Huichol Art

The Huichol Indians or “Wixaritari” as called in their native dialect inhabit the Sierra Madre Occidental mainly in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit with minor presence in Durango and Zacatecas in a geographical region called they call “Huicot”.

The last census of the huichol population dates from 2010 by INEGI and accounted for 43, 929 inhabitants. The population is in fact divided into five main administrative districts: Tuxpan de Bolaños, San Sebastián Teponahuatla, Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán, San Andrés Cohamiata and Guadalupe Ocotán. Each of these communities holds an autonomous government headed by a governor but constituted as well by a judge, a mayor a captain and some assistants

Their location deep inside the mountains of central-eastern Mexico allowed the Huicholes to preserve their rituals and beliefs despite the Spaniard conquest of their lands as the survivors of the brutality of the Spanish troops as they found rural paths that made their way through the mountains and remained in isolation.

Huicholes lived in a self-imposed isolation. Despite outside pressure the huicholes remain loyal to their shamanic tradition. Animalism is the main characteristic of the professed religion. It has a pre-Hispanic influence mingled with slight catholic touches. The fundamental trinity of huichol adoration are the main divinities: corn, deer, and peyote (a type of hallucinogenic cactus).

Each year, after the rainy season (approximately in the month of December) the traditional authorities and the families from the five communities set out on a journey through the desert to the sacred site of Wirikuta at Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosí. This pilgrimage is highly relevant to the Huichol people as it symbolizes, according to their beliefs, the creation of the universe. Along this excursion they communicate with their gods as they assimilate their mandates as they thank them for the rain, the land, and the harvest. Meanwhile they hunt deer and collect huicuri the flower from the peyote which is used for the rituals in which they communicate with their gods.

Art has a central role in the huichol culture. Art serves mystic and religious motives. All objects such as paintings and figures constitute offerings to their gods in the rituals and ceremonies. This offerings possess heavy symbolism reflecting the communities’ way of living as well as their beliefs, legends, the creation of the universe and mythology. The huichol women take great pride in confecting knitted garments and carving wood pieces covered with crystal beads. On the other hand men create colorful detailed paintings made of yarn as well as decorative arrows as well as gourds and pots. Huichol art is very important for their culture. Aside from having a very important religious end, it also allows them to pass on the traditions, values and beliefs which ensures the survival of the huichol culture.

Although the art pieces served a religious end nowadays huichol people create art with more commercial purposes. They obtain economic resources as they raise awareness of their culture. The sacred object is turned into a handcraft

There are two main types of pieces crafted by huicholes:

  • Wooden boards covered with religious representative symbols made out of yar
  • Figures covered in crystal beads

The technique used for creating both art works is very similar. The huicholes apply a thin layer of beeswax to any of the objects they are going to be working with (generally made out of wood). Then they stick individual beads on them or press one thread of yarn at a time as they create complicated meaningful patterns along the way.