Be sure to reserve part of your time in Santiago Ixcuintla  to stop by the Centro Cultural Huichol (20 de Noviembre 452, tel. 323/235-1171, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. and 4–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., www.huicholcenter.com ). The immediate mission of founder Mariano Valadez, a Huichol artist and community leader, is to ensure that the Huichol people endure, with their traditions intact and growing. His instrument is the Centro Cultural Huichol—a clinic, dining hall, dormitory, library, craftsmaking shop, sale gallery, and interpretive center that provides crucial focus and support for local migratory Huichol people.
Mariano’s ex-wife, Susana (who helped him found the Centro Cultural Huichol during the 1990s), has worked to maintain a second center, high in the mountains at Huejuquilla El Alto, Jalisco. Mariano, with the help of his local staff, continues the original mission in Santiago Ixcuintla .
As well as filling vital human needs, both of these centers actively nurture the vital elements of an endangered heritage. This heritage belongs not only to the Huichol, but to the lost generations of indigenous peoples—Aleut, Yahi, Lacandones, and myriad others—who succumbed to European diseases and were massacred in innumerable fields, from Wounded Knee and the Valley of Mexico all the way to Tierra del Fuego.
Although they concentrate on the immediate needs of people, Mariano and Susana and their staffs also reach out to local, national, and international communities. For example, their Santiago Ixcuintla  center’s entry corridor is decorated with illustrated Huichol legends in Spanish, especially for Mexican visitors. An adjacent gallery exhibits a treasury of Huichol art for sale—yarn paintings, masks, jewelry, gourds, god’s eyes—adorned with the colorful deities and animated heavenly motifs of the Huichol pantheon. You may also purchase the Center’s Huichol handicrafts on line, via www.beadsofbeauty.net , or at La Hamaca Gallery in Sayulita .
Get to the Santiago Ixcuintla Centro Cultural Huichol by heading away from the river, along 20 de Noviembre, the main street that borders the central plaza. Within a mile, you’ll see the Centro Cultural Huichol at number 452 on the right.
You can also travel to Susana’s center (call or email a week ahead of time) in person, either by charter airplane from Tepic , or two days by car (via Hwy. 54 north from Guadalajara to Zacatecas, thence Hwy. 45 northwest to Fresnillo, then west via Hwy. 44 to Huejuquilla) to Centro Indígena Huichol (Calle Victoria 24, Huejuquilla El Alto, tel. 457/983-7054, huicholcenter [at] juno [dot] com).
Both the Huejuquilla and the Santiago Ixcuintla  centers invite volunteers, especially those with secretarial, computer, language, and other skills, to help with projects. If you don’t have the time, they also solicit donations of money and equipment.