who are our mexicans?

john derbyshire has a blog post up @vdare — Aztecs and Hidalgos: Are Upper-Class Hispanics Importing Their Own Peons? — in which he points out that an awful lot of the u.s.’s pro-amnesty leaders are (genuine) white-hispanics — in other words, they appear to be of mostly european extraction — while on the other hand the vast majority of immigrants we get from mexico are actually mestizos or indios — or, as john dubs them, “aztecs” (over which some ninnies have pointed and sputtered, apparently).

which got me to wondering — again — who are our mexicans? are they really the descendents of/partly descended from the aztecs or what? pre-columbian mexico was very multi-cultural (lucky them!), so which mexicans are actually coming to the u.s. these days?

i’m going to try to get at that by examining which regions of mexico our mexican immigrants come from. that, obviously, will just leave us with a guesstimate of which sub-groups of mexicans are coming to the u.s., but until we get full genomic sequencing done on all immigrants entering the country, it’s the best i can do. i don’t know from which parts of mexico immigrants in past decades hailed, so perhaps a lot of them were/are indeed of aztec descent, but thanks to the mexican government’s consejo nacional de población (conapo), we do know where our most recent mexican immigrants are coming from today (2010).

before i post a couple of neat maps from conapo, let me mention again a couple of facts that most you are probably already aware of: 1) most mexicans are mestizos, i.e. of mixed indio and european heritage, 2) most mexican mestizos are more indio than they are european, and 3) the further south you go in mexico, the more indio the mestizos are [pdf].

ok. a couple of maps taken from here (specifically here [pdf] — click on maps for LARGER views)…

grades of the intensity of emigration to the u.s. by federal district, 2010 [names of four hottest districts added by me]:

immigration from mexico by federal district - 2010b

and grades of the intensity of emigration to the u.s. by municipality, 2010:

immigration from mexico by municipality - 2010

as you can see on the first map, four federal districts in mexico have “muy alto” (very high) emigration to the u.s.: michoacán, zacatecas, guanajuato, and nayarit. michoacán is the furthest to the south with guanajuato following, so presumably the mestizos from these regions are more indio than those from the other two regions. judging by the map of immigration from municipalities, the greatest numbers of immigrants come from zacatecas and guanajuato.

so who are these people? who were their ancestors?

the zacatecos were one of the groups referred to by the aztecs as chichimecas or “barbarians.” i’m not sure whether or not they spoke a language related to aztec, or were related to the aztecs, but they certainly were not a part of the settled aztec civilization. the zacatecos were nomadic hunter-gatherers and were reportedly expert archers. these are some of the peoples who gave the spaniards a run for their money in the chichimeca war with their armor-piercing arrows. cool!

from Soldiers, Indians, and Silver: The Northward Advance of New Spain, 1550-1600 [pgs. 39, 46-48]:

“The Zacatecos, tribesmen closest to most of the new silver mines, were the fourth nation of this Gran Chichimeca. They overlapped the land of the Guachichiles east and north of Zacatecas; they extended westward to border on the Tepehuanes near Durango; and they roamed as far north as Cuencame and Parras, where they touched upon the Irritilas or Laguna tribes. The Zacatecos were mostly nomadic, although a few groups were essentially sedentary. They were brave and bellicose warriors and excellent marksmen. Some Spaniards called them the most valiant and warlike of all the Chichimecas. They were mightily feared by neighboring peoples, especially the Cazcanes, whom they attacked constantly — fifty Zacatecos were known to have successfully raided a Cazcan pueblo of as many as three or four thousand inhabitants….

“The general way of life throughout this Gran Chichimeca varied little from tribe to tribe and from nation to nation. Contemporary descriptions of the customs and characteristics of the Chichimecas seldom noted important variations between one grouping and another….

“In hand-to-hand combat, the Chichimeca warrior gained, among other Indians and Spaniards, a reputation for courage and ferocity…. In fighting other Indians (Mexicans, Tarascans, Cazcanes), part of his courage could be accounted for by the contempt he felt for the tribes that had adopted the ways of the white man. And, as already implied, the Chichimeca came to have a lesser respect for the Spaniard himself as the Indian raids went unpunished….

“[H]is contact with Spanish military practice also led the Chichimeca to take more practical measures to assure success in fighting. He sent spies into Spanish-Indian towns for appraisal of the enemy’s plans and strength; he developed a far-flung system of lookouts and scouts (*atalayas*); and, in major attacks, settlements were softened by preliminary and apparently systematic killing and stealing of horses and other livestock, this being an attempt, sometimes successful, to change his intended victim from horseman to foot soldier.

“When the Chichimeca was attacked in his mountainous or other naturally protected stronghold or hideout, he usually put up vigorous resistance, especially if unable to escape onslaught. In such cases he fought — with arrows, clubs, or even rocks — behind natural barriers (or in caves) that had sometimes been made stronger by his own hands and ingenuity. Even the women might take up the fight, using the weapons of fallen braves….

“The high degree of Chichimeca accuracy with bow and arrow called forth much respectful and awed comment from his Spanish enemy. ‘On one occasion I saw them throw an orange into the air, and they shot into it so many arrows that, having held it in the air for much time, it finally fell in minute pieces.’ ‘In the opinion of men experienced in foreign lands, the Zacatecos are the best archers in the world.’ ‘They kill hares which, even though running, they pierce with arrows; also deer, birds, and other little animals of the land, not even overlooking rats … and they fish with the bow and arrow.’ Children of the Chichimecas were taught the use of the bow from the time they could walk, and they practiced by shooting at insects and the smallest animals.

“The forces and penetrating power of the Chichimeca arrow was always a puzzle to Spaniards, particularly in view of the extreme thinness of the arrow shaft. ‘It has happened that, in a fight between some soldiers, and some Chichimeca Indians, an arrow hit one soldier’s powder flask [of wood, usually], passed completely through it, then penetrated his armor, consisting of eleven thicknesses of buckskin (*gamuza*), a coat of mail, a doublet, and the soldier was wounded by said arrow.’ ‘It has happened that an arrow hit a horse on which a soldier was fighting and the arrow passed through the horse’s crownpiece (which consisted of a very strong leather and metal piece), his head, and came out through the neck and entered the chest, a thing which, if were not known to be certain, seems incredible.’ ‘One of don Alonso de Castilla’s soldiers had an arrow pass through the head of his horse, including a crownpiece of doubled buckskin and metal, and into his chest, so he fell with the horse dead on the ground — this was seen by many who are still living.’

“The Chichimeca bow was about two-thirds as long as the average body, reaching approximately from head to knee; it was probably made of such materials as cottonwood, willow, mesquite, *bois d’arc*, or juniper — woods that could be found in the area. The arrow, about two-thirds as long as the bow, was very thin, usually made of reed and usually with an obsidian tip, which was fastened to the shaft by human sinews or animal tendons. Shortness of bow, thinness of arrow, and the conchoidal edge of the obsidian combined to achieve a penetration the Spaniards could hardly believe. The fact that the Chichimeca arrow found its way through all but the closest-woven mail was a factor in the increasing Spanish use of buckskin armor on this frontier.”

iwitbb**: “Mexico’s National Population Council estimates that 600,000 natives of Zacatecas now live in the United States, a figure that is equivalent to 40 percent of the state’s resident population of 1.5 million. If the base population is supplemented by the number of children and grandchildren who have been born in the United States, the total number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans of ‘zacatecano’ origin living in the United States exceeds the number of people who reside in the state.”

so we’re not short of people from zacatecas.

most of the peoples of guanajuato were also some of these nomadic chichimeca folks. a lot of them were guamares, but the zacatecos were also present along with other hunter-gatherer chichimeca groups. like zacatecas, guanajuato was never a part of the aztec empire either. nor was it a part of another neighboring empire, the tarascan state which was run by the purépecha people (see section on michoacán below), although the areas of guanajuato that were adjacent to the tarascan state were influenced culturally by that state.

so the probable ancestors of many of the people from the two mexican regions from which the u.s. today receives the most migrants were nomadic hunter-gatherers with a warrior streak. right up until 1590 (the end of the chichimeca war), or just ca. 20 generations ago (counting a generation as roughly 20 years).

[edit: see also this comment.]

the pre-columbian michoacán area was inhabited by several different groups, but the ones that really left their mark were the purépecha people with their tarascan state. they were never conquered by the aztecs, and they built a really neat city of their own — tzintzuntzan — replete with some of those very fashionable (back in the day) latin american pyramids. interestingly, the purépecha language is not related to any of the neighboring languages of the region.

from Prehistoric Mesoamerica [pgs. 324-325, 329]:

“The Tarascan state occupied about 65,000 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) and included within its boundaries various ethnic and linguistic groups. Thus, it fulfills the formal qualifications required of an imperial system. The ‘Relacion de Michoacan’ relates that the Tarascans were ruled by a priest-king-god who governed a large political unit. In terms of area, it seems to have been the largest political unit in Mesoamerica at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The empire was administered by a wide variety of officials who handled matters such as taxes and censuses.

“Although 340 settlements are mentioned by the ‘Relacion de Michoacan’, only four of them qualified as cities, and they were located within the Lako Patzcuaro basin. The largest was the capital of Tzintzuntzan, which had been founded about A.D. 1000 as a center for the worship of two important deities. By 1350, the center had been transformed into an urban area sprawling along the lake shore, with a population of between twenty-five thousand and thirty-five thousand people. Archaeological survey has detected four districts that are the probable residence zones for four classes: upper and lower elite, commoners, and ethnic foreigners. Wards (barrios) for the various social and occupation groups survived in modern Tzintzuntzan into the twentieth century….

“The settlement pattern of the Tarascans was essentially rural, however, and most people lived in hamlets, villages, and towns….

“War was waged after the harvest was in, in good Mesoamerican manner. Spies (perhaps *pochtecas*) were employed for intelligence purposes. The Tarascans resisted the Aztec with a chain of fortified cities and with a professional army.”

so a more civilized group of peoples down in michoacán.

i didn’t have as much luck in finding out about the historic population(s) of nayarit — there doesn’t seem to be much info out there — not in english anyway. some nahua peoples (the aztecs are a nahua people) were there at some point and apparently built one small-sized city anyway. according to the wikipedia page for nayarit in spanish, the majority of the populace in nayarit today are the huichol people followed by the cora and also some nahual folks.

the huichol:

“…usually marry between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. Extended Huichol families live together in rancho settlements. These small communities consist of individual houses which belong to a nuclear family. Each settlement has a communal kitchen and the family shrine, called a xiriki, which is dedicated to the ancestors of the rancho. The buildings surround a central patio. The individual houses are traditionally built of stone or adobe with grass-thatched roofs.

“A district of related ranchos is known as a temple district. Temple districts are all members of a larger community district. Each community district is ruled by a council of kawiterutsixi, elder men who are usually also shamans.”


even more cool, re. the cora people:

“In the early 18th century they were an anomaly in that they had never permitted Catholic missionaries to live in their country. They had become a pagan island in a sea of Christian Indians and Hispanic culture. In 1716, a Spanish expedition to attempt to bring the Cora under Spanish control failed. However, in 1722, the Spanish returned in force and the Cora yielded. According to Spanish accounts many of them became Christian and practice, up until the present, ‘Catholic-derived customs.'”

so the descendents of some or all of these groups probably represent a large segment of mexicans coming to the u.s. right now.

what i think we should be asking ourselves — apart from why?? — is what are these different mexicans likely to be like given their (natural) histories? we’ve got a mix of peoples here ranging from the descendents of nomadic hunter-gatherer warriors to currently settled but isolated indios to the descendents of more civilized agricultural populations. so what sorts of selection pressures were the ancestors of all these mexican groups under for, say, the last one to two thousand years? what sorts of mating patterns/family types/social structures did these peoples’ ancestors have that might’ve affected the selection pressures on those populations?

who are our mexicans?

**iwitbb = if wikipedia is to be believed.

(note: comments do not require an email. huichol lady.)


linkfest – 02/26/12

In the genes, but which ones?“‘As is the case with other traits, like height, there are probably thousands of genes and their variants that are associated with intelligence…. And there may be other genetic effects beyond the single gene effects – there could be interactions between genes, there could be interactions between genes and the environment.'”

Drinking Alcohol Shrinks Critical Brain Regions in Genetically Vulnerable Mice“[D]opamine receptors, known as DRD2, may play a protective role against alcohol-induced brain damage.”

Racial differences in childhood myopia – from the inductivist.

Lactase Persistence and Understanding History – from henry harpending.

Rethinking the social structure of ancient Eurasian nomads: Current Anthropology research“[E]arly pastoral nomads grew distinct economies across the steppes and mountains of Eurasia and triggered the formation of some the earliest and most extensive networks of interaction in prehistory.”

The emoticon on your face“[R]esearchers are suggesting that happy and sad expressions are not basic, evolutionary responses that take the same form all over the world, but cultural categories that we create from a much more complex emotional reservoir.”

A Sip for the Ancestors: The True Story of Civilization’s Stumbling Debt to Beer and Fungus – great series! i recommend reading them all (links at the top of the article i linked to here). (^_^)

Zoologger: The bird that cares for its rival’s chicks

bonus: NASA Will Pay You to Eat Astronaut Food for 4 Months

bonus bonus: The Bruce effect – why some pregnant monkeys abort when new males arrive

bonus bonus bonus: Dead for 32,000 Years, an Arctic Plant Is Revived

(note: comments do not require an email. pukeko?)