At EL ARRAY?N TRADITIONAL MEXICAN RESTAURANT PUERTO VALLARTA, one of the most important aspects of the experience is the decoration and ambiance. Some of the most important (if not the most important) elements in the restaurant are the four huge Huichol art pieces honoring Huichol deities, legends and traditions which adorn the walls. We hold the Huichol people in the highest regard and believe they deserve appreciation and respect and we are honored to let you know just a little bit about their culture.
?ANCIENT HUICHOL lore tells how, in the beginning of time, there was no light in the world other than the light of the Moon, and this was highly inconvenient to men. The elders and those who held the knowledge then gathered to discuss how to bring more light to the world, and they begged the Moon to send them her only child, a hobbled and deadeye boy. She started out opposing this, but in the end she consented. They then outfitted the boy in ceremonial dress, consisting of sandals, feathers, and sacks for tobacco; they armed him with a bow and arrows and painted his face, later throwing him into an oven, where he was consumed by the fire. But the boy resuscitated and ran under the earth, and; lo and behold: five days later, the Sun appeared. When the Sun spread its light over the earth, all the nocturnal animals (jaguars and mountain lions, coyotes, foxes and snakes) got tremendously irritated and shot arrows at the day star. Its heat was great and its rays blinding to the night animals, forcing them to hide in darkened caves, puddles and trees; had it not been for the squirrel and the ?pitorreal?, the Sun would not have been able to traverse its first journey through the sky. These were the only two animals to defend the Sun; they would have rather given their lives than let the Sun perish, and they put out ?tesguino? at dusk so that the Sun could pass. The jaguars and wolves killed them in the end, but to this day, the Huicholes offer sacrifices to those heroes, and call the squirrel ?Father?.
The Huichol People is one of the only ethnic groups who have managed to remain a pure people since the Spanish conquest. They call themselves ?Wirr?rrica? or ?Wirraritari? (plural). It?s not known whether the word ?huicholes? is a variation from ?Wirr?rrica?.
They live in the Mexquitic and Bola?os counties, in the northern regions of the state of Jalisco, as well as in La Yesca and El Nayar in the state of Nayarit; and a few minority groups live in the states of Zacatecas and Durango.
There are five ceremonial centers, which are seats of traditional governments: San Andr?s Cohamiata (Tateikie), Santa Catarina Cuexcomatiti?n (Tuapurie), San Sebasti?n Teponahuaxtl?n (Wautia) and Tuxpan de Bola?os (Tutsipa) in the state of Jalisco, and Guadalupe Ocot?n (Xatsitsarie) in Nayarit.
The origin of the Huicholes is uncertain; although some hypothesis based on linguistic, mythological and archeological data exist. It?s possible that the Huicholes are descendants of groups that, through time, settled in the Sierra. Some of these groups are no doubt descendants of the Aztecs, who found themselves running away from the power of conquering empires, finding other groups already established in the region.
It seems that the ancestors of the Huichol people lived life independently of the great empires. Their myths speak of how the ancestors were under attack from eagles and jaguars on their sacred pilgrimages to the land of peyote.
It?s possible that among their ancestors there were some ?Teochichimeca? (a northern ethnic group). In his Codex, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, famous New Spain chronicler, describes a Teochichimeca peyote ritual very similar to the one performed by the Huicholes.
It is also plausible that some lowland groups from the coast assimilated with the Huichol ancestors at different times. Oral tradition speaks of how gods emerged from the ocean and made a pilgrimage to the east of the Sierra.
The Huichol language is related to the Nahuatl, Pima, Yaqui, Pueblo, Cora and Tepehuano languages, which are part of the Yuto-Aztec family of languages. The Huicholes use the expression ?tewi niukiyari?, which means ?words of the people? to designate their native tongue. Huichol language borrows extensively from the Spanish and Nahuatl.
Verbal dexterity is very important in their community life. Language also has a sacred dimension, which manifests itself in the ?Tsaur?rrika?s? (the singer) chanting, and the ciphered expressions manifested in his chants.
The Huichol people recognize two types of diseases: those stemming from the sierra and those brought on by the Spaniards. The first are those that are a part of their cosmogony and require traditional medicine for their healing, but for the second kind, they must be treated using modern medicine.
For the Huicholes, illness may be brought on by lack of responsibility toward the Gods, because of a curse or due to the loss of the soul. In the first case, offerings should be made and the demands of the gods given through the Mara?akame (or shaman) should be fulfilled; when the disease is brought on by a curse, the Mara?akame has to ?cleanse? the afflicted person using feathers, blowing tobacco smoke over his or her body and sucking out the foreign force causing the illness with his mouth.
When the ?kup?ri?, the part of the soul located on the top of the head loses its way, it leaves the person in a serious state, the mara?akame?s job is to look for the kup?ri and put it back where it belongs; in case the kup?ri has been stolen by some sorcerer, the mara?akame has to face that sorcerer in order to recover it.
The most common illnesses among the Huichol population are gastrointestinal, skin and respiratory infections, parasitic type diseases, tuberculosis, dental problems, high risk births, and breast and uterine cancers. Malnutrition also affects most of the population.
Most houses are built using adobe; others are made from stones covered with mud and straw roofs. They?re usually one room homes, one room which serves as a bedroom and cooking area simultaneously. In some places, though, there are homes with several rooms.
In the hot season, the Huicholes tend to sleep outdoors or in the structures they use to store grain. Next to the dwelling, small structures called ?ririki? (Houses of God), small adobe temples dedicated to different deities and ancestors are constructed. Houses are grouped in ?ranchos?, which may be inhabited by a nuclear or extended family. It?s frequent for young couples to go live with the husband?s family, although this is not a general rule.
Huichol Hand Crafts
Huichol artistic expression reflects their religious feelings; and they manage to capture their vision of the world in an enormous variety of traditional ritual-objects and artifacts, in their textile and apparel design and in the construction of temples and musical instruments.
Another very significant type of artistic expression is the use of bee?s wax (cera de Campeche, the state from which the wax is originally from) and multicolored yarn on wood boards of different sizes in the crafting of images which reflect their cosmogony, myths; and the story of creation; they also craft three dimensional pieces using gourds, violins and animal shapes carved from wood onto which they spread a layer of bee?s wax and later decorate in impressive patterns with small and bright multicolored beads. These artifacts are divided into two separate categories: those made for commercial purposes and those which reflect religious experiences.
Apart from the sale of their handcrafts, the Huicholes main productive activities are basically self sustenance ones: hunting, fishing and agriculture. Their main crops are corn, zucchini, squash, amaranth, beans and chili peppers. They still plow the land using wooden stakes, and when the terrain allows it, they use a team of oxen. All agricultural lands are communally owned.
There?s an important seasonal migration among the Huicholes: Their religious, political and economic life is organized in such a way that they can migrate from one place to another and later return to their places of origin. There are Huichol settlements in Tepic, Calvillo, Fresnillo and Guadalajara; although it?s uncertain whether these are permanent or seasonal settlements.
The Huicholes are ruled by a shaman caste, mysterious sorcerers and warriors who fight epic battles in the supernatural field, in order to resolve worldly or divine problems.
The governor is known as Mara?akame, "the one who knows". This caste prepares new shamans or Matewame, "The one who will know", in order to maintain lineage and its knowledge.
The current Huichol system of traditional authorities is a mix of pre-Hispanic group organization and customs imposed by the missionaries.
Among these authorities, there are the ?kawiteros? (elders), who have fulfilled their religious and civil obligations toward the community, apart from holding the knowledge of the group?s tradition, thus, they are the most respected members of the community.
The ?kawitero? is responsible for electing the members of the traditional government, which renews itself each year in a ceremony where wooden sticks (?varas?) or power canes are exchanged. The ceremony takes place each January.
Government is comprised by a series of officials headed by the ?tatoani? (governor), whose main function is of judicial character, apart from playing an intricate part in the making of any and all decisions. Other functionaries are the judge and the mayor, the deputies and ?topiles?, whose job it is to serve as messengers or policemen and are under orders from a captain. There are also other religious charges assigned to each temple or ?tupika?.
Cosmogony and Religion
The Huichol people have their own perception of their origin and history, where the collective memory makes reference to facts which hold a cosmic significance. To them, ?cosmic or true? history can be found in their art, their myths; and in all of the people?s symbolic manifestations.
The Huicholes are reverent towards the forces that govern life.
They don't call these forces "Gods" but brothers: Grand Father Fire
Tatevari, Water Mother Tatiei Matinieri and Great Grandfather Deer Tail
Tamatz Kayaumari. These are incarnations of nature?s forces, the energy that flows through the universe; and their relation to this magical world.
Myths are the models of all actions that make sense to Huichol society; this is why a Huichol hunts, harvests and participates in the same ceremonies his ancestors took part in. To him, the world has a sacred dimension, considered to have enormous power; the mara?akate (plural for mara?akame, or medicine man) are in charge of manipulating of these forces; entering into a dream state, they are able to penetrate into the world of the gods, establishing a nexus between the sacred and the profane.
One of the main characteristics of Huichol religion is the association between corn, deer and peyote. Their mythology in general makes reference to these elements, so that the rituals, the festivities, the material and seasonal organization of life often revolve around them. Corn and deer represent sustenance, while peyote is the most important means to transcend from the profane world, and it is also the most obvious material manifestation of that which is sacred. Gods are considered forefathers, while dead relatives may be semi- divinized. Thus, death establishes yet another bond with that which is sacred.
The most important Huichol ceremonies are strongly related to the agricultural cycles (corn or peyote), to political life or to the Christian cycle. One of these ceremonies is the roasting of the corn ceremony, which takes place parallel to the controlled burning of their lands at the end of harvest season. In this ritual, the union of the three central elements of their religion: corn, deer and peyote.
Other festivities include those ceremonies which take place before the rainy season, dedicated to the goddesses of the earth, corn and growth. The mara?akame chants out the corresponding myths for several hours.
The festivities for the first corn cobs of the season hold great importance for the Huicholes cultural permanence; for, in his chants, the mara?akame relates a journey to the sacred land of Wirikuta; and in this way, the children at the ritual take in the religious geography of the group.
During the dry season, they make the pilgrimage to Wirikuta, land of peyote, considered to be a sacred place, dwelling of the gods. The object of this pilgrimage is twofold: collect peyote to use in the ceremonies and find the gods in order to ?find life?.
Other festivities are syncretistic with the Christian cycle and those related to political organization, mainly, the changing of power stakes.
For their festivities, the Huicholes paint their faces with symbolic designs, and in ritual ceremonies, mara?akates make use of ?muwieris?- magic power sticks adorned with feathers.
The man?s outfit is comprised of: ?huerruri? or long cotton trousers, decorated with traditional symbolic designs at the cuffs done in cross-stitch.
?Kamirra? or ?kutuni? (long shirt) open at the sides and held to the waist with a ?juayame?, a wide and thick cummerbund made from wool or yarn.
On top of this cummerbund, they wear several stitched knapsacks called ?kuihuame? or ?huaikuri?, joined by a piece of cord. They hold nothing in these little sacks; they serve only as a complement to highlight their adornment.
Across the shoulders, they carry one or more ?kuchurri?, larger knitted or stitched sacks. On their back, they sport the ?tubarra?, a kind of stitched bandana which is tied around the neck and has a red flannel stripe.
A hat, which they call ?rupurero?, made from palm and adorned differently according to the use they give the hat: beads, feathers, yarn, flowers, thorns or pieces of bark.
The man is always the one wearing the fancier clothes. The wife puts all her care into her husband?s attire so that the pieces always look well stitched.
Contrasting with the man?s attire, the Huichol woman?s dress is simple: a short blouse to the waist, which they call ?kutuni?. The skirt, called ?ihui?, has a wide stripe of stitching at the bottom, same as the blouse.
She covers her head with the ?ricuri?, shaped from two white cotton squares, also beautifully and brightly stitched.
There?s an enormous variety in the decorative textile designs used in Huichol clothing, and they hold a magical significance since ancient times.
Every design is inspired in nature: two headed eagles, deer, squirrels, snakes- the symbol for water-, the characteristic eight petal lotus flower, which holds great symbolism within the Huicholes? mythical conceptions.
Both men and women adorn themselves with jewelry made from beads, earrings, rings, necklaces, pectorals and bracelets with traditional designs. A few years back, they only used blue and white, but now they use bright and varied colors. Both sexes wear ?huaraches?-traditional sandals.
??then the Mother of the Corn changed her shape from a dove and took on the human form; she introduced the young man to her five daughters, who symbolize the five sacred colors of corn: white, red, yellow, mottled and blue. Because the young man was hungry, the Mother of the Corn gave to him a cauldron filled with tortillas and a gourd filled with atole (traditional Mexican corn beverage), he didn?t think this was enough to satiate his hunger, but the tortillas and atole kept reappearing magically, so that he could not finish them. The Mother of the Corn asked him to pick one of her daughters, and he chose the Blue Corn Girl, the most beautiful and sacred of them all?.?