Huicholes in Vallarta: Beyond Art

Sofia Ramos -
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August 12, 2012

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The Huichol culture is an important element of the charm of Puerto Vallarta due to their impressive art work, but, have you ever wondered who they are?

The Huicholes, or as they refer to themselves in their language, Wirrárika o Wirraritari (plural), are an ethnic group located in the states of Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango and Nayarit.

The Huichol region is divided in five large communities, being each one of them autonomous. They have an organization that goes back before the arrival of the Spaniards to the American Continent, being their civil authority the "totohuani"; authority that is renewed every year.

This ethnic group, native to our region, is worthy of admiration because even though hundreds of years have passed, new people have arrived to this region and most importantly globalization, the Huicholes have succeeded in preserving  their culture's essence and traditions.

Every year, without exception, when the rain and crop seasons are over, they celebrate their gods to the rhythm of their sacred drums (tepo) guided by their marakames (shamans).

Moreover, they still preserve their traditional clothes characterized by detailed embroidery in black and bright red and blue on shirts, long skirts and pants, along with their sombreros made out of palm leaves adorned with bright red worsted tassels.

Generally, Huicholes prefer to live and interact within their own communities, thus, to not have much contact with outsiders. However, in Puerto Vallarta we can admire glimpses of their culture in different parts of the city. For example, the Malecon's floor shows silhouettes done to scale from the painting "El mito Aramara," which explains the creation story of the Huicholes. Besides, it is very common to find shops that sell Huichol traditional crafts along the downtown area, where you can admire the incredible Huichol art.

For those who wonder about their art's meaning, the answer may be common when it comes to ethnic groups, yet interesting.

Their art has ancestral origins, where shamans ingest Peyote (peyotl) which is their sacred cactus and transcribe in a physical manner the images they witnesses during their spiritual encounter. Their art is almost always elaborated with wood or ceramics as foundation over which Campeche wax is spread so that moments later beautiful figures and patterns made with beads or worsted can be elaborated.

So the next time that you have the chance to admire Huichol art or clothes in Puerto Vallarta, remember that behind them lays an ancestral culture, very rich, diverse, and most importantly: precious.

  Learn about Peyote People

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