Skip to main content

Chalchocoyo

Matlapa municipality

Church of Christ at ChalchocoyoAfter visiting the congregation of the Lord’s church at La Soledad Monday morning, we travelled to the town of Chalchocoyo (the name of which means “guava” in Nahuatl). The church at Chalchocoyo is one of the biggest in that region, and there was a great turnout considering it was Monday.

Upon arriving we were greeted by a bunch of children on the road, who were very interested to see us. We were soon led down the hill to where the church building was, and entering we saw Bienvenidos los hermanos de Aledo, Texas written on the chalkboard. It was here that we first met brother Nicolás (a local preacher) and Abraham Antonio, who led the welcome song when we were all assembled. After this Mr. Dugan introduced each of our company, and when this was accomplished Nicolás spoke in Nahuatl inviting anyone to come forward if they had something to say to us.

First a young man came up, and he was able to speak good Spanish. After him was an elderly man of 80 plus years who knew only Nahuatl. However, this did not hinder the message in any way, for what he said was translated to Spanish by Nicolás, and then brother Jesús translated into English. It was quite interesting to observe this process, and I was glad I didn’t have to rely on too much filtering. After that a monolingual Aztec lady came up and spoke to us; all of these thanked us for coming and gave us much encouragement.

A meal followed, with the regular fare. We ate in their old building, which was built on a higher level than the old one. It’s a smaller building, and one reason for its abandonment was foundation problems. It served us well as a fellowship hall, however! Read More

La Soledad

La SoledadOn Monday we travelled to La Soledad, a nice little town in the San Martín Chalchicuautla municipality (I won’t try to explain the pronunciation of this name). The name La Soledad, while not an Indian name, nevertheless has the interesting meaning of “The Lonely Place.” We, however, were by no means lonely as we were greeted by the brethren of the congregation there. Among others, we met Valentín Aquino, one of the preachers who is supported by the Aledo congregation.

Upon arriving, I inquired of Mr. Hernández Félix as to whether the people of this place spoke Nahuatl, as I was not sure if we had perhaps come into Huastec country. He replied that these people were indeed Nahuatl speakers, and I soon found that they saw no reason to speak Spanish when their own tongue would suffice.

We also met Andrés Zuniga, a young man who is attending the preaching school in Huichihuayán, as well as Macario Zuniga, who I believe is in some way related to the former. They explained to us that many of the men of the congregation were not able to be there since they were off working, but we had a short worship service because the saints were assembled.

Andrés led the singing, and began with the Welcome Hymn (El Himno de Bienvenida), which I had never heard before. Jesús (our translator) gave a good lesson on the 103rd Psalm, and then brother Macario Zuniga got up and gave a summary of it in Nahuatl, for the benefit of those there who didn’t know Spanish. Read More

Language or Dialect?

In linguistic circles, there is much discussion over the definitions of language and dialect. It may be generalized that a language is made up of dialects, which are simply regional variants of the same tongue, but even here there is controversy. What about Chinese, a language spoken by millions in the world’s largest country? Among the Chinese dialects, some have drifted so far that mutual comprehension is no longer possible. Serbian and Croatian may also be considered, which although by all outward appearances may be considered one language, are spoken by two countries separated by religion and orthography.

So where do you draw the line? When does a dialect cease its dependence and become a full-fledged language? While I was among the Aztecs in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, I heard yet another explanation from a bilingual preacher there.

Nahuatl, he said, is not a language like Spanish or English, because of its variability. He cited two synonymous words in Nahuatl, the one being used only in that place, and the other heard in another village. In short, I believe he was essentially pointing out the disunity among the many variants of Nahuatl. Whereas English and Spanish both have standard forms understood by everyone, no such form of Nahuatl exists, only many different accents and differences in vocabulary across Mexico. Thus, when referring to Nahuatl in Spanish, the Mexicans will say el dialecto náhuatl instead of using the word idioma or lengua.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth.  Personally, I would consider Nahuatl as a language and its variants as dialects, but in Spanish I will refer to it as a dialect, for “when in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do.”

Tlapexmecayo

Xilitla municipality

Christians at TlapexmecayoAfter having driven several more miles through the mountains of the Huasteca that Sunday afternoon, we came to our next stop: the meeting-place of the congregation in the small Aztec town of Tlapexmecayo. We were quite grateful to the Christians there for waiting on us, since we were running behind. They were most gracious for waiting to have their worship service when we arrived, even though we had previously worshiped with the El Cañón congregation.

When we arrived, we were heartily greeted by the preacher there, and we were soon led to the meetingplace. Even though this group of Christians did not have a building, they were content to meet under a pavilion, under which there was only enough room for about half of them. The rest stood or sat on benches, and the preacher led the service from under the pavilion.

One thing I noticed was that the preacher did nearly the whole service, except for one of the prayers which he asked brother José to lead (which he did entirely in Nahuatl, I may add!). Apparently the men present didn’t know how to lead various parts of worship, or weren’t confortable with it. Of course for all I know they were relatively new Christians!

Although I don’t remember the sermon topic, it was sound and biblical, as well as bilingual. It was actually a bit difficult for me to follow the preacher, since he kept switching between Nahuatl and Spanish. I noticed that he used a good number of Spanish words in his Nahuatl (mostly religious words), and upon asking him afterwards I learned that these are actually loanwords from Spanish, understood by all the Nahuatl speakers. Read More

Do you speak Mexican?

Brothers in ChristSometimes when my Grandpa talks about the Spanish-speaking people in Texas, he says they “talk Mexican.” While this is “incorrect” usage (they speak the same language in Spain, you know), if you go to Mexico you’ll find that they do use the term mexicano to refer to a language–Nahuatl, to be precise.

Nahuatl is the most widely-spoken indigenous tongue in Mexico, and is the native language of the Aztec people who once had a wide-stretching empire and a glorious capital city (Tenochtitlán) where Mexico City now stands. When reading histories of the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores, you often get the impression that after the Aztecs were conquered, they just disappeared. However, this is far from the truth. This people is still alive and well, and although they have abandoned many of their traditions, their language still lives on and is in no danger of extinction.

Although Nahuatl is often treated as a single language, it has many variations and dialects in different regions, not to mention Classical Nahuatl which was spoken in ancient times. There are quite a few resources for Nahuatl to be found on the internet (although most are in Spanish), but nevertheless I have found nothing for the particular dialect that I encountered, Western Huasteca Nahuatl. Thus, I hope that the following words and phrases will be useful to anyone who may be going to the Huasteca and wants to be at least a bit knowledgeable of the native dialect. Read More