Scout’s Spanish teacher, Diana, does outreach at a Huichol indian village in the state of Nayarit. Recently Scout and I joined her on a weekend expedition to deliver donated food and other supplies.
The Huicholes are renowned beadwork and yarn artists, who inhabit remote micro villages in the Sierras of Nayarit and Jalisco. Reaching this particular village involved a five-hour drive from Chapala, and then a bracing motorboat trip across a reservoir. This was a rare opportunity for Scout and me to get a taste of village life.
We left our cars at this dusty outpost & then took at 20-minute powerboat ride across the lake
Scout’s Spanish teacher, Diana. Best Spanish teacher EVER!
View from the village
The village is poor, with no apparent economy besides selling yarn- and beadwork to occasional visitors. And by poor, I mean washing-and-reusing-disposable-diapers poor. Think wooden shacks, bare feet and hungry dogs.
During the two days we were there, the women and kids did all the labor, while the men loafed on the other side of the village, socializing & drinking. We barely saw them.
This is Mari, who cooked our meals of lake fish, beans, potatoes and fresh blue-corn tortillas. She’s the grandmother of Norma, whom you’ll meet in a minute.
A visiting baker was doing a 2-week tutorial, teaching village women how to make various sweet breads.
That’s lard, not flour, the ladies are spreading all over the dough. Afterward they rolled up the dough and sliced it crossways to make dozens of buns.
These buns and other breads are baked in the outdoor wood-fire oven and sold in the village or to occasional visitors.
While the buns were baking, Scout produced a glitter-tattoo kit from her backpack and went to work on the kids. It was fun watching everyone pick out their designs and then compare their finished tattoos. Afterward they all hung out and visited for a while. Scout had to stretch her Spanish to communicate, but she did it.
Village women support their families by making and selling beaded jewelery. As we walked around, women emerged from their houses with small selections of jewelry for us to consider. I expected their prices to be cheaper than in town, but they were actually the same or perhaps a bit higher. The village designs were much better though. More detailed with better colors.
Beaded jaguar head. The artist was asking $600 pesos for it, or about $45 USD/CAD. Scout begged me to buy it, but as a minimalist, nomadic mum, I had to say no. We just don’t have room (physical or mental) for this kind of stuff.
After we had bought jewelery from about half a dozen women, we reached the “market,” where all the rest of them were waiting for us. We tried to spread our purchases around, to help as many families as possible. I now own a lot of beaded jewelry.
Some of Scout’s MANY purchases (bought with her allowance)
Later on Scout and some of the kids walked around the village delivering candy she’d brought to share. She enjoyed all the children but spent the most time with Norma (below, in the orange shirt) and Norma’s cousin Xavier (below, in the white shirt).
Norma, 13, was born without a leg and summarily tossed onto a garbage heap. Fortunately she was rescued by her grandmother, Mari (the lady who cooked for us), and now gets around just fine on her prosthetic leg. She’s the most amazing girl — smart, friendly and quick to laugh. Same goes for Xavier. Wonderful kids, both of them.
Actually all the village kids were outgoing, sparkly and smart. All are fluent in both Spanish and their Huichol language (spoken and written).
Fields of stunning crimson jamaica lined the village.Jamaica flowers are dried and used to make agua fresca, a cold hibiscus tea. Scout was thrilled to see it growing and to pick her own flowers. She likes to chew on the leaves, which taste like a combination of sour cherries and lettuce.
Fun at dinner
Lots of dogs roamed the village. This one was just playing, but they were all hungry, and we were glad we’d also brought dog food to distribute.
When Scout pulled a scarf out of her bottomless backpack and started knitting, a crowd gathered to watch.
So she gave an impromptu knitting lesson.
The next day while we were waiting for the boat to take us back across the reservoir, Scout plunged into the lake with the rest of the kids. It was wonderful to watch them all splashing, laughing, and carrying on; I was amazed by how friendly they’d all gotten in such a short time.
I practically had to drag Scout out of the water. Some of the village kids clung to the side of the boat until we pulled away. Then they all waved and shouted adiós over and over.