October 2008 Artifact of the Month

Artifact: Huichol Chaquira

Materials: Glass, Metal or Plastics Beads pressed into wooden form covered in Beeswax





As a result of the rugged and mountainous landscape that surrounds the indigenous population of the Huichol in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Western Mexico, they did not fall under the conquest of Spanish colonizers.  In fact, the Huichol have continued to resist the influence of Mexican culture.  Consequently, they have effectively preserved their native culture and traditions.

An important aspect of Huichol culture is religion.  The Huichol actively participate in various religious activities like Peyote ceremonies.  However, they do not restrict religious practice to ceremonies; in essence, religion affects nearly every aspect of Huichol life - including art.  Their art has a religious purpose because it serves as a prayer ensuring the survival of the tribe’s culture.  Art is also significant to the Huichol because they do not have a written language.  Consequently, it is through artwork such as yarn paintings and beadwork that the tribe has shared its traditions and religious beliefs.

The featured Huichol artwork is a form of art called chaquira.  Each chaquira is created using glass, metal, or plastic beads that are pressed into a wooden form covered with beeswax.  The artwork is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it serves an important religious function by depicting a symbol within the Huichol religion.

Come see more Huichol artwork in our exhibit, South of the Border: A Shared Heritage