This thesis explores how cultural elements associated with one indigenous group are deployed and incorporated into the imaginaries of identity of various actors and groups. It does so through the study of the use of the traditional costume of the Huichol indigenous people in Tepic, a small mestizo (non-indigenous) city, in West Mexico.This costume, the main visible sign of Huichol identity, has recently become important in how the city of Tepic presents itself to the outside. Through the exploration of the use of the Huichol costume in three particular contexts, we learn that it is not only used by the Huichol, to whom the dress originally “belongs”, but by other non-Huichol actors who have appropriated the dress and given it a new use and meaning. My aim is to show how the Huichol costume encodes a varied range of messages that depend not only on the actors, but also on the context of its use; to explore how the Huichol costume becomes a carrier of meaning beyond “Huicholness” and becomes an important element in the construction of two different imaginaries of identity: one indigenous, one mestizo.I suggest that the indigenous item of dress, the quintessential visual signifier of Huichol identity, becomes a metonymic symbol for the indigenous as a whole in the mestizo context, and plays an important role not only in the expression of the indigenous, but in the political and religious expressions of the imaginary of the mestizo Nayarita.
Keywords: Huichol (Wixarika), dress, identity, mestizo, indigeneity, Mexico