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Pipiltín, nobility by birth among the Nahua of central Mesoamerica. Male and female pipiltín had many privileges separating them from the Macehualli (commoners), including the rights to own land, receive tribute and labor, and wear richly decorated clothing. Pipiltín males received a broad secular and religious education, staffed the bureaucracy, and served as military commanders. After the triumph of Hernán Cortés, the status of the pipiltín was recognized by Spanish officials eager to gain the cooperation of influential locals. They maintained certain of their privileges, and staffed the upper ranks of indigenous town government into the late colonial period.

See alsoAztecs; Nahuas.


There are many sources dealing with the pre-Hispanic pipiltín. Two of the most accessible are Pedro Carrasco, "Social Organization of Ancient Mexico," in Archaeology of Northern Mesoamerica. Pt. 1, Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 10, edited by Gordon F. Ekholm and Ignacio Bernal (1971); Frances Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society (1982). For the colonial period, see Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule (1964); Robert Haskett, Indigenous Rulers: an Ethnohistory of Town Government in Colonial Cuernavaca (1991); and James Lockhart, The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries (1992).

                          Robert Haskett