Remembering Victoria: A Tragic Nahuat Love Story

Remembering Victoria: A Tragic Nahuat Love Story

Remembering Victoria: A Tragic Nahuat Love Story

Remembering Victoria: A Tragic Nahuat Love Story


On October 15, 1983, a young mother of six was murdered while walking across her village of Huitzilan de Serdán, Mexico, with her infant son and one of her daughters. This woman, Victoria Bonilla, was among more than one hundred villagers who perished in violence that broke out soon after the Mexican army chopped down a cornfield that had been planted on an unused cattle pasture by forty Nahuat villagers.

In this anthropological account, based on years of fieldwork in Huitzilan, James M. Taggart turns to Victoria's husband, Nacho Angel Hernández, to try to understand how a community based on respect and cooperation descended into horrific violence and fratricide. When the army chopped down the cornfield at Talcuaco, the war that broke out resulted in the complete breakdown of the social and moral order of the community.

At its heart, this is a tragic love story, chronicling Nacho's feelings for Victoria spanning their courtship, marriage, family life, and her death. Nacho delivered his testimonio to the author in Nahuat, making it one of the few autobiographical love stories told in an Amerindian language, and a very rare account of love among the indigenous people of Mesoamerica. There is almost nothing in the literature on how a man develops and changes his feelings for his wife over his lifetime. This study contributes to the anthropology of emotion by focusing on how the Nahuat attempt to express love through language and ritual.


This book deals with a small civil war in which neighbor turned against neighbor in a community deep in the heart of the northern sierra of Puebla. Those who witnessed the events of this war spoke about acts of cruelty, vengeance, cowardice, bravery, heroism, and love. the war broke out in 1977, nine years after I went to Huitzilan de Serdán to start fieldwork in anthropology. At that time, Huitzilan had a large concentration of monolingual Nahuat speakers, who lived with a small number of Spanish-speaking mestizos whose ancestors had settled in the community in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Over the years, I have developed very close friendships with many of these Nahuat and mestizos, who always gave me, and my family, their warmth and generosity.

Using their words when possible, I have presented their story of a bloody struggle that left many dead and others grieving for them. Their small war was a microcosm of the problems occurring in the region as a whole. While some people acted badly during that war, I found tragedy but little evidence of organized evil. the Nahuat and the mestizos suffered tremendously during this period, but they also found within themselves the ability to rebuild their lives with love. It is to them that I dedicate this book.

Many people have contributed to this project, and I owe a special debt of gratitude to Nacho Angel Hernández, who told me his story about what happened to his wife, Victoria, and to him after I left Huitzilan in the spring of 1978. He spoke of the anger that swept through his community, and he spoke of the love he felt for Victoria, for his family, and for his community. He not only described how Huitzilan came apart, but he also told how the Nahuat could draw from their culture to put it back together. the people of Huitzilan have displayed a remarkable resiliency . . .

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