The Huichol Pilgrimage Temple Project
Support preservation of the ceremonial center of Queaehruitea in the Huichol community of Tuapurie
The goal is to restore the traditional integrity of the complex of temples and buildings of the tuquipa of Queaehruitea.
The architectural complex of Queaehruitea comprises mainly: one tuqui (main temple), 10 xiriquis (temples or shrines) around the central patio and several small one-floor adobe buildings that hold 25 rooms approximately for the personal use of the jicareros.
The current initial phase will be the survey and appraisal of the complex as a hole and of each of its temples and buildings. This will provide a base-line to foresee, prioritize and estimate the repairs and maintenance requirements, it will also be the basis for monitoring the integrity of the tuquipa in the medium and long term.
- an architectural plan of the tuquipa complex;
- an inventory of the temples and buildings as well as of other features (patios, hallways, fences, ritual furniture, etc.);
- an appraisal of each temple and building that will include descriptions, photographs and comments on the maintenance or repairing needs for each building;
- a proposal for maintenance and repairs including priorities, feasibilities and cost estimates.
The activities will be carried out mainly by Totupica Candelario in Queaehruitea during September. He will make the survey, the measuring an inventory of the buildings, drawing the architectural plan, the appraisal and the proposal for maintenance and repairs, translation to Spanish and transcription to digital format.
For this end, Totupica may ask for assistance from other Huichols to make some of the field activities (measuring, photography, etc.) and will also make interviews and consultations with the elders, shamans or other jicareros for descriptions and maintenance needs and priorities. Other consultations are foreseen with whomever in the community that might provide useful and practical ideas on procurement of materials, repairs or cost estimates (such as getting sufficient tall dry-grass, maguey fibers, and other traditional materials that are obtained in specific seasons or located at several walking-days distance, as well as mule/burro-transportation in the sierra).
Depending upon the ritual duties in the tuquipa, Totupica would come to Mexico City for 3 or 4 days by the second week of October. Here in CHAC's office we will revise together his survey and appraisal, make any necessary additions and make a backup for future needs and records. We will make a summary and translate it to English to be sent to CSEE together with an activities and expense-report by the third week of October.
Based on the appraisal, the next phase of the project, i.e. to begin with repairs and maintenance could start during November and December when the jicareros of Queaehruitea will have few ritual activities.
The Huichol live in remote settlements dispersed in a territory of more than 1,540 square miles in the Western Sierra Madre in Northwest Mexico, where the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas and Durango converge. Towards the first half of the 20th Century, after the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican government has recognized them as three agrarian communities (communal lands under Mexican law usually occupied by indigenous peoples) and diverse adjacent "ejidos" (a smaller type of semi-communal land), which in turn include five Huichol tribes or “tribal governments”.
They are unsurpassed in Mexico, and outstanding within the Americas, for the remarkable degree to which their contemporary way of life holds true to their pre- Columbian heritage. This accomplishment is due both to their remote location and to their steadfast resistance to pressure to give up their land and tradition. Today, most of the key aspects of their way of life are clearly continuous with pre-Columbian precedents.
Their political organization is quite complex, since the traditional pre-Columbian hierarchies are interwoven with colonial and contemporary agrarian institutions. However, the pre-Columbian hierarchies are the axis of their organization. These hierarchies lie at the ceremonial centers or tuquipa which are the basis of the social fabric. There are over 15 ceremonial centers spread throughout the Huichol homeland.
At the ceremonial centers, the activities that recreate and give meaning to the ancestral tribal wisdom is through sophisticated rituals led by the wise-elders and shamans. These are the ritual specialists that transmit the memory of the community through oral tradition and at the same time become the base of the political and social structure, through their obligation of learning and safeguarding the sacred and ritual knowledge of their culture.
The circular spatial arrangement of the tuquipa follow architectural patterns of ceremonial sites characteristic of the ancient cultures of Western Mexico. The tuquipa are a complex of temples arranged in a circular pattern around a central patio where different ritual acts are held.
Preservation of Queaehruitea:
Queaehruitea, or "Las Latas" as it is named in Spanish, is one of the four ceremonial centers in the Huichol community of Tuapurie, which is recognized officially as Comunidad de Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán, located at the north of the State of Jalisco in the municipality of Mezquitic.
Tuapurie is considered the Huichol community more jealous to influences from outsiders, the Mexican government or Christian churches. Within Tuapurie, Queaehruitea is the ceremonial center that has been more tenacious in defending and maintaining the vitality of the traditions and shamanic teachings.
Despite the above, the influences from globalization and specially from programs and subsidies for housing and education by the Mexican government, aimed at assimilating the indigenous peoples to "modernity", have been able to impact the integrity of the traditional architectural features of Queaehruitea.
During the last two decades one has been able to see how, little by little, buildings and ritual furniture in Queaehruitea (as with the rest of ceremonial centers in the sierra) have been affected by the introduction of sheets of metal or asbestos in the roofs as well as by other external/industrial materials in different building features. There is also the deterioration of some buildings due to the harsh economic conditions for many of those Huichols responsible for their maintenance. These and other factors of degradation affect the traditional setting that has been developed over millennia to create the subtle conditions required for the unique rituals and shamanic teachings that take place in the tuquipa.
Several elders, maracames (shamans) and other members of the tuquipa have expressed their concern for these deterioration which may lead to the weakness of the overall Huichol cultural continuity and tribal wisdom. Recently, Totupica Candelario, native of the Tuapurie community, was designated through the dreams of the elders to fulfill the five-year term as one of the 60 members of the tuquipa, called jicareros (keepers of the sacred gourd-vessels) or peyoteros.
About Totupica Candelario Robles:
38 years old and is a Huichol or Huixárica of the Community of Tuapurie, Jalisco. He graduated as a veterinarian zootecnist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He is a traditional musician and craftsman, as well as a Huichol- Spanish-Huichol translator. He has participated in various artistic events in Mexico and France and has collaborated in the translation and adaptation of scripts for documentaries and films on the Huichols, as well as scientific documents on ethno- biology and environmental conservation.
He holds an extensive field-experience in bio-cultural projects and has collaborated with Conservacion Humana AC (CHAC) since 2009 on educational, conservation and social projects aimed at the Huichol community. His participation was key in the preparation of the nomination file of the Huichol Route through Sacred Sites to Huiricuta to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, which includes the most complete description and cartography that exists on the sacred landscapes and pilgrimage routes of the Huichols. He carried out the adaptation and translation Huichol-Spanish-Huichol on a series of educational videos about the most important collection of Huichol historical objects known as the "K. Preuss Collection Berlin Ethnological Museum". Totupica also collaborated with CHAC and the Tuapurie community as an assistant to the Wildlife Conservation Management Unit (UMA): Reproduction of white-tailed deer, green macaw and endemic maguey in 2010 in Tuapurie. Totupica was part of the team for the identification and the conservation proposal of golden eagle nesting sites within the Huichol sacred landscapes in the state of Zacatecas. He was in charge of a team of Huichols from 2015 to 2017 to elaborate the cartography and description of the sacred sites in the "Sacred Route to the Sea", in the state of Nayarit. He is the Executive Coordinator for the joint projects of CHAC and University College London, for the installation of a social network of radios and the Wimari project on women's empowerment in reproductive health and marketing of textiles for the Tuapurie community.
He holds a Diploma in "Indigenous Rights in Urban Areas and Development" given by the National Pedagogical University of Mexico City and the Assembly of Indigenous Migrants of Mexico City. In 2010 he attended the "1st Seminar on Neurology of small species" held at the Faculty of Higher Education Cuautitlán of the UNAM.
In 2012, he participated as an instructor in the "10th Course of evaluation of bovine males, collection and freezing of semen", carried out at the Cuautitlán Faculty of Higher Studies of UNAM. He has also been a group director of the Bilingual Elementary School "Cuitlahuac" as well as a Community Instructor in the form of "bilingual educational attention" for the Huichol population residing in the community of Tierra Blanca, Jalisco. He was an assistant to professor Phd Armando Esperón in the subjects of: "Reproduction and Artificial Insemination" and "Bovine Clinic." Totupica served as a Service Engineer at the Cuautitlán Faculty of Higher Studies of UNAM as a trainer of equipment use (related to veterinary) in various schools throughout Mexico.
About Conservación Humana AC (CHAC):
Our mission is the conservation of the corridor of sacred landscapes of the Huichol indigenous people to ensure the sustainability of a cultural and natural heritage of universal value.
We are a Mexican, independent and non-profit organization, founded in 1995 by a multidisciplinary group. Among us are several researchers whose first-hand field knowledge of the Huichol dates back to 1966. Under agreements with the Huichol authorities, we implement initiatives aimed to ensure their fundamental human rights, including their right to natural resources management, sustainable development, environmental conservation and cultural heritage preservation.
CHAC is an organization that magnifies its outreach working with international organizations, Mexican governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations from Mexico and abroad.
This information was provided by Humberto Fernández Borja, Director