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Totonaco of Coyutla Veracruz
Totanaco language by SIL


The Municipio, or district, of Coyutla is located in the hills of the Sierra de Papantla in central Veracruz and is home to 20,843 people. The name Coyutla comes from the Náhuatl language and means "place of coyotes (or foxes)." There is a small Otomí speaking population in Coyutla (147 people in 1995), but Totonacs make up the majority of the 12,620 people in the district who speak indigenous languages according to a 2005 government count.

Though there are some higher hills in Coyutla District like Chicualote, El Triste, and Azul, the average elevation is only 160 Mts. The Tecolutla, Espinal, Necaxa, and San Marcos Rivers flow through Coyutla, and the climate is warm and wet most of the year.

Most Totonacs are subsistence farmers who live on communal lands held by three ejidos in the center of the Municipio - Coyutla, Tulipilla, and Independencia. Primary crops are corn, beans, and green chiles, and families also raise cattle and other domestic animals and fowl. This area suffers from a high level of poverty and underdevelopment; many indigenous people are illiterate and many, especially women, cannot speak Spanish. The indigenous people of Coyutla have long had, and still have, rather tense relationships with the Mestizo people of the district.

Many men and women of Coyutla still wear traditional Totonac dress, including colorfully embroidered quechquémitls and blouses. Some families still produce pottery and others make dance masks and furniture from local subtropical hardwoods.

Though most Totonacs are Catholics, ancient spirits are still venerated and traditional rituals still take place. In Coyutla, major fiestas are held to honor St. Andrew in November and Saints Peter and Paul in June. A highlight of these fiestas is the performance of the "volador" ritual on the tall pole in the town center, beside the church.

Narrative written for Mexican textiles project by Karen Ewell 9/2005

Thanks Karen

Bob Freund