HUICHOLES: THE LAST PEYOTE GUARDIANS is a story about the mystical Wixárika People, one of the last pre-Hispanic alive cultures in Latin America, and their ongoing struggle against the Mexican government and multinational mining corporations to preserve Wirikuta, their most sacred territory and home of the famous peyote cactus. (HuicholesFilm)
The drought this summer that affected the southern part of the United States actually extended into Zacatecas, Mexico, and has had a devastating effect on the Indigenous population. Ethnic groups like the Raramuri or Tarahumara, and Wixrarika or Huichol who are subsistence farmers, have been devastated by the shortfall of corn, beans and squash, their main staples.
For many years now, local gallery owner Kevin Simpson has worked with the Mission in Creel as well as the Huichol Traditional Government of San Andres Cohamiata and would like to try to do whatever possible to alleviate the problems the indigenous people in Mexico are currently experiencing.
To that effect, Simpson and his team are collecting non-parishable food staples, blankets, jackets, and shoes from locals and tourists alike who are interested in helping the Tarahumara and Huichol get through these tough times.
Deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Western Mexico live the Huichol Indians. Very little is known about the exact origins of the Huichol, but today they are clinging to a set of customs and beliefs that make them one of the best preserved Pre-Columbian tribes in the Western Hemisphere.
Since 1997, we have been traveling up to the ancient Huichol Indian Ceremonial Center of San Andres Cohamiata where we have followed a number of Huichol families through their daily lives and have documented the ceremonies that set them apart from the rest of the world. Through our website, we will give you a never before seen look into the Huichol Indian ceremonial cycle and will be marketing their art for the money they need to host their traditional rituals and ceremonies.
Peyote People is a fair trade co-operative based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that provides most of the carvings to our artists as well as new iridescent glass beads that are imported exclusively by us into Mexico for our artists to use in their art.
We have been recognized by the Huichol Indian Traditional Government of San Andres Cohamaita for not only promoting their artwork but also for our commitment to the preservation of their customs and traditions through what we call "Cultural Authenticity."
"Cultural Authenticity may be an invisible quality but it is what separates the 'urban' Huichol from those who actually live in the Sierra and are actively involved in the preservation of their cultures traditions."
Very little is known about the exact origin of the Huichol, but we do know that they call themselves "Wirrarika", which can be translated to mean prophets or healers.
Their dialect comes from the Uto-Aztecan family of dialects. Because of their geographic isolation, it was not until 1722, almost 200 years after the conquest of Mexico, that Franciscan missionaries were finally able to penetrate the Sierra and built a church in San Andres Cohamiata.
The missionaries brought with them colorful glass beads to trade with the Huichol in the hopes of converting them to Christianity. The Franciscans were able to exhort a considerable amount of influence on the Huichol, however they were never successful in converting the Huichol and abandoned them after about 100 years.
The Franciscans may not have been able to convert the Huichol, however, they did leave their mark on the culture. The colorful glass beads that they traded to the Huichol were quickly adapted for use not only in their personal adornment but were also used in their votive bowls and other religious artifacts.
We didn't get our first real look at the Huichol however until the late 1890's. It was in 1890 that the American Museum of Natural History sent Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz into the Sierra to look for the Anasazi.
Lumholtz spent a total of 8 years traveling through the Sierra and never found the Anasazi but was the first to actually document the Huichol. Lumholtz described caves filled with ceremonial objects like prayer arrow, votive bowls, stone disks and idols sparsely decorated with glass beads and wrote this about the culture:
"In spite of missionary work in the past, today there is no priest among them, the churches are in ruins, and the Huichol are in the same state of barbarism as when Cortez first put foot on Mexican soil. The introduction of sheep, cattle,
and iron implements has modified to some extent their mode of life but not so much as one would expect... Still their ancient beliefs, customs, and ceremonies all remain in their pristine vigor."
Today, there are over 20,000 Huichol spread out in the Sierra, but believe it or not only a handful have ever gained international recognition for their artwork.
Jacinto Lopez Ramirez is an elder Huichol probably best recognized for his pictures that appear on page 125 in the book "Art of the Huichol" ed. Kathleen Berin 1978, or his photo on the cover of "Huichol Symbolism" by Ramon Mata Torres, or his photo in the book "The Huichol of Mexico" by Peter Collings; but what most people don't know is that Jacinto was one of the biggest influences in the commercialization of the bead art in the late 1960's.
In 1967 Jacinto Lopez Ramirez was chosen to be governor of San Andres Cohamiata by a council of elders known as the Kawiteros. At that time there was an airstrip in San Andres but for those who could not afford to fly out of the Sierra, it was an 8-day hike to the first road. It was Jacinto who successfully petitioned the Mexican Federal Government to put a road into the Sierra connecting San Andres Cohamiata with the rest of the world for the first time.
Born in the early 1930's in a cave just outside of San Jose, Jacinto has spent more than half of his life serving his community as shaman and spiritual advisor. At age 20, Jacinto married 15-year-old Angelita Carrillo from Mesa del Venado. They lived for a few years in San Jose before moving to another ranch in the state of Durango, Mexico. Jacinto always liked living in Durango, but the 3-day hike to San Andres was overbearing so they settled between San Jose and San Andres on a ranch they called "Rosas de San Juan."
Jacinto has served his community as cantador or singing shaman in the temple of San Jose for 5 years, 10 years as cantador in the temple of Cohamiata, and 5 years as cantador in the temple of Las Guayabas. He has been Aguacil or judge of San Andres, as well as Commissario or Sheriff just to mention a few of the more important positions that he has held in the community.
Today, at just over 75, he is still a well-respected shaman and participates in all family ceremonies and rituals.
Jacinto and Angelita had 6 daughters and one son. Maria, Cecelia, Leonarda, Ramona, Yolanda, Teresa, and Florencio have all taken on important roles in the community and continue to dazzle us with their fantastic yarn painting and intricate bead art.
Today, we are very, very proud to be able to say that we market their art for the money they need to host the rituals and ceremonies that keep their cultures traditions alive!
Kevin Simpson and his team are collecting non-parishable food staples, blankets, jackets, and shoes from locals and tourists alike who are interested in helping the Tarahumara and Huichol get through these tough times.
Donations can be dropped off at Peyote People, 222 Juarez, or Colectika at 858 Guadalupe Sanchez.
Visit our Peyota People Native Folk Art Gallery in Puerto Vallarta or visit our ebay store online.
For more information, email Kevin at email@example.com.
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|Wixárika Community Recovers 25% of Ancestral Lands in Nayarit|
Mexico News Daily
The Wixárika (also known as Huichol) community has been fighting to reclaim 10,500 hectares of land on the border of Nayarit and Jalisco for decades. Read more >>>
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