Currently, Chilocuil is the only village to benefit from the work of Mexico Creativo but it is planned to extend the project to other locations in the future.

Location

Chilocuil is a remote indigenous community located in the State of San Luis Potosí, Mexico in a cultural region known as La Huasteca. It is situated around eight hours drive to the North East of Mexico. The nearest significant town is Tamazunchale. Chilocuil is reached via a dirt track which leads up from Tamán, a village by the main road around half an hours walk away.

The community

The community is predominantly Nahua (an indigenous group) and is bilingual in Spanish and Nahuatl. The religion is Catholic overlaid with traditions and rituals that date back to the pre-conquest times.

Unfortunately, the Nahuas in this area are rapidly losing touch with their traditions and sense of community under the pressures of extreme poverty, marginalisation and globalisation and the threats that these make to their land and their way of life. Emigration is high to Mexico City and the United States in search of work. Self-esteem and pride in their identity is low. The combination of poverty and the exodus of men from the communities in the region in search of employment means that many traditional festivals that serve to bring the community together are dying out through a lack of resources for the celebrations.

Cultural development in the region is centred on the town of Tamazunchale and assistance and resources rarely reach into the surrounding countryside. Rural communities such as Chilocuil find themselves cut off from government developments. For this reason, it is crucial that culture in remote areas is encouraged.

Life of inhabitants

A day amongst ‘a' Hernandez family

During her visit in Chilocuil, Susie Alegre had the opportunity to experience a day of local life with some members of a Hernandez family.

He does not speak Nahuatl (the traditional language) with his children …England, is that in the United States? …The teacher would not open the school …She is thirteen will have to move Mexico City to work … I don't have any paper …

Economic Context

In order to give an idea of the economic realities in San Luis Potosí, the following is a list of the costs of basic living essentials and the costs of maintaining instruments listed in Mexican pesos ($).

1 kilo of meat - $ 60
1 kilo of rice or beans - $ 7
1 chicken - $ 35
1 kilo of eggs - $ 12
Electricity per month for one family house - $ 200
Bus ticket from Taman to Tamazunchale - $ 5
Exercise book - $ 12
Biro - $ 4
Set of chords for Huapangueara guitar (basic quality) - $ 140
Set of violin chords (basic quality) - $ 150

Average exchange rates:
$1 = £XX
$1 = €XX

Music in La Huasteca and Tradition

Music is a key part of community life, both in ritual and in lay performances.

There are a number of important festival dates throughout the year where music is performed. Many of these are intricately linked with agricultural activity and the daily lives of the community. In particular, the culture of corn is at the heart of community life, both as the basis of diet and as a spiritual presence. The main activities of corn cultivation are celebrated with music and ritual bringing the community together in a celebration of life itself.

Celebration of important festivals, e.g. Pedimiento del Agua (request for the rains), Permisos de la Milpa (asking permission of the earth to sow), Siembra (sowing the corn), Tlamanes (harvest festival) or Dia de Muertos (day of the dead), is increasingly dying away as people do not have the resources to pay musicians and the musicians themselves have to work in the fields and in construction elsewhere in order to feed their families. The disappearance of these festivals adds to the disintegration of the community, the loss of sense of pride in cultural identity and ultimately to the disappearance of the communal nature of corn cultivation itself leading to increased isolation.

As these customs fall into disuse, so too the musical richness built up over centuries of tradition fall from the cultural memory and are lost. In order for the musical traditions of La Huasteca to survive and develop, it is crucial that the music continues to be played within the communities and that the gift of music be handed down through the generations. While there are valuable studies being carried out on the music of La Huasteca and Chilocuil in particular helping to record the music and its context, the heart and the future of the music lies with the musicians themselves.

Maize Culture and Maize Music in México: Costumbre and Tlamanes Music in La Huasteca

Mexico has a huge amount of traditional music, but unfortunately this kind of music has not been properly studied until now.

It is focused on music that is mainly played during maize rituals (the sowing of the corn-seed and the harvest of maize), rituals which are known by the Spanish word Costumbre ("custom, habit").

During 1999 and 2000 the Seminar on Musical Semiology has been studying the celebration of Costumbre in a small farmer's town: Chilocuil, placed on the low mountains of the Eastern Sierra Madre, in the state of San Luis Potosí. This region is part of what is largely known as "La Huasteca", a social and geopolitical concept, which contains a large part of seven states of Mexico, with very similar natural, human and cultural features. The group which we have extensively recorded (on audio and video) belongs to Mexico's major Indian culture: the Nahuas.

(Susie Alegre)

Accounts of Festivals celebrated in Chilocuil

The main festivals celebrated throughout the year are:

Corn Festival (general)

Corn is central to Nahua community. It forms the basis of all nutrition and is viewed as a deity. The festival surrounding the corn harvest is known as “Tlamanes” and takes place in September / October time. The festival of “Tlamanes” is key in the cultural calendar of Chilocuil and offers an opportunity for the community to come together through music, dance and feasting, but it is a celebration that is threatened by poverty and a creeping sense that there is little value in anything that reflects indigenous culture.

Costumbre and Festival of Tlamanes,
The Harvest Festival

The Costumbre is celebrated two times a year. The first one is done to invoke a good rainy season which will make the corn grow properly. It is usually celebrated at the beginning of the rainy season. It occurs most of the time at the beginning of May.

The second celebration, Tlamanes, is the most important one and lasts about thirty hours. It is almost always celebrated on corn-fields (the milpas), and its purpose is to invoke the deities of the earth, to ask them for their permission to harvest the maize. Tlamanes takes place at the end of the rainy season (the end of October or the beginning of November).

Day of the Child

In Mexico there is a day for everything, the day of the Teacher, the day of Child or the day of the Death. On the Day of the Child this year I was in Chilocuil, a small rural community in the La Huasteca region in the North East of the Country, not far from the town of Tamazunchale.

Other Festivals:

- Pedimiento del Agua (request for the rains)
- Permisos de la Milpa (asking permission of the earth to sow)
- Siembra (sowing the corn)
- Dia de Muertos (day of the dead)
- San Felipe de Jesus (Patron Saint of the Community, 5th February)

Mexican Artists helping us

Rosa Maria Nunez

Rosa Maria is an artist living in Mexico City. She organises printing workshops with children and embroidery classes with the women in the community of Chilocuil. More information can be found in the 2003 of the projects page.

CV – under constructiion

Daria Hernandez (Embroidery)

Under construction

Victoria Rubio (Embroidery)

Under construction

Trio Los Seguidores de La Huasteca

The Trio los Seguidores de la Huasteca is made up of the director, Maurilio Hernández Nicanor (violin), Alejandro (Juan) Peña Hernández (huapanguera guitar) and Joaquín Morales Hernández (jarana).

They have recently started to give classes voluntarily within the community with a set of instruments donated by Mexico Creativo to enable them to pursue their wish to pass on their musical knowledge to the rest of the community.

Their work includes community performances at key rituals and festivals throughout the year, teaching within the community in order to ensure the survival of musical traditions across the generations, the development of new music within those traditions and research and revival of music which is falling from the cultural memory.

The financial assistance requested is in the sum of £3000 sterling for one year. This would amount to £1000 per person per year for general subsistence and essential materials for their work such as maintenance of instruments, paper etc.