Nahuatl Social Organization: Characteristics - science - 2023



The Nahuatl social organization It was basically structured from the domain of a specific territory that grouped different ethnic groups. These had in common traditions inherited from their ancestors, which allowed them to coexist peacefully.

This social organization was led by the most important figure of the tribe, who received the name of tlatoani. The Nahuatl occupied territories in Mesoamerica. According to anthropological research, they are considered ancestors of the Mexica or Aztecs.

All these ethnic groups had the Nahuatl language in common and, according to their beliefs, they arrived in Mexican territory by divine mandate.

The figure of the tlatoani or cacique ruled the life of all aspects of the tribe. It expanded through the Altépetl, which was its own territorial space.

Most important classes in the social organization of the Nahuatl

1- The calpolli

The Calpolli were a group of families that had common origins and shared their lands.

Neighborhoods and communities that carried out the same economic activity, such as agriculture or fishing, were formed around this space. They also participated in the same religious rites, since they worshiped the same deity.

Although they owned the land they worked, they had to pay tribute to the chief, a tribute that received the name of Tlaloque. In exchange for this tribute they were assured protection and security.

2- The nobles

They received the name of pilli and carried out basically administrative tasks. They were distinguished among the population because they wore fine cotton clothes, adorned with colorful bird feathers and accessories with stones, such as bracelets and necklaces.

3- The priests

Although they were considered part of the nobility, their lifestyle was less ostentatious and they did not participate in administrative decisions. They worshiped the gods and presided over religious ceremonies and festivals.

They also offered sacrifices to the gods seeking divine favor, such as self-flagellation or sexual abstinence. They were considered the wise men of the community.

4- The marginalized

Like any social system, there were the excluded, who were considered criminals.

In the communities there was a curfew at night, after which those who won the streets were these marginalized.

Other curiosities

The Nahuatl communities had the absolute value of community tasks. The tequio was the community work that each member developed for the benefit of the others, without receiving any charge for it.

Those members who did not contribute tequio were severely punished by the authorities. Also, the festivals were a reason for celebration to unify and celebrate the similarities.

With the arrival of the Spanish to the territory, the customs and traditions of the Nahuatl were drastically modified.

The figure of the cacique or tlatoani lost power, and the subsequent evangelization carried out by the Christians notably modified the lives of nobles, warriors and priests.

Today, the descendants of the Nahuatl maintain their traditions as self-sustaining communities and try to preserve the important cultural and artistic legacy of their ancestors.


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