Visit to El Museo Zacatecano (Zacatecan Huichol Museum)
The Huichol Art and Textile Collection in Zacatecas is home to 166 wall hangings, which
appear simple but they incorporate a plethora of symbols, both in design and color. The
wall hangings are about twenty inches square and are displayed under glass. I photographed
them with a hand-held camera without a flash. I tried to avoid glare but in some cases it was
In the downstairs lobby there was a display of beaded items for sale. A Huichol man and
his son were patiently working on their art. Blazing in color from the stairwell leading to
the museum, there is an eighty-panel beaded mosaic, which is called the Huichol Bible, or
Mystic World View. It is the glory of the museum.
Huichols are known for brilliantly colored bead and yarn "paintings." These paintings are
often psychedelic visions influenced by peyote and interpreted by shamans. They contain
pre-Hispanic religious elements, and in a religious context they are considered transcend-
ental, interior visions.
José Acevedo Alvarez, a quiet man, was sitting on a wicker chair when I entered the Huich-
ol textile museum room. I assumed he was security, a job requiring patience for a long day
of little activity. But he surprised me with his personal background and a depth of know-
ledge that would require a book to record.
He introduced himself. "My father was Spanish and fifteen and my Huichol mother was
twelve when they married. Father was a miner, and the Huichols banished my mother. My
parents saved and bought goats and cattle. But we children never went to school." José said
that he had married and raised nine children. Although he had no schooling, all of his chil-
dren were educated and two went to college. He said, "I came to Zacatecas and I learned. I
learned how to dress and how to speak with people." In every sense he displayed courtesy
and a keen intelligence.
José became my guide to the textile collection. He called the Huichol textiles on display
mantas , blankets in my vocabulary, but better translated as tapestries. José pointed out
the textiles. "Three colors are dominant: green (nature) red (energy, life force) and black
(death)." He mentioned the beaded mosaic in the stairwell, "That's the Huichol Bible," he
said. "Our history and beliefs are recorded there."
I was curious about the beads, which are called chiquira . "When did the beaded art begin?"