It takes a considerable stretch of emotion, intellect and intuition to try to understand a culture that is totally foreign to one’s own. Most often, it’s necessary to shed everything one knows about one’s own culture and come to a new society as unknowing as a child.
The permanent exhibit concerning the life of the Huichol Indians (who live in the nearby Sierra Madre Occidental) in a museum to one side of the Zapopan Basilica provides an introduction into the completely different cosmology of the Wixarika, as the Huicholes call themselves.
Hikuritames & sly jokes
In the mid-1960s my wife and I were invited by an anthropologist from the University of California at Los Angeles to attend, in his stead, the religious ritual of the Huichol Indians celebrating the return of the hikuritames — in Spanish, the peyoteros.
February is a bone-dry time in the Sierra Madre Occidental that makes the world seem desolate. The five of us — my wife, the anthropologist’s wife, a mule skinner, a Huichol Indian and me — loaded the pack animals and mounted horses and mules, leaving the car behind where the dirt road ran out just beyond Acuitapilco, Nayarit. Leading us was an apprentice mara’akame (Huichol shaman) named Ramon Medina Silva, who was already pulling sly jokes on me.