At the annual Feria del Arte by Lake Chapala, Mexico (near where we lived for five years), I was at a booth featuring Huichol art. I started chatting in Spanish with some of the Huichol people there. One woman answered me in English that I immediately recognized had to be her native tongue, and it was.
Susana Valadez is an anthropologist who went to the Huichol region to do fieldwork. She ended up falling in love with one of the Huichol men she met. They married in 1978 and have three children.
As Susana discovered over time, the traditional ways were being encroached on. A fiesty, energetic, deeply caring woman, Susana founded the Huichol Center — that link takes you to its website. It is devoted to cultural preservation in many ways, but Susana also explores integrating non-traditional culture into the Huichol life as appropriate. For example, she has introduced the making of soymilk as an eco-friendly source of badly needed protein.
On her website is really well-made program about the Center. It runs about 12 minutes. You will enjoy it the most if you press play, then pause and wait two minutes. This will allow the video to load and be played without any breaks or buffering.
We had time to chat a bit. I told her about the earthbag building that my husband Kelly and other local Americans and Canadians were doing at a school right near where we lived, where a number of Huichol students are in residence. I also told her that I got a BA in Anthropology from Stanford and started my PhD at Berkeley, also in Anthropology, before the 60s overcame me and I said goodbye to academia.
Talking with her was kind of like talking with someone I could have become. I could imagine my life taking her path!
This project of hers does an incredible amount on not that much money. On Susana’s beautifully done website, there is a Paypal button. I clicked and made a small donation, and I encourage you to do the same. (Or a large donation!)