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Indigenous Peoples of Mexico: The Guachichil Tribe

As the largest tribe of the Chichimeca nation, the Guachichil retained the largest territory of Chichimeca land.  They lived between present-day Saltillo, which constituted their northern border, and the northern reaches of present-day Michoacán in the south.  They were known to range through the states of San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and parts of Jalisco.  Their biggest claims to fame were their influential stance against the Spanish and the warriors’ practice of painting their bodies red.

Cultural Identity of Guachichil

The Guachichil were part of the larger hunter-gatherer Chichimeca peoples.  Known as fierce warriors, the Spanish referred to them as “barbarians.”  Their practices, however, were similar to a long line of cultures in northern Mexico.  While hunting and gathering foodstuffs like acorns, mesquite, and agave were the norm, some farming was practiced in various areas where maize could be cultivated.  Chichimeca groups like the Guachichil also made bread and a type of wine from mesquite.  Due to their nomadic life, the tribe lived in crude, makeshift shelters or in caves.  Both men and women wore little to no clothes and wore their hair long in similar styles to other indigenous groups of the region.

The Guachichil spoke a Chichimec language, but it is extinct today; scholars believe it may have been a Uto-Aztecan language.  Much of the information about the Guachichil comes from the Spanish who were particularly biased against these fierce warriors that put up such immense resistance to Spanish domination.  According to Spanish writers who were contemporaries of the Guachichil people, the tribe was known for its reliance on the game and the gathering of roots and berries.  Their practice of painting themselves red particularly impressed the Spanish who seemed always to mention this fact as a sort of proof of their barbarity.  A sixteenth-century Spanish writer also commented on Guachichil women and their practice of giving birth without losing a day of travel—also a proof of barbarity, according to the Spanish.

It was reported that the Guachichil did not worship idols, but practiced a naturalistic worship of the skies, stars, and other natural phenomenon.  The Guachichil were the most feared of the Chichimec tribes and their position on the silver route allowed them to continually attack the Spanish who invaded their territory.  While little has been written about the Guachichil, they are continually revered for their bravery.  Recent interest among historians for the Chichimeca peoples is likely to result in more published information about the Guachichil.

The Fight to Preserve Identity and Way of Life

When the Spanish began to make forays into the north and Chichimeca territory, the Guachichil were instrumental at convincing other tribes to resist.  The Spanish believed the tribes would make good miners and enslaved many northern captives to that end.  The Guachichil’s knowledge of the rough terrain allowed them to effectively ambush Spanish groups.  Revolts such as the Mixton War, initiated by the Caxcanes to avenge the Conquistador Guzman’s torture, murder, and enslavement of thousands, resulted in a Spanish victory in 1542; however, this war was merely the forerunner to the much longer and bloodier Chichimeca War that lasted between 1550 and 1590.  The Guachichil were instrumental during the long battle for preservation.

The Chichimeca War became the longest and most expensive conflict the Spanish undertook in Mexico.  Many scholars believe that the war was a continuation of the Mixton War. The Chichimeca had been fighting the Spanish all along through the intervening decades.  In the end, the Spanish, under the influence of the Dominicans who called the Spanish War against the Chichimecas unjust, were forced to employ tactics to assimilate the Chichimeca people beside battle.  The drain on Spanish funds and the ability to conquer the northern indigenous tribes through military measures resulted in a purchased peace.

While the Guachichil and Chichimeca people were ultimately forced and sometimes convinced to adopt Spanish farming lifestyles and assimilate into Spanish culture, many people in Mexico today, particularly in their original territory, still refer to themselves as Chichimecs and revere their cultural traditions through festival and study.

To learn more about the Indigenous Tribes of Baja click here.

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48 Responses to Indigenous Peoples of Mexico: The Guachichil Tribe

    • That is a great question! I would go to Guanajuato and check the birth records. You will most likely have to do manual research because Guanajuato is not on top of a fiber backbone with direct link to cloud infrastructure secured by encrypted redundant path. 🙂 Not yet. You will have to go there, and look through old books. Have fun with it and let us know how you make out!

      • If your mother or father were married in church there are records kept and you will find your mothers maden name !

      • Im chichimeca i can feel it in my spirit, i also found out one of my great grandparents where born and from lima, Peru im so proud and honoured to have ancestors from the places zacatecas, fresnillo born i ca la.

    • My father’s family is from the sierras of Guanajuato and it’s obvious by the way my dad and his brothers act that they come from strong people. It’s cool to think they came from a tribe that was known for intimidating the spaniards because they wouldnt give up their lives for something they didnt believe in. Pretty cool (:

    • My mother (Ortega) & father (Banuelos) came from Acambaro Guanajuato & were married in church .
      I found the marriage record and it had my grand parents names (both sides ) on it as well !!!

  1. my family is from nuevo leon my mom looks european but my dad, he looks kinda native american i think im part of the guachichil tribe but i dunno how to find my lineage

  2. I come from the Guachichil and they were not forced to adapt they were payed and bribed into adapting get it right!!!
    Most of the Guachichil are in the U.S.A. that is a fact because they ended up being the more well off tribes.

  3. My grandfather Jose Conde and his family came from a place he called Jaral de Berrio. I looked it up searching for my lineage and found it in the center of Guachichil tribe area. I looked at some old photos on the website and sure enough they look my Grandfather and me. Jason any additional info on the Guachichil will be appreciated.

  4. I was born in Encarnacion de Diaz and raised just a few miles away in a town called Santa Maria de Enmedio. Would I possibly have any connection to this tribe?

  5. My ancestors Camarillos have been traced to 1665 living in Pinos Zacatecas and baptized in San Matias. We have documents. I am from the bloodline of the Guachichiles. Looking for more information. Thank you.

  6. I’ve researched the tribe fairly well over the years. They did in fact “surrender” so to speak, but with certain caveats to that statement. They didn’t outright surrender in the sense of giving up. They had the advantage of knowing the terrain to combat the Spanish forces, but the neighboring Nahua tribes joined forces with the Spanish to try to eradicate the Chichimeca. Peace by purchase was the only way to end the costly war and bloodshed for the Spanish (kill the Indian, save the man), and the only way for the Chichimecas to survive. The Guachichil that decided to flee the oncoming Spanish beforehand became the Wixáritari (Huichol). They even claim Guachichil ancestry. Also, both are known to be Uto-Aztecan languages, one can infer similarities. There’s no way the Guachichil would let Huichol pilgrims voyage for their sacred peyote in the massive, fiercely controlled Guachichil territory if they weren’t related people’s with a shared language and ancestry. So the closest thing to our people’s still living with the culture we shared is the Wixáritari/Huichol. (my family is Guachichil, descent from the San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas native peoples.)

    • “The Guachichil that decided to flee the oncoming Spanish beforehand became the Wixáritari (Huichol). They even claim Guachichil ancestry. Also, both are known to be Uto-Aztecan languages, one can infer similarities. There’s no way the Guachichil would let Huichol pilgrims voyage for their sacred peyote in the massive, fiercely controlled Guachichil territory if they weren’t related people’s with a shared language and ancestry.”

      So you believe that Wixáritari and Guachichil are the same or at least related? Interesting. I had never thought of this, but it makes sense.

  7. I got dna tested my family always knew we were Mexicans, we are strong looking people always hated for that, we lost some of our ancestry history cause of the grandparents being stubborn keeping things to them self, but it turns out through testing I’m 51 percent native american traced back to the lands of the Guachichile I’ve done another test to confirm it, I am proud to come from the chichimecas ,strong people people who fought for 40 years till the spanish requested a olive branch of peace, for the chichimecas would not bow before the European invasion like the mexica/Aztec I’m proud to descend from such great people

  8. Both my parents were born in Tecalitlan, Jalisco. My mom born in 1927 looked more Spaniard and my dad born 1922 looked for indigenous. I was born there but brought to the US at the age of 5. I want to know more about the blood running in my veins. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and it seems like I may be from Guachichil blood but not sure! Last names Chavez Garcia(dad) and Lopez Hernandez (mom)

  9. I havent been to mexico since i was 10 years old.born in the states, visited mexico at 10 yrs old.all i know is my grandmother is from lago de moreno, jalisco,or at least that is where we went to visit her the one time…all i want to know is, what tribe i am from.i habe a great desire and i need to know.can someone help?

  10. My parents and grandparents as far back as I know, say they were born in San lorenzo and Juan martin pueblos in Guanajuato, would they be guachichiles?

  11. after having done a DNA test,it came back that i am 67 % native American that originate in the chicimeca region.i am stun to say the least.we were always told we were more Spanish-french linage,the other markers are Italian and Greek,and low percent Senegal.very sup-prized.

  12. From SLP capital, no doubt I’m impressed and proud of this lind of stories from my grandparents and teachers about the indomable guachichil- or huachichil?-

  13. My husband’s last name is Escanamé. There is an old hacienda with the same name in San Luis Potosí and I’m told that the last name is direct Guachichil line. Would anyone have information on this?

  14. Hey everyone! I am so excited to see that there is actually a chat page here! My Grandfather was born in Bustamante Nuevo Leon. He had VERY STRONG Native American genes! His name was Salome Cervantes Inocencio. Born in 1900. Would anyone know which tribe He’s from? Possible Family? Thank You for any help you can give me!
    Cynthia

  15. My grandfather is from San Luis Potosi and my DNA revealed that I am 70% Native American. Would it be safe for me to assume that we are part if the Chichimeca nation and that I could be Guachichil Native?

  16. my grandfather on my father’s side had very dark skin & six feet tall, When my father was fourteen my grandfather took him up north with him so he could meet his grandmother & grandfather who were Indians They lived near the Sierra Madre Mt. (occidental).
    My father spent a year there learning how to hunt with a bow & arrow and living off the land. My grandfather taught him well. He brought my father back home to his mother who lived in Acambaro Guanajuato. My grandmother De loz Banuelos was 100% Spanish , white skin and had sky blue eyes. My grandfather name was Pedro Banuelos so he had to be a “mestizos ” I have been trying to find
    out what tribe of Indians my grandfather came from & so far I came up with Guachchile tribe !!!

  17. I’m researching ancestry family i have gonna as far back into Rial De Pinos Zacatecas MX we are told that my grandma was an Indian does this name (if it is a name) “Yahulala Comuna Yacuma” mean anything?????

  18. My great grandmother was named Jeronima-known to me as Mama Jero. Who my mother was named after did not speak Spanish , my mother was born in 1947 . Mama Jero spoke Engine from Toluca, Sierra mountain range,she learned Spanish through my greatgrandfather Paolo Martinez.Pura Sanger de Indio never enslaved gave roots to the saying “La Vida no Vale nada en guanequato “ green belly red top

  19. My ancestors were Guachichitl who were married into the Caldera clan back in the 1500’s.
    Calderas, Trejos, Araujos
    I wonder if some of us might be related.
    I’m 75% Native American
    And 12% Spanish according to my DNA.
    Love learning about the Guachichitl

  20. I am lost and don’t know where to begin. I am 67% Native American and the Ancestry DNA stated my connection is to San Luis Potosi. My father was born in Panoco Veracruz and my mother in San Luis Potosi. My father told me I had a french great great great grandmother and that we were mostly indigenous. I’ve been trying to find out what tribe my ancestors may have come from. Any suggestions as to how I can find out?

  21. Hi, also genetically linked to the San Luis Potosí area, most great grandparents were married at the San Miguel De Mexquitic. Some lived on the Hacienda De Bocas. One thing I’ve learned researching Native American ancestry is you gotta be careful not to just google “Native Territories of Mexico” and assume that the 16th century are the same as those in the 18th century. Because the spanish colonized the land of the Chichimecs with Nahua, Tlaxcalans Olmec, Mayans, & etc. A lot of Indians were moved around to mines, & to pacify the Chichimecs. Is anyone aware of any tests that can tell you whether you’re Chichimec or Nahua? That would be hard cause the Nahua people, I thought were originally Chichimecs who travelled south.

  22. I have traced back my grandmother’s line (Perez) to Paradita (del Refugio), 1649. Documents for baptisms and weddings say Indio. Other villages in that area are Tepozan, Temexal. So is it safe to say they were Guachichitl? This is fascinating. I will go back in July and now have a whole new area to research. Thank you!

  23. My father and aunt were born in Uriangato,Guanajuato before they passed away they would carry on a conversation using there native language which we never understood Sorry to say .I would like to know what was the native language they spoke and what was the name of there tribe anyone out there who can orientate me to find my roots????

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