Nican Tlaca – What does it mean?

Nican Tlaca

Nican Tlaca is a Nahuatl (Mexica, Aztec, etc.) term used to refer to “the (indigenous) people” in their relation to the foreign invaders (Spanish/Christians.) From my understanding, while it has been documented as being used at least since the 1500’s, it was made popular in recent times by the organization Mexica Movement with the intention of creating a unifying term for the original peoples of the western hemisphere. The understanding is that Nican Tlaca means “we people here,” which infers one to be of the original people (Indigenous).

Nican Tlaca Pronunciation

Nee-kahn Tlah-kah
Nee-kahn Tee-tlah-kah

Nican Tlaca Definition

Nican = Here

• where Ni is personal possessive and Can is reference to a place (a community/circle)

Tlaca(h) = Person of the Earth; Earthling; Man

• where the Tl is the root for Tlalli (Earth) and Acah (Someone)

Nican Titlaca

Some find the use of the term Nican Tlaca bothersome because allegedly the term Nican Titlaca is more grammatically correct. It is most likely that Nican Titlaca is the original term, from which Nican Tlaca was derived. Perhaps Nican Tlaca was abbreviated from Nican Titlaca via informal communication mannerisms similar to how we abbreviate or use slang terms in our common informal conversations.


Another term that has been proposed is Macehualli (ma-seh-wah-lee) which means “one who is deserved into being”. Macehualli it is said by many to be  a reference ” the common people”,  as an alleged distinction from “the nobles” of Mexicah society. I am not in full agreement with that conclusion but the mention will suffice for giving scope.

Ma = “to be”
Ce = “One” or “Complete/Whole”
Hua = “to be created”

While I acknowledge the use of the term Nican Tlaca and think it’s fine to use, I personally dont use it as a self-identification term. I feel that it’s too connected to Mexica Movement rhetoric and just doesn’t feel right to me when I say it. That’s just my personal decision tho. I prefer just to refer to myself as an Ndgns Mexicah-P’urhepecha man.


More Nican Tlaca Info

About the author

Miguel Quimichipilli Bravo— Chicano-P'urhepecha from Venice, CA. Native-Indigenous spiritual activist, educator, lettering artist, musician, and Native spiritual run organizer since 2002.