Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Mixe

Mixe

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Mixe'
Start a new discussion about 'Mixe'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Mixe or Mije is an indigenous
Indigenous peoples of Mexico
Mexico, in the second article of its Constitution, is defined as a "pluricultural" nation in recognition of the diverse ethnic groups that constitute it, and in which the indigenous peoples are the original foundation...

 group inhabiting the eastern highlands of the Mexican state of Oaxaca
Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

. They speak the Mixe languages
Mixe languages
The Mixe languages are languages of the Mixean branch of the Mixe–Zoquean language family indigenous to southern Mexico. According to a 1995 classification, there are seven of them...

 which are classified in the Mixe–Zoque family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

, and are more culturally conservative than other indigenous groups of the region, maintaining their language to this day. A population figure of 90,000 speakers of Mixe were estimated by SIL international
SIL International
SIL International is a U.S.-based, worldwide, Christian non-profit organization, whose main purpose is to study, develop and document languages, especially those that are lesser-known, in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacy, translate the Christian Bible into local languages,...

 in 1993. The Mixe name for themselves is ayuujkjä'äy meaning "people who speak the mountain language" The word "Mixe" itself is probably derived from the Nahuatl
Nahuatl
Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

 word for cloud: mīxtli.

Geography


The region where the Mixe live is known as the Sierra Mixe
Sierra Mixe
The Sierra Mixe or Mixes District is a district in the east of the Sierra Norte Region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It comprises 17 municipalities and covers 4,930 km2 at an average elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level....

 and is located north east of the city of Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Oaxaca
The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name . It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín...

, bordering on the Valley of Oaxaca
Valley of Oaxaca
The Valley of Oaxaca is a geographic region located within the modern day State of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. The valley, which is located within the Sierra Madre Mountains, is shaped like a distorted and almost upside-down “Y,” with each of its arms bearing specific names: the northwestern Etla...

 to the southwest, the lowlands of Tehuantepec
Tehuantepec
Tehuantepec is a city and municipality in the southeast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is part of the Tehuantepec District in the west of the Istmo Region. The area was important in pre Hispanic period as part of a trade route that connected Central America with what is now the center of...

 to the east, and the highlands of Choapam and the state of Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

 to the north. The rugged and remote area is part the Sierra Madre Occidental
Sierra Madre Occidental
The Sierra Madre Occidental is a mountain range in western Mexico.-Setting:The range runs north to south, from just south of the Sonora–Arizona border southeast through eastern Sonora, western Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguascalientes to Guanajuato, where it joins...

. The western Mixe live in a mountainous temperate highland zone with the largest Mixe centers in San Pedro and Pablo Ayutla (in Mixe called Tu'ukyom), Tlahuitoltepec () and Totontepec
Totontepec Villa de Morelos
Totontepec Villa de Morelos is a small village and municipality, in the Sierra Mixe district of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is located some 1840 metres above sea level and some 326 km from the state capital, Oaxaca de Juárez...

 (). Here at elevations above 2400 meters maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, beans, potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es, and squash is produced. The midland Mixe are centered around Zacatepec () and Juquila (), in this region coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

 and chili pepper
Chili pepper
Chili pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The term in British English and in Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia and other Asian countries is just chilli without pepper.Chili peppers originated in the Americas...

s are produced. The eastern Mixe live near the city Matías Romero in the tropical lowlands of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
Isthmus of Tehuantepec
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is an isthmus in Mexico. It represents the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, and prior to the opening of the Panama Canal was a major shipping route known simply as the Tehuantepec Route...

, here, at elevations from 35 to 1000 meters tropical crops such as banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s and plantain
Plantain
Plantain is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa. The fruit they produce is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana...

s and sugar cane is produced. The Mixe region borders on regions inhabited by Zapotecs and Chinantec
Chinantec
The Chinantecs are an indigenous people that live in Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico, especially in the districts of Cuicatlán, Ixtlán de Juárez, Tuxtepec and Choapan.The Chinantec languages belong to the Chinantecan branch of the Oto-Manguean family...

s, with whom the Mixe have some contact. The Mixe region is watered by three large rivers the Papaloapan
Papaloapan River
The Papaloapan River is one of the main rivers of the Mexican state of Veracruz. Its name is derived from the Nahuatl papalotl and apan ....

, the Coatzacoalcos
Coatzacoalcos River
The Coatzacoalcos is a large river that feeds mainly the south part of the state of Veracruz; it originates in the Sierra de Niltepec and crosses the state of Oaxaca in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, flowing for toward the Gulf of Mexico. Tributaries include El Corte, Sarabia,...

 and the Tehuantepec
Tehuantepec River
-References:* Atlas of Mexico, 1975 .* The Prentice Hall American World Atlas, 1984.* Rand McNally, The New International Atlas, 1993....

. Three peaks in the Sierra Mixe reach heights above 3300 meters: at Cempoaltepetl (in Mixe Ipxyukp "the Mountain of twenty heads"), Cerro Blanco and Cerro Malinche.

History


The forefathers of the Mixe and Zoque peoples are thought to have been the Olmec
Olmec
The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco....

s, the first high civilization of Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...


. However the Mixes themselves do not associate themselves with the Olmec, but according to Mixe legend the forefathers of the Mixes came from the South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

n Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 and arrived in Mexico by boat. In the Mixe migration myth they came to settle at the holy mountain Cempoaltepetl—where led by the legendary king Condoy they built a successful kingdom. Almost nothing is known about the Mixes in prehispanic times as there are very few archeological remains in the Mixe area and written sources are equally scarce. It is known that neither the Zapotec
Zapotec civilization
The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows their culture goes back at least 2500 years...

 kingdom of Zaachila
Zaachila
Zaachila was a powerful Mesoamerican city in what is now Oaxaca, Mexico, 6 km from the city of Oaxaca. The city is named after Zaachila Yoo, the Zapotec ruler, in the late 14th and early 15th century. It is now an archaeological site...

 nor the Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 empire succeeded in subduing the Mixes completely.

After the Spanish conquest of central Mexico and the valley of Oaxaca a Spanish force under the command of Diego Sandoval was sent north to the Sierra Mixe to subdue the Mixes and Chinantec
Chinantec
The Chinantecs are an indigenous people that live in Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico, especially in the districts of Cuicatlán, Ixtlán de Juárez, Tuxtepec and Choapan.The Chinantec languages belong to the Chinantecan branch of the Oto-Manguean family...

s of that region. The expedition failed and the Mixes remained unconquered. Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 even mentions in his letters to the King of Spain that the provinces of the Zapotecs and the Mixes were the only ones to remain unconquered.
"In the whole territory, from one sea to the other, the natives serve without complaint, save for two provinces which lie between those of Teguantepeque
Tehuantepec
Tehuantepec is a city and municipality in the southeast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is part of the Tehuantepec District in the west of the Istmo Region. The area was important in pre Hispanic period as part of a trade route that connected Central America with what is now the center of...

, Chinanta
Chinantla
Chinantla is a municipio of the state of Puebla, Mexico. It is situated in the southeastern part of the state, and lies some 220 km from the city of Puebla, the state's capital. The village also called Chinantla is the seat of the municipal government, and the municipality's largest settlement...

, Guaxaca
Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

 and Guazacualco
Coatzacoalcos
Coatzacoalcos is a major port city in the southern part of the Mexican state of Veracruz, on the Coatzacoalcos River. Coatzacoalcos comes from an indigenous word meaning "Site of the Snake" or "Where the snake hides"...

, in the middle of all four; the people of these two provinces are called Zapotecas and Mixes. Their land is so rocky that it cannot be crossed even on foot, for I have twice sent people to conquer them, who were unable to do so because of the roughness of the terrain, and because the warriors are very fierce and well armed" Hernán Cortés, Fourth Letter to King Charles V


In 1555 the first peaceful contact between Spaniards and Mixes were undertaken when the Dominican order
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 began the spiritual conquest of the Mixes. They built churches and missions in Juquila, Totontepec and Quetzaltepec. The Mixes still pride themselves of never having been conquered.

Culture


The Mixe largely live from subsistence agriculture of maize, beans, squash and potatoes, complementing with hunting of small game and fishing on the smaller rivers and streams. However, in the past century the midland Mixe have begun to commercialize coffee, usually as small producers who sell their roasted beans to buyers from outside the Mixe area. The Mixe are well known in Oaxaca for their large brass band
Banda music
Banda is a brass-based form of traditional music. Bandas play a wide variety of songs, including rancheras, corridos, cumbias, baladas, and boleros. Bandas are most widely known for their rancheras, but they also play modern Mexican pop, rock, and cumbias...

s – every Mixe town has a band that performs in their local festivals. In some towns traditional weaving is practiced on backstrap looms whereas other towns mainly produce ceramics
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

.

Language



The Mixe language is a language of the Mixean branch of the Mixe–Zoque language family. Its closest relatives are Sayula Popoluca
Sayula Popoluca
Sayula Popoluca, also called Sayultec, is a Mixe language spoken by around 4,000 indigenous people in and around the town of Sayula de Alemán in the southern part of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. The language has been extensively studied by Lawrence E...

 and Oluta Popoluca
Oluta Popoluca
Oluta Popoluca also called Olutec is a moribund Mixe–Zoquean language of the Mixean branch spoken by a few elderly people in the town of Oluta in Southern Veracruz, Mexico....

 spoken in Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

. The language is polysynthetic, ergative and employs a direct–inverse system for participant reference. It can be subdivided into three dialect areas: Highland Mixe (northern Highland spoken around Totontepec and Southern Highland spoken around Tlahuitoltepec, Ayutla and Tamazulapan), Midland Mixe (spoken around Juquila and Zacatepec) and Lowland Mixe (spoken around Guichicovi). The Mixe languages are poorly documented and many variants are not documented at all. Best documented are the dialects of Totontepec, Ayutla and Coatlán for which dictionaries and small grammars have been published by SIL international
SIL International
SIL International is a U.S.-based, worldwide, Christian non-profit organization, whose main purpose is to study, develop and document languages, especially those that are lesser-known, in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacy, translate the Christian Bible into local languages,...

.

Social structure


Apart from the nuclear family an important part of Mixe social structure is the cargo system
Cargo system
The cargo system is a collection of secular and religious positions held by men or households in rural indigenous communities throughout central and southern Mexico and Central America. These revolving offices, or cargos, become the unpaid responsibility of men who are active in civic life...

 which is an integrated part of Mixe society. In the cargo system a number of civic and religious offices called "cargos" rotate among the men of each village. Cargoholders assume responsibilities of public interest such as arranging and paying for certain religious celebrations, caring for religious images, or upholding. A cargo is unpaid and held for a year; some cargoes include rather large financial obligations to the cargoholder. Persons who have held many cargoes are respected and the few persons who have held all possible cargoes in the community are part of a council of elders. With the conversion of many Mixes to different Protestant branches the functionality of the cargo system has been challenged in many towns resulting in social tension.

Religion


Mixe religion is largely a syncretic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 blend of Roman Catholicism together with traditions informed by their indigenous Mesoamerican religious beliefs
Mesoamerican religion
- Cosmology :The cosmological view in mesoamerica is strongly connected to the mesoamerican gods and the spiritual world. You may say that the construction and division of the universe, therefore is a kind of visual and symbolic set up for their religious beliefs....

. For most Mixe there is no contradiction between the tenets of Catholicism and their adherence to native belief system
Belief system
A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs may be religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these.The British philosopher Stephen Law has described some belief systems as "claptrap" and said that they "draw people in and hold them captive so they become...

s and ritual practices.

In addition to and in modification of the Catholic system, the Mixe maintain a pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

 of gods representing certain aspects. These include:
  • Poj 'Enee ("Thunder wind"), a fertility and rain god who is also the protector of Mixe towns
  • Naaxwiiñ ("Earth Surface"), an earth and fertility goddess
  • Yuuk, the "owner of the animals" and the deity of wild animals and the hunt
  • , a goddess of rivers and springs, venerated by fishermen
  • , a god of wealth, luck, hurricanes, death and the underworld, who is often equated with the Catholic devil
    Devil
    The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

    .


The Mixe are among the few contemporary indigenous communities of Mesoamerica to still use the 260-day ritual calendar
Mesoamerican calendars
Mesoamerican calendars are the calendrical systems devised and used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. In addition to the basic function of a calendar—defining and organizing periods of time in a way that allows events to be fixed, ordered and noted relative to each other and some...

 which was in use throughout Mesoamerica in pre-Columbian
Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 times. The Mixe use the ritual calendar for divination, planning of rituals and in order to determine the names given to children. Mixes have two names: a calendrical name in the Mixe language given at birth and a Spanish-Catholic name given at baptism.

Nagualism also forms a part of Mixe religious beliefs: the Mixe believe that every person is born simultaneously with an animal which becomes their Tso'ok (Nahual/animal counterpart) – the animal carries part of the human's soul and the two beings will share a common destiny.

External links