Our weekend in a Huichol indian village

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 experience (well, witness) village life.

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We left our cars at this dusty outpost & then took at 20-minute powerboat ride across the lake

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Scout’s Spanish teacher, Diana. 

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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. Imagine wooden shacks, bare feet, and hungry dogs.

During the two days we were there, the women and kids did absolutely all the labor, while the men loafed on the other side of the village, socializing & drinking. We rarely saw them.

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The lady below 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.

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A visiting baker was doing a 2-week tutorial, teaching village women how to make various sweet breads.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 don’t have room for this kind of stuff.

 

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After we had bought jewelry 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.

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 Some of Scout’s MANY purchases

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).

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Fields of stunning crimson jamaica lined the village. Jamaica flowers are dried and used to make a type of agua fresca called, unsurprisingly, jamaica. It’s like 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.

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Fun at dinner

 

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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.

 

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When Scout pulled a scarf out of her bottomless backpack and started knitting, a crowd gathered to watch. 

 

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So she gave an impromptu knitting lesson.

 

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 Success!

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.

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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.

 

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GOODBYE!

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lyndajo Thomas December 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Every post of yours is my new favorite one, RambleCrunch! What a wonderful experience for everyone. These photos are soooo beautiful. I shared a few on FB.
Ha. I won’t be happy until everyone I know is reading your blog!!
Happy New Year.

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2 Renee December 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Thanks, LyndaJo. We appreciate it.

Renee

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3 William D'Antoni December 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Outstanding, Renee! Loved the pics. Scout’s beautiful!

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4 Chyra D'Antoni December 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Rene you, Mark and Scout are living the possible dream how wonderful. Not many get the opportunity to do this enjoy. Love ya’ll Chyra D’Antoni

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5 Mark December 30, 2012 at 11:49 am

Thanks, Bill. Too bad I had to stay home and work. The ladies had such a great experience. I am happy they could take this opportunity offered by Scout’s Spanish Teacher. Diana is a gifted teacher and we are lucky to have found her (thank you Whiteheads)! Cheers!

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6 Catherine Forest December 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Wow! What a truly amazing experience!! This is unreal! I love that Scout packed a lot of things to distribute and share with the other kids. A great way to connect with them.

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7 Tiffany December 30, 2012 at 12:42 am

Really beautiful pictures. I love the vibrant colors of the women’s skirts and blouses – what a colorful community!

It was also neat to see/read the universal language of childhood, and of children. They all had wonderful smiles and seemed to be able to communicate despite language differences. What an inspiring photo essay – thank you for sharing!

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8 Living Outside of the Box December 30, 2012 at 3:46 am

Wow–what an EXPERIENCE! I’m jealous! How absolutely extraordinary!

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9 Renee December 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

Cheers, Alisa. Did you ever meet Diana? We found her through the Whiteheads.

And we’re envious of you guys in SE Asia on a daily basis… 🙂

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10 Kirsty December 30, 2012 at 3:55 am

Fab post – what an experience! I bet it’s one you’ll remember for a long time to come.

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11 Renee December 30, 2012 at 11:57 am

Thanks, Kirsty. You’re right, we won’t be forgetting this one any time soon.

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12 Tom Medsger December 30, 2012 at 9:19 am

A fantastic blog posting! The visit to the village was a real cross-cultural experience, wonderfully documented with your photos and text. All of these blogs are good, and valuable, but this is one of the best.

Thanks for including us readers in your adventures.

Tom

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13 Renee December 30, 2012 at 11:55 am

Thank you, Tom! Much appreciated.

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14 Mark January 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Thanks, Tom. I think Renee’s photos are terrific! IMHO. Though I couldn’t make it, I am so glad we were able to give Scout this experience. She had a great time and it was nice to follow up with a visit from Norma and her family a couple of weeks later.

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15 buddy and girl January 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

Amazing! She will remember that for the rest of her life. I really like the age that Scout is at for traveling, really able to grasp, jump in and learn from these huge experiences a wee bit more than mine. I’m thinking we may have to move to Mexico in a few years!

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16 Alex December 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Having Scout as your Ambassador, how could they not fall in love w you. I very much want to teach the kids of Bacalar to knit. The beadwork is amazing. Love reading your adventures.

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17 Renee December 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Alex. She knew just what to do with all the ice-breakers. You should have seen all the village boys covered in glitter tats!

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18 Renee December 2, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Thanks, Patti. She was especially friendly, which we appreciated since communication wasn’t exactly smooth. 🙂

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