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The Huichol Center in Huejuquilla el Alto, state of Jalisco, Mexico

Susana and Mariano Valadez, American anthropologist and Huichol artist, inaugurated the first Huichol Center in 1980, a grassroots organization with the goal of “Transforming Field Hands into Creative Hands.” At that time the Center was located in Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, a town known as “The Tobacco Capitol of Mexico”, where they provided direct assistance to families working in toxic tobacco fields. In 1993 the Center was relocated to Huejuquilla el Alto, Jalisco, a strategic site on the road to Wirikuta, where many more Wixaritari and visitors would pass and service providing and information gathering could be maximized.

During the years a vast array of activities was developed to provide the Wixárika people who ventured out into the world beyond the mountains with much needed charitable services and to help prepare them to confront the invasion by the dominant Mexican culture, which had started after the government had penetrated their remote and pristine homeland by building airstrips and dirt roads. The floodgates had been opened and large numbers of the non-immune Huichol population were succumbing to epidemic diseases as foreigners descended upon their communities to plunder the riches: the lumber industry, mining companies, missionaries, the alcohol sellers, agro-chemical companies, the tourist industry and many other invaders who came in droves to stake their claims. It was clear that the powerless Huichols would soon suffer the fate so many indigenous civilizations have known throughout history.

The challenge at hand at that time, and still today, is how to build sturdy bridges to span the abyss between tradition and future. Bridges that provide a strong foothold that will allow this ancient tribe to exist in the modern world, not among the relics in museums, but as living, self-determined people, who participate of the global culture on their own terms, without destroying the spirit and substance of their ancient heritage and cultural identity.

Thus, what began as prudent steps into assisting an indigenous people to survive has now evolved into an inter-generational rescue operation, a multi-faceted plan of action that over the decades has provided aid and a helping hand to thousands of Huichols in need. By defending and strengthening their right to cultural, spiritual, political and economic self-determination, the Huichol Center has charted a course for future generations by creating opportunities, leadership, decent livelihood, indigenous education and ecological imperatives that have helped alleviate hunger and raise the quality of their lives.


But live goes on and new existential challenges pop up and need to be addressed. Inter-tribal Huichol feuds and lack of strong leadership require new ideas for effective nation building, the continuous threat of outright annihilation of the sacred peyote fields by global conglomerates ask for stronger safeguarding tools, the internationalization of peyote use asks for legal embedding and protection of the traditional indigenous use against the competition from visiting so-called recreational users: all issues that require challenging information capacities for an adequate presentation of the Wixárika cause to a world forum. New projects are envisioned to strengthen the ongoing activities in the areas of social assistance of Wixaritari, cultural conservation of patrimony and survival of the Nación Wixarika. Projects for the legalization of peyote and the cultivation of non-endemic peyote for new groups of users should guarantee the survival of traditional religious use in a climate of drugs peace.
The funding of all these activities has been part of an innovative, holistic model where conservation, education and job creation have resulted in sales of sustainable products that have allowed the Huichol Center to survive, thanks to the input of very many Huichols and reliable partners, friends of the Huichol nation abroad. To face the challenges of the future, the Huichol Center is confident that new generations of Huichols will join the quest for survival of their beautiful culture and that new partners, aware of the gift of the Huichol people to humanity, will reciprocate.