Huichol Yarn Art

by Verónica

Some time ago, my husband and I made a backpacking trip to Real de Catorce, which is located near Matehuala. Matehuala is significant only in that it marks roughly the half-way point between the U.S.-Mexico border and Mexico City. It was one of those cross-country bus, non-air conditioned van, and back of pick-up truck kind of trips. (Yes, I know, first class all the way).

Real de Catorce is an old silver mining town located about 2,750 meters (9,000 feet) above sea level in the Sierra de Catorce, close to the Tropic of Cancer. The area is home to the Huichol Indians. They can be seen in traditional dress throughout the town and selling their arts and crafts in the markets. One of their crafts involves creating exquisitely detailed and colorful paintings using yarn. The yarn paintings reflect their religious beliefs and aspects of nature that comprise their cosmology.

When I visited, I did not take pictures of the Huichol or of their art so I found examples of their art online. The following four yarn paintings came from here. In them, you will find the visions of the Shaman, nature and deities, snakes, eagles, deer, an eclipse, the peyote, and corn, among others.

The central figures in this next yarn painting are the eagle looming overhead flanked by the sun and the moon while the bottom half features the peyote. The peyote is  a kind of cactus with hallucinogenic properties. The peyote is a sacred plant to the Huichol and the cultivation and gathering of the plant is controlled to prevent extinction and misuse.

This is what peyote looks like in the wild.

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I did bring home this small 4×4 inch yarn painting (small items I could stash in the backpack). The painting is of “Hombre Chaman de Mucho Conocimiento” or “Shaman Man of Much Knowledge” and is signed by the artist, Alejandro López Torres. In it you can appreciate the winding of the yarn on the wood to create the image.

Another Huichol craft uses extremely tiny beads to create jewelry and decorate animals carved from wood. The beaded carvings are usually of animals revered by the Huichol, like this tiny deer (stands 4 1/2 inches tall).

Here is a beaded bracelet I brought home. The main motif is the peyote.

In the process of writing this post, I learned that a few days ago there was a huge gathering of Huichol Indians in Mexico City for Wirikuta Fest 2012. Wirikuta is another name for the Huichol. The music festival featured famous singers and musicians including Café Tacvba and Julieta Venegas, two of our favorite artists. The festival was held in support of the Huichol Indians who are fighting the encroachment of mining on their lands. The following pictures of Huichol in traditional dress were taken at the festival and can be found here (slides 18 & 19).

Stay tuned for a post about Real de Catorce.