The Mazatecs call themselves Ha shuta Enima, which in their language means “those of us who work the forest, humble, people of habit.” According to other authors, the origin of the Mazatec name comes from the Nahuatl Mazatecatl, or “people of the deer”, a name that was given to them by the Nonoalcas due to the great respect they had for the deer.
The Mazatecs are located in the state of Oaxaca, in the regions of the Cañada and the Papaloapan-Tuxtepec valley. The Papaloapan basin has an arterial system of abundant rivers that descend from the Sierra Madre Oriental and flow into the Alvarado lagoon, in the Gulf of Mexico. The main Mazatec towns are Teotitlán de Flores Magón, Santa Cruz Acatepec, Santa Ana Ateixtlahuaca, San Bartolomé Ayautla, San Juan Coatzaspam, Santa María Magdalena Chilchotla, San Lorenzo Cuahnecuiltitla, San Mateo Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, San Francisco Huehuetlán, San Cristóbal Mazatlán San Pedro Ocopetatillo, San Jerónimo Tecoatl, San José Tenango, Santiago Texcaltzingo, San Lucas Zoquiapam, Huautla de Jiménez, San Pedro Ixcatlán, Jalapa de Díaz and San Miguel Soyaltepec. To the southeast, the Mazatec territory adjoins that of the Chinantecs.
The Mazatecs still use a great variety of medicinal plants at the domestic level, although if the disease is severe they take the patient with the healers or allopathic doctors in the region. There are diseases generated by envy, the evil eye and witchcraft, which can only be alleviated by healers or shamans through the use of mushrooms sacred to seeds of the virgin. The prestige of some healers reaches the entire region. In fact, in the 1960s, the Mazatec curandera and shaman Maria Sabina popularized the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew in the region, such as teonanácatl, for therapeutic purposes, until they became a national and international celebrity.
The Mazatecs begin their special healing journeys from their own homes to the homes of the healers, nihe’s or shinahes, then following the altars of the chicones and culminating in the Catholic temples. All of these spaces are part of the healing process that patients go through in Mazatec communities. In the decade of the sixties there was a great resurgence of the phenomenon of shamanism.
In the social organization we see that the family is the cell of the Mazatec social organization. The domestic unit is made up of nuclear and extended families.
The Mazatec concept of the world is expressed in a syncretism in which the emerging part manifests the Judeo-Christian creation myth, as well as the good-evil duality; its cosmology is expressed in the healing rituals practiced in the mountains and in the Lower Mazateca. Likewise, the traditional relationship of the Mazatecs with their environment refers to the owners of the places, the chicones or chiconindú, spirits who regulate their cultural world. These spirits are offered in ravines, caves, springs and hills, a practice in which beliefs and habits about disease and healing are mixed, and the relationship with the ancestral spirits of these lands. The healing space is a sacred religious space.
In religious life, the myth is daily and is integrated with the experiences of the Catholic calendar in the agricultural cycles and in the festivities of the patron saints of the communities. In most of the towns there are no priests, because they only come during the festivities and for the celebration of baptisms or marriages. Along with this institutional religion, a “traditional” religious practice develops that takes on a broader character. The sacred world is expressed directly in its geographical environment. Being born, dying and being buried near the place of birth is part of the sacred circle that identifies today’s Mazatec with the traditions that are lost in the roots of his land. The earth is the space where the sacred transits, where the beings of heaven and earth unite.
Mazatec celebrations revolve around the agricultural calendar, which varies between the Mazateca Baja and the Sierra. In Mazateca Baja, on January 1 the winchaa ceremony and the weather forecast for the coming year are performed.
On March 2 and May 1 the xixhua ceremony is held in the cornfield. In Jalapa de Díaz the feast of the Nativity is celebrated on September 8, and the xixhua ceremony is held for coffee. In the mountains, on February 10, men and women of knowledge collect the seed of the Virgin. If it has not rained yet, a rain request ceremony is held; on June 10 the first sacred mushrooms are collected.
On August 9 there is a “payment” ceremony for Mother Earth to be able to cut the first corn. On November 17 is celebrated in Huautla, Chane and Tenango the day of San Andrés. Throughout the region, the dead and the deceased saints are celebrated on October 28 and the birth of Jesus on December 25.
In the very important festival of Guelaguetza, this region is very well represented with the Flor de Piña dance
Within this community, the colorful and beautiful embroidery of Jalapa de Diaz stands out.
The city of San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz is 60 km from the city of Tuxtepec in the Papaloapan basin region. A very important handicraft activity in San Felipe Jalapa de Díaz is the embroidery of huipiles, blouses and stylized clothing. For the embroidery of the “fill” blouses, the jalapeña artisans use a rayon fabric as a base, which is generally black. The iconography of the town is shown on the canvas, which consists of birds, flowers and large leaves in irregular proportions and repetitions. Birds merge with leaves. These motifs are completely embroidered by hand with cotton thread and fill stitch, their elaboration requires up to a month and a half.
You can find these colorful and magnificent embroidered huipiles, full of Jalapa de Diaz tradition in our solidarity boutique.