, in Pre-Columbian
and conquest-era Aztec society
, was the local, ethnically-based political entity. The word is a combination of the Nahuatl words "atl", meaning "water", and "tepetl", meaning ("mountain"). According to the scholars of Nahuatl Lisa Sousa, Stafford Poole, and James Lockhart, "A characteristic Nahua mode was to imagine the totality of the people of a region or of the world as a collection of altepetl units and to speak of them on those terms." For this reason, the word altepetl refers not only to the polis
, but also to all its inhabitants. They, like many scholars of Nahuatl, prefer the Nahuatl term over any English-language approximation. They argue that in many of the documents pertaining to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the word "altepel" is often used as a translation of the Spanish "Cuidad de México
", (Mexico City
), a translation that has colored the interpretation of the texts and conceptions of Nahua society.