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Aridoamerica region of North America

Aridoamerica is a cultural region spanning the northern and central regions of Mexico and small parts of the Southwest United States,[1] in contrast to Mesoamerica,[2] which lies to the south and east, and Oasisamerica to the north. These cultural regions overlap each other.[1]

Unlike Mesoamerica, Aridoamerica has a dry, arid climate and geography. Because of the hard conditions, the precolumbian people in this region had cultures and subsistence patterns distinct from their Mesoamerican neighbors. The region of has only 120–160 centimeters annual precipitation. The sparse rainfall feeds seasonal creeks and waterholes.[3]


The Chichimeca, an umbrella term for several tribes used by the Nahua people, were hunter-gatherers in Aridoamerica grasslands. They gathered magueys, yucca flowers, mesquite beans, chia seeds, and cacti, including the paddles of fruits of nopal cactus. The century plant (Agave americana) is a particularly important resource in the region.[4]

Despite dry conditions, Aridoamerica boasts the greatest diversity of wild and domesticated tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) and is a possible site of their domestication.[1] The cultivation of maize reached Aridoamerica by about 2100 BCE.[citation needed] Archaeologists disagree whether the plant was introduced by Uto-Aztecan migrants from Mesoamerica or spread either northward or southward from other groups by cultural borrowing.[5]

In Baja California, fishing and hunting provided food, as did harvesting acorns, nopal, pine nuts, and other native plants.[6]

Historically, willow was coppiced, that is, tree trunks were cut to a stump to encourage the growth of slender shoots. These willow shoots were woven tightly to produce waterproof, cooking baskets. Fired-heated rocks were plunged into a gruel in the baskets to cook.[7]


The current Mexican states that lie in Aridoamerica are:

The northern parts of:

Aridoamerica cultures[edit]

Distribution of tribes called Chichimeca, ca. 1550

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Pratt and Nabhan 419
  2. ^ Cordell and Fowler 85
  3. ^ Bye and Linares 273
  4. ^ Bye and Linares 256
  5. ^ Herr, Sara A. "The Latest Research on the Earliest Farmers." Archaeology Southwest Vol. 23, No. 1, Winter 2009, p.1
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Schmal, John P. "Indigenous Baja". History of Mexico. Houston Institute for Culture. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Bye and Linares 273
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Mexico: Map". Ethnologue. Retrieved 16 November 2015.