Communauté Wixárika (Huichol)
It is one of the ethnic groups that has managed to remain “authentic” since the time of the conquest. The Wixaritari (singular: Wixarika) or Huichol (in Castilian) is one of the four indigenous groups that inhabit the region known as Gran Nayar, in the southern part of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Huichols call themselves Wirrarika, which means “the people”. It is a word from their own language: wixaritari or vaniuki, also known as Huichol. The term Huichol was introduced by the Mexicans, so it is a Spanish version, and for this reason Huichols prefer to be called Wirrárika.
The language spoken by the Wixaritari belongs to the branch known as Corahuichol, within the Yuto-Nahuas language family.
Located on both sides of the Chapalagana River canyon, its traditional territory encompasses parts of four states: Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango and Zacatecas. The main municipalities they inhabit are : Mezquitic, Bolaños, Jalisco, El Nayar, Tepic, La Yesca, Nayarit, Mezquital and Durango.
The typical Huichol clothing is very striking. In the case of men, the costumes are made with a cotton blanket decorated with multicolored embroideries. Women often prefer industrial fabrics with patterns. The wide-brimmed hats worn by men are made of soy and are almost always decorated with feathers, flowers or squirrel tails. Backpacks, usually woven on a backpack loom, show representations of sacred plants or animals (such as peyote, deer, or eagles). The style of textile designs varies slightly from community to community.
Around 1850, construction of Catholic temples was completed along with many pre-Hispanic ceremonial centers or callihueyes. This “triumph” of evangelization provoked an uprising by the indigenous groups of the region who, along with the Huichols, fought and defended their beliefs. Thus, 17 years later, the ceremonial centers of the pre-Hispanic tradition were rebuilt and a complex ritual was established. This ritual incorporated elements of popular Catholicism (such as the celebration of Carnival and Easter) into an indigenous cultural matrix.
Currently, the main economic activities are the cultivation of coamil, i.e., the milpa worked with a cane or plantation coach, livestock, wage labor during seasonal migration seasons, and the sale of handicrafts. Coamil cultivation is a subsistence activity, as its product is not intended for trade. Originally, it is a religious practice: only those who plant the sacred varieties of maize can participate in parental or community ceremonies, and only those who participate in these ceremonies have the right of usufruct of the land. Maize, squash, and beans grow together in the same area. The pumpkin leaves protect the soil from erosion, the beans become entangled in the reeds of the maize plants, and provide nitrogen for the soil. Flowers of cempasuchil, a natural pesticide, and amaranth are planted on the banks of the coamil. Coamil” is a similar method or belongs to the old Mesoamerican planting method “milpa”.
Another ritual activity practiced by the Wixarritari is hunting, especially hunting for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
During the last centuries, the Huichols have successfully reproduced their ancestral culture. Open to interaction with the outside world, they have been extremely zealous in preserving their lands and traditions.
Corn, deer and peyote are three elements constantly referred to in mythology, and around which a series of festivals and ceremonies revolve. In addition, they also reflect their vision of the world and are constantly represented in the art they produce. It is said that much of the aesthetics of the works is influenced by the visions they have during peyote rituals. The first two represent the supply of the Huichol man, while the peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus is the meat and food of the gods, the intermediary between man and the gods. Peyote is a kind of magic and mysterious cactus with more than five thousand years of existence. It is a plant with mystical properties valued by the Huichol culture, which serves as its guardian. Since the 1970s, the Real de Catorce has become the tourist destination for people from all over the world who are looking for an encounter with the spiritual world and revelations about their destiny. Due to the irresponsible and unsustainable consumption of the cactus, the Mexican government has banned its use by non-members of the community.
The Huichol world is divided into three universes: that of Huichol mythology which states that life began in the sea, the reference to the corn where daily life and mysticism which reveals the Huichol art world and its rituals that give them an identity as a Huichol community.
Craft has become an important economic activity since the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s that sparked massive interest in Huichol art and its aesthetics inspired by “psychedelic” experiences. Visits to different urban and tourist centers are usually combined with visits to various sacred places and presentation of Huichol handicrafts. On the other hand, the international fame acquired by the Huichol people has led, in some communities of the Sierra, to a nascent “ethnotourism”.
However, this generally does not have the approval of the latter, which do not allow taking photos or audio or video recordings. Two types of crafts are made: one for personal use and one that is commercialized.
As for textiles, most are for personal use and are made on a backpack loom.
All the pieces that are not for commercial use are created to recount the various religious experiences of the authors, creating fantastic pieces of beautiful colors and unimaginable patterns that can only be designed in the spirit of the artist Huichol.
Huichol art is a form of writing because it tells its stories and myths. In every room, the Huichol leaves a part of his life. At the present time, it can be said that no other ethnic group in Mexico has beliefs, religions and traditions as deep as the Huichols.
We can see in his illustrations figures bordered with chaquira representing a great number of forms and animals, paintings of threads that give us a window to the mysterious world, and magical “chaquira and microchaquira” accessories that are surprisingly beautiful. Through these images a wonderful story full of mystery is told that brings us closer to the beginning of time.
The Huichol religion was established thanks to the “gift of seeing” or nierika. The Nierika are tables of cheesecloth in which each artist and craftsman transcribes the road traveled and his personal research.
After taking peyote (hallucinogenic cactus) and other rituals, they express their dreams through accessories (necklaces, bracelets or backpacks) that they sell and also use for themselves.
Huichols still find it difficult to stay away from outside influences, as they live in ancestral conditions where wood is still the most important fuel and water is still extracted from wells.
THE EYE OF GOD
The Eye of God, or Tzicuri as it is also called, is a symbol of power and protection, which serves to see and understand the unknown. However, its roots hide a deeper meaning.
According to legend, one of the gods who formed the world saw through the eye of God all that was inside the earth and above.
On the other hand, the reason for its shape is due to the fact that it represents the five cardinal points, the directions of Wixárika’s cosmogony.
In ceremonies, this amulet is used as an offering to ask the gods for the healthy growth of infants. According to tradition, it is the parents who make the eye of God that their children will take to the drumming festival, in which the children are presented before the gods and initiated into the ceremonial life of their people.
The variety of colors used for the fabrics is associated with certain beliefs, for example, black signifies life while white is associated with clouds and blue with the color of rain and water.
There is also another meaning to the development of the Eye of God by the Wixarika community, find out here.
Today, it has become popular to give a Huichol eye at the birth of a child, also as a gift to the owners of a new home to attract positive energy or to a newly married couple to wish them a good relationship.
The tukipa or callihuey is a ceremonial center of pre-Hispanic tradition dedicated to the worship of the community’s ancestors. The architecture follows the model of the Huichol ranch: several buildings are grouped around a circular square.
There is also the traditional pilgrimage to Wirikuta, one of the sacred places of the Huichols : Dressed in a special outfit that includes a hat decorated with white turkey feathers, the jicareros, who during this trip are called peyoteros (hikuritamete), travel to the Wirikuta desert in the east, where they collect peyote (Lophophora williamsii), a psychotropic cactus called Huichol hikuli. Then, the peyoteros climb the Cerro del Amanecer (Paritek + a or Reu’unari) in the Sierra de Real de Catorce, which is considered the place where the sun rises after defeating nocturnal animals and monsters from the underworld.
To enter the Huichol community is to be at the gates of a fantastic world of ancestral customs that have remained intact over time. It is to reach a dimension where the divine and the profane find a perfect harmony.
As for the traditional clothing, their clothes are very colorful. Men wear pants and a blanket, which are embroidered with colored lines and symmetrical patterns that can be animals or embroidered flowers, and of course the traditional hat is decorated on the edges with colored beads. On their side, women wear embroidered blouses and a shawl with colorful flowers to cover their heads.
It is prepared several days in advance and can be expensive, but it is very important because the Huichols “thank the gift given by Mother Earth”, so that the maracames (shamans), which apply to all the kakauyares (gods), continue to help them harvest food and prevent childhood and adult illnesses.