For more than 1,000 years, the Wixárika (we-SHA-re-ka) people have made pilgrimages from their ceremonial centers in the Sierra Madre Mountains across the Chihuahua desert to Leunar, the sacred mountain where the sun first rose. The Wixárika (also known as Huichol) pilgrims traverse over 300 miles to reach Leunar, stopping to give offerings and prayers at dozens of sacred places along the way—the natural temples of a deeply spiritual people. They undertake their journey, which they call their “essence,” to retrace the steps of creation, repeating the prayers of their ancestors in order to maintain the earth’s equilibrium and keep their culture alive.
The Wixárika people’s pilgrimage route and its destination are protected by state and federal law as well as international accords, but that hasn’t stopped a Canadian mining company, First Majestic Silver Corporation, from purchasing concessions to exploit the rich veins of silver that lie beneath the surface. In September, Wixárika communities issued a proclamation to stop the mine from desecrating their most sacred sites and endangering the fragile semi-desert ecosystem.