Preserving Huichol culture through accurate representation

Preserving Huichol culture through accurate representation

Looking back on my first trip to The Huichol Center, I can honestly say this magical place found me.

When our welcoming party Rigo arrived to Zacatecas to drive us two hours through unfamiliar mountainous terrain to our final destination, I was moved by the grace and quiet confidence he exuded as he donned bright embroidered animals on his traditional outfit. It was his certainty and poise that lessened the anxiety I was experiencing. This was the first time I travelled to a completely new part of central Mexico. 

As Rigo loaded our belongings in the car, I noticed some double glances and excessive stares from close-by onlookers. It took me a moment to realize what was happening—the onlookers weren’t curious, they were sneering. As it turns out, many Huichols, including young children, experience bullying from other Spanish speaking Mexicans in the region. This gave me pause as I thought to myself “how unfortunate”. 

My frustration quickly morphed into a passion to better understand the deeper meanings lurking behind the intricate Huichol art forms. Then, a spark shook me from inside— I was ready to own my voice and to use it for good. I didn’t it know then, but this was the beginning of a beautiful journey that would not only allow me to champion their story by elevating their visionary artisan designs, but also enable me to defend their basic human right to live their own lives free of marginalization or cultural appropriation.

At The Huichol Center, Susana and her daughter Angelica made me feel right at home. In one room, women were handcrafting colorful beaded jewelry. In one of the two kitchens in this small but vibrant space, was another group of women grounding thenixtamalinto blue corn dough or masato prepare fresh handmade blue tortillas. Young children played in another room while others read quietly. In the back of the space, they had a home aquarium with an impressive rock wall where they farmed sardines. Later I learned that they recycled the water in this tank to grow vegetables. I took all of this in. It was a sacred ecosystem where everyone had a critical role to play.

I knew then, that taking a stand for artisans and respecting their way of life was the right move for me and my company.

Susana and Angelica were on board with my mission and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Susana had an entire archive of photographs she had been saving of numerous intricate yarn and beaded art. While this wasn’t what I was looking for at that moment, this was exactly what I needed to help me find the right patterns for my first sustainable active wear collection. And more importantly, to accurately represent the ancient and spiritual meaning behind this magical artistry. The obvious next step would be to form a partnership that will bring resources back to The Huichol Center in a manner that would empower these artisans to preserve their way of life with dignity and pride for future generations. 

To this end, Nubia Natalie will support the important work of The Huichol Center by allocating some of its proceeds to benefit not only their local school, but also the preservation of cultural Huichol practices. This will help them continue to accurately pass on the vibrant stories of their identity for the world to enjoy and celebrate.

While the fashion industry may be one of the worst global polluters, protecting the environment is a critically important aspect of Huichol life. That is why we are also making sure to leave as little trace on the environment as possible at every stage of our manufacturing process. While perhaps unpopular, we are proud to be doing good work the right way. There really is no better feeling than knowing that what we are building will touch so many lives. 

I couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead. Stay tuned for more updates and personal stories from me and my journey so far. Because transparency is important to us, we’ll be going into more detail about our partnership and our manufacturing process in future posts. 

Thanks again for reading and following my story.

NATALIE ARRIBENO