The Huichol are a tribe in NE Mexico
. Originally found near the Aztec civilization in the 1500s, the Huichol fled to the northern mountain ranges when the Conquistadores
arrived. Consequently, their culture survived, whereas the culture of the Aztecs was largely lost when the Spaniards
killed off the empire.
What is most notable about the Huichol tribe is their spiritual journey into the desert. The Huichol annually select about 2 dozen men to go into the desert and gather visions for the rest of the tribe. All Huichol children are taught from a young age how to handle, remember, and interpret the visions they receive on spiritual journeys. Once in the desert the selected men eat Hikuri, a type of desert peyote found on cacti. The hallucinations caused by eating this desert fruit are important to the religion of the Huichol, and the peyote is not taken for pleasure. The aquired hallucinations and visions are logged and interpreted by Huichol yarn paintings.
Yarn painting is accomplished by taking thin, colored string and pressing it onto a ceramic square, which is covered in wax. The paintings are abstract and depict thoughts and feelings rather than true-to-life scenes, and thus are very elaborate and colorful. Today, one can buy replica yarn paintings in ports-of-call all over Mexico, most notably Acapulco and Tijuana. If one is a fan of the Simpsons, one can recall an episode where Homer eats insanity peppers and goes on a wild trek for his spirit guide. This is a play on the Huichol and South Western spiritual journeys.