Macehuales: Customs, Traditions, Location, Contributions

The macehuales  or macehualtin in plural, were an aboriginal group that was part of Aztec society and occupied the third step in the social structure. Hierarchically, this ethnic group was located above the slaves and below the nobles. They were the only natives who had the possibility of placing themselves in an illustrious position if they excelled in the war.

This caste was dedicated to the manufacture of weapons that were used on the battlefield, to the construction of houses and to military service. He also had the obligation to pay tribute, since it was not a town totally subjugated by the chief. Like the serfs, the macehuales could own some goods.

The natives of this tribe had a portion of land and could marry free people. In addition, among them there was the right of inheritance, since it was possible to leave their territories to their children. However, there was a condition: if the heirs did not assume responsibility for the space, it would pass to the monarch.

This event shows that this ethnic group had relative agency. This is so because its inhabitants could not sell or transfer their properties to those with whom they did not have a blood connection. It can be said that the Macehualtin were beneficiaries and not owners of their resources; that is why they were not located in a specific place.


Due to their diverse workings, the macehuales did not settle in a specific region of Mexico. At the beginning they were located in Tenochtitlan, an area that was identified as the central valley of the Aztec community. Later, when the Empire expanded its territorial dominion, the aborigines of this caste dispersed in order to settle in different areas.

Due to this, it was natural to find a macehual in the territories that today are known as Veracruz, Oaxaca, the coast of Chiapas, Puebla, Hidalgo and even along the border of Guatemala. However, it is convenient to underline that, although this tribe did not inhabit as a unified community, the inhabitants did not abandon their creed and comply with the rituals.


The vision of the world that the natives of the Macehual ethnic group had was between the empirical and the wonderful, since they considered that the origin of the cosmos was dual. That is why they stated that the bodies were derived from the earthly element, while the senses were works of divinity.

According to the Nahualt definition, the meaning of macehuales is “deserved men.” For this reason, these aborigines believed that their lives had been designed to serve the deities. In this context it can be mentioned that the religion of this tribe was polytheistic, since they believed in the existence of numerous anthropomorphic entities.

Furthermore, the cult was the basis of political and social organization. This was observed in public events, when before the portraits of the gods the Aztec chief requested wisdom to establish the norms that would have the purpose of directing the community.

On the other hand, the perception of the territory was sacred. The lands, although they were under the power of the chief, were a gift of nature; therefore, they were perceived as a borrowed resource to inhabit.

Customs and traditions

Both the customs and the traditions of the macehuales were closely related to natural phenomena and their manifestations in everyday life. For this reason, it was natural for them to praise the sound of the wind and the song of the birds, since each element was appreciated as a living being.

Likewise, the inhabitants of this tribe were characterized by living the day as a ceremony; For this reason, one of their traditions was to get up early and have a corn tortilla for breakfast. Later, the man left to work the fields in the company of the first-born, while the woman organized the home or engaged in weaving and painting.

Through each act, the macehual individual performed a prayer. This action can be visualized allegorically, since praying meant sowing the word. It was a manifestation of respect with which the indigenous requested permission from the forest before acquiring a piece of wood.


For the Macehualtin, education was the key element until they were 15 years old. Illustrating young people was a fundamental project and this work should be carried out by parents.

Later, when the adolescent decided which profession to follow (warrior or priest), it was taken to an institution. There the teachers took the place of the parents and punished those who did not want to continue with the lessons.


The macehuales identified themselves by eating little, since they only ingested the foods that were pertinent to their well-being.


His diet was balanced, containing vegetables, cereals, carbohydrates and little meat. They drank cold water, which they mixed with cocoa. Corn could not be absent at breakfast. This had a symbolic connotation, because for them it was the element that constituted the body of man.


The commemorations were constant for the inhabitants of this tribe: they celebrated both the existence of the Sun and the day of destiny.

The funny thing is that, according to their native language, there was no difference between the terms “everyday” and “party”, both were pronounced with the following word: ilhuitl . Therefore, life was a cause for celebration.

Cultural contributions

When it came to cultivating their lands, the Macehualtin created various techniques that favored the development of agriculture. In fact, even today they are still used by some farmers. These methods include the following:

– Crop rotation, a process that consists of alternating the plants of different families during a specific cycle. The objective is to prevent pests from destroying crops,

– Select appropriately the seeds to be planted. Those found in vegetables and greens are ideal.

– Know which are the suitable territories to establish a plantation. To determine this, it is essential to be certain that the lands are fertile, and to consider both the period of the rains and the states of the Moon.


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