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Tlaxcalan Indians

Thomas N. Campbell General

The Tlaxcalan (Tlascalan, Tlaxcaltecan, Tlaxcalteco) Indians of central Mexico, who spoke a Uto-Aztecan language, aided Cortez in his conquest of the Aztec empire and received certain privileges in return. This relationship of mutual aid and trust continued into later times, and Tlaxcalans often assisted the Spaniards on the frontier in exploration, warfare, and colonization. A Tlaxcalan was with Antonio de Espejo in Trans-Pecos Texas and New Mexico in 1582–1583. In 1688 a Tlaxcalan scout was sent by the governor of Coahuila to check on René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's colony on the Texas coast, and this same Tlaxcalan reported the presence of Jean Jarry, a survivor of the La Salle expedition, among Coahuiltecan Indians near the Rio Grande. Shortly thereafter Tlaxcalan auxiliary soldiers were with several expeditions that sought La Salle's Fort St. Louis and were also with Domingo Terán de los Ríos in the Hasinai country of eastern Texas. In 1759 Tlaxcalan auxiliaries were with Diego Ortiz Parrilla in his disastrous punitive campaign against the Comanches and their allies on the Red River. Although there were plans to settle Tlaxcalans at several strategic places in Texas, relatively few actually settled there (nine families arrived at San Saba Mission in 1757). However, Tlaxcalan colonists were fairly numerous at various places on or just south of the Rio Grande, as at El Paso (refugees from northern New Mexico after the Pueblo Indian rebellion of 1680), at San Juan Bautista near present Eagle Pass (settled there about 1700 to help instruct and control the Coahuiltecan Indians at nearby missions), and in the lower Rio Grande valley (invited by José de Escandón to settle in his new colony of Nuevo Santander in the 1750s). Descendants of these early Tlaxcalan settlers still live along the Rio Grande, and some are undoubtedly living in Texas today.

David Adams, The Tlaxcalan Colonies of Spanish Coahuila and Nuevo León: An Aspect of the Settlement of Northern Mexico (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1971). Charles Gibson, Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952). Marc Simmons, "Tlascalans in the Spanish Borderlands," New Mexico Historical Review 39 (April 1964).


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Tribes (Other)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas N. Campbell, “Tlaxcalan Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.