Totonac


Totonac

The Totonac people resided in the eastern coastal and mountainous regions of Mexico at the time of the Spanish arrival in 1519. Today they reside in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo. They are one of the possible builders of the Pre-Columbian city of El Tajín, and further maintained quarters in Teotihuacán (a city which they claim to have built). Until the mid-19th century they were the world's main producers of vanilla.

Geography and Lifestyle

In the 15th century, the Aztecs labeled the region of the Totonac "Totonacapan"; which then extended roughly from Papantla in the north to Cempoala in the south. Totonacapan was largely hot and humid. Along with the normal agricultural crops of maize, squash, beans, and chilis, the region was noted for its production of liquid amber and cotton. Even during the disastrous central Mexican famine of 1450-1454, the region remained a reliable agricultural center. At this time many Aztecs were forced to sell themselves or their family members as slaves to the Totonac in exchange for subsistence maize. Totonac women were expert weavers and embroiderers; they dressed grandly and braided their hair with feathers. The Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún stated that, in all aspects of their appearance, the women were "quite elegant." Likewise, the men dressed well, adorning themselves with multicolored clothing, necklaces, arm bands, and devices made of the prized quetzal feathers.

History

The region of Totonacapan was subject to Aztec military incursions from the mid-15th century until the Spanish arrival. Despite the establishment of Aztec fortifications throughout the region, rebellion was endemic. Major Totonac centers were Papantla, with an estimated population of 60,000 in 1519, Xalapa (around 120,000), and Cempoala (around 80,000). Cempoala was the first Indigenous city state visited by Hernán Cortés in his march to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. The Totonacs of Cempoala joined forces with Cortés and, along with the Tlaxcalan Indians, contributed significantly to the Spanish conquest. Totonacapan became incorporated into the Spanish regime with comparatively little violence, but the region was ravaged by epidemic diseases during the 16th century. Today, approximately 90,000 Totonac speakers reside in the region.

Language

The languages known as Totonac and Tepehua form a language family isolate; that is, they are not known to be related to any other languages or language families. The first grammatical and lexical descriptions of Totonac accessible to Europeans (unfortunately now lost) were by Fray Andrés de Olmos, who also wrote the first such descriptions of Nahuatl and Huastec (Teenek).

Religion

The Totonac believe that each person's "soul was made by the mother goddesses". [Alfredo López Austin (transl. by Ortiz de Montellano) : "Tamoanchan, Tlalocan". University Press of Colorado, 1997. p. 161, citing Inchon, p. 46] If a newly born child dies, its soul "does not go to the west, the place of the dead, but to the east with the Mothers". [Alfredo López Austin (transl. by Ortiz de Montellano) : "Tamoanchan, Tlalocan". University Press of Colorado, 1997. p. 162, citing Inchon, p. 209] "In Ocomantla, it is believed that healers are born during a storm, under the protection of thunder. They think that a lightning bolt strikes the house of a new-born baby ..., and makes it ... under its possession". [Alfredo López Austin (transl. by Ortiz de Montellano) : "Tamoanchan, Tlalocan". University Press of Colorado, 1997. p. 169, citing Inchon, p. 287]

References

*James Olson, ed. "Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Empire, 1402-1975", 1992.
*I. Bernal and E. Dávalos, "Huastecos y Totonacos", 1953.
*H.R. Harvey and Isabel Kelly, "The Totonac," in "Handbook of Middle American Indians", 1969.
*Isabel Kelly and Ángel Palerm, "The Tajín Totonac", 1952.
*Inchon, A. : "La religión de los totonacas de la sierra". México : Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1973.

ee also

*Danza de los Voladores de Papantla
*Naco (slang)

External links

* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14794a.htm Catholic encyclopedia entry]
* [http://members.aol.com/xiuhcoatl/norgulf2.htm Totonac art]


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