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The name “Chichimeca” is of Nahuatl origin, given by the Aztec/Mexica who dominated what is now central Mexico. Utilizing the Náhuatl terms for dog (chichi) and rope (mecatl), the Mexica referred to the Chichimecas as “of dog lineage,” literally, and generally as barbarians of the northern territory tribes because of their nomadic and war-like tendencies. Although Chichimeca was used as an umbrella term for all nomadic hunters and gatherers inhabiting this part of Mexico, the Chichimecs were not a single people sharing a common language, but rather, consisted of several indigenous groups living throughout the large swathe of territory known to the Spaniards as “La Gran Chichimeca.”  Of these groups, only two — the Otomí and Pames — still exist as cultural entities and speak a living language.

Widely speaking, Pame Nation descendants still exist among the 62 Indigenous Peoples of modern-day Mexico. These lineages joined the Chichimeca Confederation to defeat the Spanish Empire after a forty-year war (1550-1590), and now inhabit the states of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and Queretaro.

After the Spaniards abdicated, the people known as Chichimeca-Jonaz also settled, and currently cohabitate in the states of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi. They call their land Rancho Úza or Misión Chichimeca.

Over recent decades, these groups have assimilated to the evolving mestizaje culture of Mexico but remain steadfastly dedicated to honoring their ancient past in festivals and religious celebrations throughout the year. The images featured are but a sample of the vast and sometimes dramatic portrayal of that culture.



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