The spacious quechquemitl, or poncho, is worn over a long tunic, both boldly patterned with red stripes, chevrons, and interlocking zigzags. The poncho's rectangular breast-piece bears a gold multi-pointed symbol and the headband is decorated with colorful figures.
The Nahuas, the country's largest indigenous group, numbering well over a million, live mainly in Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and Mexico. Seven different tribes of Nahuatlacas speak Nahuatl, also known as Mexicano. The Nahuas carried the powerful influence of the Aztec culture through the Spanish conquest and into modern day Mexico where they have both integrated with the general population and maintained their dedication to successfully cultivating their native soil.
Except for the Federal District (Mexico City), Tlaxcala is Mexico's smallest state, covering only about 4,000 square kilometers. One of the five highest peaks in Mexico towers over Tlaxcala's southeast border: the extinct volcano, la Malinche or Malintzi, which became a national park in 1938. Almost 4,500 meters tall, the peak is usually snowcapped in winter and fans her heavily forested foothills across the land. Its Nahuatl name is Matlalcueyetl, which means "the woman with the blue skirt."
Agave is cultivated primarily along the northern border, in Calpulalpan, Tlaxco, and Altzayanca. The sap of the agave produces pulque, an alcoholic drink, as well as a wide range of other products such as syrup, vinegar, cellulose, and fodder. The Otomi, an indigenous people found in Tlaxcala, Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla, and Veracruz, also cultivate agave but on a very small scale, producing pulque, and using the agave's large spiny leaves to build their homes.
Breeders in the cities of Minahuapan, Sotoluco, and Piedras Negras produce fighting bulls for the toreros of Mexico. The famous annual Fiesta de Huamantla turns out young bulls on flower-strewn streets to joust with the locals.
Cacaxtla, one of the archeological zones of central Mexico, was constructed by the ancient Olmecas-Xilancos. Despite time, the colorful murals in this ceremonial center are remarkably well preserved. Figures of warriors, jaguars, birds, snails, turtles, and serpents all demonstrate the influence of the Teotihuacana, Maya, and Altiplano Oaxaqueño.
Like much of Mexico, Tlaxcala has been greatly influenced by the Africans who entered through what are now the southern states. African influence appears in everything from Mexico's musical instruments, like the marimba, to the mulattos, people of mixed race. Vicente Guerrero, Mexico's second president, and a mulatto, officially abolished slavery in 1822.
Did you know...?
The word Tlaxcala comes from the ancient texcalli, meaning "crag", plus lan, meaning "place." Maybe the first place the Tlaxcaltecas saw was a craggy hilltop. Or... before the Spaniards arrived, Indians living in present-day Tlaxcala named their territory the Nahuatl word Tlaxcallan, from tlaxcalli, meaning "tortilla" or "corn bread," and lan, meaning "place." So the name Tlaxcala might mean "the place of corn tortillas." The hieroglyph representing Tlaxcala contains elements of both meanings: two green hills (at the time, even the crags were forested), and two hands holding a tortilla.