Two Native American ethnic groups, the Huastec and Nahua, populate the Huasteca, an area in present-day Mexico that includes the states of San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, and Veracruz. Descended from the Mayan population in southern Mexico, the Huastecos moved to central eastern Mexico between 1500 bce and 900 bce, but continued to maintain their own Mayan dialect. The peak of Huastec society occurred before the rise of the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, who defeated the Huastecos in 1450. After the Spanish conquest and the introduction of new diseases from Europe, the Huastec and Nahuatl populations dramatically declined, but both maintained their ethnic identities. Between 1845 and 1850 indigenous communities and peasants in the Huasteca warred with the national elite, who wanted to abolish indigenous land and cultural rights; scholars continue to debate the relative importance of cultural identity and class issues in this conflict. In the early twenty-first century approximately 100,000 Huastecos and 179,000 Nahuas live in the region. Both groups continue to defend land sacred to their past.
Ducey, Michael Thomas. A Nation of Villages: Riot and Rebellion in the Mexican Huasteca, 1750–1850. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004.
Ochoa, Lorenzo. Historia prehispánica de la Huaxteca. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, 1979.