Anthropology •  Latin America and Women's Studies

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Huichol Women, Weavers, and Shamans

Stacy B. Schaefer

For centuries the Huichol (Wixárika) Indian women of Jalisco, Mexico, have been weaving textiles on backstrap looms. This West Mexican tradition has been passed down from mothers to daughters since pre-Columbian times. Weaving is a part of each woman’s identity—allowing them to express their ancient religious beliefs as well as to reflect the personal transformations they have undergone throughout their lives. In this book anthropologist Stacy B. Schaefer explores the technology of weaving and the spiritual and emotional meaning it holds for the women with whom she works and within their communities, which she experienced during her apprenticeship with master weavers in Wixárika families. She takes us on a dynamic journey into a realm of ancient beliefs and traditions under threat from the outside world in this fascinating ethnographic study.


Stacy B. Schaefer is a professor emerita of anthropology at California State University, Chico. She has worked in research, curatorial, and educational capacities at a number of California museums. The coeditor of People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion, and Survival (UNM Press), her current research includes ethnographic fieldwork among the indigenous peoples of Chile and Bolivia and in the borderlands of South Texas.


“In peyote-induced communication with deities, women acquire new patterns and symbols that they incorporate into their textiles, and through the years-long advancement in the arts of weaving, Huichol women grow personally and spiritually in ways that Schaefer sensitively portrays in this ethnography. She documents the technologies and techniques of backstrap loom weaving, the sacred geography of the Huichol, changing Huichol livelihood and gender relations, and much more. This book is also a personal memoir of a fine anthropologist and the extraordinary people she befriended in Mexico.”



“A beautiful ethnographic work. Schaefer deftly relates mythology, cosmology, family life, and economics within the spiritual practice and mechanics of weaving. There is clearly a preservation ethos underlying Schaefer’s work, yet her depiction is not mournful, it is celebratory.”



“A welcome addition. . . . Through Schaefer’s eyes, we learn about a culture where weaving is considered a central art form.”


Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

6 x 9 in. 408 pages 54 halftones, 8 drawings, 1 map