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Macehualli (pl. macehualtin), a Nahua social category taken into Spanish as macehual (pl. macehuales), that usually refers to an indigenous commoner. It also had the occasional meaning of "vassal," reflecting the political dimension of a commoner's life, and, when pluralized, "the people." Forming the majority of the population of central Mexico in pre-Hispanic and colonial times, macehualtin farmed, fished, and produced utilitarian goods. As members of calpulli and altepetl (neighborhoods, towns, and regional states), they had usufruct rights to land. With those rights came the responsibilities of tribute and labor drafts owed to local authorities. Over time, the concepts of macehualli and indio merged, reflecting changes in colonial society.

See alsoCaste and Class Structure in Colonial Spanish America; Nahuas.


Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest (1961).

Frances F. Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico (1982).

James Lockhart, The Nahuas After the Conquest (1992), pp. 95-96, 114-115.

Additional Bibliography

Horn, Rebecca. Postconquest Coyoacan: Nahua-Spanish Relations in Central Mexico, 1519–1650. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Pastrana Flores, Gabriel Miguel. Historias de la Conquista: Aspectos de la historiografía de tradición náhuatl. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2004.

                                        Stephanie Wood