Aridoamérica – Concept, location, characteristics and cultures

We explain what Aridoamérica is, its location, characteristics and which peoples lived there. Also, what are Oasisamerica and Mesoamerica?

The peoples of Aridoamérica had the most difficult life due to the climate and the absence of rivers.

What is Aridoamérica?

Scholars of ancient Mexico give the name Aridoamérica to one of the cultural regions that existed long before the arrival of the European conquerors, and in which different aboriginal populations made life. The main regions of this type were Mesoamerica, Oasisamérica and Aridoamérica.

The Arido-American region was characterized by the most rugged and difficult of all, due to its climatic conditions and its absence of large rivers to channel or take advantage of, which made agriculture almost impossible. Hence its name, a combination of “arid” and “America”, always used from a general and panoramic point of view, since the aridoamerican peoples never came to constitute a unified culture.

Depending on the sources consulted, it is possible that both properly arido-American peoples are considered part of Aridoamérica, as well as those classifiable as part of Oasisamérica, a distinction that obeys the two climates of the region: arid and dry, and semi-dry .

In any case, it is important to understand that the Arido-American settlers led a radically different existence from the Meso-Americans, which largely prevented them from achieving the same level of civilizational development.

Location of Aridoamérica

aridoamerica map location
Aridoamérica spread through various regions of present-day Mexico and the United States.

Aridoamerica It was located in the arid and wild regions of the Mexican North and the American South, in the territory of the current Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Baja California, Baja California Sur, and part of San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, Sonora, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Jalisco, Sinaloa and Aguascalientes .

It also spread around the US regions of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.

Characteristics of Aridoamérica

Broadly speaking, the region was characterized by the following:

  • A dry climate with little rainfall, without counting on large rivers that allowed irrigation of the land, and therefore very few margins for agriculture. The summer was hot and the winter was cold.
  • Little varied topography, with great plains and mountains, and a scarce biodiversity.
  • Its inhabitants were nomads or semi-nomads, with temporary or subsistence agriculture, in the best of cases, and predominance of hunting, gathering and occasional fishing as economic activities. Their dwellings were mostly caves and they developed lithic and wooden tools.
  • Arido-Americans usually traveled great distances to obtain food and settled only during the winter, in human groups that never built a homogeneous culture. The cultural development of these populations was always precarious.
  • The Nahuas of the northern lands called them “Chichimeca”, term equivalent to “barbarian”.

Aridoamerican cultures

aridoamerica cultures
The nomadic peoples of Aridoamerica lived mainly in caves.

As we have seen, in Aridoamérica there was no cultural development that allowed us to identify homogeneous cultures, but rather there was a diversity of more or less organized settlers, among which we can mention:

  • The acaxee town, inhabitants of the Sierra Madre Occidental, were some of the towns that most resisted Spanish rule, and therefore suffered military extermination, along with their neighbors, the nineteenths.
  • The xixime town, today disappeared, inhabited the Mexican state of Sinaloa and Durango, where they developed a certain degree of agriculture. Tradition accuses them of cannibalism as part of their fertility rites.
  • The Monqui people, of nomadic life limited to the California peninsula, they were hunter-gatherers. Their culture disappeared around the 18th century, due to the acculturation resulting from the Catholic missions, and the sustained demographic decline.
  • The town of the pame, nowadays located in San Luis Potosí, they call themselves xi’ui (in pame language). They were a participant culture in the Chichimeca War against the Spanish (1547-1600).
  • The Tepecan people, formerly located in the north of Jalisco and the south of Zacatecas. Closely related to the southern Tepehuanes and other Uto-Aztec families, it is today extinct as a culture.
  • The Guachichil people, of nomadic life in the territories of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and the south of Coahuila, they were fiercely resistant to European domination. Their way of life was militaristic and patriarchal, and they were exterminated by the Spanish.

Aridoamerica Economy

The Arido-American economy It was precarious, focused entirely on survival. Temporary or subsistence agriculture, gathering, fishing and hunting were the main ways of obtaining food, always conditional on the inclement weather of the seasons.

Nevertheless, trade was common between the different peoples nomads or semi-nomads. Many of them came to have frequent contact with the Oasisa-Americans or Meso-Americans, exchanging minerals and tools for food and technology.


Unlike the Aridoamérica region, determined by drought and difficult life, the region called Oasisamérica used the presence of great rivers such as the Yaqui, the Bravo or the Colorado to sustain a kinder model of life.

Agriculture was possible thanks to immense irrigation canals and trade with Mesoamericans was constant, so that this cultural region can be considered an intermediate between the aridity of the north and the abundance of the south of North America at that time.


aridoamerica mesoamerica
In Mesoamerica, great cultures such as the Mayan and the Mexica developed.

The most important of the pre-Columbian cultural regions of North America, Mesoamerica, was the only one to develop a complex and powerful culture.

There lived peoples as developed as the Mayans or the Mexica, capable of economically and culturally controlling their neighbors and developers of complex technologies and cultural traditions. Mesoamerica left an important aboriginal legacy that survived the centuries of Spanish colonization.