Ixmilquilpan.

Ixmil…what?

About three hours away from our place is a place called Tolontongo, where you can enjoy a volcanically-heated river along with a falls, cave, and tunnel. It’s an incredible display of the Creator’s artistry and if you have the time, it’s worth a visit. To get there, you pass through the town of Ixmilquilpan. The name is a bit of a mouthful, but compared to other places in Mexico, it’s not too bad. For example: Nezahualcóyotl or Azcapotzalco. These names are a reminder of the way Nahuatl has shaped the Spanish language.

In a previous post, I wrote about the Arabic influence in México, but the other major influence is Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs who ruled México at the time of the Spanish conquest. There are many words (and place names) present in modern-day México which are recognizably Nahuatl. The pronunciation of these words is equally distinct, and some are rather fun to say (e.g. Popote [po-po-tay] = drinking straw). Mexican-Spanish has borrowed heavily from Nahuatl and some of these words have even made their way north into Canada and the United States. Here is a list of words of Nahuatl descent which you may find familiar:

Avocado

Chocolate

Chipotle

Coyote

Guacamole

Jalapeño

Peyote

Tamale

Tomato


And here is a list of other words we commonly use here:

Chapulín = Grasshopper (top with chile and lime and eat as snack)

Guajolote = Turkey

Camote = Sweet Potato

Elote = Corn on the Cob (super common as street food, topped with mayo, lime, and chile)

Jitomate = Red Tomato (not to be confused with a tomate which is a green tomato)

Huarache = Sandal (or a sandal-shaped tortilla with toppings)

Milpa = Corn field

Nopal = edible Cactus (also super common here)

Atole = a cornmeal drink

Chicle = chewing gum (think Chiclets)

Papalote = a kite (also fun to say)

Pozole = traditional Mexican soup/stew

Tianguis = open air market

Xoconostle = Prickly Pear (also known as tuna, not to be confused with atún, which is tuna the fish)


So now you know some Nahuatl! You just have to work on your pronunciation. Language learning can be difficult at times and learning about the origin of words helps to infuse some fun into the process. Enjoy!

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