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Nári jámashaki
December 13, 2005 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Tzintzuntzan was the capital city of the Purépecha Empire (also known as Tarascan). Culturally (scroll to middle of page) isolated from the rest of precolumbian Mexico, the origins of the Purépecha is still unknown. Their language is one that is not even provisionally linked with any other language and is still spoken by about 200,000 natives around Michoacan. The Purépechas were the only state to become an empire in the Western Mexico cultures.
posted by ozomatli (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
On a personal note, my great granparents on my father's side were Purépechas and spoke Purépecha and very little spanish at all. As many people enjoy geneology and the history of their ancestors it was very interesting for me to find out about history that I never even knew existed.
posted by ozomatli at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2005


Ooh, really? My grandfather on my dad's side is Purepecha.

I guess one could also mention that the Purepecha were the most advanced metallurgists in the Americas, coppersmiths with advanced weapons.

Also one could mention that when Cortez showed up the Purepecha were in the process of kicking Aztec butt:

The Aztecs received as good as they gave. In a campaign against the Tarascans, Durán states that: 'The massacre was so great that Axayacatl decided to withdraw those men who were still alive in order to save at least a few. In this encounter the Tarascans killed many valiant Aztecs, especially from the military orders called Cuachic and Otomi' (1994:281). Some 20,000 Aztec warriors are said to have perished. In an A.D. 1478 offensive 32,200 warriors met 50,000 warriors from Michoacan. The Aztec force was nearly annihilated.


And thats from a fiercely pro-Aztec page! (Notice how that page says 'valiant Aztecs' as if the Purepecha were some kind of usurpers) The more pro-Purepecha accounts predict that, if not for European intervention, the Purepecha were well on their way to becoming the next rulers of Mexico...

This has always proved to be a source of confusion for me when Mexican "pride" is equated with Aztec pride.
posted by vacapinta at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2005


This has always proved to be a source of confusion for me when Mexican "pride" is equated with Aztec pride.

Exactly. Growing up all I was taught in school was Aztecs and the Maya. The diversity of the precolumbian Americas is sadly undervalued.
posted by ozomatli at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2005


Since this is purepechafilter, I should also point out that they also had another interesting role to play post-conquest.

They were the native community that Vasco de Quiroga used in order to implement a real-world version of Thomas More's Utopia.

The Purepecha are kind of wierd. As you point out, nobody knows where they came from and also Purepecha people look markedly different than most other Mexican natives. Admittedly the history of the Americas is fragmented but they do seem to appear suddenly in history, out of nowhere, with an unknown language and with advanced metal-working skills.

Almost as if they had been dropped from a spaceship... :)
posted by vacapinta at 2:41 PM on December 13, 2005


On a personal note, my great granparents on my father's side were Purépechas

Self-link.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 2:53 PM on December 13, 2005


Have you been reading von Daniken, vacapinta... :)

Seriously, though, these are really interesting links. I hadn't ever heard of the Purepecha before and I've just spent a happy half hour browsing all of the links. It's fascinating thinking about how a culture like this arose - if frustrating because of the gaps in the archaelogical record (one of the links mentions that the only written source on them was written by a Spanish missionary in the 16th century). And the utopia point is intriguing. A really interesting post.

Also, what does nari jamashaki mean? I looked in the glossary but couldn't find it, and google didn't help either.
posted by greycap at 2:58 PM on December 13, 2005


Also, what does nari jamashaki mean? I looked in the glossary but couldn't find it, and google didn't help either.

sorry I was gonna put that in the first comment. I guess its one way of saying hello in Purepecha.

from this page

BTW an alternative spelling is Phorhepecha (more phonetically correct i would guess, not an "F" sound but a P'h sound)

Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Nári jámashaki
Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Jéndi
Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Nashki
Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Nark
Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Tsé
Phorhépecha (Michoacán Mexico) Jéndi tsé
posted by ozomatli at 3:08 PM on December 13, 2005


thank you very much for this post, ozomatli!
posted by lord_wolf at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2005


good post. interesting stuff!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:35 PM on December 13, 2005


Very interesting. Nifty post.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2005


You have to like how everyone has to try linking Basque to something-- even other things that are considered isolates.
posted by taursir at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2005


Cool, my family's from Michoacan, so we may be descended from the Purepechas. Michoacan is a beautiful state, and a place I'd recommend to the more discerning tourist.
posted by lychee at 4:03 PM on December 13, 2005


Fascinating—I had no idea there was a language isolate in Mexico. (Well, to be technical, two languages forming an isolated family.) Thanks for this post, ozomatli!
posted by languagehat at 4:43 PM on December 13, 2005


thanks for the postive feedback folks!

It is also my understanding that there are Purepecha newspapers and radio stations still in Michoacan. I tried like hell to find a link to a Purapecha website, but no luck.
posted by ozomatli at 5:32 PM on December 13, 2005


Great post. Thanks, ozomatli. I've read a fair amount about the usual pre-Columbian cultures - Inca, Maya, and Aztec - but I'd never heard of the Purépecha.
posted by ubersturm at 8:17 PM on December 13, 2005


I'm still trying to figure out what the hell I am . At least you Purepechans have a home - or locus - or whatever.
posted by troutfishing at 8:28 PM on December 13, 2005


Oh I also want to add a link to one of my favorite photosets on flickr:

shadowplay's photos of the purepecha village of tzintzuntzan
posted by vacapinta at 11:10 PM on December 13, 2005


Great post.
That's a great photoset. thanks vacapinta.

Admittedly the history of the Americas is fragmented but they do seem to appear suddenly in history, out of nowhere, with an unknown language

"The largest collection of early American skulls ever studied is lending credence to a controversial theory that two distinct populations of humans--rather than one--colonized the New World." From here.
posted by dhruva at 11:50 PM on December 13, 2005


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