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Huicholes angered by Pan American Games mascot

September 25, 2011

Upset by the commercialization and trivialization of their culture and religion, indigenous Huicholes from northern Jalisco have denounced the use of a deer named “Huichi” as a mascot for the upcoming Pan American Games.

Alongside peyote and maize, the deer is one of the Huicholes’ most sacred religious symbols. Huichole representatives Antonio Garcia and Olegario Mejia said they “are not against the Pan American Games,” but denounced the “lack of respect” shown to their people by organizers who declined to consult them before adopting the symbol.

Dr. Paul Liffman, researcher at the Center for Anthropological Studies at El Colegio de Michoacan, said it was a “disrespectful gesture,” akin to using the image of Jesus Christ or Buddha to promote a sporting event.

The Huicholes also complained about police treatment of indigenous people living in Guadalajara ahead of the games. Various civic organizations have spoken out against what they consider a program of “social cleansing,” to “remove” the stray population and indigenous vendors from Guadalajara’s historic center before the Pan American Games.

The Huichol spokesperson alleged that on July 28 municipal police violently evicted indigenous vendors who were selling their products and handicrafts in the area known as Devil’s Alley, next to the Teatro Degollado.

“This is how they treat us, and it’s not the first time this has happened,” said the representative. “Although we asked the Guadalajara city council and the organizers to give us an opportunity to also benefit from the Pan American Games, they have ignored us.”

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