Hidalgo Languages

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The Melting Pot of Hidalgo

Because of Hidalgo's rich mines, it has always been the site of immigration from other parts of Mexico and from abroad. Hidalgo is home to two important minority groups: Cornish immigrants who came to work in the mines of Hidalgo in the 1800s, and an enclave of Sephardic Jews who came to the New World in the 1500s and who now live in the community of Venta Prieta. Both groups have managed to preserve their cultural identity and traditions, but not their language; they speak Spanish as their primary--and only--language. 

The Native American cultures of Hidalgo, however, managed to preserve their language in spite of subjugation and oppression at the hands of the Spanish conquerors. Indeed, Hidalgo is one of the states of Mexico with the greatest number of speakers of an indigenous language. They include the Nahua, the Otomí, and the Tepehua, all of whom still speak their own language. The largest group is the Otomí, with more than 250,000 speakers in the state of Hidalgo.[1]

Mexico Language and Languages

Most materials used in Mexican research are written in Spanish. However, you do not need to speak or read Spanish to do research in Mexican records. However, you will need to know some key words and phrases to understand the records.

The official language of Mexico is Spanish, which is spoken by 90 percent of the people. Indian languages of the Aztecs, Mayans, and other tribes are still spoken throughout the country. Originally there may have been more than 200 roots of native languages.

In 1889, Antonio García Cubas estimated that 38% of Mexicans spoke an indigenous language, down from 60% in 1820. By the end of the 20th century, this figure had fallen to 6%.

In the early history of Mexico after the Spanish conquest, the spiritual leaders knew Latin, and where schools were established, Latin was a required subject. So you may find some Latin terms included in church records.

Hundreds of native languages and dialects existed although very few written records survived the European conquest. Of these the Náuatl language, spoken by the Aztecs of the Central Plateau region, is predominant, followed by the Mayan of the Yucatan Peninsula and Northern Central America. The Zapoteco, Mixteco, and Otomi languages, follow in importance.

In the early records a great many Indian words, especially names and localities, found their way into the Spanish language. Many of them were modified to make them more pronounceable to the Spanish conquerors.

Spanish phonetics may affect the way names appear in genealogical records. For example, the names of your ancestor may vary from record to record in Spanish. For help in understanding name variations, see Mexico Names, Personal.

The state of Hidalgo has one of the highest concentrations of speakers of an indigenous language; fifteen percent of Hidalgueños speak a native language in addition to the universal Spanish that is spoken in Mexico. In particular Hidalgo has great numbers of speakers of of Náhuatl. Náhuatl speakers are found in every state in Mexico; they make up 23 percent of all indigenous speakers in the nation.[2]

Language Aids

The Family History Library provides the following aids:

The following English-Spanish dictionaries can also aid you in your research. You can find these publications listed below and similar material at many research libraries:

Cassell’s Spanish-English, English-Spanish Dictionary New York: Macmillan, 1978. (FHL book 743.21 C272c 1978.)

Velázquez de la Cadena, Mariano. A New Pronouncing Dictionary of the Spanish and English Languages New York: Appleton- Century-Crofts, 1942. (FHL book 463.21 V541n.) y también volumen 2 del mismo.

Diccionario de Autoridades (Dictionary of Authorities). 3 vols. Madrid: Edit. Gredos, 1963. (FHL book 463 D56ld.)

Additional language aids, including dictionaries of various dialects and time periods, are listed in the "Place Search" section of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


They are also listed in the "Subject" section of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


And remember that a great free resource is always Google Translate.

  1. Wikipedia, Hidalgo, Demographics, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidalgo_(state), "Perfil Sociodemográfico [Sociodemographic profile]" (in Spanish). Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México Estado de Hidalgo. Mexico: Instituto Nacional para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  2. John P. Schmal, "Indigenous Languages of Mexico" (Mexconnect Culture and Arts, http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/3689-indigenous-languages-in-mexico).