Accepted Papers:

The 'fiesta del tumini'. The power of money and cattle within the traditional life of the Huichol Mexican Indians  


Frédéric Saumade (Université de Provence)

Paper Short Abstract:

The ethnography of the patronal feast of a Huichol community highlights the process of appropriation of western civilization – as represented by Mestizos neighbors, cattle and money – which allows the local culture to maintain its particularism.

Paper long abstract:

Each year at the end of november, the Huichol Mexican Indians of San Andrés Cohamiata Tatei Kie celebrate their « patronal » feast in which they use to imitate their Mestizo-ranchers neighbors, culturally closer to the Spaniard pattern and economically more powerful. The Indians are organizing dancing sessions, election of a queen and princesses, and a rodeo. Their aim is to attract the Mestizos (even to force them if they are regional political characters obliged by the necessity of prestige) to come at the feast and to spend money as much as they can, paying fees to participate at the rodeo (as cowboys) and other manifestations. That money, considered as a « sacra » (tumini, from the old Spanish money tomin, is the vernacular word), is blessed by a shaman, because it will allow to celebrate, on the following year, the expensive traditional holy feasts of the Indians, which include many sacrifices of cattle.

This paper proposes to analyze the role of money and cattle - two important patterns of western-hispanic civilization adopted by the Huichols - in the configuration of the feast and, more generally, in the Indian society. It should demonstrate that the adoption of the western pattern does not means "acculturation" but, on the contrary, an adaptation-transformation process which allows Indian society to follow its own path of culture and ritual practices. Thus, it renews the debate, while ago opened by the boasian academy, on the reactivity of a local culture when it has to deal with contact.

panel P23
Diffusion: a reappraisal of the concept