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Popoluca is a Nahuatl term for various indigenous peoples of southeastern Veracruz and Oaxaca. Many of them (about 30,000[1]) speak languages of the Mixe–Zoque family. Others speak the unrelated Mazatecan languages, in which case the name in English and Spanish is generally spelled Popoloca.

Various peoples called Popoluca[edit]

The Mixe–Zoque languages called Popoluca are,

Among the Otomanguean languages, there are,

Origin and current use of the terms[edit]

The reason for the terms widespread usage for naming indigenous languages is that it is a derogatory word from the Nahuatl language meaning "to speak unintelligible" or "gibberish".[2] When the Spanish invaders asked their Nahuatl-speaking allies what language was spoken in a particular locality, the Nahuas would reply "popoloca" meaning in essence "not Nahuatl". The Nahuas used the term "popolōca" much in the same way the Greek used the term "barbaros", also meaning "gibberish", to refer to non-Greek speaking strangers.[3]

The name however stuck to many languages and has caused some confusion even among linguists working with Native American languages. This confusion prompted some kind of distinction between Popoluca languages and the spelling "Popoluca" with an "u" became used for certain Mixe–Zoquean languages, while the spelling "Popoloca" with an "o" became used for certain languages of the Popolocan family of Oto-Manguean languages. Note that the name "Popolocan" is also by linguists to refer to these languages, which include varieties of Mazatec.[2] In Nicaragua, the Nahua-speaking Nicarao used the term "Popoluca" for the speakers of the Matagalpa language.[4]

Although "Popoluca" and "Popoloca" are derogatory and confusing terms, they are still being used even in academic literature or official publications of the Mexican government.[5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Popoluca." Archived 2010-06-04 at the Wayback Machine University of Minnesota, Mankota E-museum. (retrieved 1 Feb 2011)
  2. ^ a b Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico: Confusion about the names “Popoloca” and “Popoluca”
  3. ^ Popoloca Indian Language (Popoloco) – native-languages.org
  4. ^ D. Victor Jesus Noguera, Cura de Matagalpa: Vocabulario de la Lengua Popoluca de Matagalpa, 1855. In: Walter Lehmann, Die Sprachen Zentral-Amerikas. Königliche Museen zu Berlin, D. Reimer, 1920, p. 599.
  5. ^ See example: Flora medicinal popoloca de San Marcos Tlacoyalco y San Juan Atzingo, Puebla Archived 2012-03-23 at the Wayback Machine