One of the early complex cultures of Mesoamerica, the Otomi were likely the original inhabitants of the central Mexican altiplano before the arrival of Nahuatl speakers around ca. 1000 AD, but gradually they were replaced and marginalized by Nahua peoples. In the colonial period Otomi speakers helped the Spanish conquistadors as mercenaries and allies, which allowed them to extend into territories that had previously been inhabited by semi-nomadic Chichimecs, for example Querétaro and Guanajuato.
The Otomi traditionally worshipped the moon as their highest deity, and even into modern times many Otomi populations practice shamanism and hold prehispanic beliefs such as Nagualism. Otomies traditionally subsisted on maize, beans and squash as most Mesoamerican sedentary peoples, but the Maguey (Century Plant) was also an important cultigen used for production of alcohol (pulque) and fiber (henequen).