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Feb. 9: Ethnohistorian to give lecture on Huichol people of Mexico

FREDERICK, Md.—An ethnohistorian who studies the indigenous Huichol people of Mexico will visit Hood College on Feb. 9 to speak about their annual 200-mile trek to a sacred mountain.

Michele M. Stephens, Ph.D., will present her talk, titled “Pilgrimage to Wirikuta: Huichol Ritual Migration, 1850-2016,” in the Whitaker Campus Center Commons at 7 p.m.

The Huichols of western Mexico participate in a series of annual migrations to sacred spaces in Mexico, the most important being the 200-mile trek to Wirikuta. This migration retraces an ancient story passed down through the centuries, recreating the journey of their ancestors. Their pilgrimage has survived the Spanish conquest, Mexican modernization and assimilation schemes, and continues today despite threats from drug cartels and multi-national corporations.

Stephens is an assistant professor of history and the director of the Latin American Studies Program at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on the relationships between communities in Latin America and how communities form in response to internal and external stressors. In her forthcoming book, “In the Lands of Fire and Sun: Huichol Resistance and Accommodation, 1723-1930,” she examines the ways in which the Huichols have selectively adapted elements of Spanish and Mexican culture as a way to insulate their indigenous practices from external forces, beliefs and stressors. Her methodology combines analyses of ethnographic reports, archaeology, anthropological studies and archival research.

Stephens’ newest research examines women’s participation with the law in early 20th century Yucatán. She will focus on Yucatec Maya women, but the study will compare and contrast the experiences of all women in the region around Mérida, Mexico. Stephens will also spend several months in 2017 as a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany.

This event is part of the Global Studies Program spring lecture series. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jay Harrison at or 301-696-3268.