Huichol art evolved from the charms that Huichol shamans crafted to empower them during their hazardous pilgrimages to their peyote-rich sacred land of Wirikuta. To the original items—mostly devotional arrows, yarn cicuri (see-KOO-ree—God’s eyes), and decorated gourds for collecting peyote—have been added colorful cuadras (yarn paintings) and bead masks.
Cuadras, made of synthetic yarns pressed into beeswax on a plywood backing, traditionally depict plant and animal spirits, the main actors of the Huichol cosmos. Bead masks likewise blend the major elements of the Huichol world-view into an eerie human likeness, often of Grandmother Earth (Tatei Nakawe).
Although Huichol men do not actually manufacture their headwear, they do decorate them. They take ordinary sombreros and embellish them into Mexico’s most flamboyant hats, flowing with bright ribbons, feathers, and fringes of colorful wool balls.
Many commercial outlets, especially in Puerto Vallarta (and even commercial Christmas catalogs in the United States) now offer made-for-tourists Huichol goods. However, discriminating collectors find the finer examples nearer the source. Visit the Huichol Cultural Center in Santiago Ixcuintla, the long-established Huichol outlet shops in Tepic, and the more exclusive Puerto Vallarta shops.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition