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Nahuatl remains language of New Spain

TheIO

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So today I stumbled across the fact that, in 1570, Nahuatl was made the official language of New Spain; apparently, this state of affairs that continued until 1696 saw a great deal of Nahuatl literature being produced, as well as the language being taught by Spanish missionaries further south into Central America. However, in 1696 Spanish was made the sole language of the Spanish Empire and the language has declined further since, though still spoken by over a million people in Mexico.

I don't know too much about the matter, but it has caught my eye. Had Nahuatl remained the official language of New Spain, what ramifications would that have had on Mexico and perhaps the rest of the Americas? Would averting Charles II's 1696 decree have been possible? What would a Mexico where Nahuatl was still a major language look like?
 

Indicus

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It wasn't just the 1696 decree that's the issue - it's also that Spain got ruled by the Bourbon dynasty, with all the centralization that implies. They desired to turn Spanish America into a profitable area strongly tied to the metropole, and this included active Hispanization such as the 1770 ban on clerics speaking native tongues to parishioners. Some small, local administration existed which actively used Nahuatl which survived till independence, but later Mexican nation-building actively excluded native tongues and pushed Spanish as a common language.

So I think you need to also stop the Bourbon centralization of the Spanish Empire. Perhaps a Wittelsbach Spain would be the way to do it.

You also need to make New Spain smaller - if it still stretches from Central America to California, Spanish will have to be its lingua franca as New Spain grows in population. Nahuatl was only spoken in the core Mexico - what was called the "Kingdom of Mexico" right up until independence - so I think you'd need Central America (the "Kingdom of Guatemala"), northern Mexico (the "Internal Provinces"), and perhaps even Western Mexico ("New Galicia") and the Yucatan to establish a New Spain where Nahuatl would be predominate rather than just secondary to Spanish.
 

TheIO

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You also need to make New Spain smaller - if it still stretches from Central America to California, Spanish will have to be its lingua franca as New Spain grows in population. Nahuatl was only spoken in the core Mexico - what was called the "Kingdom of Mexico" right up until independence - so I think you'd need Central America (the "Kingdom of Guatemala"), northern Mexico (the "Internal Provinces"), and perhaps even Western Mexico ("New Galicia") and the Yucatan to establish a New Spain where Nahuatl would be predominate rather than just secondary to Spanish.
One thing that could make this more possible could be if the ban on Indians in the priesthood in 1555 isn't passed, perhaps tied in with this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colegio_de_Santa_Cruz_de_Tlatelolco; keep this going and end the ban on native priests so there's a Nahuaphone elite cohort?
and thus you have Nahua priests manning the missions in California, Guatemala et al. That way you could have it spreading as a lingua franca of sorts; maybe not as the language of Mexico but certainly at least of similar status as Quechua was in Peru.
 

Indicus

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One thing that could make this more possible could be if the ban on Indians in the priesthood in 1555 isn't passed, perhaps tied in with this:

and thus you have Nahua priests manning the missions in California, Guatemala et al. That way you could have it spreading as a lingua franca of sorts; maybe not as the language of Mexico but certainly at least of similar status as Quechua was in Peru.
The issue is that much of New Spain spoke entirely different languages, with their own histories. In particular, Guatemala's and Yucatan's native populations speak Maya, a language with its own lengthy literary history. This would mean, without a ban on natives in the priesthood, it would likely result in Maya priests manning missions in Central America. Which is an interesting scenario in its own right, but it would weaken Nahuatl's status.

And of course California is quite likely to get colonists if it's in the Spanish Empire (or for that matter any empire) what with its large amounts of gold, temperate climate, and other such stuff. So even if Nahua priests somehow spread Nahuatl to a majority of California's natives (which seems tough), Spanish-speaking colonists would be likely to come, with all the consequences on California's native population that implies.

So a very large New Spain with a healthy Nahuatl language would, as a result, have Nahuatl as a regional language - more like Quechua in Bolivia than Quechua in Peru.
 

TheIO

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The issue is that much of New Spain spoke entirely different languages, with their own histories. In particular, Guatemala's and Yucatan's native populations speak Maya, a language with its own lengthy literary history. This would mean, without a ban on natives in the priesthood, it would likely result in Maya priests manning missions in Central America. Which is an interesting scenario in its own right, but it would weaken Nahuatl's status.

And of course California is quite likely to get colonists if it's in the Spanish Empire (or for that matter any empire) what with its large amounts of gold, temperate climate, and other such stuff. So even if Nahua priests somehow spread Nahuatl to a majority of California's natives (which seems tough), Spanish-speaking colonists would be likely to come, with all the consequences on California's native population that implies.

So a very large New Spain with a healthy Nahuatl language would, as a result, have Nahuatl as a regional language - more like Quechua in Bolivia than Quechua in Peru.
True, true; I did manage to forget that Maya was a thing - and then discovered that even right now it's spoken by a good six million people (across the Mayan language family), and as such is in rather healthier shape than Nahuatl is presently.

I suppose then that any scenario that has Nahuatl or Maya "taken seriously" in colonial New Spain - and perhaps through to the present day, which was a thought of mine when this struck me - requires, in addition to what we discussed upthread, an earlier divison of New Spain such that it's like Spanish & Nahuatl or Spanish & Mayan rather than a whole bunch of regional languages and Spanish as the language of governance. Admittedly, New Spain, unlike South America, never got divided into separate viceroyalties, but I (as someone with very little knowledge of how colonial New Spain was governed) ain't too sure that'd be necessary. Dunno, really.
 

Roger II

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The issue is that much of New Spain spoke entirely different languages, with their own histories. In particular, Guatemala's and Yucatan's native populations speak Maya, a language with its own lengthy literary history. This would mean, without a ban on natives in the priesthood, it would likely result in Maya priests manning missions in Central America. Which is an interesting scenario in its own right, but it would weaken Nahuatl's status.

And of course California is quite likely to get colonists if it's in the Spanish Empire (or for that matter any empire) what with its large amounts of gold, temperate climate, and other such stuff. So even if Nahua priests somehow spread Nahuatl to a majority of California's natives (which seems tough), Spanish-speaking colonists would be likely to come, with all the consequences on California's native population that implies.

So a very large New Spain with a healthy Nahuatl language would, as a result, have Nahuatl as a regional language - more like Quechua in Bolivia than Quechua in Peru.
That makes this scenario more, not less interesting IMO-if you have a series of locally dominant languages.
 

Ze_Slova

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Bit late to the party here but as per Wiki on the Nahuatl language, the spreading of Nahuatl into other areas under the Spanish actually happened due to the use of Tlaxaltec soldiery as auxiliaries and garrison troops. It would not therefore be so strange to find Nahuatl speaks in Central America in the time of New Spain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahuatl#Colonial_period said:
Since the Spanish made alliances with first the Nahuatl speakers from Tlaxcala and later with the conquered Mexica of Tenochtitlan (Aztecs), the Nahuatl continued spreading throughout Mesoamerica in the decades after the conquest. Spanish expeditions with thousands of Nahua soldiers marched north and south to conquer new territories. Society of Jesus missions in northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States often included a barrio of Tlaxcaltec soldiers who remained to guard the mission.[45] For example, some fourteen years after the northeastern city of Saltillo was founded in 1577, a Tlaxcaltec community was resettled in a separate nearby village, San Esteban de Nueva Tlaxcala, to cultivate the land and aid colonization efforts that had stalled in the face of local hostility to the Spanish settlement.[46] As for the conquest of modern-day Central America, Pedro de Alvarado conquered Guatemala with the help of tens of thousands of Tlaxcaltec allies, who then settled outside of modern-day Antigua Guatemala.[47]
 
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