On Feb. 10, 2009, I traveled to Real de Catorce, an old mining town about 7 hrs south of Texas, in search of Huichol or "Wixáritari", the People of the Peyote.
Upon my arrival at 7:30pm, a friendly young Mexican boy sitting next to me on the bus helped me find a place to stay for only $20/night in a grand, colonial room with a fireplace in a castle-like hotel! After I checked-in, my new friend, Arturo, then walked me to the plaza to help me find a Huichol shaman. He asked a guy at a shop selling Huichol laborious, fluorescent beaded-artwork called "nieli'ka", a small square or round tablet with a hole in the center covered on one or both sides with a mixture of beeswax and pine resin into which threads of yarn are pressed. The guy working at the store referred us to a smaller store owned by a guy named Andres, a Huichol Indian, who could probably refer us to a Huichol shaman.
We found Andres just around the corner, sitting with his wife and four kids. Upon us entering, he put on a brightly, colored hat with feathers all around the brim of it. I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I thought he was putting on a show, but it turned out to be the Huicholes style of dress.
Since I was still adjusting to the new place, the high altitude of 8,800ft, and the interesting surroundings, I couldn't formulate the words in Spanish to ask the right questions. I managed to find out that Andres, a shy and humble man, is a senior shaman, and has been practicing since the age of 9 (now 47)! And I was even more thrilled that he could perform a ritual with me the following day, as he was planning on leaving town the day after. I wasn't prepared to do it so soon, but he wasn't returning until a month or so bfor the long pilgrimage back for the collection of peyote, chanting, and vision from the spirits. Que suerte!
Even though I wasn't quite mentally nor physically ready to fast the following day, not to mention the 10km hike, I really had no choice...how could I miss a one in a million chance?!