speakers helped the Spanish conquistadors as mercenaries and allies, which allowed them to extend into territories that had previously been inhabited by semi-nomadic Chichimecs, for example Querétaro and Guanajuato.

The Otomi traditionally worshipped the moon as their highest deity, and even into modern times many Otomi populations practice shamanism and hold prehispanic beliefs such as Nagualism. Otomies traditionally subsisted on maize, beans and squash as most Mesoamerican sedentary peoples, but the Maguey (Century Plant) was also an important cultigen used for production of alcohol (pulque) and fiber (henequen).


The name Otomi comes from the Nahuatl otomitl, which is possibly derived from an older word totomitl "shooter of birds".[3] It is not an Otomi endonym; the Otomi refer to themselves as Hñähñú, Hñähño, Hñotho, Hñähü, Hñätho, Yųhų, Yųhmų, Ñųhų, Ñǫthǫ or Ñañhų depending on which dialect of Otomi they speak.[3][4][cn 1] Most of the variant forms are composed of two morphemes meaning "speak" and "well" respectively.[5]

The word Otomi entered the Spanish language through Nahuatl and is used to describe the larger Otomi macroethnic group and the dialect continuum. From Spanish the word Otomi has become entrenched in the linguistic and anthropological literature. Among linguists, the suggestion has been made to change the academic designation from Otomi to Hñähñú, the endonym used by the Otomi of the Mezquital valley; however, no common endonym exists for all dialects of the language.[3][4][6]


Otomi-speaking areas in Mexico

The Otomi language is part of the Oto-Pamean language family, which also includes Chichimeca Jonaz, Mazahua, Pame, Ocuilteco, and Matlatzinca, which belong to the Otomangean language group (consisting of the Amuzgoan, Chinantecan, Mixtecan, Otopamean, Popolocan, Tlapanecan, and Zapotecan language families).

Ceremonial stage of the Otomi Cultural Center in Temoaya, Mexico state.

See also


  1. ^ See Wright Carr (2005).
  2. ^ Lastra (2006)
  3. ^ a b c Lastra, Los Otomies, pp. 56–58.
  4. ^ a b Wright Carr, "Precisiones sobre el término 'otomí'".
  5. ^ Hekking & Bakker, "The Case of Otomí", p. 436.
  6. ^ Palancar, "Emergence of Active/Stative alignment in Otomi", p. 357.


  1. ^ See the individual articles for which dialect uses which terms.
  • Wright Carr, David Charles (2005). "'"Precisiones sobre el término 'otomí (  (Spanish)
  • Manuscritos Otomies del Virreinato - Paper in Spanish by David Wright Carr
  • Otomies en las fuentes - Paper in Spanish by David Wright Carr
  • Lengua cultura e historia de los Otomíes Paper in Spanish by David Wright Carr
  • Cajero, Mateo Velázquez (2009): Historia de los Otomíes en Ixtenco, San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala, México. (second edition, Spanish book)

External links

  • Pictures of Otomi weaving styles
  • Film about Otomis
  • Cultura Otomí en Ixtenco, Tlaxcala, México.
  • Spring, James (March 14, 2014). "No Place Like Home Act One: Flight Simulation". About the "Caminata Nocturna" (a simulated illegal border crossing), in the Hñähñú village of El Alberto, Hidalgo.  
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