Wixárika art and artists : resisting neocolonialism while crossing visible and invisible borders
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My dissertation, Wixárika Art and Artists: Resisting Neocolonialism While Crossing Visible and Invisible Borders is an ethnographic study of the Wixáritari who have lived in the region of Northern Central Mexico known as El Gran Nayar or the Sierra Madre Occidental, with a specific focus on the Wixáritari who live in Huejuquilla el Alto, Guadalajara, and Zacatecas, Mexico. This dissertation examines the legal, cultural and historical influences as well as the sociopolitical and economic circumstances that have pushed Wixárika (Huichol) art and artists out of their original homeland in Mexico. This dissertation concentrates on the historical construction of race in Mexico to illustrate that Wixáritari have been pushed outside of their territories either willingly or unwillingly. I analyze and interpret this concept through historical events and the process of colonialism through which politics, policy and laws have shaped and created hierarchies of race. Through ethnography I illustrate that the Mexican government's neoliberal policies and laws have adversely affected Wixáritari artists and non-artists in the Sierra Madre, and also those who work in the large cities where half the population now resides. Furthermore, this work illustrates that the Wixáritari are organizing against the Mexican laws and policies that served to exclude and marginalize them. Wixáritari activism is thus creating powerful social change. By using the theoretical framework ethnoexodus, I demonstrate that Wixáritari cannot be put in a box or be stereotyped as a homogenous pan-ethnic group.The second half of my dissertation is devoted to "voluntary" or involuntary im(migration) processes that take place. I specifically explore these forms of dislocation through the use of oral history, oral narratives, and testimonios. I have found that the Wixáritari have a desire to reproduce their traditions and resist modernity. They have experienced cultural changes and in the process they have been integrated into their surrounding society by forming new relationships and learning to adapt on their own terms to the capitalist system and "modern" way of life. In these spaces, I argue that their homeland and geographic space in and outside of the Sierra Madre Occidental along with their spirituality is part of their identity, which crosses many borders that are both visible and invisible.