A Mission to the Huichol
By Alan Pohl
The Huichol, or more properly Wixarika, are an ancient people group who live high up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This was our second visit to the village of La Laguna, situated at the north west tip of Jalisco, in four years and we were privileged to be invited. We were only invited on the first occasion because of donations of medicine and feminine hygiene kits we made to someone who already had ties to the community.
Our group consisted of three Chapala Rotary members, myself Alan Pohl, my wife Becca, and Carlos Cerda. As well, Carlos’ wife Lulu accompanied us, as did Rachael from Vancouver Island. Both Carlos and his wife are local dentists and volunteered their time and expertise to treat over 30 patients, as well as teach the community about dental hygiene.
Teaching is so much more fun with an engaged audience like we had. They listened intently and laughed at Lulu’s exaggerated expressions and actions and mimicked how to brush correctly. When Becca and Lulu taught about menstrual cycles and the use of the reusable hygiene kits, the young ladies were engaged and giggly.
After a long day of working, as we walked the short distance back to the family we were staying with, we passed the sports fields that were always filled with all ages of children playing endless games of soccer and volleyball. The air was filled with sounds of laughter and cheering as they ran and jumped. The girls playing hard in their long flowing skirts giving color to the scene.
There are so many needs in this remote community and we were able to narrow them down through the help of a young lady named Erika, the daughter of the village Shaman. By her advice we brought a van full of medicine, dental supplies, educational supplies including desks and stools for classrooms, sewing machines and fabric used to make clothing, Bela Femenina reusable hygiene kits, and a great amount of food for despensas. Erika, who will soon be the village nurse, was instrumental in helping us be sensitive to their culture and their needs.
A huge thank you must go out to Doctor Ibarra Jr. for his kind donation of medicines, also to Carlos and Lulu who donated a great deal of dental supplies and even more hard work, to Rachael and her willingness to help wherever needed, and to Sunrise Chapala Rotary and the many individual supporters who helped fund the trip.
The people of the village were so grateful and we were overwhelmed by their kindness and the spirit of joy that exists among them. They even held off an annual ceremony for one week so that we could participate in it with them; a great honor. We didn’t stay up all night dancing around the fire drinking with them Tejuino, a fermented corn liquor, but we held in as long as we could and then rejoined them in the morning for the sacrifice of two animals.
The beauty of the village nestled among cliffs on the top of a mountain is breath taking. Just going for a short walk amongst the pines with a view across the valleys for miles and miles is enough to sooth the soul. It’s hard to explain the impact that being so intimately welcomed into such a closed people group has on you, but if you were to ask any of the five of us who went we will each tell you a special story and how we long to go back as soon as we can.
Becca Pohl providing sewing instruction
Carlos and Becca providing dental treatment.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com