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Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 1:38 am
My friend who will be joining me in PV would love to visit an authentic Hichol community. Perhaps one were they make souvenirs or Huichol artwork. We might even spend the night if its safe to do so and a fair distance away from PV. We would like to go by bus if possible. What kind of information does anyone have that would help us decide if this is an option for us. Please give me as much detailed info as possible.
Thanks a bunch.
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:49 am
One of the wonderful things about the Huichol Indians is that they do try to preserve there traditions and heritage without letting the "western world" creep in and change things. Part of that is in keeping their villages pretty much closed to outsiders. Several years ago, I did a daytrip with the now-defunct Harris Tours to a Huichol village in the mountains northeast of Tepic. The guide and tour company had established a rapport with the elders of the village and were allowed to bring in one tour group per week, on Thursdays only. We were not allowed to take photos of the people or inside the village. We visited the school, saw where they lived (very primitive "huts" built on stilts) and sampled homemade tortillas and corn. With only a few exceptions, only the children could speak Spanish, as the older people only spoke the Huichol language. Our guide had taught us how to say "hello" and "thank you" in Huichol and the children would giggle when we'd say the words. At the end of the tour, the village had set up a small market where we could buy things directly from the people. They only accepted pesos, no US or Canadian money. It is my understanding that tours no longer go to that village.
This past Oct., I took a daytrip with Banderas Bay Tours to another village northeast of Tepic, up the mountain from the Mexican town of Francisco I. Madero. At that time of year, that was the only tour being offered to any Huichol village. It's my understanding that during high season, that Vallarta Adventures does a tour to a village by air, but I don't know which village they visit. Anyway, the village I visited this time was quite different. Not only were their homes more "modern", made of concrete blocks, we were allowed to take photos at will. I will say though that I asked permission of the people before I took photos of them, which they seemed to appreciate. There was only one family that our guide asked us not to photograph (apparently they had been "burned" by an outsider who'd done them wrong), but that family stayed at their house and did not come to the general gathering area where we were. Our tour guide has established a close relationship with the head shaman and this village and is allowed to visit there and stay overnight. As far as I know, an outsider would not be able to just come into a village uninvited and would not be able to actually stay there. So as to your question about staying in a village, my best assumption would be no.
While we were allowed to see inside the school grounds, we were asked not to go inside, as to not disrupt the children in classes But when the children did see us looking through the gates, they crowded around the schoolhouse door to look back at us and responded in kind to our waves. The head shaman of the village welcomed us to his village in his native Huichol language. We walked through the village and seeing all the laundry (including underwear) hanging out to dry, our tour guide said the difference in this village and the Mexican town down the mountain was that here, the laundry needed to dry, so it was all hung out with no hesitation. He said in a Mexican town, the women would never hang their underwear out in full view because they didn't want anyone to see that wore those "big white panties". Now whether true or not, it was funny and we all had a good laugh.
We got to go inside the Huichol temple and were told what each of the items inside were used for. I considered it a great honor that they would allow us to see what is considered the most sacred place in their village.
We also went through a "cleansing ceremony" with one of the shamans (medicine men), which was very interesting. He'd set up an altar with a deer's head, some peyote and other items. We stood quietly in a circle and he used a feathered "wand" (the name escapes me right now) and stood in front of each of us waving it up and down our persons while chanting something in Huichol. He would then turn toward an extinguished fire and "shake off" whatever "impurities" he found. At the end, he told our guide that our group all had good spirits. Our guide told us that if we were thinking "sure, that's what he always says", that we should know that the shaman had told him in the past about someone who had "bad spirits" in them. Now, whatever your beliefs or whether it all sounds like "hocus-pocus", I accepted and just let myself experience this "ceremony" as part of the Huichol tradition. And they certainly believe in what they're doing. It didn't hurt either, being told that I had a good spirit. LOL
The village had also set up a "market", which consisted of each family's table with the artwork and handicrafts which they had made. While the guide had told us they might accept US dollars, the one table where some of my tour-mates tried to pay in US dollars, the lady didn't want to take them and the tour guide ended up exchanging pesos to them so they could make their purchase. *So please, out of respect for them, tell your friends to have pesos and not expect them to accept US or other currency just because it's accepted in PV.* Most of what they offered for sale were small yard and beaded artwork and a lot of beaded jewelry...necklaces, bracelets, earrings, hair bands and barrettes. They had dolls dressed in traditional Huichol clothing, bottles of hotsauce with little Huichol costumes decorating them and small beaded prayer bowls. I bought a couple of small yarn "paintings" and several pieces of beaded jewelry, many things very different than I'd seen anywhere else. The prices were not inexpensive, but less than what you'd pay for similar items in PV. But I didn't mind paying the price, knowing it went directly to the families and not through a middleman. And they would bargain a little, especially if you bought more than one item.
As I can speak a little Spanish, I found that most everyone understood me if I spoke to them and I spent some time translating for others in my tour group while they shopped. But the most fun I had was in trying to speak their language. Before we'd arrived, our tour guide taught us some common Huichol words and phrases ("how much is it", "what is your name", "see you later", and of course "hello" and "thank you") and I had him repeat them and wrote them down phonetically in my little notebook. So when we were in the village, I would try to use the phrases to see if they understood me. Each time, the person responded to my question/comment, but the best experience was at the end, just prior to our leaving. I told the tour guide I wanted to try one last phrase he'd taught us ("pretty baby"). So I turned to the last family who had a baby and toddler amongst their group and looking at my little book, said something that sounds like "shay-pa'-pu-ah'-ney". The woman smiled really big and held her baby out for us to see and the toddler came running out from behind the others just laughing, as if he was the object of our attention. It was one of those "human moments", where it didn't matter what all the differences in our lives and our beliefs were; we were all human beings.
I have collected Huichol art for several years. But the most wonderful thing I've experienced since I started collecting, is visiting these villages and having the opportunity to interact a little and see how the people live. While I love seeing the artwork around me, those experiences rest in my most pleasant memories.
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:20 am
You just just wrote one of the most informative .....enjoyable reads...
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:27 am
Thank you pvdeb for sharing those wonderful experiences you had. Your words are so descriptive that I was right there with you. I had heard that the Huichol people were a very private people and so it does not really surprise me that they don't really want much company. Some things are best left alone.
Thank you again. Do you have any ideas on what we could do instead that would be comparable? We don't really want an organized tour.
edited to add ... you could not have said it any better Sylvia!
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:53 am
Joyce, I haven't been on this board in a long time, so don't know when you'll be in PV next, and don't know if your question arose because your friend is interested in Huichol art or if she's just looking for some kind of "authentic" experience in Mexico. If she is particularly interested in Huichol art, there are several places in PV that have beautiful things and are not a timeshare front. My friend Luis has recently opened Artesanias Kalihuey on Juarez #479, just a few blocks north of the downtown square. The previous place he'd worked is called Artesanias Watakame on Libertad #327, just one block north of the flea market. Another well-respected place is Peyote People on Juarez #222 and a new place I just found last trip is Gallery Niuweme on Guerrero #190 just east of the plaza. The last place is owned by a Huichol family and I believe most everything in there was made by the owner. It was also the first place that I have found Huichol embroidered blouses for women. I bought two! Another place further north in El Centro is Galeria Indigena at Juarez #628. They have some nice Huichol pieces, but while the quality is good, their prices are also a bit higher. And for some small, more inexpensive Huichol artwork, check out Artesanias MarAzul on Francisco I Madero #239 just west of I. Vallarta (the southern route into the southside).
Depending on when you're there, you could also check and see if there are any exhibits or expos going on downtown or perhaps at Plaza Caracol or one of the new shopping areas. Sometimes Huichol groups participate in those events and show/sell their artwork and sometimes have traditional ceremonies or demonstrations. That is all seasonal.
If she's just seeking some kind of authentic "Mexican experience", my only advice would be to take a bus to one of the smaller communities, perhaps to the north. La Peñita has a nice market on Thursdays during high season (I've also bought Huichol art there from the artist). Getting out into any of the outlying towns or areas would get you away from the more touristy environment. I went to visit San Sebastian also in the fall and while it was on an organized tour, I am certainly interested in going back there on my own in the future and spending more time. My future "want to go to's" include Talpa and Mascota, as well as Guadalajara, Tonala and Tlaquepaque. And while the last ones are somewhat touristy, I look forward to those experiences. So I don't know what your friend's "desire" or goal is, but I admire anyone who seeks to know more than the boundaries of their resort or even of PV proper itself.
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 7:05 am
Joyce I'm not sure where you’re staying but if your out in the Nuevo area Paradise Village Mall has a store with only Huichol art. They often have some of them there doing the art. The "Sales Pitch" anyway says that its profits go to helping the Huichol people. It may or may not, but they offer tours to one of the villages and had a lot of information about the Indians and the tour. Just a possibility if you’re in that area.
Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:42 pm
I am staying in a condo on Emilio Carranza and will be there for 7 weeks. This is my 5th visit. My friend and I are interested in experiencing the culture and history of the more "authentic" ancesestors of the area. The artwork/shopping was secondary to the people and the village or community. I have made a note of the shops you mentioned and will check to see if there will be any demonstrations during my time there.
I am quite far from the mall you mentioned but I will check to see if the tours are running while my friend is visiting.
Thank you for all the great information and if any more is forthcoming please don't hesitate!
10 more sleeps!
Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 12:24 am
Joyce, 7 weeks! Wow! I'm thrilled to be able to do 4 weeks, but some day when I'm retired, I hope to do longer stints. I didn't realize you were going to PV this soon; your ticker to Ibiza confused me (but that's easily done, not your fault LOL).
As far as experiencing the culture and history of the "authentic" ancestors of the area, I guess what keeps the Huicholes authentic is by nature what keeps us "outsiders" out; that being the fierce protection of their culture and traditions within their villages. That being said, I suspect that they would choose not to have any interaction with the "outside world", if they could sustain themselves without the sale of their artwork. But in doing so, they are forced to have some interaction with outsiders. Even the Huichol Indians that you might see actually doing artwork in some of the galleries or shops are very reluctant to even speak or respond to you, even if they do understand Spanish. They tend to quietly go about their craft and will rarely even look you in the face. I personally take no offense to this, as in my minimal knowledge, I understand their ingrained protection of their inner spirit. And while you prefer not to do an organized tour like I've done, from what I've been told, that would be the only way an outsider would be allowed to visit a village.
Now, there are some Huicholes that have booths on the malecon, selling their native artwork and I even dealt with another Huichol couple who had a booth near the Los Arcos Amphitheater, selling the more commonly seen costume jewelry you see in many shops around town. I only knew they were Huicholes by their clothing. They were more communicative than most, though I don't know how long they may have lived outside of a Huichol village.
Of course there are "authentic" ancestors of other indigenous tribes from throughout Mexico that live in various towns and communities in that area. Seeking out specific experiences with them could be spotty I suppose, as I would think that to meet them or have any direct interaction with them would almost have to be the result of the "knowing someone who knows someone" kind of thing.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a great trip and that your friend is able to satisfy her desire to get off the beaten track so to speak.
Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 7:53 am
This discussion made me get busy and transfer some of the photos I took at the Huichol Village, in case anyone is interested.
http://good-times.webshots.com/album/56 ... good-times
Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:29 am
Deb, those photos are absolutely beautiful. The photos captured the reverance and respect that you obviously felt for these special people. The cleansing ceremony... is that you in the photo?
Thank you for sharing and now I want to go more than before! You know how it is, if you can't have something you want it even more
Oh well, I'll just read your report again and again!!
Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 6:33 pm
No Joyce, I'm behind the camera the while time. No photos of me from that trip. But yes, though the beliefs of the Huicholes are so foreign from how I was raised, I find a special calmness and respect in those people that makes me wish our lives reflected just a fraction of the peace they seem to have. And during the cleansing ceremony, I was glad that all of our tour group seemed to respect the reverence of it. I have been on tours where some of the "tourists" were less than respectful of the situation and those are the people that threaten the extinction of these more cultural tours.
I have to comment on the older Mexican woman that was first in the circle during the ceremony. She and her friend, both probably in their 70's, were from Mexico City and only spoke Spanish. I was sitting in front of them and enjoyed speaking with them in my limited Spanish. Normally, the bus on this tour is able to drive all the way up to the village, but because of road construction in the Mexican town down below, the bus had to stop there and we had to climb up a rather steep incline to reach the village. The tour guide had only found out about this obstacle the night before, so when they picked up these two ladies at their hotel, he told them about the problem, thinking it would be too difficult for them to navigate, and offered a refund to them. They both said "oh no, we're strong and tough, we're going!" They were both wearing skirts and knee-high stockings (all you ladies can giggle now). When we arrived to the "hill" we had to climb, a wonderful couple from California happened to be walking along with the ladies, so they ended up helping each of them up the steep incline, holding onto them and making sure they made it up safely. Though there was a nice breeze, it was a bit humid that day and we were all slightly "glowing" when we reached the top. I want you to know, never did either one of those ladies complain or say anything about the inconvenience. To the contrary, they were excited, observant and very interested in everything that we were seeing and learning about the village and its people. On the way back to PV on the bus, when they learned that the man in their "angel" couple was celebrating his birthday, they lead a rousing chorus of "Las Mañanitas" in his honor. They were both so happy and just adorable! We really did have a great group in our tour that day.
Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 7:04 pm
Deb I was interested..
Thanks for taking the time to transfer your photos..
Through them and your words you brought a bit of the life in the Huichol Village to us...
Very nice story about the ladies...