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Jose Benitez Sanchez
Nationality: 
mexican (huichol)
Gender: 
Male
Birth Date: 
1938
The Huichol are an indigenous mountain people who live in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental. More than any other native culture in Mexico, the Huichol's cosmological belief system has remained intact. Due to their remote location, the Huichol avoided Western religion and subjugation by Spanish colonial rule. Huichol shaman travel 300 miles each way on a peyote pilgrimage to gather the sacred plant in Wirikúta in the state of San Luis Potosí. Shamans use peyote in sacred ceremonies in order to encounter visions. Some shamans record their visions through beaded or yarn art. Huichol artists prefer the medium of acrylic yarn or tiny colorful glass beads, both of which are pressed into a mixture of beeswax and tree resin. This art reflects the Huichol's view of the universe which co-mingles the sacred and the secular. Through their art, the Huichol honor a pantheon of nature deities. José Benítez Sánchez was born in 1938. He left home at age 15 to live with a godfather in another village. At this time, his foot became so badly infected that he sought healing from a Cora shaman. Upon being healed, he vowed to return home and become a shaman. Determined to fulfill his obligations on his path to shamanhood, Benítez left home to make the sacred journey to Wirikúta to collect the sacred peyote. When he returned, his father told him he must take certain objects with him the next time: a gourd bowl, an arrow, a candle, and a small painting of himself with his family, a deer, and a snake. Benítez did as his father suggested and made a painting from lamb's wool yarn. Upon his return, Benítez took a janitorial job at the Instituto Nacional Indigenista in Tepic. He was promoted to purchasing crafts for sale by the INI. The director, an anthropologist named Salomón Nahmad, asked Benítez to make some yarn paintings. The INI bought them. In the 1960s, Benítez became an apprentice to his cousin Ramón Medina Silva who was a shaman and an artist who fashioned decorative narratives made with yarn inspired by Huichol mythology. Benítez took the art form to a new level and began to record dreams, peyote-induced visions, and ceremonies in his works. In the 1970s, Juan Negrín who was studying the Huichol culture, promoted Benítez and his art by arranging public exhibitions. Benítez's art is exhibited in many museum collections around the world. Each of Benítez's pieces are collectors items since each one is unique, one-of-a-kind, and signed. From http://www.cunacueva.com/cc02b.php