Totacho

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Perhaps the most pervasive myth among New Mexican Spanish speakers is the notion that New Mexican Spanish is an archaic form of Castilian. This idea comes from the misconception that New Mexico existed in a continuous state of isolation, separated from the rest of New Spain and the later Mexican Republic by hundreds of miles and for hundreds of years, causing its colonial inhabitants to retain the language of sixteenth-century Spain. This idealized vision of Spanish “purity” has been repeated so often, and with such near-religious zeal, that is has come to be accepted as fact in many circles. However, this romanticized version of New Mexican Spanish simply doesn’t exist. To cling to this myth is to ignore the complexity of New Mexico’s colonial-era history, which in reality is quite different, and far more fascinating than any notion of Spanish “purity” can offer. The Indios Mexicanos that made up the bulk of New Spain’s northward expansion brought with them many rich linguistic and cultural traditions, the impact of which can be felt to this very day. These Indios Mexicanos spoke a variety of Mesoamerican languages, but it was the Nawatl (Nahuatl) language of the Aztecs that would have the largest impact on the way Spanish is spoken in New Mexico. The influence and contributions made by Mesoamerican people to the state of New Mexico and Southern Colorado have been ignored for far too long. Regardless, Mesoamericans have left an indelible mark on New Mexico, and totacho – our way of talking – remains.