Mescaline on the Mexican Border

Texas is the only state in the country where peyote is sold legally. Really.

"This is a place of spiritual renewal," he says. (Click here for video footage atop Mount Wirikuta.)

Hernández follows many of the Huichol practices — including peyote eating. He prefers to mix it with chocolate or fruit juice so he's not likely to vomit it back up. He likes it because it gives him energy. He believes — like the Huichol — that the peyote ceremony on Wirikuta releases the shamans' spirits from their bodies. He's seen their spirits flying around the mountains like large, colorful birds.

But he's not immune to the transformations going on in his hometown. His eyes light up when the name Brad Pitt is mentioned. "He was so cool," Hernández says. "We all hung out with him for two months when he wasn't filming."
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Cactus stickers and the occasional rattlesnake are all in a day's work for Mauro Morales when he goes hunting for peyote.
Daniel Kramer
Cactus stickers and the occasional rattlesnake are all in a day's work for Mauro Morales when he goes hunting for peyote.
Salvador Johnson used to be a full-time peyotero, but guiding hunting trips pays better these days. (Click here for a video interview with Morales and Johnson.)
Daniel Kramer
Salvador Johnson used to be a full-time peyotero, but guiding hunting trips pays better these days. (Click here for a video interview with Morales and Johnson.)

Mauro Morales looks a little worried when he talks about Mexican peyote. He knows that there's much more medicine on the other side of the border, but he's not crossing the river to seek it out. Even though he's a licensed dealer, transporting the stuff across the border would land him in jail. And he's skeptical of the Mexican police.

"You don't want to get caught with medicine over there," he says. "In Mexico, you're guilty until proven innocent. Here, you're innocent until proven guilty."

Still, like many people following the decline of the peyote trade in Texas, he hopes that, someday, he might be permitted to import peyote into Texas. But time may be running out for him. Morales says that he knew he was getting older when Indians started calling him "grandpa" a few years ago.

Morales gets part-time help from his sons harvesting peyote in February, when deer season ends and Indians start arriving. But one son has a full-time job and the other is more interested in his hobby of cockfighting than in picking medicine.

Morales has his eye on his 14-year-old grandson, Angel, who's doing well in school and has good manners. Angel might be able to take over the family business someday. But he's not sure. "The medicine might be extinct in 25 years. Then everyone will have to go to Mexico."

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