Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Huichol Family

I was thinking a great topic for my blog entry this time might be the biggest thing for me this week: my colonoscopy. But Pixie suggested that readers of this blog might be less than enthusiastic about such details. Rather than continue with this idea and risk getting all pooped out by the effort, I had to find something else to write about.

We have some friends, an American artist, Janice, and her Mexican husband, Teo, who attend our UU fellowship (Teo is the one who weaved the beautiful tapestry for our pulpit). Teo is pictured here with one of his original tapestries. Teo worked for many years as a migrant worker in California, but Janice convinced him he could make his living with his weaving. They now share a studio in Ajijic.

For some time Janice has befriended a family of Huichol Indians who were living in a vacant lot behind their house. The Huichols are an ancient people, descended from the Aztecs, who still practice the pre-Columbian shamanic traditions of their ancestors. For more information about this interesting indigenous group, check out this link: http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/huichol/huicholindex.html

Anyway, Janice and Teo began helping this family and learning about them. Their story is interesting. The oldest son is named Teo, as is Janice's husband. (I will hereafter refer to him as HTeo, to differentiate him from Janice's Teo). HTeo is pictured at the left with his wife and two small children and three of his siblings, all wearing their traditional Huichol dress. HTeo came from a large Huichol family who lived in the mountainous area of Northern Jalisco. When he was young, his father separated from the tribe and his mother, and brought HTeo to live in Ajijic. Unfortunately, his father was an abusive alcoholic and HTeo grew up, essentially, homeless on the streets of Ajijic. He would go back and visit his mother when he could, but otherwise led a very difficult away from his people. About a year ago, or so, HTeo returned to visit his mother and the rest of his family in the mountains, with his father. While they were there, his father brutally murdered his mother in front of one of HTeo's young sisters. His father took off into the mountains and has not been heard from or caught. HTeo decided to return to his Huichol roots, and took responsibility for his large family. He is the oldest of eight children, and is married and has two children of his own. He returned with several of his siblings, leaving the others and his wife in the mountains, and found a small place to live in the Chapala area, where he is trying to make a living by selling his traditional Huichol bead work. Many of us became involved with this family when Janice was trying to help them survive here and asked if any of us could donate some money to help them pay their rent and buy food. Many of us did, and we has a chance to meet the family several times.

HTeo finally found a slightly larger place to stay, a one-room, 9 x 21 foot house with a bath and one bed, and has brought his other siblings and his wife and two children to live. There are now HTEo and his wife, their two children, and his seven siblings living in this house, eleven people in all. Two of his sisters and his wife (right) are pictured here. He is scraping together barely enough money to pay the 800 pesos monthly rent and buy food by selling his beadwork in the market in Ajijic.

Janice just informed us that HTeo has found a house in Chapala which he can have for five years, rent free. It is still a one room house, but much larger. The only problem is that it has no working bathroom and needs a floor. A group of us who care about this family are going to look at this house on Friday and try to figure out how we can help HTeo and his family fix this house up so it's livable. I will update their story as it unfolds.

On the left are three of HTeo's brothers, for whom he is the primary caretaker, plus his daughter. They were enjoying juice and donuts yesterday at Janice and Teo's studio. It was a chance for many of our friends to meet the family that we have decided to help. They were intrigued by their own images on my digital camera.

Below is a picture of a beaded mask we bought from HTeo. These masks are made of many tiny beads which are painstakingly and prayerfully embedded in beeswax. All the masks contain sacred images of the Huichol tradition. This mask has the sun on the forehead, a sacred deer head on the chin, and peyote mushroom "cookies, which they eat as part of all their rituals. Peyote is illegal in Mexico, but the government has made an exception for the Huichols. The candle on the nose is also part of their rituals.

(Note: you may notice that I have figured out how to incorporate some images into the text. You can click on these photos to see larger images.)

A few other notes: GOOD NEWS! The keys which we thought were in Pixie's purse when we were robbed have turned up in another bag. So the only loss from the robbery was about $40 in cash.. We have our keys, so nobody is running around with our car keys after all.

Cassie has found an apartment in Brookline for $450 a month and is moving in this week. She is looking forward to following her dream by studying professional illustration at the Art Institute of Boston starting on September 5th. Wendy and Troy are living happily on the lake in Oxford, Maine. Wendy has been doing well waitressing at Pat's and Troy is working on a farm and practicing his Spanish with his Mexican coworkers. They are saving money to travel in Mexico when they come down in January. Eric and Crystal report that her pregnancy is going well. Crystal has started teaching two sections of English Composition as part of her assistantship.

I have been writing quite a bit of poetry lately and am looking forward to getting some feedback in the Ajijic writer's group which meets twice a month at a local restaurant. I am not a very good poet, but I enjoy it and hope to get better. Pixie has been getting very creative with her card making. I think she should put some on consignment at a local boutique.

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