Do you know what we are talking about if we mention the amazing Huichol Indians or Wixárika art? Do you know the history and origin of this wonderful culture that has struggled to keep their customs, language, and beliefs intact?
Take the opportunity while you visit Puerto Vallarta to learn more about the amazing Huichol or Wixárika, their culture, their heritage and their beautiful and world-renowned art.
Actually, the name “Huichol” when talking about the Wixárika ethnic group is a derogatory ethnonym the Mexica people used when talking about them, long before the Spanish arrived, but through the years it has been adopted as their real name.
The Wixárika, term which actually means "seer", have remained totally faithful to their beliefs even in the midst of this modern technological era in which they are immersed. They struggle every day against adversities, trying to preserve their clothing, their rituals, history, language, and art.
The Wixárika (they call themselves Wixáritari "The People") inhabit western-central Mexico, in the northern part of the state of Jalisco, on the backbone of the Sierra Madre Occidental, after a long ride on rough dirt roads you can arrive at the villages of Mezquitic and Bolaños. They also inhabit parts of the states of Nayarit, Durango, and Zacatecas.
The Huichol religion includes 4 main deities, the trinity of Corn, Blue Deer and Peyote and the Eagle that have all descended from their Sun God Tao Jreeku who created all the beings on Earth with his saliva..
The Wixárika believe that two opposing forces exist in the world, one one side the Igneous forces that are represented by "Our Father" Tayaupá, The Sun and the Aquatic forces, in the form of Nacawé, the Rain Goddess.
Other deities include Kacíwali, the maize Goddess, Komatéame, the goddess of Midwives, Stuluwiákame is responsible of giving children to humans and Na'alewáemi gives animals their young. Tatéi Wérika that is related to the Sun is a two headed eagle. Ref: Wikipedia
It is this distance from the modern urban areas, the isolation from mass culture and the modern consumer society, that has helped them preserve the purity of their race, their customs, and festivals, their own social organization and their characteristic and peculiar art.
The Wixárika art uses decorative elements that are already very representative and recognized around the world, as much as the art itself. We are talking about the tiny glass beads called “chakira”. No one really knows when these decorative beads appeared in Mexico. They are used in Huichol art, such as jewelry, apparel decoration, and some ceremonial objects and by other indigenous Mexican cultures such as the Tarahumara, Cucapás, Nahua, Otomi, Purepecha, Kicapus and others.
These tiny beads are stuck to a pre-carved wooden figure, using Campeche wax as "glue." This wax is mixed and spread on the carved piece of wood surface and then they stick by hand, one by one, all the beads that will give form and color to the final design. With these same beads, they also create colorful and unique jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.
In general, the Huichol wood figures include deer, coyotes, flowers, lizards and many others, combined to recreate the sacred symbols of their world-view, covered with chakira designs of peyote, scorpions, corn, suns, geometric figures and many others.
Another very popular type of art because of their "psychedelic" designs are the nierikas or thread boards (yarn paintings). These nierikas mostly contain images representing the visions you'll experience when you consume peyote, and in some other cases even contain mythological or quite complex esoteric designs. Peyote is a cactus plant widely used in the sacred indigenous rituals as well as for its medicinal effects.
As with the figures made with beads, to make a nierika you extend Campeche wax on a flat piece of wood or some other material, you outline the design and you start sticking the thread little by little until the design is finished. Of course, even their clothing is covered with colorful embroideries that are also part of the Wixárika artistic expression.
As you can see, the Huichol or Wixárika culture is, without a doubt, a gem you can experience during your stay in Puerto Vallarta, within Jalisco and Mexico as a country. Worthy of our admiration and respect, not only for their lifestyle, their ideologies, their veneration of the sacred aspects of nature and life, but also for their respect and dedication to their legacies and how they've struggled through time and despite the constant attack of Western society, still keep alive their wonderful culture, so filled with magic and color, alive.
So now you know, while you are in town, do not miss the opportunity to see this up close and personal. Marvel over the art and culture of the Wixárika. There are several art galleries in town and in other surrounding areas where you can find their artwork in display, even the Malecon showcases Huichol designs in the new stone designs.
Author: Mogens Gallardo