While living in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in Mexico, photographer Diego Huerta accidentally came across a sacred ceremony being performed by the Huicholes (pronounced Whee-chol-es) during a hike in a big canyon in the La Huasteca (pronounced Whah-steck-a) region.
Huerta returned to the area months later only to discover that the neighbors had shut down this ritual site that the Huichole people have visited and considered the center of the universe for thousands of years.
Huerta, who was born in Monterrey, took it on as his own personal project to help the Huicholes, one of the last remaining indigenous cultures of Mexico. He wanted to help the people of the area around the town of San Andrés, where the biggest population of Huicholes is established, by photographing them. But, more than just showing indigenous people, Huerta “wanted to show humanity what we as a society were doing to our brothers.”
Huerta received permission from their governor in Jalisco to take photographs and, along with producer Daniela Gutierrez, returned to the region in Summer 2009, where they were also invited to attend the annual ceremony in which the Governor steps down and gives the position to the successor.
One of the most important discoveries he made was the sharing spirit of the Huicholes. They let him live in their home and eat their food, even though they did not have a place to sleep and they may have only had tortillas for lunch, but not for dinner.
Huerta’s favorite photograph from his trip is the portrait of a girl with a baby in her arms, called Cohamiata. It reminds him of they day they walked a few miles to Cohamiata, a town near San Andrés, to meet relatives of the family that let him stay in their home, where they stayed a long time just watching the mountains in silence.
The Town of Clouds exhibition features 43 photographs taken during their 23 days in San Andrés, located in the mountains of Jalisco, where they saw large clouds daily. Additionally, Huerta was baptized as “Jai Nuve”, meaning “the one who talks to clouds”, which is what made him decide on the name of the exhibit.
The purpose of the exhibit is to raise money for the Huichole people of the Town of Cohamiata, who subsist primarily off the money they make from selling their craftwork and agriculture.
Huerta, who now lives in Austin and works primarily as a commercial photographer, will be featuring these photographs on June 19 at the Mexican American Cultural Center starting at 6pm. The event, presented by the public relations and marketing firm Hahn, Texas, is free, with food provided by Casa Chapala and drinks by Cruz Tequila, as well as a photo booth by Annie Ray photography.By Vicky Garza