Introduction / History The Otomi speakers of southern Mexico share their mountain homeland in close proximity with three other cultural communities. This arrangement started in the 17th century when Spanish governors gathered small, scattered populations together "within the sound of the bell," to give administrators and missionaries better control over the indigenous populations.
Across hillside fields, families plant maize, beans and chili peppers they will eat. People also raise coffee or sugar cane as cash crops. Though some Otomi keep domestic fowl for personal use, they do not typically raise any livestock. And today, many migrate to cities or immigrate to the U.S. for better jobs.
Several villages produce colorful, decorative clothing. Women still typically wear dresses and blouses with this embroidery. They also sell their stitchery, varying in size and intricacy, from small napkins and blouses to large bedspreads.
People have learned to make paper from the bark of several specific fig tree varieties. Local painters covet this bark paper called "amate" for their art. Talented Otomi also design jewelry, beads and small bags.
What are their beliefs? In their largest town, as many as 70 percent of the residents may claim they are Christians. And in the wider region, it's about 20 percent. Despite those positive numbers, most Otomi believers also venerate the spirit world. Many have not learned that the one, true God of the Bible has ultimate authority in both the natural and the spirit.
Hidalgo state: Huehuetla, Otomi de la Sierra Baja, Otomi-Tepehua, and San Bartolo Tutotepec municipalities; Puebla state: Pahuatlan, Pantepec, Tlacuilotepec, Tlaxco municipalities; Veracruz state: Ixhuatlan de Madero and Tlachichilco municipalities. (Source: Ethnologue 2016)