Topophilia: A Tool for the Demarcation of Cultural Microregions: The Case of the Huaxteca

  • Lorenzo Ochoa


It is a real shame that Boehm’s description is only a fictional recreation of an episode from Mexica’s conquest of Huaxteca. It gives us an account of the ample variety of food products that Huaxtec offered their conquerors and how this was recorded in some historical sources (Durán 1995 [1580]:Chap. XIX; Alvarado Tezozómoc 2001 [1598–1609]:Chap. XXI). If a narrative scene such as this is not found verbatim in the chronicles from the sixteenth century, Boehm’s recreation does not depart too radically from the actual food products that the Huaxtec offered the Mexicans as payment after their conquest. And although historic reality does not play out exactly as in Boehm’s imagination, her interpretation and the data recorded in the historical sources prompted me to propose this research paper. Further, two other reasons encouraged me to begin this project. The first was having found in Don Carlos de Tapia Zenteno’s (1767) linguistic analysis of Huaxtec vocabulary the first clues to begin considering the characteristics of some foods that he mentions; or, in any case, of ingredients used in Huaxtec cooking. Second, given the lack of information on the subject of foodstuffs in connection with this culture, I deemed it relevant to call attention to this particular issue. Due to these limitations, I tried to approach the subject with the utmost caution, given that the foods that Tapia Zenteno mentions, directly or indirectly, exist in a geographically restricted area. For the purposes of this work I have circumscribed the aforementioned area to a landscape of rivers, lagoons, and mangrove swamps (Fig. 1).1 This information is complemented by my ethnographical notes. In order to carry out this work, I attempt an approach borrowed from geography: topophilia. According to Yi-Fu Tuan “topophilia is the affective bond between people and place sentence or setting. Diffuse as concept, vivid and concrete as personal experience…” (Tuan, 1990 [1974]:4), I will address this concept later on. What is important is that I find it can be exemplified by south Huaxtec regional cooking; although it is also possible to use this approach in other cultural situations.


Gulf Coast Historical Source Geographical Environment Mangrove Swamp Maize Flour 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The approach of this paper comes from the suggestions of Gonzalo Camacho who first spoke to me about Topophilia. The readings and comments made by Joyce Marcus, Ana Bella Pérez Castro, and Luis Vargas, as well as those of the members of the Permanent Seminar of Huaxtec Studies that I coordinate at the Institute of Anthropological Investigations of the UNAM in Mexico City, were of crucial importance to the development of this text. I would like to acknowledge the aid of Eladio Terreros who selected the images. Finally, I would like to extend my appreciation to Antonio Ochoa who carefully thought of the best way to translate my baroque writing style into English.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Ochoa
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones AntropológicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico CityMéxico

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