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Huichol Collection Gallery: Where Old Meets New

Posted by Kristen Haney on February 06, 2012
artist demonstrates the delicate beading process used by the Huichol picture
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Photo: Kristen Haney
Photo caption
An artist demonstrates the delicate beading process used by the Huichol.

Road Journals Blog—In Old Puerto, freshly butchered cows hang in stores, where owners carve fresh cuts directly from the slaughtered animals to sell to families or fry up in a pan. The sounds and smells of sizzling meats waft out of the various taco stands tucked between the regal casas that twist their way up the cobblestone roads of Gringo Gulch, once home to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, where a pink bridge still spans the distance between their two homes. Women and children sell chiclet and small dolls to wandering tourists on the Malecon.

After 160 years as a town, Puerto Vallarta became an official city in 1969, and now welcomes approximately two million tourists a year, including a large retiree community from America and Canada. But glimpses of its heritage can be found walking from one district to the next, and at places such as the Huichol Collection Gallery, a place near Vallarta’s Malecon where the modern and traditional meet.

On display at the gallery is artwork made by the Huichol Indians, descendants of the Aztecs who live in the Sierra Madre mountain range just outside Puerto Vallarta. While the Huichol make rare appearances in town to trade their art, they largely live separated from modern society in an attempt to preserve their culture and traditions. The artwork they produce is often inspired by dreams or visions (at times under the influence of peyote), and repeated motifs include wolves, peyote cacti, and eagles.

Colorful beaded and hand-stitched artwork lines the walls of the Huichol Collection Gallery, and rows of intricately beaded animals and figurines cover the shelves and displays. Duck into a backroom, turn off the lights, and watch the bright shades of thread glow under black light. Many of the designs were originally inspired by the gods of the Huichol belief system, a sharp contrast to the mass held at the Cathedral of Our Lady Guadalupe a few blocks away. But many of these dichotomies exist in Puerto Vallarta, where old meets new, traditional meets modern, and a gallery filled with a culture’s intricate artwork can be found just steps from Señor Frog’s.

This blog post was first published in February 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.