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Totonacs of Pantepec Puebla

Totonacs of Pantepec Puebla

Pantepec is a large municipality in the Sierra Norte of Puebla State that is the home of three different groups of indigenous people - Totonacs, Tepehuas, and Otomís. In 2005 there were 6,730 people aged 5 and older in Pantepec who spoke indigenous languages, about 25-30 % of the Municipio's population. The majority of the Totonacs live in the eastern part of the district, not far from Veracruz; while most Otomís and Tepehuas live in the west, where the Sierra Madre Mountains rise up to the neighboring state of Hidalgo. For most of the year the weather is warm and wet. The large Rio Pantepec runs through the district as well as other major rivers like the San Marcos and the Tepetzala, and areas along the rivers are prone to serious flooding. Deforestation has contributed to this problem, as much of the native subtropical forest has been cut down for wood, agriculture, and cattle raising, especially in the eastern part of the Municipio.

Most Totonac families still make a living through farming. The most common crops grown in Pantepec are corn, beans, wheat, avocados, peanuts, tropical fruits, and coffee.

People raise pigs and cows, as well as domestic fowl, and some supplement their food supply through fishing and hunting. Trout and acamayas (prawns) are farmed commercially, and wood furniture is also manufactured in the Municipio.

Though this area was part of Totonacapan, the region occupied by the Totonac people in preconquest times, the name Pantepec comes from Náhuatl and means "hill with a flag on top." The administrative center of the Municipio is the town of Pantepec, which sits atop Cerro Pantepec, the highest hill in the district. Other major towns in the area are Mecapalapa, Ameluca, Agua Linda, El Pozo, and Ixtololoya, which is largely Otomí. A Major fiesta is held in late June in Pantepec to honor its patron saint, Saint John the Baptist, while Mecapalapa honors San Jose in mid-March. These are times to see traditional dances like the Negritos, the Huehues, and the Santiagos, and to see local women dressed in the traditional costumes of the region.

The Totonac women of Pantepec wear an ankle length white wrap skirt and a white blouse with short sleeves. Both skirt and blouse are decorated with colorful bands of machine embroidery. Some women also wear the traditional woven and embroidered quechquémitl, which is one of the most ornate and colorful indigenous garments still produced in Mexico today.

Karen Elwell for