Who Knew “God’s Eye” Was So Sexy? The Huichols Did, That’s Who!

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Kids constructing the Huichol's ojo de Dios from popsicle sticks.

Y’all probably know that I am a big fan of Mexican Pueblos Magicos and of Papel Picado. The one town that puts these together well is Sayulita, Nayarit just north of Puerto Vallarta on México’s Pacific coast. In fact, Sayulita is most known for its rainbow rows of papel picado. So much so, that locals call the main avenue “Selfie Street” because so many touritsts ‘selfie’ themselves under the never ending rows of the colorful flags that line the main drag.

I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of why Sayulita digs papel picado as much as I do, but recently the town has taken on a new project that caught my eye…In addition to lining the streets with waves of papel picado they have added a massive amount of Ojos de Dios to color their sky! “WTF are Ojos de Dios?” you ask! Welllllllll…

Gracias and Thanks to Sayulita Luxury Transportation for this combo shot of papel picado and Ojos de Dios! This is “Selfie Street”

Once upon a time in a land far, far, OK fine, right up the street from us…Huichol Indians lived in peace and harmony. The Huichol (pronounced: hwee-chol) are a tribe of Native Mexicans that descended from the Aztecs in the western/central part of México. A small (20,000), but still strong tribe, the Huichol primarily hang out in the Sierra Madre mountains within the neighboring states of Jalisco (home to Puerto Vallarta) and Nayarit (home to Sayulita). Rumor has it they fled to the mountains to escape the Spanish Conquest carnage and some still live very isolated lives in the mountains of Zacatecas and Durango. #social distancing

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Anyhoo, when the Spaniards came to conquer México’s land, indigenous folks and generally cause a big shit show, they couldn’t properly pronounce this tribe’s given name. Shocker. The tribe name was actually ‘Wixaritari’ which means ‘healer’ in their original language, sooooo they shortened it to Huichol. Not really Spanish, but a little easier to say.

Same street in Sayulita, just from a different view. #papelpicado #ojodedios | Photo: Sayulita Life

This tribe is known for 3 things: peyote, bead weaving and Ojos de Dios. Peyote sorta goes without saying….it’s basically trippy shit from a hallucinogenic cactus. The intricate bead work is a blog post for another time because it’s sexy as hell.

Ojos de Dios are decorations that hang from windows, trees and signs across México. They are commonly referred to as ‘Mexican Mandalas’ and are similar to Tibetan Mandalas because these colorful ‘sticks and yarn combos’ symbolize the Eye of God in both groups.

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The Huichol believe that these more or less ‘religious instruments’ protect their young. In fact, it is tradition that when a baby is born, the father begins weaving the first layer of that child’s Eye of God by winding colorful yarn around a simple wooden cross to figuratively tie together all of the earth’s elements (land, air, fire, water) and directions (north, east, south, west) so that the newborn will be protected in all ways by all the Huichol gods. Got it? It’s a sweeter gesture than giving a baby a shitload of diapers at a baby shower…

Ojos de Dios can be made as simply as like when we had arts and crafts time with yarn and popsicle sticks! | Photo: Mandalas Web

Each year the father weaves an additional layer of the Eye/Ojo on the child’s birthday and provides the completed Eye/Ojo to the child upon their 5th birthday. This is a big time Rite of Passage for Huichol children. It basically means they are on their own…well, not that dramatic…but these dudes believe that after the age of 5, the child is no longer under the protection of the father, but of God(s).

This gang really embraces nature/earth/multiple gods and the like. And the number 5 holds a massive significance to them. For example: There are 5 points on their map, 5 colors of corn, 5 colors of peyote, 5 colors are used in each Eye/Ojo and there are 5 rain gods. Let’s face it, the Huichol really like the number 5! #cinco

Ojo de Dios hanging at the beach. | Photo: Mandalas Web

At the age of 5, the child throws his or her Eye of God into the sea as a sacrifice to the gods and as a “Gracias!” for their protection. This also signifies that the child is now old enough to protect him or herself. The age of 5 seems a bit young to “Let the damn kid roll on his own!”, BUT the Huichol usually marry between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, so there’s not a lot of time to be on their own anyway.

BTW, marriages are arranged by the parents when the children are very young. I’m guessing age 5? #damnthatsyoung

?? Create Your Own Ojo de Dios With This 36 Pack Craft Kit ??

The Ojo de Dios symbolizes the ability to see and understand unseen things, focusing their worship on nature and the earth.

Faith Lopez, Visual Arts & Ojo De Dios Mandala Workshops

As with all ceremonial items made by the Huichols, colors are important and each is identified with a particular god or sacred object. The original 5 colors in each Eye of God/Ojo de Dios are blue, black, white, red and purple…

Blue represents the sacred lagoon of Chapala and Rapawiyene, the god of rain and water. Maybe I should have had more respect for Rapawiyene when I danced like a crazy women on Lake Chapala in Jalisco. Ayayay. #notproud

Yep. Not proud. On the Malécon on Lake Chapala| Video: TexMex Fun Stuff

Black represents the Pacific ocean…which makes sense because Jalisco and Nayarit are both on the Pacific. It also represents Tatei Armana, the Mother of the Sea. And finally it represents (rather counterintuitively) life. Seems like a lot to represent, but hey. #dontjackwithblack

White represents the wind and clouds, but on the downside it can also be associated with death (again, super counterintuitive).

Red represents Parietekúa, which is the peyote god. I’ve never smoked peyote and that is probably one of my few good life decisions.

A “Mandala” version of an Ojo de Dios – set on a mountain to bless the people below. | Photo: Recognizing México

Purple is all encompassing and represents the Huichol as a society. Lots of Ojos de Dios have other colors obviously, but these 5 are of particular importance to the Huichol. Everything else is just pretty.

Tradition has evolved enough for this art form to become a money maker.?? Huichols now make Ojo de Dios patterns into earrings, wall hangings and ornaments which are both pretty and thought to bring protection against evil, danger or disease. Hey, might as well make some cash as you spread color and joy. And there is A LOT of color and joy in Sayulita! ? ?

One of the main streets in Sayulita, Nayarit – how cool is this?!?! | Photo: Casa Vecino Sayulita

According to a local Spanish newspaper, educational campuses, senior groups, independent artists, shops, and associations from Sayulita decided to showcase this marvelous art form all over the town in honor of the 9th Annual Dia de los Muertos celebration. All of these groups participated in setting up altars for Dia De Muertos and participated in the design, creation and placement of more than 16,000 “Eyes of God”. All of this was to get Ojo de Dios into the Guinness Book of World Record in late 2019! #failuretolaunch #yesImserious

Sweet ass night shot from the Dia de Los Muertos Festival in Sayulita | Photo: Mexico News On Line

I mean, seriously! There were 16,000 of them and they didn’t score?! #chinga #timeforresearch

So I went to the Guinness Book website to see if this had ever been attempted before and there is no record currently set. Based on the submission rules, it is probable (but not confirmed) that they submitted the paperwork too late to get in for the 2019 edition. Which is to say that if you submit paperwork “in time” the registration is free. I’m guessing they didn’t have enough funds for late submission. But still, all 16,000 were done by the hands of the Sayulitans – pretty impressive! #2020?

More OdD Beauties found in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Nevertheless, the good people of Sayulita gave it the old college try and will hopefully have the opportunity to try again during the upcoming Day of the Dead festivities. May 2020 be the year that Sayulita and Ojo de Dios go down in the record books! Because 2020 owes us something, goddamnit! #freaking2020

By the way, we don’t sell these, but here is the place you can score 1 or 16,000: Etsy

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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What’s the Deal with these Badass Mariachis?

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The badass all-female mariachi band Flor De Toloache.

Mariachis are a combo of Western movie outlaws, Mexican folklore and a little bit of rock and roll with polka and waltz mixed in. These musicians are always in groups of 3-10 and dressed up in emblazoned costumes ready to kick ass and look and sound FABULOUS doing it. You know, like Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander?! #thethreeamigos!

“IN-FAMOUS! That means ‘More than Famous!'” I Photo credit: HBO and Orion Films

The first time I was introduced to the concept of mariachis was the 1986 movie, ‘¡Three Amigos!’ and I’ve never been the same. Freakin’ Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short in their matching charro outfits, huge sombreros and musical mastery had me laughing and singing along wondering where the hell the writers got the idea from. “MY little buttercup, has the sweetest smile…..”

OK, so they were more of a comical crime fighting team than a true mariachi band, but the classic scene at El Guapo’s birthday was performed by a group of real mariachis that kill it! Aayayayayayayay!

They’re not the best looking group of musical outlaws, but their sound is perfect!

This scene (as well as “Blue Shadows on the Trail”) prompted me to check out good old Wikipedia for more info on these classical Mexican musicians. I learned that…

‘Mariachi’ is a style of music and musical group performance that dates back to at least the 18th century, evolving over time in the countryside of various regions of western Mexico. It has a distinctive instrumentation, performance and singing style and of course, clothing. To say the least.

Armed with trumpets, violins, cellos, guitars, crazy high voices and charro suits, these bands are torn from the pages of Mexican history books, turning any event into a raging Mexican fiesta. As a matter of fact, in 2011 UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The listing cites that: “Mariachi music transmits values of respect for the natural heritage of the regions of Mexico and local history in the Spanish language and the different Indian languages of Western Mexico.” And you don’t dick with UNESCO.

A Mexican mariachi band dressed in traditional charro costume perform in front of the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church November 5, 2013 in Oaxaca, Mexico. | Photo paid for in full 🙂

The term ‘Mariachi band’ is also a redundant term for a Mariachi because the word ‘Mariachi’ itself in Spanish implies a group of musicians playing Mariachi music. The music originated in center-West-ish Mexico. Most claims for its origin lie in the state of Jalisco but neighboring states of Colima, Nayarit, and Michoacán have also claimed it. However, by the late 19th century, the music was firmly centered in Jalisco.

And guess where I was now living?! YEP. In the birth canal of Mariachi-dom…Jalisco, Mexico. Time to start tracking down some bands and getting some answers to the question…How did this musical genre get to be so badass? When you hear it…all you can think of is Mexican westerns and Cinco de Mayo parties. I stepped out my front door and started searching…

Hanging out in the first natural place to look. I Photo credit: TexMex Fun Stuff

Clearly my first stop was the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Guadalajara, which is a pedestrian-only plaza in the historic center. This plaza has over 100 years of tradition, but was officially dedicated to Mariachis in 1962 by the then President of México, Adolfo López Mateos. The plaza got a second resurgence in 2009 when Gustavo Ruiz Velasco Nuño invested $7 million pesos (about $350,000 USD) to revitalize the facades, arches and the colonial homes facing the plaza.

Allison Nevins boss lady at TexMex Fun Stuff in the Plaza de los Mariachis.
Caption Not Needed | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Today, these former homes have been converted into restaurants, musical supply stores and clothing/accessories shops for mariachis to buy their unmistakable costume gear. There’s even a tequila and “tequila paraphernalia” store which is where I I presume they stock up and where I certainly stocked up for later.

One thing that I didn’t find on this Sunday in the plaza were actual mariachis playing music. Weird right? Maybe Sundays are their day to drink tequila and cerveza and spend time with their families? Oh well. The plaza was adorned with colorful papel picado flags decorating the sky so I was okay listening to them flutter in the breeze instead. Plus, I had tequila so it was going to be a Sunday Funday with or without mariachis!

Allison Nevins in the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Jalisco. v2
Super cool shot in the plaza taken with my hubby’s GoPro, yo. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

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My next research stop was none other than the town of Tequila, Jalisco – the birth canal of tequila. It’s only a one hour car drive or a 2 hour train from Guadalajara, so why the hell not. Two great tastes that taste great together! I needed to interview an insider and if there weren’t any inside the Plaza of Mariachis for God’s sake, I figured there HAD to be some in Tequila!

I wasn’t wrong (as per usual ;). Here is what I discovered as I stepped off of the Jose Cuervo Express train…or as I like to call it, “Allison decides to drink booze before 9am because it’s all inclusive”:

Forgive my throaty drunk voice. It’s not sexy and it WAS trouble.

IMMEDIATELY as we stepped off the train, these dudes started playing. And playing hard. I was already wasted as you could probably tell from the video so I wasn’t in interview mode at the time. I decided to just record and commentate instead.

This mariachi band’s secret weapon were the two adorable boys in the front. I don’t even like kids (as I mention in the video), but I was ready to take them both home if they promised to never ever talk and only play mariachi music. Instead of kidnapping them, I opted for the Jose Cuervo distillery tour because I was getting thirsty. Again.

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My day in Tequila went something like this….Tequila, mariachis and singing, Jose Cuervo distillery tour and singing, super filthy cantina and singing. And then back to Jose Cuervo’s agave field with dancing and more singing. I was thinking that what these mariachi bands really needed was a female singer (aka me), but what I discovered next was even better…

(After waking up from day drinking in Tequila) I continued my quest to discover how mariachis became synonymous with pretty much all fun things Mexican. In my mind, I’ve always pictured mariachis as these hombres with cool mustaches, machismo costumes and these booming voices projecting Mexican folk songs to party goers. My mind was blown when I discovered an article from the NY Times from 2013 titled, “An All-Female Band, Making Its Way in the World of Mariachi.” Holy fuck, GIRL POWER MARIACHIS!!

“There’s something about putting on a mariachi suit that makes you feel like a badass.” – Mireya Ramos, Founder Mariachi Flor De Toloache

All-female badass mariach band.
Como se dice ‘BAD ASSES’ en Español? | Photo: GRAMMY.com

The New York-based, GRAMMY award winning and all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, was founded by Mireya Ramos in 2008 as a way for women to join forces in a safe environment and create and perform mariachi music. They have gone on to win the Latin Grammy Award for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album and are the most diverse mariachi group in the world. The members hail from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Columbia, Germany, Italy and the United States!

Although only one of these ladies is Mexican, these worldwide badasses took a musical genre that for generations had been steeped in Mexican machismo and owned it as a path to empowerment, diversity, strength and fame. Y’all know I dig that. #TheFutureIsFemale

Their most recent single was released on Valentines Day, 2019. Besos De Mezcal – ‘Kisses of Mezcal’ was produced by Camilo Lara, who produced all of the music for Pixar’s “Coco” (and I do love me some Coco!).

Mariachi Plaza in Santa Cecilia where Miguel gets advice from a REAL Mariachi! | Photo: Disney’s Pixar Studios

So basically, after all that tequila and web surfing I didn’t get a whole lot of information that Wikipedia hadn’t already told me, BUT I did get rip roaring drunk and made a pretty neat girl power discovery! So saludos mis amigas! Now I’m going to go find me a kiss of Mezcal and celebrate. Again. Ayayayayayayay!! BTW…this here below is a little bonus!

Bonus Material! Tequila…it’s like beer.

I would like to dedicate this post to Ashlei Mars Austgen and Becky Fabra Beach for reasons they know.

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Papel picado hand made in Mexico inspired by Coco the movie.

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Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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