Huichol - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Huichol society was traditionally based on hunting, gathering, and horticulture. Participation in the larger economic market has created some inequality in access to wealth and advantages. Nevertheless, many Huichol rituals involve redistribution of wealth among community members. Huichol ideology retains strong elements of egalitarianism. Social status is based on age (the elders having the highest position) and participation in government, temple, and church cargo roles. Specialists, such as shamans, musicians, or master artists receive higher status and recognition.

Political Organization. The community is led by a council of kawiteros, wise elder men who are usually shamans. Through the consensus of their dreams, they annually select the new governor, tribal council, and church cargos. Much of the political organization was structured from eighteenth-century Franciscan missionary teachings. The governor is the major decision maker and serves as arbitrator for the community. Council members include commissioners for each temple-group area, a constable, a judge, a bilingual secretary, and community representatives. The governor, who redistributes goods and services in the community, is a religious figurehead. The governor's wife, who shares the position with him, has much influence in decision making.

Social Control. The most common conflicts involve land disputes, cattle and livestock thefts and transactions, domestic family problems, neglected cargo responsibilities, sorcery, and relations with outsiders. The governor and council members present serve as arbitrators between the parties involved. Punishment varies from fines, service rendered, jail (sometimes in the stocks), and ousting from the community. Matters of murder are settled by the mestizo authorities in the cities.

Conflict. Most conflicts with other groups involve land and property disputes arising, for instance, from mestizo land encroachment and exploitation of natural resources. International outsiders who arrive to make movies, take photographs, write books, and seek messianic experiences can also cause disruptions.

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