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Huichol Heritage

By Modesto Rivera Lemus | May, 2005

Modesto Rivera Lemus is a Huichol artist from Nayarit, Mexico who creates stunningly designed craftwork. Known as cuadros, these boldly patterned yet intricate yarn paintings use traditional techniques of Huichol artists. Reflecting the deeply spiritual nature of this ancient people, another word for these pieces is nierikas, or "mirror images of God." Always eager to share the stories of his people, he has collaborated with Bonnie Larson on two highly-regarded children's books, Watakame's Journey (Clear Light, 1999) and When Animals Were People (Clear Light, 2002). Lemus spends much of the year in Mexico, where he lives a traditional life of hunting, fishing, and farming. When he visits the US, he demonstrates his art and skill at museums and other cultural events.


About the Huichol

The Huichol Indians (pronounced Wee-chol) survive in the most remote regions of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. Today, the Huichol number only 20,000, many of whom have emigrated to nearby cities. However, many still hold on to their ancient customs, believing in divinities, legends, and sacred spirits which lead them into today's existence. Nearly one-fourth of Huichol men are shamans. The art created by these shamans is often inspired during altered states of consciousness, either from dreams or while experiencing the effects of the "sacred peyote." Each color, every line, every symbol in the artwork they create, no matter how abstract, has a deeply iconic meaning: White is the Cloud Spirits; blue is the south, the Pacific Ocean, water, rain and felinity; the rabbit and serpent represent fertility; red is the east, grandfather, fire, and masculinity; green is the Earth, heaven, healing, the heart and grandfather growth; the eagle is a divine guardian; the two-headed eagle is God looking all ways at once; the deer represents peyote, and the elder brother deer is the link between the Shaman and the Great Spirit; flowers, which always adorn their artwork, are the passageway of the heart, and mirror the spirits into the world.