The Huicholes, also called Wirrarika or Wixarika or Huichol, are native Americans, originating from the Western Sierra Madre in Mexico. Just like the Coras, the Tepehuanos and the Tarahumara, they belong to the Uto-Aztec linguistic family. Ever since ancient times, they use the hallucinogenic cactus peyote (Lophophora williamsii) during special sacred celebrations. In more recent times, the use of peyote spread also among the native Americans, giving rise to the Native American Church. The Huichole area is crossed by the Western Sierra Madre, therefore it is one of the most unapproachable and impracticable regions of Mexico. Its rugged territory has deep gorges (barrancas) and winding canyons, eroded by the rivers flowing in that area. The population is estimated to approx.. 20.000 people and it consists of five main communities who live in an area of 4.107 km. This people includes farmers (64%), craftsmen (15,5%), cattle farmers (7,6%), and many of them also work as day workers in the tobacco, coffee and tropical fruit farms along the pacific coasts of Nayarit. In 1531 the first important encounters took place with the Spaniards, during the expedition of Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán in Sinaloa. This encounter resulted in destruction and death.
The villages of Colotlán, Mezquitic, Huajimic, Huejuquilla and Tenzompa were founded by the Spaniards to divide the conquered area from the inaccessible and therefore unconquerable areas. After this invasion, the Huicholws sought refuge on the mountains and nobody heard anything about them for two centuries. In 1722 some Jesuit missionaries tried to settle down in the Huichole territory, however they found a strong opposition towards evangelization. In 1860 some Huicholw groups joined the Manuel Lozada’s warriors, the "Tiger of Álica", who were against the Disamortization Law, fighting for the indigenous community territory. During the Mexican Revolution in 1910-1917, some Huichole groups fought together with the Villa army of gen. Rafael Buelna, trying get out from exploitation and invasion by the mestizos (crossbred). After the revolution the "Cristeros" war resulted in another period of violence in the territory. According to the Huicholes, diseases are divided in two categories: those originating from the Sierra, for which the traditional shaman medicines must be used, and those brought by the Spaniards, to be treated with scientific medicines. The diseases of the first group can be caused by: lack of responsibility towards the Gods, evil spells and loss of one’s soul. In the first case, many offers have to be presented to the Gods, according to the Markame beliefs. In case of an even spell, the Marakame makes a "Limpia", using the bird feathers of the shaman stick (Muvieri) for the symbolic purification, he then blows tobacco smoke on the ill person’s body and with his mouth he sucks to extract the foreign body that is causing the illness. If the Kupúri has been lost (the part of soul contained in the head’s upper part), the conditions of the ill person are quite serious and the Marakame’s task is to find it and place it back where it belongs. Sometimes he may have to compete with the "Brujo" who has stolen it, facing him in a magic challenge between good and evil.
The Huicholes are strongly aware of their origin and history. Myths tell about “cosmic” or "verdadera" history, telling about the exploits by Gods and ancestors, categories which tend to fade away and relatives who have passed away can be deified by laying a bridge between the sacred and the profane. Myths are the model of all rites and social behaviors, the sacred dimension of the world is believed to have a very strong power, living in touch with it and handling it is a responsibility of the shamans. Through dreams they enter into the world of Gods establishing a contact between the world and the after-world. One of the main characteristics of their religion consists of the association of maize, deer and peyote, testified by the celebrations and rites dedicated to them. Maize and the deer represent vital sustenance, while peyote is the most important instrument for transcending the profane world and the most obvious expression of the sacred. This people exercises homeopathic magic that includes the reciprocal influence between human beings and nature: one of the most characteristics rites consists of first caressing a snake and then, after activating its influence, embroider and weave brilliant drawings, similar to the patterns on the animal's skin.