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MEXICO: The drug culture

Linda Nyquist says the Huichols still make an annual trek to the area around Real del Catorce to gather their hallucinogenic plants. However, the center of the international drug culture is much further to the southeast, at Huautla de Jiménez, between Puebla and Oaxaca. Linda says: "I met Maria Sabina when she was living. She presided over the mushroom cult, and the mushrooms were very potent indeed. Mescaline is an important hallucinogen used for ceremonial purposes. I have seen cocaine used topically to stop severe nosebleeds, even here in the US, and recently. I doubt that this is publicized because of the potential for abuse.

In Huautla, I noted a number of young people with very interesting racial features; coffee-colored skin and green/hazel eyes not characteristic of the region. Locals commented that these children were often the offspring of French and other European visitors and local women. These visitors had come in the late 60s and 1970s to partake in the drugs in the area. and these children were the result. They seem to have been assimilated into the culture without difficulty, but then light skin and eyes are highly prized throughout Mexico. See, in Oscar Lewis' Children of Sanchez, Roberto's comments that his family didn't like him as much because of his dark skin. In my own work in Mexico, I have noted that even in families where everyone has very dark skin, the lightest member of the family is called "el güero" or "la güera." --- "blondie."

My ignorant comment: There is an enormous literature on psychedelics, of which hallucinogens are a class. Even the Oxford English Dictionary has a long history of mescal, beginning with a 1759 translation of Venegas's Nat. & Civil Hist. Calif. I. 44 "The mountains and forests yield the mezcal,..the root of which boiled is a principal ingredient of the mexcalli". There is also a heated international debate as to their effects and the cure of addicts. At first it was a curiosity with which Aldous Huxley and others experimented. Then curiosity gave way to tragedy. All I will say here is that addicts are irresponsible and that Frenchmen who can afford to travel to Huautla must be affluent. They left the unwed mothers to care for their children, whom they abandoned and who thus were added to the problem of such children in Mexico. Perhaps their light skin gave them an advantage over the poor native children. I wonder if Kathleen Morrison has anything to add to this. What do Mexicans think about this?

Ronald Hilton - 1/22/02