The Huichol Page

Copyright © 1995 Centro Cultural Huichol, A.C.


While many native peoples in the Western hemisphere have been absorbed into the mainstream of the modern world, Mexico's Huichol people have maintained their traditional culture, language and spiritual way of life for centuries. The rugged and remote terrain of the mountainous Huichol homeland (in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit in Mexico) has provided a pocket of isolation where an estimated 7,000 remaining descendants of the Aztecs have ingeniously adapted to the demands of their harsh environment. In doing so, the Wixalika (the name the Huichols use in their language to refer to themselves, meaning "prophets" or "healers") have nurtured a value system and way of life that hold many lessons for the modern world.

Today the Huichol culture survives as a window to the past revealing a legacy of indigenous ways which have become, for most part, long extinct in the Americas. The Huichol homeland is a refreshing reminder of how the world used to be when entire communities worked together as caretakers of reciprocity between people and the planet.

Living in harmony in healthy communities that could serve as models in a troubled world, their cooperative lifestyle is rooted in a native spirituality that is reflected in their inspiring colorful dress, diverse art forms, ancient shamanic practices, and mythical ceremonial traditions.

The Huichols believe themselves to be "mirrors of the gods" and try to reflect this sacred vision of the world in the thoughtfulness and the highly disciplined actions they display towards their numerous creator and nature deities.

Their ritual practices invite the reciprocity of the deities, who teach their Huichol "steward a variety of esoteric skills that are used by the shamans to insure equilibrium in their communities. These shamanic techniques have worked for centuries to empower the religious practitioners with the knowledge to maintain nature's delicate balance between opposites such as sickness and health, scarci and abundance, life and death. It all worked quite well for the Huichol people, until recently.

In some areas of the Huichol homeland the traditions are still strong. In other areas, the voice of the wind and the teachings of the deer have become echoes of the past.

The Huichol culture is in the throes of a difficult transitional period from a flourishing tribe in a once remote location to an accessible, and vulnerable, ethnic group nakedly exposed to a global audience. In no uncertain terms, the Huichols have been invaded by modern "conquistadores" descending upon the Huichols via recently built roads and airstrips, standing in line to divide the "spoils." Social ills such as alcoholism, cultural alienation, suicide and other consequences of extreme poverty and disorientation are taking root. Instead of entering into the limelight of the 21st century as one of Mexico's most beautiful conserved native cultures, many of the Huichol people are lamentedly making the debut as displaced and debilitated beggars in the streets. As this pre-Columbian culture is teetering on the edge of cultural extinction, the whole world is about to lose a direct link to humanity's ancient past.

There is so much to be learned from the healthy communities and balanced way of life that characterize the few remaining traditional cultures like the Huichol who have miraculosly survived against all odds into the modern age. Our immense challenge is to use contemporary cultural and technological capabilities to insure the smooth transition of these people into the 21st century, with their valuable troves of knowledge intact.

It is precisely for this reason that the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts, a U.S. non-profit corporation (known in Mexico as the "Centro Cultural Huichol") has been working for the past 13 years to empower the Huichols with the strategic thinking they need in order to understand what is happening in the world around them, and how to be successful within it, without compromising the integrity of their core belief system.

The premise of the Huichol Center is that it is entirely possible to provide the Huichols with the opportunities, technical skills, and problem solving abilities they need in order to interface with the world around them while at the same time protecting their traditional culture and way of life.

The Huichol Center logo stresses the importance of "sustaining cultural identity through trade and tribal wisdom" Center projects have brought together a network of tribal leaders, religious practitioners, healers, artists, naturalists and others who have joined in a concerted effort to solve problems with creative solutions generated from within the Huichol belief system. The focus is on creating projects within three major categories: environmentally sustainable projects that promote a self-sufficient economic base, educational programs that foster Huichol values, and a holistic health program that integrates Western medicine with traditional healing.

For example, one of the projects dealing with environmental sustainability is the ongoing Sustainable Futures program. This cross-cultural, educational project has provided an opportunity for several Huichols to come to the U.S. to learn about ecological restoration techniques, organic gardening, and how to creatively utilize their numerous renewable resources. The program is a joint project of the Huichol Center and the Sol y Sombra Foundation, Permaculture Drylands Institute, and the Center for the Study of Community in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Other Center projects which contribute to the economic and cultural stability of the Huichol homeland include the documentation of tribal wisdom, literacy development, skill training in traditional arts, and principles of trade and marketing. In the area of health care, the Huichol Center provides a range of services including a primary care medical clinic with tuberculosis treatment facitlities, a birthing center, and a soup kitchen. Huichol public awareness activities include museum exhibits and cross-cultural tribal interchange with other tribes of the Americas.

It is the Huichol Center's experience that communities which derive a sense of security based on group pride are the ones best prepared to make the hard choices the future demands of them.

For more information contact:

Centro Cultural Huichol, A.C.
20 De Noviembre 452
Santiago Ixcuintrla, Nayarit, Mexico
Phone: 011-52-323-5-11-71
Fax: 011-52-323-5-10-06

Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts
801 2d Ave. Su 1400
Seattle Washington 98104 USA
Phone: 206-622-4067
Fax: 206-622-0646

email: plentyplenty1@usit.net






CULTURAL SURVIVAL

There is so much to be learned from the healthy communities and balanced way of life that characterize the few remaining traditional cultures like the Huichol who have miraculously survived against all odds into the modern age. Our immense challenge is to use contemporary cultural and technological capabilities to insure the smooth transition of these people into the 21st century, with their valuable troves of knowledge intact.

It is precisely for this reason that the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts, a U.S. non-profit corporation (known in Mexico as the "Centro Cultural Huichol") has been working for the past 13 years to empower the Huichols with the strategic thinking they need in order to understand what is happening in the world around them, and how to be successful within it, without compromising the integrity of their core belief system.

In 1981, The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts was established to help the Huichols preserve their cultural, spiritual, and artistic heritage while adapting to the demands of the twentieth century world. Founded and operated by Susana Eger Valadez, an American, and her husband Mariano Valadez, a Huichol Indian, the Huichol Center provides shelter and nutritious food, plus medical, economic and legal aid for migrant Huichols working on the tobacco plantations near the small urban center of Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit.

Equally important, the Huichol Center teaches the Huichols to value and use their artistic talents, vision, and cultural integrity as assets. By providing art materials used by the Huichols at a reduced price, and by purchasing finished artwork to be marketed, the Huichol Center offers a direct economic alternative to the debilitating migrant work. In addition, the Center's Design Archive collects, records and passes on traditional Huichol patterns (many of which may otherwise be lost) to the artists. It is hoped these projects can help the Huichols achieve economic selfsufficiency through sale of their arts and crafts, so that they don't have to leave their homeland and seek outside work.

While teaching people to value themselves so that they can play a valuable part in the world in which they live, the Huichol Center promotes an integrated problem-solving strategy that combines economic development, cultural preservation, and a health care system. Our goal is to build a sturdy bridge between tradition and the future - a bridge that allows traditional wisdom to enter the 21st century without destroying the people who carry its spirit and substance.

All Huichol Center projects are supported by the sale of Huichol art created at the Center and contributions to our non-profit corporations in Mexico and the U.S.

ARCHIVE

The Huichol Center Ethnographic Archive contains documented knowledge from shamans and other individuals who have recorded this valuable wisdom before it disappears. Photographs, music, artwork, and taped interviews are contained in this comprehensive archive. In addition, the Huichol Center Design Archive is composed of hundreds of traditional patterns that have been documented and are used as teaching tools for apprentice Huichol artists.

HEALTH CARE

The health of the Huichols working in the tobacco fields has been seriously damaged by the effects of insecticide poisoning, malnutrition, parasitic diseases, and infectious diseases (i.e., measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough). Medical attention at the Huichol Center is provided by traditional shamans and medical doctors, working together. Services provided include:

HUNGER PROGRAM

The Huichol Center feeds and shelters hundreds of Huichols each year who find themselves in an urban environment without adequate resources. The Center's organic garden provides vegetables and fruits for nutritious meals. It provides an opportunity for Huichols to learn valuable skills and sustainable agriculture.


ECONOMIC SELF-SUFFICIENCY

The Huichol Center Art School creates jobs that are attractive alternatives to the destructive conditions of the tobacco fields. The skills the artisans learn, including marketing, enable them to generate income in their own communities rather than seeking employment elsewhere.


The Huichol Center
for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts
801 2nd Ave., Suite 1400
Seattle WA 98105
Phone: 206-622-4067
Fax: 206-622-0646

        M a k e    a    D o n a t i o n

Centro Huichol
20 de Noviembre 452
Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, Mexico
Phone: 011-52-323-5-11-71
Fax: 011-52-323-5-10-06


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