Los Huicholes, who are they? | Huichol art - Marakame

The Huicholes, who are they?

Los Huicholes, who are they? | Huichol art - Marakame

Wirrárika Ethnicity (Huicholes)

The Huichol Indians include a series of relatively traditional groups, mostly organized in communities, located in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit in western Mexico. There are around 30 to 40 thousand Huichols, scattered on ranches or small towns at the intermediate tablelands of the deep ravines. They are engaged in mixed livestock farming and the subsistence agricultural economy. The extremely rugged terrain in which they live has always served as a kind of filter to acculturation, although the Huichol have always participated in regional social organization. In fact, its relationship with the surrounding area is symbiotic, not isolated or separated. Their participation has varied in degree and intensity over different periods, but there has not yet been a wave of acculturation strong enough to eliminate their religious practices or language. Although they have adopted a form of Catholicism, their society, at bottom, remains traditional and Aboriginal (Weigand, 1992).

Map of Mexico showing the region where the Huichol live

Brief History

The Huichol Indians have been the focus of anthropological attention since the early XX century, when Carl Lumholtz's classic works were first published. While religion and symbolism have been the main interest of people outside the group, other and fascinating aspects of Huichol culture and society have been little studied.

Nowadays, Huichols have a long history within the limits of at least three centers of Mesoamerican civilization. The archaeological work that has been carried out recently in and near the Huichol communities (land concessions established by the Spanish crown) show a long sub-Mesoamerican development on-site. The archaeological sequence, begun around AD 200, strongly suggests that the Eastern Nayarites (one of the many terms applied to the Huichol during the colonial period) received Mesoamerican influences from many directions during the long period of Aboriginal development in the mountains. Recent data does not show any archaeological break that supports the popular theory that Huichols are newcomers to the area (Weigand, 1992).

Social and economic structure

The formal political structure within the regional society, where the Huichols are located, is much more complex and presents a greater internal variety than is generally supposed. The indigenous community (indigenous land concession) exists alongside many agrarian communities (communal ejidos or ranches whose members are generally mestizo, that is, individuals of Indian and European origin), some of which are also very old. Regional society includes the following indigenous groups: Coras, Huichol, Techuales, Pepehuanes, Tepecanos and Mexicaneros, who are internally distinguished in terms of culture and adaptation. Although most of these Indians are organized in communities, indigenous or agrarian, they are also organized directly in municipalities, such as small landowners with individual titles, laborers (daily wage laborers), ranchers (cattle owners or cowherders), braceros (migrant workers), peasants (farmers), artisans, shopkeepers, mule muleteers. (Weigand, 1992).

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